MODERNITY AND GENERAL STRUCTURAL AND CULTURAL CHANGE
Durkheim's Problem and Differentiation Theory Today
Jeffrey C. Alexander
Differentiation comes closer than any other contemporary conception to identifying the overall contours of civilizational change and the texture, immanent dangers, and real promises of modern life. As a general process, differentiation is fairly well understood, and it provides a backdrop for making sense of everyday life today. Institutions gradually become more specialized. Familial control over social organization decreases. Political processes become less directed by the obligations and rewards of patriarchy, and the division of labor is organized more according to economic criteria than by reference simply to age and sex. Community membership can reach beyond ethnicity to territorial and political criteria. Religion becomes more generalized and abstract, more institutionally separated from and in tension with other spheres. Eventually, cultural generalization breaks the bonds of religion altogether. Natural laws are recognized in the moral and physical worlds and, in the process, religion surrenders not only its hierarchical control over cultural life but also its institutional prominence.
It is in terms of these general contours of world history, and the intuitive representation of modernity they provide, that the immanent dangers and promises of modernity can be understood. Thus the need to develop flexible and independent control over social complexity leads to the emergence of large-scale bureaucratic and impersonal organizations (Eisenstadt 1963). Such centralization—political, economic, informational—provides an ever-present resource for the exercise of organized cruelty and domination. Yet precisely because it is impersonal
I would like to acknowledge my colleagues in the School of Social Sciences at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, where I was a member when this essay was composed, and particularly Michael Walzer. Parts of this paper draw on Alexander 1989.
and bureaucratic rather than primordial and diffuse, that is, because it is differentiated, this centralization is experienced, even in totalitarian societies, in important new ways. Rarely is it experienced as an all-powerful and archetypical reality; more typically it is experienced as a development that challenges the existence of deeply entrenched institutions of private and public life (see, for example, Touraine et al. 1983).
The countercenters that mark private and public life are not confined to the primary groups, or life-worlds, that Habermas (1984) presents as the last bastion against colonization by rational systems. Uneven differentiation, not one-dimensional colonization, characterizes the modern world. Indeed, as Walzer (1983) has shown, it is the very existence of social and culture differentiation—not colonization—that allows social critics who are dedicated to justice in modern societies to demand ever greater autonomy and self-control for the spheres of public and private life.
But it is not enough to know the outlines of differentiation and its problems and possibilities in general terms. If the perspective of differentiation is going to produce a theory of social change, it must be brought down to earth. Obviously, not all societies, and institutions differentiate. Sometimes they stagnate. Often they become brittle and reactionary, concentrated and inflexible. Why do these responses happen? Why, by contrast, is differentiation sometimes able to proceed?
Merely to describe differentiation as a general process, moreover, makes it appear to be automatic, an equilibrating mechanism that occurs whenever adjustments must be made to conflict and strain. This is not the case. The social processes that produce differentiation must be described in specific, concrete terms. When they are, the contingent nature of differentiation will be more clearly understood, as will the fact that differentiation takes different forms in different historical settings. Is a certain orienting ideology necessary for differentiation to occur? Are particular kinds of interest group formations necessary? If so, in what societies and historical conjunctures are such requirements likely to occur?
Finally, what is the relation between differentiation and historical formations that are the traditional objects of classical theories of social change? Do feudalism, fascism, capitalism, and socialism represent a continuum of differentiation, or do they represent amalgamations of institutions that are differentiated in varying degrees? Does thinking of change as differentiation allow us to conceptualize the strains and conflicts in these formations more effectively than traditional theories do?
These questions mark the frontier of differentiation theory. They arise not just from scientific curiosity but out of theoretical competition (Wagner and Berger 1984). They are the questions that other theories
put to theories who think they see differentiation in social change. If the theory is to be maintained, it must be improved, and these questions must be answered.
In the chapter follows I begin to formulate what some answers might be. I do this, in part, by suggesting that in the theoretical community today there is already an upsurge of investigation (for example, Alexander 1985; Alexander and Colomy 1989) directed precisely to these ends. In larger part, However, I try to provide some answers to these questions myself, or at least to produce a framework within which such answers can be more readily conceived. I begin by suggesting that the questions I have enumerated can be viewed not simply as the parochial preoccupations of recent neofunctionalist work but as issues that go back to the classical foundations of sociology itself. Indeed, I argue that, properly understood, they are generic questions that must be faced by every effort that seeks to understand social change in a serious way. I show how these questions define the achievements and limitations of Durkheim's change theory. By examining Parson's later theorizing in these terms, I argue, we gain a new handle not only on the criticisms of the functionalist theory of change but on the efforts that have been made to improve it as well. These considerations inform my suggestions, offered in the conclusion, about what future efforts at understanding differentiation might be.
1. Durkheim's Problem
Although the notion that society changes through a process of institutional specialization can be traced back to ancient times, the modern theory of social change as differentiation began with Durkheim. In The Division of Labor in Society Durkheim ( 1933) put Spencer's earlier theory in a new form and started a research program that extends to the present day. Although Durkheim's first great work has, of course, become one of the classics of Western social science, the association with differentiation theory has not usually been made. In the context of the present discussion, therefore, Division is of particular interest. Although each of the problems I find in this classical work have been noted before, they have never been understood in reference to differentiation theory.
Because they have not, their theoretical interrelation has been impossible to see.
Durkheim's first great work serves as an exemplar of differentiation theory in several different ways. It can be considered the first and still one of the most powerful applications of the theory itself. It can also be seen as embodying some of this traditions's most typical and debilitating weaknesses. In other words, Durkheim's early work presents in a nutshell both the achievements of differentiation theory and the difficulties it often creates.
In book 1 of Division, titled "The Function of the Division of Labor," Durkheim outlines a general portrait of social as differentiation. Societies were once mechanically organized. They had repressive laws and were dominated by a particularistic and omnipresent collective conscience. Gradually, they have moved toward organic solidarity, where laws are restitutive and collective is generalized and abstract. In terms of institutional references Durkheim focuses on economic change on the one hand and the separation of religion from political and legal functions on the other hand. There is also a brief but important discussion of cultural generalization as indicating the increasingly person-centered character of the collective conscience.
This initial discussion, however, is of a particularly sweeping kind. Although this sweep confers power and scope, it makes it difficult to incorporate any real discussion of particulars, that is, the specific historical phases through which differentiation proceeds, the particular institutions and sectors on which distinct periods of differentiation depend, and historically specific social problems that differentiation systematically might generate. Durkheim's argument in Book 1 is evolutionary rather than development in the sense that there are no phase-specific strains outlined. It is functional in the sense that there is no theory of how particular structures are involved. It is ideal-typical in the sense that there is no account of the processes of change by which an episode of social differentiation actually occurs.
What is fascinating about this work, however, and what makes it so paradigmatic of differentiation theory as such, is that Durkheim goes on to try to supply these missing particulars in Books 2 and 3. Book 3, titled "Causes and Conditions," is his effort to supply a theory of social process. Durkheim argues that population growth leads to greater density and that greater specialization is a quasi-Malthusian response to the need for a more adaptive and efficient distribution of resources. Durkheim's Book 3, "Abnormal Forms," is an effort to discuss a particular historical
phase of differentiation and the problems it typically engenders. He suggests that because industrial society is not yet fully differentiated, the division of labor is coercive and disruptive. When birth is further separated from wealth, and political from economic organization, industrial relations will be mature and society less conflictual.
The fatal weakness of Division is that its three books cannot be related to one another in a systematic way. That demographic pressure is the principal process through which differentiation proceeds, as Durkheim asserts in Book 2, is in itself open to doubt. More significant from a theoretical point of view is that this emphasis seems to directly contradict the notion, which Durkheim argued in Book 1, that differentiation involves cultural and political phenomena. And what either demographics or systemic differentiation more generally understood have to do with the forced division of labor—Durkheim's topic in Book 3—is problematic as well. For if indeed the division of labor is anomic and coercive in 1890, there is nothing in Durkheim's general theory, or in his specific account of social process, to supply explanation for it. What is necessary is a more phase-specific model of general differentiation and of social process alike. Only with such a theory would it be possible to stipulate the criteria for predicting the "normal" and the "pathological" outcomes of a particular social formation.
To establish links between the three parts of Durkheim's work, in other words, requires a detailed account of structures and processes and a systematic effort to link these theories to the general theory of differentiation. I argue that this is precisely the goal for which contemporary differentiation theory must strive.
2. Social Change Theory and Durkheim's Problem
In order to relate this agenda for a particular research program to issues about social change more generally, one must recognize that "Durkheim's problem" was not unique to him. He used differentiation theory to grope with issues that are generic to the study of social changes as such. Each of Division's three parts represents one important way in which social change has been conceptualized: through the construction of general models, through developing accounts of social process, and through historically specific analyses of tensions and strains. Durkheim's problem, in other words, is an enduring one with which every perspective on change must come to grips.
In these terms I now briefly examine the principal classical theories of change with which Durkheim's must compete. Although Weber certainly defines a general theme, "rationalization," he does not emphasize the general level of his analysis in a way comparable to Durkheim. Weber's
only effort to produce a general account of rationalization is the "Author's Preface" (Weber  1958, 13–31) to his collected essays in the sociology of religion, which was written only at the end of his career and which was much more an afterthought than the basis for his theoretical program. The minimalist character of the rationalization theme also can be seen from the fact that a debate is still raging about the simple definition of rationalization itself. I am not suggesting that this general conception was not important for guiding Weber's thinking, for most certainly it was. But to conceptualize and elaborate it was not something with which Weber was centrally concerned.
The heart of Weber's work is his theorizing about processes of change, the role of institutions and groups in these processes, and the historically specific strains that are involved. The Protestant ethic creates capitalism in the West, patrimonialism overwhelms autonomous urban centers in the East, charismatic leadership becomes routinized and bureaucratic, priests and later legal notables have an interest in producing formally rational law. These are the middle-range propositions with which Weber is concerned. How and why these are connected to historical rationalization is implicit but never clearly spelled out. One result is that the relationship between Weber's various middle-range theories of change is never easy to see. Bendix (1961) devoted one very ambitious book to spelling out these connections, and Schluchter (1981) has recently devoted another to this same subject. But while presented as commentaries on Weber's theories, these works must actually be seen as theoretical constructions that try to fill this gap. Another result of this disarticulation of Weber's specific theories from one another and from his general perspective is that the relevance of these historical accounts for explaining other episodes of change, and for thinking about the future course of change, is far from clear.
Moreover, although Weber's historical explanations of traditional society often involve phase-specific accounts of conflict and strain—his theory of the patrimonialism-feudalism dilemma must be seen as a prototype in this regard—this genetic, or developmental, quality disappears from his treatment of the capitalist and modern periods. Again, this disarticulation between the strands of Weber's change theory leaves fundamental questions unanswered. Will bureaucratization dominate party
politics in the modern era, or will it be continuously challenged by charismatic politicians? Will formal law reign indefinitely, or will there be challenges to such formulations from different kinds of social groups, whose demands can be formulated in a substantive and historically specific way? Does the otherworldly character of Puritanism lead eventually to cultural universalism or to secularism in a purely political sense?
At the back of these problems are Weber's historicist difficulties with the concept of capitalism. Does late capitalism vitiate the processes that Weber has identified with its earlier creation? What can distinctively define late capitalism, if indeed a new postcapitalist historical phase will have to be introduced? Will this phase differ at all from the socialist form of industrial society, which at one point Weber ( 1971) suggested must be seen merely as capitalism in another form, or from communist industrialism, which at another point (Beetham 1974, 46–48, 82–87) Weber believed to differ fatefully from capitalism not only in economic but in political and moral terms? Once again, my point is not that Weber has nothing to say about these issues; obviously he does. My point rather is that the failure to articulate the different levels or forms of his theorizing makes his contributions in these regards fragmentary and ad hoc. To suggest that there are paradoxes created by the rationalization of culture (Schluchter 1979) is suggestive but does not go nearly far enough. Nor is it sufficient to translate Weberian political theory into a story of the production of citizenship (Bendix 1964), even though such an effort is centainly valuable in its own right. Weber's theory remains the most perceptive theory of institutional change ever written, and it continues to inspire the most searching writing on the processes of change today (see, for example, Collins 1986b). Even for Weberian theory, however, Durkheim's problem remains.
Marxists, of course, have pointed most forcefully to these weaknesses in Weber's change theory, and when we look at Marx's approach to change, by contrast, we cannot help but admire its beauty and theoretical power. Marx united the different kinds of theorizing about social change in a coherent and compelling way. His general theme describes a dialectical movement—thesis, antithesis, synthesis—which occurs within each historical period and over the course of human history as a whole. His institutional theorizing neatly translates this dialectic by defining thesis as class domination in the service of economic production, antithesis as the struggle by classes who are exploited in production, and synthesis as the revolutionized social formation that ensues. Phase-specific strains are handled in an equally elegant and interconnected way, at least for the capitalist period: production processes rest on the forces of production; classes are established by property rights that define their relations to production; as the relations of production begin to strangle
the forces of production, class conflict begins; and equilibrium can be restored only if the revolutionary transformation of property relationships is achieved.
Because Marx seems, at least in part, to provide the solution to Durkheim's problem, his theory of change has had wide appeal. In times of great conflict and anxiety, it supplies a coherent interpretation of events. It has also clearly identified some of the most specific and obvious features of contemporary social life. That there is capitalism and class conflict cannot be denied. It is also clear that the redistribution of property continues to preoccupy capitalist welfare states, and that the twentieth century has been transformed by a series of communist revolutions Despite its intellectual power, however, Marxist change theory has, in my view, been refuted time and time again, indeed first and still most powerfully by Max Weber himself. Only when domination is experienced as intensive and relatively monolithic do Marxist theories become plausible. Insofar as social life returns to its more typically fragmented and pluralized shape, Marxism loses its attraction. We are living in such a period today. The social convulsions of the 1960s produced a renewal of Marxism but in the contemporary period Marxism is in definite decline. the centrality to change of relatively autonomous noneconomic institutions has come to be emphasized once again (see, for example, Sewell 1980; Evans, Rueschemeyer, and Skocpol 1985) and, against sweeping dialectical theories, temporal and spatial specificity has been emphasized (Giddens 1981, 1986).
As this consideration of Marxism indicates, there is more to the development of social change theories than Durkheim's problem alone. In every mode of theorizing the theorist must make specific commitments, describe empirical processes, predict conflicts, and prescribe moral possibilities. Indeed, the more explicit a theory becomes at each of the different levels of theoretical work, and the more tightly knit the interrelation it can propose, the more contestable its substantive empirical and moral commitments become. It should not be surprising that, as an advocate of more pluralistic theorizing. I find Marxism's substantive formulations implausible, even while I admire its theoretical scope. It is one thing to solve Durkheim's problem; it is quite another to solve it in an empirically and morally reasonable way. It seems to me that Weber's change theory is much closer to empirical reality than Marx's, and the moral possibilities Weber implies, although flawed in many ways, are more liberal and emancipating as well.
The challenge is to solve Durkheim's problem without giving up Weber's institutional work, which is to suggest that differentiation theory must be pushed in a Weberian direction. This was Parsons's intention. Let us see the kinds of advances he made over Durkheim's earlier theorizing
before I insist, once again, that he did not really solve Durkheim's problem at all.
3. Parsons's Change Theory and Durkheim's Problem
Parsons is generally considered, both by himself (Parsons  1967, Parsons 1971, 74, 78) and by others (Smith 1973), to have taken up differentiation theory where Durkheim left off. It is worth noting, however, that Parsons saw himself as carrying out Weber's perspective on social change as well. Although I argue that Parsons's theory is Durkheimian in its most fundamental thrust, in a certain sense Parsons's self-perception must be credited. The substantive formulations in Parsons's evolutionary writings cannibalize Weber's change theory in an extraordinary way. No one has ever taken Weber's institutional theorizing as seriously; on one has pursued the implications as strenuously or tried as hard to find a model within which they could be interrelated and explained. It is here that the paradox of Parsons's differentiation theory lies. For although Parsons finds his critical evidence and illustrations in Weber's institutional work, he never theorizes from within the institutional and processual level as such. Weber's work is grist for the mill of Parsons's improved differentiation theory, but it never threatens to displace Durkheim's approach as such.
It is good grist, to be sure. Parsons's account of change is vastly superior to Durkheim's because it can be couched in the terms that Weber provides. In Durkheim's there is sketchy generalization and, even in the most historical of his works (for example, Durkheim  1977), shifts from one historical phase to another are described in schematic terms. In Parsons's theory (1966, 1971), by contrast, differentiation is mapped in terms of actors, groups, institutions, social movements, civilizations, and states. As a result, Parsons is able to provide a much more intuitively compelling reconstruction of the modern world than Durkheim was able to provide himself. He can succeed in demonstrating what Durkheim merely suggested, namely, the extraordinary distance that has been traveled from band societies to the societies of the present day. In doing so, Parsons succeeds in legitimating the meaningful foundations of modern life.
It is impossible here to communicate the nuance and complexity of this Parsonian account, but I can make some indication of the scope and coherence of his generalized scheme. For Parsons historical evolution involves what might be called the defamilialization of the world. In band societies kinship ties define important social, cultural, and even psychological activity. Totemism is a good example. As an animal or vegetable symbol of ethnic identity and "religion." it fuses the band's existence with the natural world and with human kinship as well. It is no wonder, according to Parsons, that prohibitions like the incest taboo play such a socially decisive role, for the intermixing of kinship and social criteria makes behavior diffuse, particularistic, affective and, above all, prescriptive and ascribed. If societies are to become more flexible and individualized, they must make such "blood-related" qualities a much smaller part of social life. In order to do so, the significance of kinship must be drastically reduced.
This fused situation changes when one of the two lineages that usually form a band society seeks to improve its status. The equality of marriage exchange is altered; restricted intralineage marriage emerges and other resources are controlled as well. On the one hand, it is here that stratification and inequality arise. On the other hand, because power has itself become the basis for defining the extension of kinship ties, it marks the beginning of the possibility for more powerful and adaptive forms of social direction and control. Property comes into being, and kinship begins to be strategically subordinated to it. States are developed to protect the surplus wealth of the dominant lineage but, Parsons emphasizes, this is differentiation too, for from this point on the institutional structure of politics cannot be deduced from the nature of kinship itself.
These economic and political developments, moreover, cannot be sustained for any length of time without a religion that is far more elaborate and independent of kinship than totemism. This new religion must stretch over nonmarrying lineages and must explain and justify the social hierarchy and inequality. It does so not only by formulating a broader and more differentiated conception of the supernatural realm but also by developing a more generalized conception of "the people." Another result of the initial creation of stratification is the emergence, for the first time, of a nonfamilial conception of the societal community. There emerges a territorial referent for the human community that strongly emphasizes group as distinguished from lineage boundaries.
These processes continue in archaic and historical societies. Religion becomes more formalized and abstract. Cults emerge, as do other groups with specifically religious ambitions. Eventually churches, institutions with highly specialized religious personnel, develop. Politics continues to differentiate as well. It becomes more impersonal and bureaucratic, both
in order to gain control for the privileged class—which involves placating lower-class groups by developing primitive welfare functions—and in order to ensure the safety of larger territories and continuous productivity of economic life. Economic life becomes more functionally divided, and stratification increases. Within the now established range of "national" solidarity, heterogeneous groupings develop. They are arranged in horizontal as well as in vertically segmented ways. Although these developments ensure a more flexible and productive social organization, they also ensure new levels of hierarchy and inequality. Aristocracies represent the continued linkage of function to kinship, and new forms of domination emerge, like kingship and church, that fuse the control of various goods.
In the early modern and modern periods, primarily in the West, these intermediate levels of social development are pushed much further still. The Reformation moves religion toward a more abstract and less institutionally fused position. The emergence of parliaments and common law makes government more independent of social groups and economic position. With the advent of citizenship, social solidarity eventually becomes more independent of actual position in various spheres. The advance of universal education makes culture still more generalized and accessible, regardless of one's particular and origin. Competence rather than traditional connection or personal charisma becomes the arbiter of authority. The organization of technical knowledge through professional authority provides a systematic counterbalance to the hierarchical power derived from bureaucracies and the money power derived from markets.
Because he has one hand resting on Weber's shoulders, Parsons is able to describe the stages of differentiation with much more precision and concreteness than Durkheim himself. Even so, Durkheim's problem remains. Parsons has taken his general bearings from Durkheim, primarily from The Division of Labor, Book 1. Like Durkheim's before him, Parson's general theory does not provide an account of how change occurs. To suggest that, because a differentiated institution is more effective and flexible, it will eventually develop to cope with problems posed by other spheres says little about the actual processes by which that new and more differentiated institution actually comes about. Parsons acknowledges the imbalance. He is concerned with "the structural ordering of social data," he argues (1966, 112), not in the first instance with "the analysis of process and change." He does not seem aware, however, of the intellectual difficulties that such a position presents. His insistence (1966, 111) that "structural analysis must take a certain priority over the analysis of process and change" recalls his dogged assertion in The Social System (Parsons 1951) that the analysis of stability must precede the analysis of
change. The manifest inadequacy of this earlier claim, however, is what moved Parsons to the differentiation theory I have just described. The problem now seems to have reappeared in a new form. Even when he is committed to a theory of social change, it is the morphology of change, not its dynamics, that must come first.
But whatever Parsons's personal inclinations, this separation is impossible to make. Book 1 of Division was followed by Book 2, even though Durkheim could never connect them in an intelligible way. There is no second book for Parsons, but there is in fact an implicit strain of theorizing about what some of the actual processes of change might be. Unfortunately, the tone of this unwritten second book is Darwinian in a rather vulgar sense. Parsons himself has a more sophisticated parallel to Darwin in mind. He suggests that, like Darwin, he is justified in setting out a structural morphology of evolution without an explanation of just how evolution occurs. This was certainly true of Darwin's work. Because he did not have access to Mendel's theory of genetic mutation, he could only outline the macroconstraints within which species changed. But surely this situation does not apply to Parsons. Darwin could not set out a theory of evolutionary process; the knowledge simply was not there. When Parsons is writing, by contrast, a great deal of knowledge about the processes of social evolution already exists. Parsons chooses not to discuss it. The real parallel between Parsons and Darwin is less sophisticated. In Parsons's implicit theorizing about social change processes he tries to make do with Darwin's theory of macroconstraints alone. He takes over Darwin's theory of species competition and adaptation, which Spencer called the survival of the fittest. Even while eschewing an institutional understanding of process, therefore, there are suggestions in Parsons's work of how and why transitions from one form to another take place. This latent perspective, we will discover, allows Parsons to overlook knowledge about change processes that he prefers not to see.
For Parsons the world is an evolutionary field. Societies are species. They may die out, but innovations—breakthroughs to more differentiated phases—eventually occur. As a general theory of evolutionary change, there is nothing to fault this. The problem is that Parsons implies that it is a specific theory as well, that it is in order to adapt to an environment that breakthroughs in evolution actually occur. In presenting institutions and societies as problem solvers, Parsons's implicit second book takes a dangerous turn. In the long run adaptation may be the result of a given institutional innovation, but it is rarely its efficient cause (see Alexander and Colomy 1985). Because Parsons incorporated so many of Weber's specific and antiteleological explanations, this confusion could often be avoided. However, it cannot be denied that one
implication of his work is that adaptation and problem solving are everywhere at work (see Smelser 1985).
The results for his change theory are often disastrous. Thinking that adaptation is both cause and result provides an ideological patina for thinking about the moral implications of rationalizing change. It also hides from Parsons's understanding the full theoretical implications of his decision to ignore real processes. These ideological and theoretical difficulties come together in Parsons's sotto voce dialogue with war.
At several critical points in his evolutionary work Parsons seems to acknowledge that the transitions between phases of differentiation can be carried out by war. In his discussion of early societies, I suggested earlier, Parsons emphasizes that upper-class lineages typically depended on religious legitimation to maintain their domination, using this fact to explain the beginnings of religious generalization. He acknowledges, however, that an exception to this dependence on legitimation exists in cases "in which a group subordinates another group by military conquest" (Parsons 1966, 44). He tries to mitigate this fact in a revealing way. Although domination through conquest may have "played an important part in processes of social change," he insists, military conquest cannot be considered "differentiation in the present sense" (emphases mine). The conquerors in such situations are "a foreign group, not a structural segment of the original society." Moreover, it is "a rare, limiting case when such a group altogether eschews claims to religious legitimation and operates in terms of its naked self-interest alone." But Parsons's efforts to avoid the implications of his insight into the significance of war are beside the point. Of course domination through conquest is not differentiation; of course these conquerors are not part of domestic society but a foreign group; of course this conquering group will at some point need religious legitimation itself. None of this, however, denies the crucial fact that the transition toward a more complex society is often the result of war.
What if we know that the transition from band to stratified societies often involves political repression and ferocious violence? This does nothing to negate the fact that as the result of this transition more differentiation and flexibility occur. Nonetheless, this knowledge certainly changes our understanding of the meaning and implications of differentiation itself.
By underplaying process in his change theory, Parsons is able to deny the centrality of war in human history (see, for example, MacNeill 1982). Military conquest, of course, is not practiced only by conquering bands. Differentiated societies have experienced dark ages and the massive destruction of their civilizations as well. No matter what the innovations of a group, its survival is not assured. Even if a society is significantly more
differentiated than those around it, one of its neighbors may be developed in a direction that is, at that historical moment, much more strategically significant in military terms.
Parsons cannot see this because he confuses differentiation with adaptive success. When he cannot avoid historical disasters, he becomes whiggish in a truly embarrassing way, discussing them from the viewpoint of the comfortable present. He writes (1966, 130), for example, that "the Nazi movement, even with its immense mobilization of power, seems to have been an acute sociopolitical disturbance, but not a source of major future structural patterns." But what does "seems to have been" mean? If a repressive system is defeated on the field of battle, this does not mean that its features were less adaptive in any short-run sense. If certain contingencies had turned out differently, historians of World War II suggest, the Nazis could well have emerged victorious. Their vicious and reactionary structures would, then, certainly have established the dominant social patterns throughout Europe for an uncertain period of time.
Because he ignores processes like war, Parsons's differentiation theory cannot understand the fundamental role of backwardness and structural fusion in creating the history of the modern world. Sandwiched between his elegiac accounts of the Renaissance and Reformation, on the one hand, and his laudatory analysis of the industrial and democratic revolutions, on the other hand, one finds scarcely four pages in Parsons's book (1971, 50–54) about the Counter-Reformation and its enormous repercussions of social and cultural life. Indeed, after his analysis of the democratic revolution in France Parsons moves directly to his analysis of how the high degree of social and cultural differentiation has stabilized American and Western European nations in our time. The clear implication is that steady progress was made, that "problems" like the Counter-Reformation came up and that they were solved by cultural and institutional adaptation.
It might well be argued, however, that quite the reverse is true. It took hundreds of years to destroy the effects of the Counter-Reformation, which was itself a response to differentiation in the early modern period. Divisions were created throughout Europe, murderous and long-lived conflicts broke out between nations, and basic patterns of cultural particularism and social authoritarianism emerged. The massive wars of the twentieth century must be seen in this context. It was not adaptation through differentiation that ended the authoritarian systems whose roots lay in the reaction to the Renaissance and Reformation, it was more or less continuous war and revolution (Maier 1975). In the twentieth century war has created not just the restabilized democratic systems Parsons extols but totalitarian and repressive states as well.
By ignoring process and war, however, Parsons does not simply commit the sin of sanguinity. He also fails to generate a powerful and coherent theory of social change. In the conclusion to his work on modern societies he acknowledges (1971, 140–41) that "there has, of course, been a great deal of conflict, 'frontier' primitivism, and lag in some of the older parts of the system relative to the more progressive parts." He even allows that "certainly the history of modern systems has been one of frequent, if not continual, warfare." The conclusion that follows has about it a stunning incongruity. "The striking point," Parsons writes, "is that the same system of societies within which the evolutionary process that we have traced has occurred has been subject to a high incidence of violence, most conspicuously in war but also internally, including revolutions" (emphasis in original). As I have just suggested, of course, this striking point is exactly what Parsons's history of the modern world has not explained.
I have spent a great deal of time on the unwritten second book of Parsons's change theory. One reason is that it spells out so clearly the problems with Parsons's unwritten third. In his own third book Durkheim developed a compelling, if theoretically contradictory, account of the strains that threatened the social and moral equipoise of his time. Because Parsons emphasizes adaptation through differentiation, however, he can do nothing of the kind.
It is worth noting, I think, that this was not always the case. In what I have called the "middle period" of Parsons's work, which extended from the late 1930s to the late 1940s and resulted in a series of essays on modern society (Parsons 1954b), Parsons's writing about social change had a sharply critical edge (see Alexander 1981b; Alexander 1983, 61–71). He did not write about differentiation as such, but in the light of his later work it was clearly differentiation that he had in mind. The tensions between home and office, the discontinuous and sex-linked socialization processes this separation implied, the abstraction and rationalization of modern culture, the discipline and market-orientation of labor—these were institutional developments, which Parsons would later call differentiation, that he viewed as creating enormous problems for the modern world. They led to the distortion of gender identities and relationships, to alienation and interpersonal aggression, to harsh ethnic and racial conflicts, and indeed also to war (see, for example, Parsons 1954a). In the midst of the period from the Great Depression to fascism and world war, Parsons saw differentiation as a cause of social problems and upheavals. In the period of postwar equipoise, however, he saw differentiation as a problem-solving solution.
Because the tensions of the past are underplayed in Parsons's differentiation theory, the strains of the present cannot be displayed. In
Parsons's later account the anxiety and pathos that continue to mark the twentieth century simply fail to exist. It is not that, like Durkheim, Parsons recognizes these problems but fails to integrate his account with his general theory. It is that Parsons cannot write Durkheim's third book at all. His theory lacks a developmental notion of historically specific strains and conflicts. Thus while he plausibly argues against the feudalism-capitalism-socialism trichotomy of Marx, he does not distinguish coherent phase of his own. Parsons refers to "coming phases" of modernization and to "major changes … in process" (1971, 141–43), but aside form vague reminders about the dangers of excessive rationality and impersonality he never tells us what these phases and changes might be.
In regard to the contemporary period it appears that Parsons is not as interested in explaining changes as in changing explanations. In the closing pages of his studies on evolution he attacks the "widespread" pessimism over the survival of modern societies … especially among intellectuals," and suggests that the goal of his work should be understood in those terms, "To establish sufficient doubt of the validity of such views." Once again, there is a furtive backward glance at the tabooed subject of war. Parsons acknowledges "the undeniable possibility of overwhelming destruction." But the possibility of war in the future will not be pursued any more than its reality was pursued in the past.
Parsons sees the twentieth century as a period of opportunity and achievement, not a period of massive destruction and total war. In the last phase of his life he has become the "can-do" American pragmatist, the irrepressible evangelical utterly confident that the future will be shaped in a humane way. "Our view is relatively optimistic," Parsons concludes. The problem is that he cannot identify exactly the historical period he is optimistic about. His general theory certainly established the meaningful validity of "modern society." His inability to explain institutional process and to engage in more fully historical forms of explanation has made it impossible, however, to know whether this meaningful social framework will be able to survive.
In the midst of the Great Depression, classical economist predicted that Say's law remained valid. In the long run, they continued to maintain, demand would come back into equilibrium with supply and the slumping capitalist economies would revive. Keynes responded that in the long run we are all dead; the problem was in short run. In our own lifetimes, Keynes demonstrated, there is only partial equilibrium and Say's law does not always apply. Without confronting pathologies in the short run, even the most meaningful civilizations may not survive. Durkheim's second and third books must be written, and they must be systematically integrated with the first.
4. Theoretical Revision and Durkheim's Problem
In the polarized political climate of the 1960s and 1970s Parsons's version of differentiation theory became increasingly hard to sustain. It was challenged in the name of more historically specific and processual theorizing (for example, Nisbet 1969; Smith 1973). Theorists wanted to speak of specific events like the French Revolution (Tilly 1967) and of precise variations in national outcomes (Moore 1966). They wanted to explain specific phases and uneven development, for example, the emergence of the world capitalist system in early modern Europe (Wallerstein 1974) and the monopoly phase of capitalism (Baran and Sweezy 1966). They wanted to be able to talk about how modernization creates systemic conflicts and strains (Gusfield 1963; Gouldner 1979). Interactionists and resource mobilization theorists (Turner 1964, Gamson 1968) made claims for the centrality of social movements, and on this basis they developed explanations about the scope of change that went far beyond anything in Parson's work. Conflict theorists (Collins 1975, Skocpol 1979) developed theories of state-building and revolution that were much more historically specific and comparatively precise.
There was, moreover, a pervasive shift in ideological tone. Theories became more critical and sober about the possibility that change would take a satisfactory course. These challenges insisted that Durkheim's second and third books must be written. Eventually, Marxism drew up many of these particular theories and challenged Parson's first book as well. As I suggested above, Marxism is remarkably successful in interrelating general and specific theories of change. In the 1960s and early 1970s, a period of turbulent movements for social liberation, the elegance of Marxist theory seemed empirically compelling as well.
Empiricist philosophy of science, which continues to legitimate most social science today, holds that theories live and die through falsification. As Kuhn (1969), Lakatos (1969), and other postpositivist philosophers and historians of science have shown, however, falsification cannot—or at least in practice usually does not—disprove a general theory, even in the natural sciences. Lakatos has developed the most plausible account of how the resistance to falsification occurs (see Wagner and Berger 1985). Theoreticians differentiate between a theory's core notions, which are positions considered essential to the theory's identity, and other commitments that are more peripheral. When faced with studies that throw some of their important commitments into doubt, theorists sustain the viability of their general theories by discarding peripherals and defending the core notions. They seek to incorporate challenges by reworking and elaborating these new peripheral points. Of course this kind of defense is no more than a possibility. Whether an effective shoring-up
process actually occurs depends on the empirical actors and the social and intellectual conditions at a particular time.
When differentiation theory first encountered the challenges to its predictions and its mode of explanation, it seemed as if no successful defense would be made. Parsons himself was never able to throw the weaker points of his general change theory overboard or to expand it in an ambitious way. Faced with the choice of abandoning the theory or changing it, many functionalists simply left it behind. A theory can be abandoned even if it is not refuted, and the effect on the course of scientific development is much the same.
Some of the most important early works of Parsons's students can be seen as attempts to set the theory right by writing what should have been Parsons's second book. Smelser (1959) and Eisenstadt (1963) discussed differentiation in terms of distinctive historical events and elaborated specific processes of change; Bellah (1969) and Smelser (1963) tackled the problems of specific institutional spheres. Although these studies were important examinations of change in their own right, as theoretical revisions they did not go far enough. Eventually Smelser and Eisenstadt separated the core from the periphery of differentiation theory in a much more radical way. Eisenstadt (1964) insisted that theorizing about general differentiation was impossible in isolation from concepts of specific social processes. He showed (see Alexander and Colomy 1985) that there are particular carrier groups for particular kinds of differentiation and that the interest structures and ideological visions of these groups determine the actual course differentiation will take. He insisted on the historical and comparative specificity of differentiation and gave to civilizational factors such as culture a permanently arbitrating role (see Eisenstadt 1982, 1986). Smelser also initiated a fundamental critique from within. In his work on higher education in California he insisted that differentiation might be seen as a self-limiting process. He insisted on the resistances to differentiation and outlined a theory of the symbiotic relationship between differentiation and self-interested elites. Eventually, Smelser (1985) attacked the very problem-solving framework of Parsons's differentiation theory itself.
These revisions were intellectually powerful but they did not, at least at first, have a significant impact on debate in the field of social change. By the late 1970s this situation began to change. Several factors were involved:
1. The glow began to fade from the more institutional and phase-oriented theories that had initiated the response to Parsons's work. Neo-Marxist theories of the world capitalist system, for example, were challenged by rising economic growth in some Third World
nations and by the fact that the threat of imminent world economic crisis began to recede. For their part conflict perspectives appeared to have underestimated the resilience of capitalist and democratic institutions. Weber's approach to institutional process and social strain began to seem plausible once again.
2. These developments created strains between Marxism's general theory and its more specific predictions and explanations. Ideological events, moreover, lessened the political attractiveness of not only Marxism's more sweeping conclusion but also its phase-specific theory of strains.
3. A new generation of theorists emerged who had not personally been involved in the revolt against differentiation and, more generally, modernization theory; they did not, therefore, have a personal stake in continuing the controversy.
By the late 1970s and early 1980s the revision of differentiation theory, which have been signaled by Smeler's and Eisenstadt's work, became both more pronounced and more widespread. This work emerged in both Germany (Schluchter 1979; Luhmann 1981, 1987; Münch 1982, 1989) and the United States (Rueschemeyer 1977; Robertson 1978; Alexander 1978). These revisions proceed from the common assumption that differentiation does indeed provide an intuitively meaningful framework for understanding the nature of the modern world. But it is efforts to interrelate this general model to institutions, processes, and phase-specific strains that preoccupy most differentiation theorists in the present day.
One group of efforts has been particularly directed to the issue of phase-specific conflicts and strains. Indeed, Gould (1985) first formulated
the distinctiveness of this theoretical task in his prolegomena to a theory of social crisis, and he has concretized it in a study of the capitalist and patrimonial origins of the English Revolution (Gould 1987). Lechner (1985, 1989) has used differentiation theory to find indicators for contemporary fundamentalist movements and for structural reactions against modernity more generally. Mayhew (1984, 1989) has developed a notion of the differentiated public as corresponding to the early modern origins of capitalist society.
Other developments have been directed more to Durkheim's second book, to linking differentiation to specific theories of institutional behavior and processes of change. Champagne (1989) has formulated a complex model for explaining the failure and success of differentiation in particular American Indian societies, and Rhoades (1989) has explained why the differentiation of higher education systems has been blocked by the nationally specific organization of professional and governmental spheres. Colomy (1982, 1985, 1989a) has developed the most ambitious program in this regard. Elaborating a theory of "uneven structural differentiation," he has explained the actual paths differentiation has taken in terms of the "institutional projects" developed by strategic social groups. He explains the forces that form these projects in a systematic way and distinguishes between institutional entrepreneurs, conservatives, and accommodationists.
There still remains too large a gap between this new wave of differentiation theory and the actual strains and conflicts that characterize change in the contemporary world. Obviously, social science must separate itself from the direct preoccupations of everyday life. However, a clear and identifiable linkage must be made, especially in theorizing about social change. Only this connection anchors theorizing in the effervescence of everyday life, and only this value-relevance makes such theorizing compelling as well as true. I close with some illustrations of the linkages I have in mind.
Even in relatively developed countries, the autonomy of the societal community—its differentiation from religious, primordial, political, and economic spheres—is tentative. In liberal capitalist nations, for example, the media of mass communication are often still partly fused with political, economic, and ethnic groupings (Alexander 1980). Even when a certain autonomy is achieved, moreover, social stability may not be the result. Similarly, even in societal communities that are relatively differentiated, particularistically defined core groups continue to occupy privileged positions (Alexander 1980). Because exclusion from this core on religious, ethnic, and social class grounds remains, struggles for inclusion are not bounded episodes but are permanent and inescapable features of modern life.
It is possible to argue, in other words, that in contemporary "modern" societies differentiation still has a very long way to go. Contemporary activities in virtually every social sphere can be understood in this way. Thus, although there is no doubt that kinship and blood have vastly receded in civilization terms, the significance of gender in almost every area of modern society demonstrates that much fusion remains. Feminist movements can be seen, in these terms, as efforts to differentiate kinship and biology from evaluations of competence and hence from the distribution of economic, political, and cultural goods (see Walzer 1983, 227–42). Current struggles for workers' control and participation can be seen in much the same way. Although public governments in democratic societies have gained some independence from economic control, private governments—for example, the organization of power in factories and organizations—remain dominated by market criteria in corporate economic life (Walzer 1983, 281–312). How sharply private government can be differentiated remains to be seen, but an autonomous political and participatory sphere can certainly be extended (Siriani 1981).
To recognize that differentiation is a process that is carried by contemporary movements of social change suggests that differentiation theory needs to elaborate a conception of social polarization. Differentiation is demanded by coalitions of elites and masses, and it is opposed by other coalitions that benefit from less differentiated structural and cultural arrangements. In the course of this polarization, crises emerge (Alexander 1984). Depending on the structural setting, revolution, reform, or reaction will be the result (Alexander 1981b).
The refusal to identify differentiation with the Western status quo, and the access to a more systematic understanding of conflict that this refusal opens up, is demonstrated in the most dramatic manner when attention is shifted from the domestic to the international plane. As I have intimidated above, the emergence of more powerful and adaptive social systems not only has been stimulated by war-making but has in turn laid the basis for much more continuous, widely diffused, and deadly warfare (see Collins 1986a). Not only can the intranational causes of war become an object of differentiation theory; the international social control of war can as well. The world system is not only an economic order but also a social one. Differentiation theory suggests that social systems can control conflict only through the creation of relatively autonomous regulatory mechanisms. From this perspective the contemporary world system remains in a primitive and archaic form. Primordial solidarities are dominant and the possibilities for intrasystemic regulation are only regionally conceived. The relationship between this deficient regulatory system and war constitutes a vital but virtually unexplored topic for differentiation theory. War will be eliminated only to the
degree that the world system replicates the processes of differentiation—incomplete as they are—that have transformed the framework of national societies.
Contemporary struggles and strains need not be conceived only in terms of the structural and cultural fusions that remain. The achievement of differentiation does not do away with social problems, but rather shifts them to a different plane. Even when news media are independent, for example, they are subject to dramatic fluctuations in their trustworthiness (Alexander 1981a), and they can magnify and distort contemporary information as a result. The competition that ensues between autonomous media and other powerful institutions, moreover, generates manifold possibilities for corruption. Similar strains affect the relationship between autonomous universities and their host societies. Once the university has become committed to defending the autonomy of scientific or cognitive rationality, conflicts about the university's moral obligations to society can take on new and extraordinarily vexing forms (Alexander 1986).
In social science general theories are never disproved. Rather, like the proverbial soldiers of old, they simply fade away. For quite a few years it looked as if this would be the fate of differentiation theory. In this chapter I have argued that this not the case. I have suggested that the difficulties it has faced are the same as those encountered by every ambitious theory of social change, and after examining Durkheim's classic work, The Division of Labor in Society, I have called these difficulties "Durkheim's problem." Parsons's revisions of Durkheim's original contribution went beyond the substance of Durkheim's theorizing in many ways, but they did not overcome Durkheim's problem in a more generic sense. Indeed, in critical respects Parsons did not face this problem nearly as well. Weberian ideas have addressed this problem in important ways but have neglected other aspects at the same time. Marxism addresses Durkheim's problem most successfully of all, but its empirical implausibility, I have suggested, undermines its considerable theoretical power. In response to these difficulties, and to internally generated revisions as well, a new round of differentiation theory has begun. That it addresses Durkheim's problem more effectively is certain. Whether it can solve his problem and retain its verisimilitude remains to be seen.
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The Infrastructure of Modernity:
Indirect Social Relationships, Information Technology, and Social Integration
Social Relationships and Social Integration
During the last decade the reemergence of human geography as a vital field of social science has brought renewed attention to the spatial organization of social relationships (see, e.g., Gregory and Urry 1985). Over a slightly longer time span network studies have brought new power and sophistication to the analysis of concrete patterns of social relationships. These advances draw attention to a weak spot in contemporary social theory. The study of structures of social relationships, that is, the concrete connections among social actors, has not been used to improve our understanding of social integration. Those focusing on structural analysis have failed to show how patterns of relationships constitute social life and hold social institutions and populations together; they have thrown out the problematic of social integration like a baby in dirtily functionalist bathwater. Functionalists have turned to cultural understandings of social integration, but these analyses at best
An earlier version of this chapter was presented to the Second Annual German-American Conference on Sociological Theory, "Social Change and Modernity," 26–28 August 1986. The author is grateful for comments from those who attended the conference and would also like to thank Pamela DeLargy, Bart Dredge, Anthony Giddens, and Weintraub.
omit and at worst obscure attention to the concrete patterns of social relationships.
This failure, or even refusal, to approach social integration on the basis of patterns of concrete relationships is common to work in a wide range of otherwise divergent theoretical perspectives. Relational structures are too narrowly sociological a concern for many cultural theorists. For others the idea of social integration as a variable is too reminiscent of crude contrast of Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft . It seems too normative to many theorists (including some who treat utilitarianism as value free) and too vague and unmeasurable to others. In what is perhaps the foremost contemporary effort develop a theory of social integration, Habermas (1984) focuses on a distinction between social integration/life-world and system integration/system in which concrete social relationships are seen as the stuff of the former, and the latter is conceived in cybernetic rather than social-relational terms. In functionalist accounts integration is usually conceptualized as a system state that is partially dependent on interaction patterns but distinct from these patterns. Clearly, in Parsons's sense (e.g., 1951), the extent of integration of a social system cannot be reduced to relational structures. However, in this chapter I contend that such relational structures have been neglected compared to other aspects of integration and that they have been conceptualized in ways that focus on face-to-face interaction and obscure the fact that mediated relationships are still social relationships.
Before we can explain social change satisfactorily we need a clearer conception of the relational dimension of social integration and the beginnings of a descriptive account of variation in concrete social relationships. The contribution of social relationships to social integration may be taken loosely as the complex variable measuring the extent to which the action of each person in a population implies, depends on, or predicts that of the others. Of course, the extent of social integration is not the only product
of variation in social relationships. These relationships may vary qualitatively in kind, quantitatively in density, and both qualitatively and quantitatively in pattern (including relative boundedness). The key is that we neither ignore concrete relationships nor privilege them as exclusively communal, and that we not leave large-scale organizations to representations in reified, actionless terms. I argue that, by paying attention to patterns of social relationships, we can provide a strictly sociological dimension to complement accounts of the contemporary age in terms of cultural and/or economic tendencies, 'modernity' and/or capitalism.
The first part of this chapter returns to the classical conceptions of modernity, which group cultural, economic, and social structural dimensions together more or less indiscriminately. I suggest a conceptual distinction between direct and indirect relationships that can help to illuminate many of the changes evocatively suggested by Gemeinschaft vs. Gesellschaft and similar oppositions while retaining a much clearer potential for empirical specification. Taking large-scale markets and especially corporations as examples, I show the utility of this simple conceptualization by focusing on the distinctive features of key modern social institutions. At least one of these institutions, the corporation, has been given surprisingly short shift in sociological theory. One of the constitutive features of the modern age, I argue, is the ever-increasing prevalence of indirect social relationships, that is, those relationships constituted through the mediation
of large-scale markets, administrative organizations, and/or information technology. More and more these relationships are coming to be the basis on which society "at large" is constituted. This does not mean, however, that direct relationships are disappearing or losing their emotional potency for individuals, only that they are becoming compartmentalized and therefore altered in sociological significance.
The second section of the chapter links this analysis of the changing patterns of social relationships to changes in infrastructural—especially transportation and communication—technologies. Sociological and economic accounts of new technologies tend to focus disproportionately on production technologies and their effects on the labor force. I suggest that infrastructural technologies are at least as important and that the infrastructural uses of such new technologies as computers hold at least as much potential for social change. Such change, however, at present (and for the plausibly foreseeable future) seems to lie primarily in the extension of the trends of the last two hundred or more years, including the increasing importance of indirect social relationships, not in a reversal of these trends. In other words, modernity continues; we are not undergoing an epochal transformation comparable to that ushered in by industrial capitalism.
The third sections follows directly from this point and examines why terms like "postindustrial society" are exaggerations and points out a key sociological weakness of the theories on which they rest: failure of these theories to develop an account of what constitutes society in a postindustrial (or any other) age. In other words, lacking an account of social relationships, theories such as Bell's (1973, 1979) describe features of society but not society itself. In this failure, perhaps ironically, these theories fail to make use of openings to social-relational analysis and the problematic of social integration provided by the very functionalist theories with which they are often lumped by critics and on other parts of which they (like their progenitors in theories of industrial society) depend.
The last section of the paper takes up the Marxist account of capitalism. I try to show that however strong the Marxist theory of capitalism, it must remain a theory of part but not all of social life. Marxism lacks a theory of concrete social relationships (even though it offers a powerful theory of abstract relationships such as those mediated through the commodity
form). It offers an account of the dynamic tendencies that capitalism imposes on modern social actors, but not an account of social integration.
From Kinship and Community to Markets and Corporations
Contrast between country and city were a staple of nineteenth-and-early-twentieth-century social commentary (Williams 1973). Nearly everyone preferred the country. The country was clean, while the chimneys of city factories belched black smoke; the country was morally pure, while cities were dens of iniquity; perhaps most important, country dwellers enjoyed true community and social order, while cities were chaotic, unregulated, and anonymous. Early social theorists believed that cities somehow embodied the core features of a new kind of society, and this new society contrasted sharply with the previous, more communally solidaristic social order. Today, however, Tönnies's (1887) Gemeinschaft-Gesellschaft contrast, Wirth's (1938) and Redfield's (1941) folk-urban continuum, and other contrasts of tradition and modernity are as familiar as objects of abuse as they are as mandatory bits of vocabulary in introductory sociology textbooks. Those who attack this approach generally focus on the community or tradition side of the dichotomy (e.g., Gusfield 1967, 1975). They argue that the depictions by Tönnies and others of traditional community life are nostalgic and unrealistic; they also note that the portrayal of most of the Third World as traditional rather than modern is both patronizing and predisposed to neglect the extent to which contemporary Third World patterns are produced by modern capitalism and international relations.
Surprisingly, the sociological inadequacies of Tönnies's (and others') conception of Gesellschaft have not received comparable comment; the same goes for most of the other well-known binary oppositions. The
impact of the transition from Gemeinschaft to Gesellschaft in Tönnies's conceptualization was largely the loss of a felt sense of belonging together in favor of an exaggerated individualism and a focus on instrumental relations. Tönnies had little social-structural foundation for his notion of changed personal experience, which accordingly remained unsatisfactorily impressionistic. Simmel's analysis of "the metropolis and mental life" made a good deal more of the change in concrete social relationships that accompanied the emerging social psychology of urban life ( 1971]). His attention, however, was focused on the larger issue of the development of individuality in the modern West. His characterization of cities, along with most of the other famous typologies of tradition and modernity, offered only a very general view, one that was lacking in historical specificity—or rather, one that failed to recognize the historical specificity implicit in its apparently general account (Abu-Lughod 1969). To be more precise about the experience—let alone the sociological significance—of modern urban life, we need to go beyond such broad statements about sociopsychological differences to a specific analysis of change in the structure and the kind of social relationships.
Almost all major premodern forms of social organization depended primarily on direct interpersonal relationships. Kinship, community life, and even the most stable, recurrent relationships of economic exchange all took place within the conscious awareness, and usually the face-to-face copresence, of human individuals. Such relationships might be more or less systematic and complex: for example, webs of kinship can link hundreds of thousands of members of traditional African societies. However, the actualization of each relationship, as opposed to its latent potential, was normally directly interpersonal. Although state apparatuses certainly predate the modern era (and occurred historically throughout the world), Giddens is surely right to argue that few if any were able to "govern" in the modern sense of the word; their capacity for regularized administration of a territory and its residents was very limited. This limitation was largely the result of the fact that power relations could not be extended
effectively over large distances. Although their cultural variation was enormous and their variation in specific patterns of social organization was considerable, premodern peoples were only rarely able to produce the physical infrastructure and administrative practices that are necessary to build large-scale social organization of much intensity.
The direct relationships that prevailed included both "primary" and "secondary" ones, to use Cooley's language ( 1962). Useful though it may be for some purposes, Cooley's conceptual distinction does not differentiate the modern age adequately from its predecessors. Modernity is not constituted by the presence of secondary relationships or the absence of primary relationships; both sorts exist in a wide range of modern and nonmodern societies. Rather modernity is distinguished by the increasing frequency, scale, and importance of indirect social relationships. Large-scale markets, closely administered organizations, and information technologies have produced vastly more opportunities for such relationships than existed in any premodern society. This trend does not mean that direct relationships have been reduced in number or that they are less meaningful or attractive to individuals. Rather it means that direct relationships tend to be compartmentalized. They persist as part of the immediate life-world of individuals, both as the nexus of certain kinds of instrumental activities (e.g., the many personal relationships that smooth the way for or make possible business transactions [see Granovetter 1985]) and, especially, as the realm of private life (family, friends, and neighbors). However, direct interpersonal relationships organize less and less of public life, that is, fewer and fewer of the crucially determinant institutions controlling material resources and exercising social power. Indirect relationships do not eliminate direct ones, but they
change both their meaning and their sociological significance. Although they are as sociopsychologically and culturally powerful as ever, direct relationships are no longer constitutive of society at its widest reaches.
The growing importance of indirect relationships was recognized by both Marx and Weber. For Marx these relationships characterized above
all the system of commodity production and capital accumulation. For Weber the commodity form was also key, but, characteristically, market rather than production relations were central; the "indirect exchange of money" was prototypical:
Within the market community every act of exchange, especially monetary exchange, is not directed, in isolation, by the action of the individual partner to the particular transaction, but the more rationally it is considered, the more it is directed by the actions of all parties potentially interested in the exchange. The market community as such is the most impersonal form of practical life into which humans can enter with one another. This is not due to that potentiality of struggle among the interested parties which is inherent in the market relationship. Any human relationship, even the most intimate, and even though it be marked by the most unqualified personal devotion, is in some sense relative and may involve a struggle with the partner…. The reason for the impersonality of the market is its matter-of-factness, its orientation to the commodity and only to that. When the market is allowed to follow its own autonomous tendencies, its participants do not look toward the persons of each other but only toward the commodity; there are no obligations of brotherliness of reverence, and none of those spontaneous human relations that are sustained by personal unions. (Weber  1978, 636)
Weber's ideal-typical market does not correspond to any actuality, of course, any more than Marx's pure model of capitalism does. But each expresses a distinctly modern tendency.
Weber's analysis of bureaucracy suggests another such tendency: the creation of social apparatuses for rational administration. Weber tended to assume that bureaucracies would be sociogeographically concentrated; he associated them with cities and treated their development as a specification and enhancement of the role of cities as centers for the exercise of power. In fact Weber wrote at about the point in Western history when cities began to lose some of their distinctive centrality to systems of power and administration. In ancient empires, dispersed city-states, and late-feudal Europe alike, cities had been at the heart not only (obviously) of civilization but also of both power relations and trade. Cities were the nodes that could anchor structures of indirect relationships in an age of minimal information technology. They could provide for mediation among participants in far-flung markets, and they were
the focal points for political and military control. As a result, they created networks of power and exchange stretching well beyond their boundaries. Moreover, they provided(and to a considerable extent still provide) for the direct relationships that make systems of indirect relationships work (the personal relationships that connect banking houses, for example, and the direct communications among central government officials). Cities also provided for public life, which is composed of direct—although not necessarily intimate—relationships among strangers (Sennett 1977; Calhoun 1986). But the development of modern transportation and communications technologies, on the one hand, and the growing administrative organization and power of the state, on the other, meant that both economic and political activity could begin to bypass the cities.
In short, state power could grow because the new forms of organization and the improved transportation and communications infrastructures (based partly on new technologies but, at first, more on heavy investments in the extension of old methods) enabled the spread of increasingly effective administration throughout the various territories of a country. This is the story Giddens (1985b) offers as the centerpiece of his critique of historical materialism, and it is a necessary complement to Marx's analysis of capitalism. It is a crucial complement, but it is not sufficient.
A full account needs to recognize, first, that the growth of the state, like the capitalist economy, developed infrastructures that could be used by ordinary people to develop connections with each other. Roads, trains, telegraphs, and telephone furthered the social integration of dispersed populations, promoted their common participation in capitalist production and exchange, and made possible their common subjection to state surveillance and administration. Class struggle itself, in the sense of the mobilization of workers organized on the same sociogeographic
scale as capital accumulation, had to wait for a communications infrastructure that was adequate to the formation of large-scale trade unions and political parties (Calhoun 1988).
Second, a full account also needs to recognize that modern states are in fact special (and critically important) instances of a more general phenomenon: corporations. As Giddens notes, the absolutist kings were distinct from other traditional rulers in the crucial sense that they not only sat at the pinnacle of state power but also incorporated the state symbolically within their own sovereign persons: "The religious symbolism of 'divine right' should actually be seen as a traditional accoutrement to something very new—the development of 'government' in the modern sense, the figure of the ruler being a personalized expression of a secularized administrative entity" (1985b, 93–94). This notion is part of what Kantorowicz (1956) meant in his brilliant portrayal of the late-medieval doctrine of the "king's two bodies," one personal and the other public. The king had begun to assume the status (still common to Roman Catholic bishops and other ecclesiastical nobles) of a "corporation sole" (see also Gierke 1934; Maitland  1958). Eventually, a doctrine of corporate personality developed that freed the corporation from any legal need for embodiment. On this and other bases corporations (starting at least as much with the state and various monastic bodies as with the urban corporations from which the lineage is usually traced) were eventually able to command routine public, jural, and even (rather unanalytical) sociological acknowledgment as unitary actors.
Oddly, the corporate form of social organization has received very little attention in sociological theory even though it is central to modern institutional arrangements. A brief discussion of this remarkable form of organization is therefore in order before considering more recent information technology and the question of whether we have left, or are about to leave, modernity behind us.
The corporation is a remarkable cultural artifact. One of the most extraordinary things about business corporations—as well as the other types of corporations from religious and charitable institutions to governments and quasi-governmental organizations of various sorts—is that we so routinely reify or anthropomorphize them. With minor variations and qualifications corporations throughout the Western world may own
property, litigate, and make contracts in the same way as "natural persons." They may, indeed, enter into a variety of relationships—usually highly asymmetrical—with natural persons.
Such relationships are quintessentially indirect. Although real human beings are linked by them, this linkage is almost invisible. Indeed, social relationships seem to disappear in the operation of an apparently self-moving technical and social system. With even a minimal communications technology the relationships constituting an organization can be rendered indirect, that is, distanced both in time and in space (e.g., by the storage, retrieval, or transmission of the written word) and socially mediated (by transmission through the official functions of other corporate agents). Thus a corporation is in one sense merely an aggregate or structure of social relationships, most (but not all) of which are indirect. In another sense, however, it is a social creature at a different level, a whole unto itself. Our Western—especially American—culture grants the corporation the status of an autonomous actor, one that is capable of "responsibility," thus offering its members limited liability for their actions.
Both corporations and large-scale markets depend on the flow of information through indirect social relationships, and both are accordingly
subject to routine reification. Economists predict, and nearly everyone discusses, the economy as though it were as natural and objective a phenomenon as the weather. This tendency reflects a culture that is at once pervasively individualistic—and thus underrecognizes the social dimension in the creation of both markets and corporations—and at the same time supports a maximally "disembodied" ontology that allows people to accord some manner of unitary individual existence to bodiless social creatures. Markets differ from corporations, however, in that they lack administration. They are the aggregate of individual actions, and sometimes collective action, but they are not collective actors.
Because of this difference, corporations tend to be not only reified but also anthropomorphized. As note earlier, we no longer find it necessary to embody states in the persons of their rulers; er attribute individuality to the disembodied state itself (see also Manning 1962; Giddens 1995b, chapter 4). Similarly, corporations are readily understood to exist, and in some sense to act, independently of their chief executives. However attractive Chrysler Corporation may find it to promote Lee Iacocca as its symbolic image or however much Ronald Reagan may appeal to Americans as a symbol of their country, no once confuses the person with the corporation. As Justice Marshall wrote nearly a hundred and seventy years ago, a corporation is "an artificial being, invisible, intangible, and existing only in contemplation of law." The confusion comes in treating the corporation as a person.
Information Technology and the Expansion of Indirect Relationships
The past two decades have seen a near passion for labeling new ages and new kinds of society: postindustrial, technetronic, Third Wave, etc. These visions of a new and different age derive substantially from the anticipated effects of new technology, most prominently computers and related information technologies. Although this technology is indeed powerful, such accounts of a qualitative break with the previous two hundred years of modernity are misleading. New technologies have extended the most basic trends in social integration more often than they have countered them, and this pattern will probably continue unless substantial social effort is invested to the contrary.
Corporations, large-scale markets, and other organizations of indirect social relationships have grown in size and importance throughout the modern era. Advances in information technology have repeatedly facilitated their extension. Computers and new telecommunications technologies continue this pattern. They not only offer a large quantitative increase in indirect relationships but also contribute to a shift in balance between two qualitative kinds of indirect relationships. By extension from Cooley's notions of primary and secondary relationships, we might conceptualize two kinds of indirect relationships: tertiary and quaternary.
Tertiary relationships need involve no physical copresence; they may be mediated entirely by machines, correspondence, or other persons, but the parties are well aware of the relationship. A tertiary relationship may be created, for example, by writing to a more or less anonymous functionary of a large bank to complain about an error in one's statement. Most ordinary citizens have only tertiary relationships with their national political representatives, relationships that are mediated by broadcast and print media, voting in elections, and, occasionally, correspondence. In a large
corporation most employees have this sort of relationship with top managers. Such relationships are more or less fully contained by their explicit purposes and systemic roles. Because they are not characterized by physical copresence, they are not as open to redefinition and expansion as are secondary relationships. The various media through which the relationship is carried out help in varying degrees to seal role performance off from the other attributes of individuals. But the relationships retain a degree of mutual recognition and intentionality; each party can (at least in principle) identify the other and the relationship itself is manifest.
Quaternary relationships, by contrast, occur outside of the attention and, generally, the awareness of at least one of the parties to them. They are the products of surveillance and exist wherever a sociotechnical system allows the monitoring of people's actions and turns these actions into communication, regardless of the actors' intentions. Quaternary relationships are created by the tapping of telephones, the theft of computerized data, or even the analysis of stored data for purpose other than those for which they were initially provided by people other than those to whom they were initially provided. Each person who uses a credit card, travels on an airplane, pays income taxes, applies for a visa, or completes employment applications—that is, nearly everyone in a modern society—provides data that can be subjected to reanalysis. Such reanalyses can be used to trace behavior of particular individuals as groups. The purpose of such surveillance may be as benign as providing marketing information or as threatening as discovering the members of minority ethnic groups for purposes of control or persecution. Modern markets and governmental apparatuses could not function in their present manners without substantial use of such data. This use nonetheless constitutes surveillance and creates very indirect, nearly invisible, but potent quaternary relationships.
As we saw in the case of markets, not all quaternary relationships depend on the administration of information. The flow of money in successive transactions is itself a form of communication; monetarization laid the basis for an extension of markets that created extremely indirect, almost invisible quaternary relationships of their own. However, the distinction between monetary communication in large markets and administered information flows is diminishing as money comes increasingly to be one version of electronically encoded information. In addition to markets a variety of noneconomic relationships are facilitated by new technologies. For example, hobbyists may use computer networks to keep in touch, a sort of semiadministered use. However, new technologies have
their most dramatic impacts on various kinds of more fully administered information flows.
The use of writing marked the first great historical breakthrough in creating the capacity for indirect social relationships. Our present capacities still depend more on literacy than on any other invention or skill. But information technology has advanced enormously throughout the modern era, from the invention of printing presses through telegraphs, telephones, radio, television, communications satellites, cable and microwave transmission, and now computers. Improvements in transportation facilities have also been vast and for centuries constituted the basis for most long-distance communications. It is worth reemphasizing how recent and how enormous transportation improvements have been. As recently as the mid-1750s, it took ten to twelve days to travel from London to Edinburgh; by 1836 less than two days were needed for the trip (Bagwell 1971); the train (which on that route is nowhere near "state of the art") now takes four hours, the plane one hour, and electronically mediated communication is virtually instantaneous. German immigrants to America after 1848 could not count a reliable post (the International Postal Union dates from 1874) and could not expect ever again to see the family member they left behind. Yet, their great-grandchildren not only travel and phone between the two countries with ease but also own shares in corporations doing business simultaneously in both countries and depend on military coordination in which computers and satellites link commanders and staffers thousands of miles apart and monitor the entire face of the earth.
Through most of history wars of conquest and the migrations that they precipitated were among the few major vehicles of long -distance and cross-cultural communication. At considerably greater intervals wars and migrations were supplemented by waves of religious conversion. More frequently, religious pilgrimages and commercial expeditions were mounted. Trading routes provided a flow of gossip, but the everyday scale of activities was much narrower. Communications capacities grew out of the political needs of managing empires and the logistic needs of armies, drawing on the resources of clerical literacy (hence, "clerks"). In the early-modern period commerce began to complete with
and then surpass warfare as the occasion for international communications. It multiplied the demands for literacy and improved communications media. The growth of strong national states was tied closely to both this growth of commerce (which simultaneously provided the wealth with which to run the states and a need for the protection of trades and international boundaries) and the communications media themselves. National integration was further by these communications media not only through enhanced means of administration (as Giddens 1985b emphasizes) but also through the growth of cohesive national cultures and shared "consciousness" or ideologies. Linguistic standardization and codification was a key step in nation building (even through the histories of the German-speaking and the Romance-language countries differ somewhat in this regard) and in turn made long-distance communications still easier.
Like literacy itself, new information technologies enable the transcendence of not only space but also time; fewer relationship or transactions require the copresence. Although it is a mundane sort of time machine and disappointingly inert, each gray metal file cabinet enables communication to take place between those who put information in it and those who take it out. Computers are able to do this, of course, on a much larger scale, with much more sophisticated procedures for matching the stored bits of information to the inquiries of future searchers. One of the most distinctive features of modern corporations is their ability to combine a high level of continuity on their patterns (in the face of both environmental complexity and fluctuation and internal personnel changes) with a capacity for organized change in response to managerial decisions. Computers can be used to monitor activities in connection with very long-term plans or simply to maintain conformity with preset rhythms and routines. Communication is increasingly separated from transportation, surveillance from direct observation.
New information technologies may be used in the following ways: to organize more of social life through indirect relationships, to extend the power of various corporate actors, to coordinate social action on a larger scale, or to intensify control within specific relationships. This broad set of potential can indeed be socially transformative; the technologies are
powerful and pliable. But will this transformation be a break with the trend of modernity toward an increasing reliance on indirect social relationship to organize large-scale social integration?
An excessive focus on the question of the extent to which new technologies supplant human labor in the production of material goods has obscured the deeper import of these new technologies for social integration. It is indeed true that the proportionate contribution of "artificial" (not directly to human) labor to the production process has grown and is likely to grow much further. This trend is important, and the potential employment impacts of computerization are not insignificant (see Jones 1982; Gill 1985). Similarly, computerization offers major advances in productivity (not only for labor, but also for capital facilities). Focusing only on these issues, however, obscures other very significant changes, including changes in the material production process itself.
The greatest changes in most production facilities are not in the numbers of people employed or even in their skill levels, but in "throughput" process (Gunn 1982). Computerization enables not just the automation of a variety of different specific production processes (welding, say, or painting) but also the automation of the flow of goods, materials, and information through the factory. At an automobile assembly plant, for example, each chassis is given a computerized identification card at the start. It corresponds to a specific car ordered by a specific dealer. The computer indicates to each worker (or robot) what parts to add to the basic chassis, what color to paint it, and what trim or finishing to give it. The computer also orders all necessary parts and materials as needed, thus cutting down on both the clerical work force and the necessary inventory. As with assembly line and indeed factories themselves, the change here is in the organization of the production process. Computerization's most profound industrial impact comes in increasing the scale of technically
coordinated activity at the same time that it establishes flexibility for small-batch production. This description of the production process (based on observations in wayne, Michigan) is part of a computerized integration of design, production, and marketing facilities in seven countries on four continents (Ford Motor Company's World Car project).
What is changed, in short, is the social integration of the production process. Just as the factory and the division of labor transformed the production of goods in the classical revolution, so computerization today transforms not just individual task but whole organizational forms. Although automation displaces some manual workers by having machines do their jobs, it changes society by replacing the human component in many organizational links. Social organizations itself is in some sense automated as computers and related information technologies help to create an artificial locus of self-environment. We call a machine automated if it can drive itself or perform autonomously. So, too, we could call the process of creating factories or even more far-flung but autonomously working organizations one of automation. We might even consider that corporations are a kind of social automaton. They are made possible by indirect relationships in which human functionaries serve as intermediaries, but they are greatly expanded on the basis of new information technologies for the mediation of relationships.
Social Integration and the Idea of Postindustrial Society
In attempting to revitalize and reformulate the problematic of social integration, I am following most closely in the path of Durkheim but also in varying degrees in those of Tönnies, Weber, and Simmuel. Durkheim made social solidarity and social integration more distinctively his concern than any other classical sociologist, but he did not for the most part approach these issues concretely through the study of patterns of relationships. Rather he concentrated on the sociopsychological sense of mutuality, the cognitive implications of life in society, and the functional analysis of cohesion among institutions. Functional analysis of this sort
is abstract even though it is not abstract in the sense or to the extent that Marx's categorial analysis of capitalism is. It is from Weber, above all, that we derive the concrete analysis of social relationships, which he understood as the probability that the actions on one person will influence the course of action of another. Not all social relationships are direct, of course, many are mediated. What renders the Weberian approach concrete is its focus on relationships from the point of view of the actors (thus necessarily recognizing qualitative distinctions) rather than on the categorial nature of meditation.
Ironically, although much of the structural-functionalism of the 1950s retained a focus on social integration and even on concrete social relationships (the latter perhaps more visible in the social anthropological variants), the "industrial society" theories that developed on Durkheimian and Weberian foundations as alternatives to Marxism exhibit the same neglect of social integration that characterizes Marxism. Industry is no more definitive of society than capitalism; if anything, it is less so (Kumar 1978; Giddens 1985b; Badham 1985). Industry as a way of organizing material production is clearly a feature of social life and is somewhat influential, but it is neither dynamic in itself nor the source of the basic web of relationships linking people to each other. The same problem is carried forward in Bell's theory of postindustrial society. The question of how value is produced is mistaken for the question of what society is. Regardless of the merits or demerits of Bell's notion that information
replaces labor as the source of value, this contention cannot be an account of the achievement of social integration. Planning, one of Bell's central new institutions, seems to be charged with the maintenance of social coherence. Its failures are traced to the "cultural contradictions of capitalism" (Bell 1976), not to an analysis of social relationships or their integration as such.
It is particularly unfortunate that Bell's account should exhibit this lack of attention to social integration. This absence vitiates much of the value of what is the most serious sociological attempt to come to terms with the significance of information technology. Moreover, as I have tried to show, the notion of a fundamental discontinuity between post-industrial society (or any of its myriad synonyms) and its putative precursor is misleading. Although I have described much that is new, and a lengthier treatment of technologies and social change could described a great deal more that is new, the set of conditions—especially social-structural conditions—we vaguely term modernity continues and appears likely to continue for some time to come (barring a material cataclysm of one form or another). There has been no basic shift in the form of social integration such that a new sort of society might reasonably be declared to exist. The changes that have occurred and are occurring are more or less of a piece with the changes that have occurred throughout the modern age. Indeed, a high rate of change and an expectation of change are among the defining features of modernity. Capitalism's relentless pushing is a major source of this continuous social (as well as technological, economic, and cultural) change. But it is not the only source, and at points it is resisted, so it should not be thought to contain the whole explanation.
Marx: Abstract Totality and Social Relationships
The issue of concrete social relationships and the integration of social groupings is almost entirely suppressed in the works of Marx and most Marxists (Calhoun 1982; Alexander 1983). This suppression is partly because of an overemphasis on one of Marx's most fundamental insights: the totalizing drive of capitalist commodity production and capital accumulation. Marx recognized in a profound way that capitalism was not established on the basis of direct interpersonal relationships. It existed only through the mediation of commodities that were produced and exchanged in the pursuit of capital accumulation. Moreover, as Giddens (1985b, chapter 5) has recently reminded us, a central feature of Marx's theory is missing from competing accounts of industrial society. The missing feature is the dynamism of capitalist production and commodification, and its ceaseless expansion into new lines of production, new areas of life, and new parts of the world.
Capitalism, according to Marx, must by its nature increase its extension in the world and the intensity or completeness of its domination wherever it organizes economic activity. Capitalism drives the creation of new technology (for both production and distribution), new products, and new markets. As Giddens stresses (1985b), this analysis neglects the coeval rise of the state, which was crucial to the creation and maintenance of a distinct economic sphere. But this does not go far enough. We must both recognize the accuracy of Marx's argument for the dynamic by which capitalism
pushes toward totality and complement it with an analysis of the concrete social relations with which capitalism (like the notion-state) coexists but which cannot be reduced to it. Capitalism, on other words, is not society. It exists in some part precisely in opposition to direct interpersonal relationships. As Marx remarked: "Their own exchange and their own production confront individuals as an objective relation which is independent of them. In the case of the world market, the connection of the individual with all, but at the same time also the independence of this connection from the individual, have developed to such a high level that the formation of the world market already at the same time contains the conditions for going beyond it" ( 1973, 161, emphasis in original). Commodities confront human beings as objectifications of human activities (in relation to nature, self, and others). Commodities mediate human relationships to create the abstract totality that is capitalism. At the same time, the commodity form reifies human activity and relationships, obscuring the fact that capitalism is the product of human labor and making it appear as an independent object. Both Marx and, especially, Engels were fond of borrowing Carlyle's phrase that capitalism left no other nexus between man and man than "callous cash payment" (e.g., Marx and Engels  1976, 487; Engels  1972, 608). Just as capitalism must disregard or even attack the irreducibly qualitative nature of commodities, so it must disregard or attack the qualitative content of human relationships (Marx  1974, chapter 1; Lukáacs  1971, 83–148). But capitalism can go only so far in this attack, even in Marx's theory. Commodities tend to the purely quantitative, but they remain physical things and thus have qualities. Similarly, capitalism cannot wholly dominate or eradicate quantitative cultural contents, interpersonal relationships, or purely personal thoughts and affects.
Indeed, it is central to at least one reading of Marx that this should be
so. In this reading one cannot explain the revolutionary transformation or supersession of capitalism solely on the basis of dialectical negation. That is, there must be an alternative, qualitatively separate mode or dimension of existence on the basis of which opposition to capitalism can build. Such a basis may remain outside the domination of capitalism, as in the notion, arguably suggested by Gramsci, of a counterhegemonic culture (Gramsci 1982; Boggs 1984). Or such a basis could be created by capitalism itself. Marx, for example, considered that the very concentration of workers in cities and factories (and the social organization of the factories) might provide the basis for radical mobilization (Calhoun 1983). But there is a tension between this line of reasoning in which Marx expects the coalescence of the working class as a collective actor, subjectively unified on the basis of direct relationships among workers, and Marx's more predominant analysis of how the indirect, abstract relationships of capitalism dominate and destroy direct ones. In this latter line of reasoning Marx focuses on the purely categorical position of the proletariat as the negation of capitalism; the proletariat is unified by common place in the formal relations of production rather than by qualitative relationships to each other.
The other side of capitalist totality in Marx's categorial analysis turns out, ironically, to be a kind of individualism. On the one hand, this is the universal individualism of utilitarianism, and Marx critiques aspects of it.
But, on the other hand, Marx seems to accept this "implicit" individualism as at least a partially accurate description of reality under capitalism: concrete qualitative examples of proletarian social solidarity (such as direct interpersonal relationships as opposed to political commonality or organization) are taken by Marx as nothing other than the residues of the old order. Capitalism is purely formal, impersonal, and quantitative; the working class is unified by the commonalities of a category of individuals. If any relationships are held to be defining or productive of solidarity, they are the relationships of opposition to the bourgeoisie, the ruling class, not the relationships among workers. Nowhere does Marx endeavor to show that individuals in capitalist society (including capitalists as well as workers) are anything other than quantitatively interchangeable, except in potential.
It is important, however, to keep the issue of human social potential in mind. To the extent that capitalism is the object of analysis, direct interpersonal relationships are of minimal significance. In the pre-Capital writings where Marx envisages a communist future, however, he does not contrast quantitatively interchangeable individuals with an abstract totality. Rather he takes pains to stress that "above all we must avoid postulating 'society' again as an abstraction vis-a-vis the individual. The individual is the social being " (Marx  1975, 299, emphasis in original). But such a condition is a possible future to be created, not a timeless feature of human nature (other than in potential): "Universally developed individuals, whose social relations, as their own communal [gemeinschaftlich ] relations, are hence also subordinated to their own communal control, are no product of nature, but of history" (Marx  1973, 162). Natural law and social contract theorists, Marx says at the same point in Grundrisse, focus their attention on "merely objective" bonds among people and mistake them for the spontaneous relationships that are not possible in the existing state of society. So long as the abstract relationships of capitalism remain determinant, the analysis of concrete relationships will be the analysis of more or less arbitrary epiphenomena. When capitalism and the human self-estrangement of private property are transcended, there will still be a difference between activities that are carried out in direct communality with others and those (e.g., science) that depend less on the immediate copresence of the group but that are nonetheless self-consciously social. But each of these activities will be self-determining in a way impossible under the domination of capitalism:
Social activity social enjoyment exist by no means only in the form of some directly communal activity and directly communal enjoyment, although
communal activity and communal enjoyment—i.e., activity and enjoyment which are manifested and affirmed in actual direct association with other men—will occur wherever such a direct expression of sociability stems from the true character of the activity's content and is appropriate to the nature of the enjoyment. ( 1976, 298, emphasis in original)
In terms of Marx's own political interests, that is, his theory of revolution, there is a tension between his account of the tendency of capitalism to eradicate all interpersonal relationships not created by capitalist commodity production and exchange and the need for a basis of social solidarity in the struggle against capitalism. Marx's few comments on interpersonal relationships other than those constituted by capitalism itself indicate that real communality would have to be postponed to a postcapitalist world. Thus Marx has no substantial theory of social integration under capitalism (as opposed to system integration, in Habermas's sense, or the integration of the capitalist totality itself). Although Marx's account of capitalism is powerful, it is an account not of the experiential or observed world of social relationships—that is, society—but of (1) a factor pushing continuously for certain directions of transformation in those relationships and (2) a form of mediation producing systematic misrecognition of those relationships. Marx's theory of capitalism is a more local or specific theory and a less universal one than is frequently claimed. It cannot be the basis for all sociology. Indeed, in the most literal sense it is not a sociology at all. Insofar as they are composed of concrete social relationships, even some of the most characteristic institutions of modern capitalism—business corporations, for example—must be explained by factors other than capitalism.
The some extent the aim of this chapter is to explore these other factors. I have offered a preliminary conceptualization of the structures of the indirect relationships that are distinctive to the modern world. Capitalism has in part helped to produce these relationships, but, at least equally, it depends on them. Corporations and large-scale markets are crucial examples. Indirect relationships have been and continue to be furthered by developments in information technology. Each relationship is also subject to a tendency toward reification, which sets it apart from the social institutions that are formed primarily on the basis of directly interpersonal relationships.
The reader should not think that only Marxism suffers from the lack
of a good account of the role of concrete relationships in social integration, that a good account of social integration is to be found in the whole cloth in some other theoretical corpus, or that my argument is entirely in opposition to Marxist theory. Taking the last point first, my aim is to delimit the application of the most central part of Marxist theory, treating it strictly as a formal of capitalism. Marxism is a theory of capitalism as a form of mediation among human actors (again, considered abstractly as procedures, consumers, and owners), not as a form of social or economic action (as it is for Weber). In this sense capitalism is dynamic and pushes toward totality. Although it may need improvement, with these limits Marx's theory is powerful and still offers an almost unique insight. However, I insist that capitalism is not a form of society. Marx's theory of capitalism should not be privileged as a theory of all social life. We may grant the claim that it is the tendency of capitalism as a form mediation to increase the extent to which a theory of capitalism will explain other aspects of social life, but many of these aspects nonetheless remain "other." Central among these other aspects for the purposes of this chapter are the various relationships through which members of populations are knit to each other and enable the coordination of social action on a very scale. Much the same could be said for the contents of culture.
I have argued that a dominant sociological trend of the modern era is the extension of social integration to an ever-larger scale, albeit with greater internal intensity, through reliance on indirect social relationships. I have suggested that new information technologies do not mark a break with this long-term trend. As material productivity continues to increase, so, too, do our capacities for organization through indirect social relationships. At the same time, social system are extended further beyond the bounds of locality, and the capacity of those empowered by them to reach into the daily lives of ordinary people is extended. Issues of information technology and control are thus central for modern sociology, but this situation does not imply any qualitative break in the kind of social processes
at work at the most fundamental level. Modernity, if that is what we wish to to call our age, continues.
Neither Marx's theory of capitalism nor any theory of industrial society (or postindustrial society) offers an adequate account of society itself, that is, social integration. I have offered a conceptual contribution toward this end by trying to specify the distinctive nature and modern role of indirect social relationships. Of course this discussion raises other issues that I have left untouched. New information technologies may facilitate the reversal of an ancient trend toward population concentration (as least in the rich countries of the world). Will this reversal take place? With what effects? Simultaneously, the same technologies offer an increased capacity for centralized surveillance and control. Will this be checked or balanced by new means of democratic participation? What are the meanings and potentials of direct interpersonal relationships in an age in which so much of social life is constituted through indirect relationship?
Adequate answers to these and related questions depend on our ability to analyze the varying forms and extent of social integration. This analysis in turn calls for the study of concrete social relationships. Questions of social integration cannot be addressed by purely cultural analysis or through an atomistic utilitarian individualism. Nor does the Marxist theory of capitalism suffice. Despite the centrality of its insight into the dynamic pressures for change in social integration, it remains focused on the abstract, totalizing mediation of qualitative human labor (and the qualitative activity of living itself insofar as it is "consumption" or "enjoyment" of use-values) through capitalist production and the exchange of commodities. From the more structural variants of "structural-functional" thought—especially from Weber and Simmel—we may derive an approach to the study of concrete social relationships. This approach is essential to tackling the issue of social integration, a necessary, it recently neglected, counterpart to cultural accounts of modernity and Marxist accounts of capitalism. We must not, however, limit the study of concrete relationships to the direct ones that constitute the life-world while ceding all analysis of large-scale social organization to systems theory. Rather we must extend the analysis of concrete relationships into the realm of indirect relationships, showing that large-scale organizations are still part of social integration even if they are based on relationships over which participants have little control, of which they may not even be aware, and the results of which they may tend to reify.
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The Future of Capitalism
[Bernstein] says that capitalist development does not lead to a general economic collapse .
He does not merely reject a certain form of the collapse. He rejects the very possibility of collapse .
R. LUXEMBURG , Reform or Revolution
With the growing development of society, a complete and almost general collapse of the present system of production becomes not more but less probable because capitalist development increases, on the one hand, the capacity of adaptation and, on the other hand … the differentiation of industry .
E. BERNSTEIN , Der kampf der Sozialdemokratie (The Fight of Social Democracy)
Questioning the future of capitalism is nearly as old as capitalism itself. The development of this new social order was from the very beginning accompanied by concerns about both its inner stability and its overall viability. These doubts are evident not only in Marx but also in the efforts of so-called bourgeois sociology to grasp the elements of capitalism. In many quarters in the nineteenth and the early twentieth century the system was viewed in a negative light. The classical writings in European sociology reflect the view that the category of "modern" society is a transitional one; modern society has torn down the old social order but has been unable to erect a new one (Freyer 1930, 10, 165). With the coming of structural-functionalism, however, this negative diagnosis receded. But even Parsons's theory of modern society (1971) is informed by deep concerns about its future viability, and Luhmann (1984a) acknowledges that modern society both destabilizes structures and increases opportunities for criticism.
To take up once again the question of the future of capitalism is a bold enterprise. Whoever does so seems to pretend to view society and its development from an undistorted perspective. Historical materialism believed that it possessed such a viewpoint. A classic formulation of the idea that there is a special place inside society from which the social totality can be recognized in an undistorted way can be found in an early essay by Lukács: "It is only with the appearance of the Proletariat that
the recognition of social reality is completed. This completion is reached by having found in the class standpoint of the proletariat a point from which the totality of society becomes visible" (1923, 34, my translation). It is impossible, however, to espouse this viewpoint today because continuing social differentiation, complexity, and diversity mean that the essence of society cannot be captured by reference to its core or center.
Marx was convinced not only that a socialist society would necessarily follow a capitalist one but also that a socialist society would too represent a higher stage of civilization. In this chapter, however, I leave aside this normative dimension. Instead, I concentrate on the stability and the likely future of capitalism. I also touch briefly on the problems associated with doubts about the role of rationality in the modern world.
Because of the difficulty of investigating the future of modern societies, it is desirable to follow a famous predecessor. I choose Schumpeter as a starting point rather than Marx largely because Schumpeter created a new foundation for the study of the future prospects of capitalism. Both Schumpeter and Marx hold the view that "capitalism" is an adequate characterization of the present epoch of history. In general sociological theory there is a debate between cultural accounts of modernity, on the one hand (for example, Berger, Berger, and Kellner 1973), and Marxist accounts of capitalism, on the other hand (Bader and Berger 1976; Adorno 1969). This debate cannot be resolved here. I simply concur with Max Weber's belief that capitalism is "the most fateful power of modern life" (Weber 1920, 4). But insofar as capitalism and modernity become synonymous, it is necessary to enrich the theory of capitalism by a corresponding theory of modernity. I do not mean to fall into any kind of economic reductionism by asserting that capitalism played a central role in the "great transformation" (Polanyi 1957); I simply assert that the modernity of the economy is the model for the modernization of other institutional spheres.
I now turn to Schumpeter's central question: "Can capitalism survive?"
1. The Survivability of Capitalism
This fateful question opens the second part of Schumpeter's classic Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy . He answers this question with a resounding no (Schumpeter  1962). Having answered, he has to ask, What kind of society will replace it? Schumpeter believed that socialism would follow. Although he saw socialism as a matter of evolutionary necessity, he also asked whether socialism could function as an economic system. This question he answered with a clear yes, and in doing so rejected the mainstream argument, developed by Weber and Mises, that the economic order of socialism is unstable and inefficient.
Today, after the unprecedented forty-year boom of the capitalist world economy and after the final breakdown of socialist economies, almost every student of capitalist development will find it difficult to follow Schumpeter's logic. Why is socialism supposed to be an efficient economic order? And why is capitalism supposed to be an economic system with only a limited life span? Has not the postwar period proved that capitalism is an extremely flexible and efficient economic system?
A common feature of all currents of socialist thought is that in the long run capitalism will necessarily be replaced in a revolutionary process by socialism. No doubt, Schumpeter shared with these strands of thought the idea of a shift from capitalism to socialism, but he did not believe that socialism represents a higher stage of evolution. He merely viewed socialism as a feasible economic order. For Schumpeter what distinguished socialism from capitalism was that in capitalism markets function as mechanisms for the distribution of the social product. The essence of capitalism was the combination of the functions of allocation and distribution within the framework of one economic mechanism, namely, the market. By institutionalizing markets for capital and labor, capitalist societies relieved themselves of questions of distributional equity. To abolish the markets for capital and labor, however, does not imply that in socialist societies rational economic behavior is impossible. For Schumpeter the reason for the decay of capitalism is not its economic failure. He does not substantiate his argument about the inability of capitalism to survive with the traditional argument that it is prone to crisis. On the contrary, Schumpeter posits an inherent relationship between a capitalist economic order and growth. No other economic system is capable of attaining a comparable rate of economic growth. Therefore, if capitalism perishes, it is not all because of its economic failure. In fact, it is capitalism's success that dooms it. "My thesis," Schumpeter writes ( 1962, 61), is "that the actual and prospective performance of the capitalist system is such as to negate the idea of its breaking down under the weight of economic failure, but that its very success undermines the social institutions which protect it, and 'inevitably' creates conditions in which it will not be able to live and which strongly point to socialism as the heir apparent."
In this way Schumpeter puts the theory of the self-destructive tendencies of capitalism on a new basis. He wants to demonstrate that, contrary to Marx, there are no purely economic reasons for the breakdown of capitalism. He emphasizes that capitalism's self-destructive tendencies can be ascertained only if one leaves the field of economic considerations and turns to the cultural complement of the capitalist economy, namely, its sociopsychological superstructure ( 1962, 198). Among the social institutions that are undermined by the success of capitalism
Schumpeter includes (1) the entrepreneurial function, (2) nonbourgeois groups, and (3) private property and the freedom of contracting. The individual entrepreneur is made superfluous by the transition from liberal to corporate capitalism: "The perfectly bureaucratized giant industrial unit … ousts the entrepreneur (Schumpeter  1962, 134). As to nonbourgeois groups, Schumpeter argues that the aristocracy, the craft guilds, and the peasantry are not only feudal shackles but also a precondition for the vitality of capitalism, in part because they are allies in the conflict of the bourgeoisie with the proletariat and in part because the bourgeois class, when compared with the aristocracy, is "ill equipped to face the problems, both domestic and international, that have normally to be faced by a country of any importance" (Schumpeter  1962, 138). Private property and the freedom of contracting are threatened by bureaucratization, the replacement of small firms by big enterprises, and a "tropical growth of new legal structures" (Schumpeter  1962, 191).
To analyze the future prospects of capitalism, Schumpeter uses the metaphor of a fortress under siege. Capitalism diminishes its chances to survive not only by weakening the walls that protect it but also by increasing the hostility of its enemies. Intellectuals play an important role in capitalism's creation of an "atmosphere of almost universal hostility" (Schumpeter  1962, 143). The bourgeois fortress becomes defenseless because a capitalist order is unable to control its intellectual sector, which "lives on criticism" (Schumpeter  1962, 151). This argument is far from being compelling. But even if the specific details of Schumpeter's argument are weak, the general argument is worth pursuing further. His general argument consists of two propositions: (a) capitalism will be undermined not by its failure but by the consequences of its success, and (b) these consequences are to be found not in the economic system but in the specific relationship between the economic system and its environment.
By replacing the Marxist "deterioration" perspective with a perspective that emphasized improvement and that focused on the negative consequences of success, Schumpeter revolutionized the foundations of the theory of capitalist development. However, when he speculated about the results of capitalist development, Schumpeter was quite conventional: he kept to the idea that socialism was the "heir apparent" of capitalism (even though he did not believe in socialism). Since he wrote these words, history has totally refuted Schumpeter's conviction about the inevitability of socialism; today only a small minority regards socialism as the solution to the problems that the capitalist mode of production has created. After the Second World War, the advanced capitalist countries enjoyed an extended period of prosperity for which it is impossible
to find a precedent. This golden age of prosperity ended in the 1970s, but since the mid-1980s the leading industrial market economies have again experienced a period of growth. Either the social institutions that protect capitalism did not erode as Schumpeter expected or their erosion did not prevent capitalism from growing.
Although the viability of capitalist economies may be undisputed and socialist economies have failed to become a convincing alternative, it is imperative to reconsider Schumpeter's problem. Even if the industrial market economies prove to be capable of sustainable growth, it cannot be denied that this growth causes serious problems in the environment of the economic system, of which the destruction of nature is only the most obvious example. The impairment of the social and natural environment by economic growth may have repercussions on the functioning of the economy. Sociological theory must face the possibility that the economy affects its environment in a manner that makes it difficult or impossible for the economy to reproduce itself in this environment. To study the repercussions of the future prospects of industrialized market economies, a Schumpeterian framework is more apt than a Marxian one. However, two important modifications of Schumpeter's framework must be made. First, it is necessary to give up the capitalism-socialism dichotomy; socialism is in no sense the future of capitalism. Second, we must strictly separate the idea that a successful capitalist economy may endanger itself through the negative consequences that it sets off in its environment from the idea of a "general economic collapse" (Luxemburg 1937).
Insofar as the framework of the following analysis differs from Schumpeter's, it is because I assume that the viability of capitalism can be ensured by structural changes. This assumption does not serve to deny that capitalism is prone to crises. Quite the contrary. However, these crises cannot be identified with the total dissolution of the existing order or with the idea that the existing order will be replaced by an entirely different order in a way that is comparable to the transformation from feudalism to capitalism. Rather, I conceptualize crises as situations in which tensions that are inherent in the system have developed to a point where the system's central features can no longer be maintained. The structure must be transformed, but the direction of the transformation is uncertain. If we understand a crisis to be a phase of restructuring whose outcome is uncertain, this enables us to both reckon with a new prosperity and acknowledge the inherent tensions in the system. In any case sociologists should avoid forecasting with certainty the breakdown of the capitalist economy. The immense flexibility, adaptive capacity, and innovative potential that capitalist economies have a displayed since World War II should prevent us from rushing to any doomsday conclusions.
I would like to approach my main question by dividing it into three parts:
1. What does capitalism mean?
2. What is capitalism's central problem?
3. Is there a solution for capitalism's central problem or will it finally collapse?
I argue that capitalism increases its viability by integrating elements that are alien to its pure form.
2. The Meaning of Capitalism
It is often asserted that the decisive feature of capitalism is that the means of production are controlled by a small group called capitalists, and that the majority of the labor force is forced to sell its labor power to the owners of the means of production in order to earn a living. Thus capitalism means the separation of the worker from the means of production. However, one may ask whether an approach that focuses on the conflict of capital and labor is not too simplistic a conception of the fundamental change that occurred during the "great transformation" (Polanyi 1957). Even if one accepts the notion that the control of the means of production is the decisive feature of the capitalist economy, it is still not clear that this description is a complete characterization of the structure of modernity. In practice the sociological theory of modernity may be read as a critique of the attempt to root the theory of society in a theory of the economy (Luhmann 1986). Taking these objections into account, I interpret the rise of the capital-labor relationship as an essential factor within the broader process of modernization. But what are the main features of this broader process?
Marx himself described modernization as a process in which the economy is set free from traditional bounds and gains autonomy. His successors did little more than work out the different aspects of this Freisetzungsprozess (process of setting free) that are constitutive for modernization. In traditional societies "the economic system was submerged in general social relations … the self-regulating market was unknown; indeed the emergence of the idea of self-regulation was a complete reversal of the trend of development" (Polanyi 1957, 67). The autonomy of the economy from the rest of society is essential for modernization. To be sure, other spheres of modern society—the state, law, science, etc.—also became relatively autonomous. For this reason I believe it is unnecessary and futile to look for a dominant structure in history. The separate spheres of politics, law, economic science, and the like cannot be deduced from the "principle of
value" (cf. Sieferle 1984, 22). But these spheres differ in the degree to which they achieved autonomy from the rest of society.
Three features characterize the rise of the capitalist economy as a process of Freisetzung: first, the separation of society into an economic and political sphere, second, expanded reproduction (that is, ceaseless accumulation), and third, the dissolution of "communities" and "worldviews."
1. The characteristic feature of capitalism as an economic order is the liberation of economic activities from political patronage. In the course of the transition from feudalism to capitalism the economy is detached from the social order, the core of which is political authority. The separation of economic functions from the broader social context has become the model of modernization as a whole. In sociological systems theory this process has been called "functional differentiation." Western Marxism also treats this differentiation as the separation of the economic from the political sphere. The economy did not exist as an independent structure, that is, as a sphere of trade and acquisitive activities, until this separation. The emerging acquisitive society was a "free" society in the sense that economic activities were no longer fused with political concerns, as had been the case in mercantile societies. Producers in the economy were now free to focus entirely on their economic functions. This freedom meant that capitalist firms no longer based their production decisions on external (political) interests. Rather their production decisions were based on the norms of economic rationality (Weber 1972, 79).
2. Rational capitalism is not characterized by the pursuit of profit as such. We also find this in traditional societies. It is also not characterized by the appropriation of a surplus, which occurs in earlier modes of production, too. Rather, capitalism is characterized by the reinvestment of the appropriated surplus. "What is different about capitalism as a surplus-generating system is that it is the only system that invests its surplus, not in articles of personal or public luxury and adornment, but in the means to achieve more wealth" (heilbroner 1982, 35). The business of the entrepreneur is to invest this surplus. The wealth of the societies dominated by the capitalist mode of production is entirely based on the fact that capital accumulates. If the reinvestment of surplus is to take place continuously and in a rational manner, then wage labor is needed as a precondition of accumulation. Marx described this built-in coercion of capitalist systems to accumulate as a self-determining process. In the chapters on expanded reproduction in capital, Volume 2, Marx (1970) analyzed the economy of modern society as a closed, self-referential system
reproducing its elements by means of those same elements (cf. Luhmann 1984b, 315; Maturana 1979). Marx chooses the commodity as that basic element, unlike Luhmann, who designates payments to be the basic elements of the economy. If Marx is correct, the essence of a capitalist economy can indeed be characterized as the "production of commodities by means of commodities" (Sraffa 1960). Such a system is self-referential: accumulation takes place for the sake of accumulation, and it is closed in the sense that it reproduces the elements of which it consists. Thus the coercion to accumulate characterizes the mode of operation of an "autopoietic" system, that is, a system whose reproduction is based on the production of its elements with the help of a network of those elements.
3. The dissolution of existing worldviews and communities is a manifold process. At least three different aspects should be distinguished.
(a) The rationalization of worldviews (see Habermas 1981a) is a process that leads to the end of a unified metaphysics in the transition from the old to the modern world. As a result of this rationalization, the cultural value-spheres of science, morality, and art became separated. Since this time, there has been no unified belief system; at least three different belief systems have taken the place of the former metaphysics. "Since the 18th century," Habermas writes, "the problems inherited from these older worldviews can be arranged so as to fall under specific aspects of validity: truth, normative rightness, authenticity, and beauty. They could then be handled as questions of knowledge, or of justice and morality, or of taste" (1981a, 8). Whereas the philosophy of old Europe accommodated a "uniform" and "closed" society, capitalism is characterized by diverse, complex systems of belief, quite different from the unified ones in old Europe. Perhaps Lukács, in his theory of the novel ( 1971) delivered the most impressive description of the "compact" world of classical antiquity and the Middle Ages. This compactness disappears when capitalism invades premodern societies. The rise of capitalism effects an opening of those closed worlds in both spatial and, above all, temporal respects. Before the rise of capitalism there is no open future.
(b) Modernization is not limited to the emergence of separate subsystems, such as the economy, with specific functions. Of equal importance is the tendency for the "system" and the "life-world" to diverge (Habermas 1981b). In the course of modernization the sphere of (bourgeois) society is set free from "communal" ties. But in the very same process the meaning of "community" changes. Habermas's life-world concept stands for the same phenomenon
that Parsons referred to as "societal community" and that Tönnies was trying to get at in his distinction between "society" and community." Tönnies remarked that not social life per se but communal social life vanishes and a new social life develops (1982, 38). In sociological systems theory this process has been described as the uncoupling of society from its interactions (Luhmann 1984a). Undoubtedly there is already some difference between society and its interactions in primitive society, but the gap increases in the course of development; with the French revolution the existence of the gap became obvious. Since that time the belief that society is controlled by personal interactions has turned out to be illusory (Luhmann 1984a, 577, 579). The communications that are part of daily life are subject to principles and normative orientations that differ from communications in the functionally differentiated subsystems of society. In modern society normative orientations, which may be predominant in interactions, diverge as a rule from the dominant values and orientations of actions in the field of science, the economy, and politics (Luhmann 1975). In the modern economy the separation between society and its interactions amounts to the detachment from normative contexts the market becomes an "impersonal order"; it is not an accident that such different thinkers as Marx and von Hayek use term to describe the essence of the market order. Markets are distinguished from other realms of society by the fact that they only need a minimal morality to function. In Streissler's words, the market is an economic mechanism that could function even among devils (1980).
(c) Capitalism leads to the disintegration of all forms of communal life. The classical description of this process can be found in Marx's Grundrisse (1973). In the famous chapter on "forms which precede capitalist production" (1973, 471–79, 483–514) Marx outlines a discontinuous view of historical evolution that differs radically from the evolutionary scheme he posits in the Foreword to a Critique of Political Economy (1969), which places capitalism on a continuum of forms of society that stretches from slavery to socialism. Capitalism involves a fundamental structural break in history. This break may be characterized as a switch from a "natural" (naturwüchsig ) to a "pure" mode of social integration (Breuer 1983). Through this decisive shift in the mode of social integration, all social structures become contingent. Because each social phenomenon in modernity is "made" or "produced" (gesetzt ), it can in principle be arranged differently (see Touraine 1977).
Having distinguished between the three essential features of modernity, the question arises whether these features have a common root. I believe that this common root is the "liberation from the past," which results in the autonomy of the components of a modern society. A modern society differs from a premodern one in that there is no longer a social bond that keeps the parts of society from drifting apart. In premodern societies community acted as that social bond. Certainly community has not vanished in modern society but it has become another subsystem. To belong to a community today is not an all-embracing process that leaves little room for individuality. On the level of individual behavior this change in the "status" of community is reflected in an increase in the number of "options" and a decrease in "ligatures" (Dahrendorf 1979). During the transition of modernity the cultural net that held together different activities in traditional societies starts to disintegrate. In modern societies a comparable core of normative values that restricts the range of options does not exist.
In the economic realm Marx's concept of the "self-valorization of value" as a "ceaseless movement" had already formulated the fundamental process by which the economy was being freed from traditional life-orders. "All that is solid melts into air." This short sentence from the Communist Manifesto captures the essence of modernization (Berman 1982). But it would be misleading to regard this process exclusively as a negative one; on the level of society as a whole modernization means not only disintegration but also the development of productive forces, the increase of adaptive capacity, and the like. Moreover, on the level of the individual it means emancipation and self-development.
3. The Central Problem of Capitalism
Political economy examines the problems of capitalism that result from its inner weaknesses and instability. Unlike the crisis-theoretical approach of political economy, a theory of self-destructive tendencies (á la Schumpeter) emphasizes that the decisive problems of capitalism result from its continuing stability and strength, which is, for example, demonstrated by its ability to penetrate preexisting forms of social life. Although one may question whether the history of capitalism is the history of progress, obviously this mode of production is evolutionally superior in the sense that it substitutes for premodern forms of economic organization and that socialism is not a stable or promising alternative to it. If one follows this line of thought, the "contradictions" that are capable of endangering the advanced capitalist economies—if they exist at all—do not stem from the weakness but from the strength of the economy. From this point of view a
capitalist economy generates systemic problems primarily by its functional efficiency and success, not by its functional deficiencies.
I have been arguing that the evolutionary core of the "great transformation" consists of a process of "freeing," "becoming autonomous," and "achieving independence" from different components of social life. Polanyi summarized this development with his concept of "disembeddedness." Only a disembedded social system is able to mobilize the energies needed to penetrate and disintegrate all given forms of social life, be they communities, life-worlds, worldviews, etc. The question is, How can one show that a mode of production based on Freisetzung contains self-destructive tendencies?
The only way to identify such self-destructive tendencies is to show that when capitalist economies are set free from normative bonds and instead pursue their own expansion, they destroy the preconditions for their functioning. These preconditions are located in the natural and cultural environment of the capitalist system. Insofar as a capitalist system does not keep within "reasonable" limits, it endangers itself by endangering its environment.
This argument is pitched at a very general level. The general idea that expanding markets destroy the resources on which a market economy relies is one of the most fundamental contributions of social theory to the analysis of the functioning of a market economy. But to point to this feedback loop is not sufficient to demonstrate that the destruction of the environment of a capitalist economy threatens its reproduction. To make the argument compelling, one has to demonstrate the mechanism by which such a self-threatening situation can evolve. A lot much happen before a robust economy is endangered. Given that the fundamental problem of a capitalist economy is not its inner weakness but its strength, in principle such a situation can only evolve if (a) a capitalist economy is crucially dependent on external resources and (b) these resources are being exhausted by capitalist growth.
Apropos the first issue, the radical ecologists contend that capitalist systems expanded in the past only because they found a variety of previously undiscovered natural resources (Immler 1989). But this interpretation may be disputed. It conflicts with the view that capitalist expansion is caused mainly by endogenous factors. This view is held by mainstream economics and even the neo-Ricardian interpretation of Marx does not deviate very much from it, stating that surplus labor "can play no essential role in the theory of why profits are positive" (Steedman 1977, 50). According to this view the viability of the capitalist economy relies on its productivity. An economy is productive if it produces more commodities than it consumes. Mainstream economics maintains that the productive
quality of the capitalist system is owing to its technology. Neo-Ricardians add, And to the level of its real wages.
Apropos the second issue, the main problem consists in specifying the limits beyond which the destruction of external resources endangers the reproduction of the economy. Self-destructive tendencies can remain unnoticed for a long time because they vary with the ability of the environment to cope with impairments, not with the adaptive capacity of the system. Provided that one can quantitatively specify the amount of pollutants nature can cope with, these quantities need not indicate a limit for the functioning of the economic system producing this pollution. Before the natural limits to growth are attained, presumably normative limits make themselves felt. Whether and to what degree the destruction of the natural environment has repercussions on the functioning of the economy largely depends on a collective decision about the normative issue of how much pollution a society is willing to accept.
But attempts to substantiate the idea that the ongoing destruction of nature "in the long run" will impair the functioning of the economy have to take into account not only the indefiniteness of objective limits to the destruction of nature but also the problem that the economic system—as far as the consequences of the destruction of the environment are concerned—is less sensitive than other parts of society. Public opinion, new social movements, and the societal community react with more sensitivity to ecological issue because a central value of those systems, the quality of life, is endangered by the deterioration of the environment. That ecological issue lack resonance (Luhmann 1986) in the economic system is mainly the result of the fact that the economic system succeeded in realizing a high degree of autonomy vis-à-vis its environment. It disposes of a system-specific meaning of action—the provision for future needs—a system-specific criterion of selection—efficiency—a system-specific medium of communication—money—and a system-specific code—the price system. These system-specific features, which underline the stable expansion of the economic system, may also explain why the economy tends to perceive environmental problems in a distorted way. For instance, the "language of prices" (Luhmann 1983) can comprehend problems that arise from the exhaustion of natural resources only if these resources have a price and even then it can only map the price aspect of the problem in question.
So far I have discussed the question of whether the destruction of external resources may impair economic expansion only with reference to natural resources. I left aside the destruction of normative and cultural resources and the possible repercussions of their destruction on the economy. Hirsch (1976) has studied the "depleting moral legacy" of capitalism. He regards the market system as an attempt "to erect an
increasingly explicit social organization without a supporting social morality" (1976, 12). According to Hirsch the
social morality that has served as an understructure for economic individualism has been a legacy of the precapitalist and preindustrialist past. This legacy has diminished with time and with the corrosive contact of the active capitalist values…. The system has thereby lost outside support that was previously taken for granted by the individual. As individual behaviour has been increasingly directed to individual advantage, habits and instincts based on communal activities and objectives have lost out. (1976, 117–18)
As Hirsch emphasizes, welfare losses and increasing difficulties in managing capitalist economies are the direct consequences of the weakening of traditional social values.
Although Hirsch's argument is appealing, I do not propose to discuss it at length. The only point I want to make is that in order to study the repercussions of the exhaustion of external resources on the economy, it is reasonable to give ecological arguments preference over moral ones. The main reason for this preference is that a capitalist order not only destroys the moral order it has inherited from the past but also creates a new one resting on capitalist foundations. As Axelrod (1984), for instance, has shown, self-interest may act as a source of cooperation. Whereas a capitalist order can create a social morality that is capable of supporting the functioning of the system, the same is not true for natural resources. The economy may lower its consumption of natural resources and there may be substitutes for them, but no economic system is able to create them. Thus there is a strong case for focusing on ecological problems if the fundamental problems of a capitalist market economy, which are connected with its strengths and not its weaknesses, are at stake.
To summarize, in order to make the search for possible solutions to the ecological problem an imperative, it is only necessary to make two assumptions:
1. An expanding economy is capable of destabilizing nature. It is not necessary to assume that its expansion relies on the exploitation of natural resources.
2. There is a need for action even though the economy may be less concerned by the consequences of the destruction of the environment than other social systems, for example, the societal community.
4. Possible Solutions
If we assume that the ecological problems arising from the "ceaseless movement of accumulation" supersede the problems occurring on the
labor-capital front, then the key question is whether this accumulative movement can be restrained and made sensitive to its side effects. A satisfying answer to the question of which strategies are successful in steering an economy towards a path of no or less harm to the ecology would require an examination of the different steering mechanisms a modern society dispose of (markets, the state, community, corporations, etc., see Streeck and Schmitter 1985). This task, however, is far beyond the objective of this chapter. I confine myself to some sketchy remarks on the question of whether democratization could help. I also want to point out that self-control (self-regulation) and an increase in self-responsibility seem to be a promising way to cope with the ecological problem.
In a stimulating article on the reasons why "big rare whales still die," Gonigle (1980) describes the conflict between ecology and economy as the consequence of the "economizing" of the ecology. For him ecology means more than merely the protection of the natural environment. "Economy" and "ecology" stand for different sets of "decision rules." The difference between the two sets of decision rules is defined by the different time horizons each implies. Because they provide for future needs, economic decisions are directed to the future (Weber 1972, 31, 35). But their time horizon is restricted to the short term. Long-term problems are not considered in rational investment decisions. The investor, neglecting the future, pursues a strategy of maximizing returns, even if this leads to the exhaustion of the natural resources on which he depends. In contrast to economic decision making, ecological decision making acknowledges that the earth has to be preserved for future generations. Therefore, present needs have to be weighed against future ones. From the ecological point of view economic behavior can be regarded as an attack of the present on the future. In terms of economics market allocation is suboptimal in intertemporal and intergenerational respect.
In its evolutionary aspect the main problem of the economic mode of decision making is that it threatens the balance between economy and ecology. For this reason it is short-sighted to regard the transition to socialism as a solution to this problem. This distinction between capitalism and socialism does not capture the essence of the problem. Gonigle sees the extermination of big whales as connected with the general problem of the lack of integration between the economic system and its natural environment. For him the solution to the problem lies in the politics of ecological transition. The result of such a transition would be the institutionalization of a radically changed mode of decision making. Gonigle describes this in conventional terms as "democratic" decision making that should take into consideration the interests of the natural environment. But Gonigle does not explain what he means by "democratic."
Usually, democratic decision making is identified with the participation of the workers in the investment decisions of the firm. Following this conventional definition, one would have to explain how the participation of the workers is necessarily a means to integrate the interest of the natural environment. Quite the opposite can happen. The postwar growth of the European welfare states was based on a capital-labor accord that included the reckless disregard of the consequences of growth to the natural environment.
The problem of how to control ecological risks in decision making leads to a more emphatic and more radical idea of democratization. This idea is present in Marx's projection of a postcapitalist type of association that enables people to control their Lebenszusammenhang (social life) instead of being controlled by it. Heilbroner, with reference to Branko Horvat's book. The Political Economy of Socialism, describes this radical democratization of decision making as the "complete lodging of decision making and responsibility for the labor process in labor, and the complete lodging of political responsibility in citizens" (1982, 39). Considering the degree of differentiation in modern societies, it is unclear what type of institutional change would be required to effect such control. It is not enough to refer simply to the principle "only the persons concerned ought to decide" as a general rule for decision making. This rule is impracticable because one cannot separate the persons concerned from the persons not concerned. Who, for instance, is affected by an economic decision? Moreover, this rule could be repudiated for normative reasons, not to mention the decline of efficiency it would probably cause.
If we want to minimize ecological risks, more than a vague appeal to democratic decision making is required (cf. Perrow 1984). We must explore the available strategies to sensitive the economic system to the destructive consequences that "ceaseless accumulation" has on the environment of the system. The recent literature on control strategies and social planning attempts to explore the potential of institutional change by "self-control" (Selbststeuerung ). Self-control replaces state intervention, but it is not the same as deregulation. Under self-control the political system helps to increase the capacity of the economy to organize itself. The principle of self-control may be summarized as follows: the economy is restructured in a way that enables it to become aware of the side effects of economic decisions in the environment of the economy. As the capacity of self-control increases, the economic system stops maximizing efficiency without regard to the environment: the standards of a healthy environment are taken into account in economic decision making. By this measure, the purposive rationality of economic decision making is increased insofar as the purposive rationality of decisions depends on the capacity of a system to be aware of the consequences of its actions.
These consequences may be indirect, remote, or noneconomic in nature. To internalize standards of rationality that include the environment does not imply giving up in toto the pursuit of self-interest or of system-specific goals. Rather it means that these goals must be pursued in such a way that the side effects of pursuing these goals are taken into account from the beginning (Teubner and Willke 1984).
Each reorganization of the economy that is based on self-control amounts to an increase in the perceptive faculty of the economy. One possible way of attaining the required institutional change is to monetarize the ecology, that is, ecologize the economy by economizing the ecology. As long as nature is a free good, rational decision making has to treat is as such.
One must not confound this opening of the economic system for environmental problems with "dedifferentiation." Dedifferentiation occurs if the economy pursues noneconomic goals (for example, education). In contrast, to include environmental effects in economic decision making does not concern the functional specialization of the economic system. Rather it concerns the autonomy of the economic system. A model for the opening of the economy to its environment is social policy. Heimann ( 1980) describes the principle of social policy as the realization of social welfare ideas in capitalism against capitalism. Social welfare ideas are inherently anticapitalist insofar as their realization amounts to the revolutionary restructuring of the capitalist economy. However, the implementation of social welfare ideas stabilizes demand and attenuates opposition to the capitalist order. Thus social welfare ideas contribute to the survival of capitalism, and social policy is at the same time both revolutionary and conservative (Heimann  1980).
One can now argue that the politics of realizing ecological ideas in capitalism against capitalism is analogous to Heimann's definition of the contradictory nature of social policy. Provided that ecological politics finds normative consent, the most important question is whether ecological ideas should be realized by means of external control or an increase in the spontaneous self-control of the economy. In the latter case "control" means to increase the empathy of the system and to bind its autonomy by "heteronomizing" it. As a result, an ecologized economy would prevent both the further deterioration of the natural environment and the disintegration of life-spheres. Such a transformation to an ecological economy would imply a rearrangement of the relationship between the economy and the other social orders. It would also allow a greater variety of modes of production and life-styles. In this manner "reflexive" types of control are compatible with the autonomy of the economy. By reflexive types of control, I refer to the types of control that reflect the negative consequences of system operations on its environment. Because of
reflexive types of control, a system becomes aware of the disturbing effects of its operations; this awareness is a necessary precondition for the readiness to decrease the level of such effects.
I argue that autonomy (a lack of common bonds) is, on the one hand, a necessary condition for the efficiency of the economy and, on the other hand, leads to a neglect of the environment. Therefore, skepticism vis-à-vis the possibility of an ecologically sensitive capitalist economy is advised. One can certainly argue that given the self-referential mode of operation of the economy, reflexive forms of control are rather improbable. In my opinion, at least two preconditions must be fulfilled to render self-control effective:
1. Governments must give priority to environmental policy, and
2. Social movements that are trying to win influence over economic decision making by means of public discourse must exist.
However, in order to ensure that the environment appears on the "screens" of the subsystem, it is worthwhile to make use of the medium specific to the particular subsystem. In the case of the economy this medium is money.
As recent ecological catastrophes have repeatedly demonstrated, there is still a crucial lack of self-control and reflection. But does the autonomy of the economy necessarily imply its inability to learn? If the answer is yes, then the question of capitalism's survival turns into one of whether capitalism can ride out a political discussion about the costs and benefits of a type of production that purchases growth by destroying the environment; not much imagination is needed to depict a situation in which the refusal of the economy to take ecological concerns into account renders state intervention which restricts the autonomy of the economy inevitable.
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Cultural Change and Sociological Theory
The study of cultural change enjoys a long and venerable history in sociological theory. Going back in time, one thinks immediately of Comte's characterization of the evolution from theological culture to metaphysical culture to scientific culture. Or one thinks of the more dynamic aspects of Malinowski's treatment of culture or the work of Herbert Spencer on cultural evolution. Marx, Weber, and Durkheim all come to mind as having painted broad canvases depicting the contours of modern cultural change. Turning to more recent theorists, we confront Sorokin's model of the cyclical dynamics of ideational and sensate cultures and Parsons's specification of pattern variables as a way of modeling the cultural developments associated with social differentiation. Parson's stage theory of societal evolution finds expression as a model of cultural evolution in the writings of Bellah, Eisenstadt, Dobert, and Habermas. Peter Berger, Thomas Luckmann, and Hans Blumenberg have made significant statements on the subject of cultural modernization. In the Marxist tradition such figures as Lukács, Althusser, and Therborn have contributed rich offerings. And we have a host of more focused empirical studies and specific theoretical inquires by scholars such as Michel Foucault, Anthony Giddens, Niklas Luhmann, Neil Smelser, and Wolf Lepenies.
In contrast with most historians' approaches to cultural change, sociologists have been interested in generating broad theoretical models. Rather than focusing on the descriptive details of specific episodes of cultural change, they have tried to identify recurrent patterns that depict long-range directions of change or that stylize the main sources of change. Whereas the historian tends to be skeptical of broad generalizations of this kind, sociologists have been audacious enough to try to
formulate vast theoretical panoramas on the basis of deductive logic and comparative inquiry. Presumably, these panoramas have been based on the historical "facts," but their purposes have been as much normative as descriptive. Their role has been not only to summarize some of what we know about the past but also to tell a story about where we have been and where we are going. As such, sociological theory functions as a guide that influences the very selection of issues on which to focus. Especially in theories of cultural change, the very framework that is adopted dictates the kinds of questions that can be asked. In sociology this aspect of the functioning of theoretical perspectives is usually made explicit. The same role, however, is often evident in the work of historians, even though they may be less inclined to acknowledge it.
Much has been written, of course, about the respective roles of historical inquiry and sociological theorizing and about the more specific interface between social history and historical sociology. The distinctions that have been drawn in that literature are quite relevant to the issue of cultural change as well. In addition, however, the problem of culture is plagued by a number of difficulties of its own. As soon as we enter its domain, our feet seem to sink into a quagmire of conceptual and empirical perplexities. We not only face the usual problems of selecting appropriate evidence and developing plausible theoretical generalizations but also seem to embark into a never-never land of subjective notions about beliefs and motivations that have only vague referents in the world of observable empirical evidence. We run into endless debates about epistemology, ontology, and interpretation that pit scholars against one another before the research task ever gets under way. The very meaning of "culture" itself, not to mention questions about the ways it changes, seems to evoke little consensus.
My intention here is not to address the more general issues of definition and theoretical method that surround the study of culture. Rather I reconstruct—and then examine critically—the main assumptions on which the two leading theories of cultural change have developed in sociology. First, I show that these two perspectives are clearly identifiable in the sociological literature, that they both grow out of classical sociological theory, and that they continue to influence much of our present thinking about cultural change. Second, I propose several criteria that can be used to judge the adequacy of these theories and demonstrate that both theories fall short of the mark on these counts. Finally, I briefly discuss an alternative approach to cultural change toward which some of the recent work on this topic appears to be moving.
One point of clarification is in order at the outset. Cultural change can refer to many different things, so many that the subject has to be defined more precisely if fruitful discussion is to ensue. For convenience three
varieties of cultural change can be distinguished. First, there are many instances of cultural change that are part of a specific social movement and seem to do little more than reinforce or challenge a particular idea. An example would be the new emphasis that has been placed on nature in recent years by the environmentalist movement. Second, in some discussions cultural change is depicted primarily as a gradual, incremental process, apparently occurring largely as a result of imperceptible shifts in socialization patterns. An example of this kind of cultural change would be the presumed long-term decline in superstition over the past five hundred years or so. Finally, cultural change sometimes appears to happen fairly abruptly, on a large scale, and as part of a relatively distinct social movement or set of social movements. The Protestant Reformation might serve as an example. These distinctions are scarcely meant to stand as tight deductive categories but will nevertheless serve for present purposes. The theoretical perspectives I examine in this chapter focus primarily on the third kind of cultural change. At points I address aspects of the first two as well but my emphasis is on historically identifiable cultural changes of major proportions that are associated with a specific group of people, a movement, or a set of movements.
1. Cultural Adaptation Theory
Cultural change has often been characterized in sociological theory as a developmental or evolutionary process that occurs in a sequence of analytically distinct stages in response to changing societal conditions. Variously described as institutional differentiation, growing societal complexity, or in terms of more specific tendencies such as urbanization and industrialization, social conditions are said to create problems that lead to new patterns of culture. These processes, moreover, are generally not entirely neutral with respect to subsequent developments but are thought to enhance the society's adaptive capacity to accomplish tasks necessary to its survival. Consequently, the cultural changes that become theoretically interesting are those that contain evidence of "adaptive upgrading," to use Talcott Parsons's (1971, 27) term, or "adaptive modification," as Marshall Sahlins (1960, 12) has suggested.
An early formulation of the theory of cultural adaptation can be found in Durkheim's The Division of Labor in Society ( 1933). This formulation links cultural change specifically with the increasing institutional differentiation that comes about as societies grow larger and become more complex. In a relatively undifferentiated society. Durkheim ( 1933, 287) argues, everyone is related to things "in the same way," so cultural expressions remain tied to the concrete ("this animal,
this tree, this plant"). In a larger, more diverse society experiences are more varied, so people must shift to a higher level of abstraction in order to generate shared understandings (not "such an animal, but such a species"). Durkheim summarizes his general thesis in the following formula: "[The common conscience] changes its nature as societies become more voluminous. Because these societies are spread over a vaster surface, the common conscience is itself obliged to rise above all local diversities, to dominate more space, and consequently become more abstract" ( 1933, 287). As an example, he suggests that religious conceptions become increasingly abstract and internally differentiated as societies grow more complex. In the simplest settings sacredness is an attribute of concrete objects rather than of separate gods. "But little by little religious forces are detaches from the things of which they were first only the attributes…. Thus is formed the notion of spirits or gods who … exist outside of the particular objects to which they are more specifically attached … [and] are less concrete" ( 1933, 288). Christianity, for instance, articulated a sharper distinction between God and nature than did earlier Greek polytheism. The Christian God was also more abstract and universal: the God of humanity rather than the God of the city or clan. As general correlates of the division of labor in modern societies, Durkheim also suggests a tendency toward greater cultural rationality and individuality. Rationality is associated with having general principles that permit communication across different situations, individuality with the fact that generalized cultural abstractions can be applied in different ways by different individuals. For example, science is a rational mode of communication that transcends local and national cultures; when we say, "In my view" or "I believe," we individuate science so it can mean different things to different people.
Directly or indirectly, the perspective formulated by Durkheim has found its way into the work of a variety of more recent theorists. Parsons, for examples, describes cultural change as a process of "value generalization" that is specifically induced by the growing complexity of social patterns: "When the network of socially structured situations becomes more complex, the value pattern itself must be couched at a higher level of generality in order to ensure social stability" (1971, 27). As examples, he cites changes in religious conceptions, the development of empirical and theoretical knowledge, and changes in legal codes. Together these developments constitute, in Parsons's view, the critical form of cultural change: "The generalization of value systems, so that they can effectively regulate social action without relying upon particularistic prohibitions has been a central factor in the modernization process" (1971, 15). Much the same argument has been outlined by Niklas Luhmann, who until recently has borrowed heavily from Parsons' general theoretical perspective. In a
succinct statement about cultural change Luhmann explains: "The reason for … the rise of ideologies lies in … an increase in the range of possible actions among which choices can be made, and thus in a heightening of the complexity of society—a heightening that, in turn, is attainable only when more effective mechanisms for the reduction of complexity can be institutionalized" (1982, 101). Others who have adopted this general view of cultural change include Robert Bellah, whose stage theory of religious evolution represents a major effort to depict broad patterns of cultural change, and Jürgen Habermas (1979), particularly in his scattered formulations on cultural evolution (which in many respects resemble Bellah's  theory). Both formulations depict cultural evolution primarily as a response to increasing societal complexity.
Although the notion of societal complexity usually remains abstract in these formulations, two specific kinds of social change are frequently mentioned as prime sources of cultural adaptation. One is urbanization. Durkheim, for example, singles out rapid urbanization as a particularly likely source of increased cultural abstraction, rationality, and individuality. In rapidly growing cites, he observes, the population consists of large numbers of immigrants. Their experience is characterized by two overriding conditions: they must adjust to social circumstances that are much different than those in which they were reared, and the composition of the city is more varied because of the migrants' different backgrounds. Both, he suggests, encourage new outlooks and habits of thought.
The other specific kind of social change identified in the literature as a leading source of cultural adaptation is economic expansion. Economic growth causes dramatic effects on culture, especially when such growth occurs rapidly. Although the exact sequence of causation varies from one formulation to the next, the breakdown of established social relations that presumably accompanies rapid economic growth is frequently identified as an important factor. Durkheim, for example, articulates this notion, particularly in emphasizing the uprooting of community and the potential for disorientation that comes with the transition to industrial society. During this transition, he suggests, people are especially susceptible to new ideas.
Although the emphasis in cultural adaptation models has been on gradual, continuous evolutionary change, specific historical episodes have often been identified as major exemplars of such change. Durkheim alludes briefly to three such periods. The first, beginning in the fifteenth century, consisted chiefly of the breakdown of the communal bonds between masters and workers that accompanied the growing specialization of artisan labor. "Beginning with the fifteenth century," Durkheim observes, "things began to change." Prior to this time, "the worker
everywhere lived at the side of his master." They shared a common experience and a common culture. But after the fifteenth century, "a sharp line is drawn between master and workers." The two became "an order apart" and the forced to develop a more differentiated set of cultural abstractions. The second period Durkheim identifies is the industrial revolution of the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. And the third period of rapid social change was, in Durkheim's view, his own—the end of the nineteenth century.
In other formulations these periods of rapid social change have also been identified as particularly salient moments in the evolution of modern culture. Parsons, for example, identifies the breakup of the feudal mode of social integration during the late medieval period as the social change that culminated in the Renaissance and Reformation. The Reformation in particular serves in Parsons's evolutionary framework as a key example of cultural adaption. It was, he suggests, "a movement to upgrade secular society to the highest religious level" (1971, 48). In a brief passage Parsons also focuses on the eighteenth century, particularly prerevolutionary France, as a time of rapid growth in societal complexity owing to the state's efforts to extend the political system to the entire nation. This growth in complexity, he suggests, set up the conditions that necessitated the rising emphasis on empirical knowledge and mass education that came about as a result of the Enlightenment. Similarly, the rapid industrial of the late nineteenth century seems, in Parsons's view, to exemplify the relations between increased societal complexity and cultural upgrading. He suggests that the emergence of socialist ideology in this period, for example, was a response to the fact that capitalism had not fully extended the conception of rights and equality to all social strata; socialism was facilitated by the erosion of ascriptive social tries and in turn assisted in the process of mobilizing "government power to institute fundamental equality" (1971, 97).
2. Class Legitimation Theory
The alternative to evolutionary theories of cultural adaptation has tended to focus on class legitimation. In this approach cultural change comes about as a result of the shifting position of social classes relative to one another. As a new social class becomes more powerful, it allegedly needs to legitimate itself both in relation to segments of the older ruling class and in relation to subordinate segments of the population. New ideologies come into being at these moments in history in order to provide his legitimation. Cultural change is adaptive as far as the rising ruling class is concerned, but in contrast with the other approach, this change is thought to come about more abruptly and in the service of a
specific set of social interests. The leading source of this theory of cultural changes has, of course, been Marx. However, similar arguments are also evident in Weber's discussion of the role of status groups in bringing about cultural change.
In Marxist theory the need for ideological legitimation arises primarily from the fact that any rising social class is faced with opposition from existing elites. If this rising class is to succeed, it must develop a broader coalition of support. As Marx and Engels write in The German Ideology, "Each new class which puts itself in the place of one ruling before it, is compelled, merely in order to carry through its aim, to represent its interest as the common interest of all the members of society" ( 1947, 40–41). This is the impetus that leads to the articulation of a new ideology, that is, a set of ideas that are framed in universalistic terms and disseminated broadly throughout a society.
The specific content of a new ideology is shaped, in the Marxist view, by two conditions: first, by the fact that new ideas reflect the particular historical experience of the rising ruling class, and second, by the fact that the new ruling class controls the means of ideological production. In explaining the rise of new political doctrines during the Enlightenment, for example, Marx and Engels state that the idea of a separation of powers reflects the bourgeoisie's actual experience of contending with the aristocracy and monarchy for power. They also liken the production of ideas to the production of goods, thereby making control over the means of cultural production a decisive factors. As they write, the class that has "the means of material production at its disposal, has control at the same time over the means of mental production, so that, thereby, generally speaking, the ideas of those who lack the means of mental production are subject to it" ( 1947, 39).
Elements of the class legitimation arguments can also be found in Weber, for example, in his remarks on the social sources of the Reformation. Weber's main interest in the Reformation lay, of course, in the effects of Protestantism on capitalism, rather than in the origins of the Reformation itself. But he commented extensively on the role of social conditions in bringing about the Reformation. In Economy and Society he argued that the Reformation was "codetermined," at least indirectly, by economic factors, namely, the rise of the bourgeoisie as a class characterized by a more rationalized ethic, a preoccupation with self-justification, and less exposure to "organic natural events" than rural classes had. It was, he wrote, "the peculiar piety of the intensely religious bourgeois strata that made them side with the reformist preachers against the traditional ecclesiastic apparatus" (1978, 1197). Moreover, it was the relative power of the bourgeoisie that determined which of the different branches of the Reformation were to prevail in different areas. Wherever
the bourgeoisie gained the upper hand, the "ascetic varieties of Protestantism" prevailed, but wherever princes and the nobility retained power, the situation was more conducive to the rise of Anglicanism or Lutheranism.
Much the same line of reasoning is evident in Weber's scattered remarks about the Enlightenment. Here his concern is, again, more with the consequences of Enlightenment teachings for subsequent economic development than with giving a full account of their origins. Accordingly, he suggests in passing that charisma played a role in initiating the Enlightenment. Nevertheless, he also suggest that the growing importance of ethical rationality among the bourgeoisie contributed to the principal doctrine of the Enlightenment—the basic rights of the individual—and that the Enlightenment was reinforced over time by its affinities with the advance of capitalism. Specifically, he suggests that the eighteenth century was characterized by a heightened sense of individual rights in the economic sphere, including "the right to pursue one's own economic interests," "the inviolability of individual property," "freedom of contract," and "vocational choice." These ethical norms, he suggests, "find their ultimate justification in the belief of the Enlightenment in the workings of individual reason which, if unimpeded, would result in the at least relatively best of all worlds." Weber, in fact, likens the Enlightenment doctrine of the rights of man to that of ascetic Protestantism, suggesting that it had a corrosive effect on traditional patrimonial norms, that it "facilitated the expansion of capitalism," and "made it possible for the capitalist to use things and men freely" (1978, 1209).
In explaining the rise of socialist ideology Weber again stresses the role of status groups and economic interests. Here, however, it is no longer the laissez-faire bourgeoisie but the "bureaucratic literati" whose interests are advanced by the new ideology. He writes: "It is this sober fact of universal bureaucratization that is behind the so-called 'German ideas of 1914,' behind what the literati euphemistically call the 'socialism of the future,' behind the slogans of 'organized society,' 'cooperative economy,' and all similar contemporary phrases. Even if they aim at the opposite, they always promote the rise of bureaucracy" (1978, 1400). The unintended consequence of socialist ideology, in this view, was to legitimate an extended rationalization of society, an enlarged conception of rights and responsibilities (for public welfare, full employment, old-age insurance, and so on) that would require a growing cadre of bureaucrats to administer. It was in the interest of this cadre, therefore, to advance some version of socialist ideology.
In a more general sense the theoretical themes evident in these arguments are also apparent in Weber's lengthy treatment of the relations between status groups and religious ideology. Throughout this discussion
Weber is primarily concerned with tracing the origins of a rational ethic in religion. Consequently, many of his specific assertions about the propensities of different status groups toward cultural innovation must be interpreted with this specific reference in mind. Nevertheless, he also offers numerous remarks of a more general sort that reveal his broader perspective. Like Marx, Weber assumes that class position has a strong influence on the character of beliefs. Although Weber's term "status group" is considerably broader than Marx's concept of class (which allows Weber to refer to social in precapitalist as well as capitalist societies), he frequently refers to Marxist categories, such as proletariat, bourgeoisie, and petty bourgeoisie. These and other status groups have, he asserts, distinctive ideological characteristics: the peasantry has an ideology rooted in nature and magic with a relative lack of rational ethical orientations; the nobility (especially "warrior nobles"), a belief in fate, divine protection against evil, and righteous causes; bureaucrats, a highly rational ideology that scorns magic and superstition, focuses on sober and disciplined order, and lacks interest in personal salvation; the bourgeoisie, a skeptical, this-worldly orientation; the petty bourgeoisie, a penchant for personal piety and congregational religion; and the proletariat, a secular ideology that stresses dependence on social influences. On the surface Weber's examples often appear haphazard and inductive. His point, however, is to demonstrate that an even closer affinity exists between social positions and ideologies than that suggested by class relations alone. However, as modern class relations emerge, they increasingly become a predominant influence on beliefs.
Like the cultural adaptation perspective, class legitimation theories have been greatly elaborated beyond their initial formulations in classical theory. Rather than simply tracing the development of these literatures, however, it will prove more efficient to discuss the various contributions in the context of raising critical issues related to both perspectives. As criteria for assessing the theoretical adequacy of the two approaches, I use the following considerations: (1) the concept of culture implicit in each approach; (2) the clarity of the explanatory variables in each; (3) the variations in the rate and timing of cultural change; (4) the mechanisms of cultural change; and (5) the relation between theory and history.
3. Critical Considerations
3.1 The Concept of Culture
The concept of culture that implicitly informs both the cultural adaptation and class legitimation models of cultural change casts primary emphasis on the subjective features of culture. This emphasis is evident in
the very terms used to identify culture: "collective conscience" (Durkheim), "orientations that guide action" (Parsons), "class consciousness" (Marx), "beliefs and conceptions" (Weber), "mental structures" (Mannheim). Although there are other more objective aspects of ideology in these conceptions as well, the basic orientation tends to derive from a variant of subject-object dualism in which ideas are associated with the subjective realm while behavior and social structure are conceived of as objective realities. One of the difficulties of this conception, of course, is that culture ceases to have readily available empirical referents. Instead of consisting primarily of observable artifacts, it remains a matter of beliefs and outlooks, of moods and motivations that are in the best of cases difficult to pin down in instances of historical change. In addition, much of the emphasis in these theoretical traditions has been on the psychological functions of ideology for the individual.
Weber, for example, clearly grounds his discussion of cultural change in psychological arguments. In discussing the relation between social stratification and religious belief he states that the hunger of the disprivileged classes for worthiness, for instance, is a "psychological condition." He also suggests that the legitimating beliefs of privileged classes are "rooted in certain basic psychological patterns." And he goes on to say that "everyday experience proves that there exists just such a need for psychic comfort" (1978, 491). Or to take a different example, Lukács ( 1971, 50) makes it quite clear that subjectivity is a crucial aspect of his formulation of class consciousness when he writes: "[Class existence] is subjectively justified in the social and historical situation, as something which can and should be understood, i.e., as 'right.'" And later he notes that class consciousness consists of what people "thought, felt and wanted at any moment in history" and that it manifests itself essentially as the "psychological thoughts of men about their lives" ( 1971, 51, emphasis in original).
In seeking the sources of cultural change, then, one is forced to rely heavily on assumptions about psychological processes. Ideas are bent, as it were, to fulfill psychological needs. The actual sequence by which this bending occurs remains vague, but theorists implicitly assume that the internal processing of individuals plays a key role. Weber, for example, in discussing salvationist religions, suggests that although they may originate in the privileged strata or be articulated by a charismatic prophet, their nature undergoes serious modification when these ideas reach the disadvantaged. In the process, he suggests, religion "changes its character." Elsewhere, he describes the changes as a "form of adaptation." How does this change occur? Apparently in the decisions that autonomous individuals make about beliefs. Consequently, the changes come about gradually ("by the most numerous transitional stages"). Individual
interpretations reflect individual needs, and these needs change the character of individual convictions, which in turn affect the appeals that leaders may articulate.
A process of this nature is difficult to observe. But even no formal theoretical grounds, it clearly contains deficiencies. It treats individuals as autonomous entities, rather than recognizing the importance of social interaction among them. It ignores other constraints that are likely to influence the ideas that leaders articulate, that is, it focuses too much on audience "demand" rather than emphasizing the conditions of ideological "supply." And it necessitates the assumption that there is a close fit between individual needs and ideological content, whereas in fact this fit may be only partial or may be determined by a wide range of other needs and interests.
3.2. The Clarity of Explanatory Variables
Implicit in the fact that theories of social change have often utilized psychological explanations is the tendency in the literature to rely on highly general, if not vague, conceptions of social change in order to account for specific manifestations of cultural change. In the cultural adaptation literature the most general source of cultural change is identified as increasing societal complexity. But complexity has a host of diverse empirical indicators: populations size, population density, occupational diversity, urbanization, cultural heterogeneity, institutional differentiation, technological specialization, and so on. In class legitimation theories the concept of class in equally vague. It ranges from distinct conceptions of social position in capitalist societies to vague notions of economic process to highly general ideas about power, authority, prestige, and status. In attempting to account for specific episodes of cultural change, therefore, concepts often appear to be evoked more on the basis of convenience than in any rigorous fashion. Virtually any event since the sixteenth century can become subject to explanation as a product of either increasing social complexity or the dynamics of "bourgeois class formation."
In some formulations of the cultural adaption model the logic of explanation also exemplifies the fallacy of teleological reasoning. Cultural adaptation, it is argued, is necessary for further societal development; the logic of some formulations implies that cultural change occurs because it facilitates development. A variant of this problematic form of argumentation is evident in Durkheim's discussion of cultural change. Although Durkheim circumvents a purely teleological form of functionalist reasoning, he nevertheless runs into some difficulty in actually formulating a causal argument about the sources of cultural change. Durkheim specifically argues against a teleological explanation. He notes that the development of culture is generally found to be societally functional
but argues that "it is not the services that it renders that make it progress." He also observes that it is false "to make civilization the function of the division of labor"; instead, he insist that the correct wording is that civilization is strictly a "consequence" of the division of labor. But he is somewhat at a loss, if a functionalist argument is disallowed, to say how this connection comes about. Having argued that cultural innovations should not be attributed to hereditary factors such as genius or innate creativity, he nevertheless falls back on an essentially physiological explanation of a different kind. Increases in social complexity lead to new ideas, he suggests,"because this superactivity of general life fatigues and weakens our nervous system [so] that it needs reparations proportionate to its expenditures, that is to say, more varied and complex satisfaction" ( 1933, 337). Although it avoids teleological reasoning, this formulation serves as a clear example, of course, of the tendency toward individualistic, psychological interpretations of cultural change, which I have already mentioned.
Turning to Weber, we find a somewhat more sophisticated set of social explanations for cultural change, but unfortunately these remain inadequately developed. Weber emphasizes both the specific role of status groups and the more general effects of economic and political development on culture. He also identifies—but never treats systematically—two other facilitators of cultural change (see Habermas 1984, 217–42): social movements, which, as Habermas suggests, "were inspired by traditionalistic and rather defensive attitudes, as well as by modern conceptions of justice, that is, by ideas of bourgeois and, later, of socialist provenance" (Habermas 1984, 217); and differentiated institutions oriented to the production of culture. Habermas (1984, 217) somewhat misleadingly calls these "cultural systems of action" but is clear in identifying scientific academies, universities, artistic groups, and religious bodies as obvious examples.
The picture that emerges, albeit dimly, from Weber is one of greater theoretical complexity than is typically recognized in the literature on cultural change. General economic and political developments certainly must be taken into consideration, but if Weber is correct, specific social movements and culture-producing institutions must also be incorporated into any adequate theoretical explanation. Otherwise, explanatory variables are likely to remain improperly specified.
An illustration of this problem is evident in Marx's discussion of the English and French Enlightenments. Marx singles out several particular aspects of the eighteenth-century social experience of the two countries and relates them to the content of a few writers of the Enlightenment. But Marx's discussion clearly fails to develop a more systematic or comprehensive view of the relationship between the bourgeoisie and the Enlightenment.
He seems more intent on illustrating certain biases in utilitarian theory than in articulating a theory of the effects of bourgeois class position on enlightened culture. What he provides, therefore, is only general sense of these effects. At most, it becomes possible to infer that the rise of the bourgeoisie in England and France was associated with certain economic problems being given special intellectual attention in the work of scholars such as Locke and Holbach. What is lacking in Marx's argument is any sense of whether the bourgeoisie as such is essential to this argument or whether it is sufficient to suggest only that commercialization had a general influence on eighteenth-century thought.
In the class legitimation literature more generally, there is, as Martin Seliger (1977, 151–56) points out, considerable ambiguity over the concept of class itself as an explanatory variable. This ambiguity revolves around the question of whether class is a conceptual category or an action unit. In viewing it as a conceptual category theorists have tended to consider it an aggregation of individuals, whereas as an action unit it has been regarded as an organized entity in which the majority of its members are joined together in a single organization. Both conceptions can be found in Marx and in Weber and in more recent writers such as Lukács and Mannheim. Curiously, however, both conceptions represent only the most extreme possibilities. Consequently, many of the intermediate levels of organization (within or across boundaries) that may also affect ideological change have been neglected. This point, again, bears an affinity with Weber's underdeveloped arguments about the necessity of paying more attention to social movements and culture-producing institutions.
3.3. Variations in the Rate and Timing of Cultural Change
A careful reading of the specific statements on cultural change of Marx, Durkheim, Weber, or more recent theorists such as Parsons or Mannheim, reveals another persistent ambiguity: although some attention is devoted to specific episodes of notable change in cultural systems, such as the Enlightenment or the rise of socialism, theoretical statements also tend to give the impression that cultural change must be conceived of as gradual, linear, and for the most part continuous. The latter emphasis in particular works against offering satisfactory theoretical explanations for specific variations in the rate and timing of cultural change. If cultural change is simply incremental, then only the broadest sources of its general direction can be of interest.
In some measure this issue arises from ambiguities concerning the appropriate level of generality at which to examine cultural change. If culture is conceived of as the most general patterns or orientations underlying social behavior rather that as specific symbolic expressions, then
attention is inevitably drawn to prevailing forms rather than to particular episodes of cultural change. Weber, for example, can be interpreted as having identified rationalization as the most general tendency underlying the development of modern culture. In examining the process of rationalization, Weber is led to discover it everywhere in the Occident: in law, music, economic relations, science bureaucracies, museums, the state, religion, and military organization. Given this prevalence, it becomes bootless in a sense to inquire into the sources of any of its particular manifestations. One instance of rationalization simply reinforces another.
At this high level of generality, each manifestation of cultural change ceases to be important in its own right. Rather, it becomes significant only as an indication that some deeper process is at work. Understanding the origins of a particular culture episode becomes less interesting than interpreting its meaning in relation to some larger pattern. Habermas, in discussing Weber's contribution to the sociology of music, for example, suggest that it is less important to know how rational musical structures originated or became institutionalized that to recognize that this development was a symptom of the increasing differentiation of autonomous cultural spheres, the increasing differentiation of aesthetic and technical realms, and the increasing differentiation of theoretical and practical reason (1984, 161–62). This sort of argument is conductive, of course, to an interpretive style of social science that is concerned with discovering the meanings of events rather than explaining their sources. Such an approach, however, depends mainly on having an a priori conception of the master tendencies in modern culture (for example, differentiation). With such a conception in mind, the investigator merely has to find instances of cultural change that seem to fit into the overall pattern. But the process by which cultural changes actually become institutionalized remain unilluminated. This tendency is related, I will show below, to an increasing bifurcation in the study of cultural change between purely theoretical and more historical or empirical approaches. For the moment it will suffice to say that efforts to relate these general perspectives to specific historical cases, while numerous, have proven less than satisfactory. Two examples illustrate at this point.
Although (as already discussed) the Enlightenment is often regarded as a key instance of cultural change coming about in response to changing needs for class legitimation, one of the most recent and most extensive studies of the Enlightenment straightforwardly rejects the notion that cultural change in this period was in any way connected with a rising bourgeoisie or its needs for class legitimation. "A new vision of the future certainly emerged," the authors states, "but its apostles were to be found among both nobles and bourgeois—of the famous Philosophes of the Enlightenment most were either born or bought themselves into the
nobility—and the first people who tried to translate the enlightened ideas into practice were members of the government, all of whom, apart from Necker, were nobles" (Behrens 1985, 9). Behrens goes on to assert that commercial and industrial wealth did not constitute more than a small share of the eighteenth-century economy, that the nobility and the bourgeoisie were largely indistinguishable in terms of the sources of their wealth, and that the nobility did not suffer any relative or absolute decline. The author's veracity, evidence, or indeed, understanding of the theoretical perspective at issue may, of course be questioned. She is, however, scarcely along among historians in drawing this conclusion.
The rise of socialism also provides an example. Of all modern cultural changes, this development, perhaps ironically, seems to have created the most difficult explanatory problems, especially for the class legitimation model. These problems may be partially attributable to the fact that some of the theoretical formulations in this traditions are themselves associated with the rise of socialism. But other problems also seem to be evident. At the simplest level class legitimation models attribute the rise of socialism to the emergence of the proletariat as a new class in need of legitimation. More sophisticated versions, however, have not been content with this explanation. Wanting to maintain the significance of socialist ideology as a precursor of the proletarian struggle, these arguments have taken a different view. Lukács, for example, writes that "nothing has changed in the objective situation" and that only the "vantage point from which it is judged" has changed ( 1971, 150). This kind of argument, of course, undermines the basic thrust of the class legitimation model. For if nothing changes in objective social relations, then how is the change in "vantage point" to be explained?
3.4. The Mechanisms of Cultural Change
I have already implied at several points that both the cultural adaptation model and the class legitimation model are less than satisfactory in specifying the actual process by which broad societal changes in result in specific episodes of cultural change. Because many of the more general formulations are concerned primarily with broad evolutionary tendencies, they specify a general relationship between increasing societal complexity or increasing economic capacity and ideas but do not provide an explanation of the intervening processes by which these changes influence culture. In this respect these approaches serve best as models of macro-level comparisons rather than as models of actual processes of change. With these macro-level approaches it is possible to make hypotheses based on static, cross-sectional comparisons of societies at different levels of complexity or development or on comparisons of a single
society at two or more widely separated periods. But the manner in which change in complexity or development actually leads to cultural change is likely to remain unspecified.
Symptomatic of the lack of specificity about intervening social mechanisms is the tendency in these approaches, already mentioned, to resort to explanations rooted in assumptions about individual psychology. Even if psychological processes are involved, however, these processes cannot substitute for a more explicit consideration of the conditions under which they operate. Marxist theory, in particular, emphasizes the fact that individuation, and therefore, individual psychology, is itself contingent on the nature of the productive process. If ideology is conceded to change primarily because of changes in individual experience, this experience is nevertheless a product of particular social conditions. Individual experience occurs under conditions in which market relations and "the principle of rational mechanization and culpability" have permeated society to such an extent that the "atomized individual" has come into existence. Also it tends to be limited to those aspects of ideology that concern an individual's self-perception as an externally governed commodity (Lukács  1971, 83–92). Within this formulation of the class legitimation model, individual experience can provide only a partial explanation of cultural change. To the extent that market relations remain incomplete (the is, subject to noncontractual constraints) and to the extent that individuals function in collective settings rather than being totally atomized, ideology will be shaped by other factors. The subjective, experiential determination of ideology, in short, operates only under extremely limited conditions—in much the same sense that classical economics assumes that economistic behavior applies when "all other things are equal." According to this version of the class legitimation theory, therefore, social mechanisms other than direct individual experience need to be considered in any effort to account for real historical episodes of cultural change.
The alternative to identifying psychological states as the intervening mechanisms connecting societal changes and cultural changes is to assert a simple mechanistic connection. This sort of connection is especially evident in the more macroscopic levels of analysis that focus on broad patterns of social evolution. These analyses simply assert that one kind of change leads to another; they do not even raise the question of how these changes are affected. Some of the functionalist imagery I cited earlier has failed in this way. Deterministic imagery is also evident in some formulations. Durkheim, for example, is particularly adamant about the deterministic connection between social change and cultural development. "Civilization," he asserts, "is itself the necessary consequence of the changes which are produced in the volume and density of societies." He
goes on to suggest that the development of science and art comes about because of "a necessity which is imposed." The advance of modern culture, therefore, should not be attributed to the values or desires of individuals. Nor should it be understood in terms of its attractiveness or as something toward which people strive. Rather, culture is moved along by the increasing size, density, and diversity of society: "It develops because it cannot fail to develop" ( 1933, 336).
More recent discussions have naturally taken issue with this extreme form of sociological determinism, arguing for the value of seeing a dialectical relationship between social and cultural change. Therborn (1980), for example, has argued not only for a more dialectical view but also for one that gives greater attention to process and competition. In emphasizing process Therborn places importance on the fact that ideologies develop in interaction with social conditions over a period of time. In emphasizing competition (among different ideologies) he also wishes to stress the fact that the outcomes of these interactions are to a degree indeterminate. Rather than envisioning a straight forward ideological outcome associated either with rising social complexity or with changing class relations, he prefers to consider the specific situations that provide room for new ideologies to develop, how these ideologies influence one another, and what the eventual outcome of a particular sequence of action may be. Therborn's approach, therefore, inevitably leads to a greater consideration of the actual processes and the more immediate conditions that link broad societal changes with specific episodes of cultural innovation.
3.5. The Disjuncture between Theory and History
As a final critical observation, I note that both the cultural adaption and the class legitimation literatures have shown an increasing tendency toward bifurcation between theoretical specification, on the one hand, and historical analysis, on the other hand. Indeed, much of the interest in cultural change among sociological theorists appears to have moved in the direction of abstract, normative, or reconstructive models, which in some discussions are specifically regarded as having no connection with historical analysis. A variety of reconstructive formulations of cultural evolution have emerged from the cultural adaption tradition, and the class legitimation literature has produced an increasing number of philosophical and epistemological specifications, especially in the Marxist and neo-Marxist traditions. Studies of concrete historical episodes of cultural change have not abandoned the assumptions of these more general traditions entirely, but they have increasingly expressed dissatisfaction with them and have worked from what might be called a more ad hoc, inductive, or deconstructionist perspective.
Both tendencies—toward raising theoretical questions and toward more inductive historical approaches—probably reflect the growing awareness in epistemological thought of the hermeneutic circle in which the social analyst is caught. Nevertheless, there has also been a tendency for the two variants of scholarship to grow farther apart. Indeed, a virtual impasse has been reached in some of the more philosophical discussions. Even as long as a half century ago, we find Lukács categorically asserting that it is "not possible to reach an understanding of particular [historical] forms by studying their successive appearances in an empirical and historical manner" ( 1971, 186). Thus, for Lukács it is only by constructing a purely universalistic, philosophical model of evolutionary materialism that scholarship can be advanced; in short, historical studies had nothing to contribute. Among more recent theorists, Habermas, Therborn, and Seliger have all in various ways espoused a version of this argument.
The relevance of this king of argument for empirically oriented studies of cultural change is both positive and negative. On the positive side it underscores the fact that any such inquiry will inevitably be guided by broad assumptions and questions implicit in the investigator's view of history. Much of the attractiveness of the cultural adaptation and class legitimation models has undoubtedly rested more on the nature of their assumptions than on their explanatory value alone. Philosophical criticism only underscores the importance of giving greater explicit recognition to these assumptions. On the negative side the high ground that philosophical discussions have staked out for themselves inevitably casts a long shadow over the valley to which empirical studies have been consigned.
Toward an Institutional Approach
Several of my remarks, apart from being critical of the prevailing traditions, point in what might be regarded as a common direction for reinvigorating the empirical study of cultural change. Specifically, some of my arguments point toward multifactoral rather than unicausal explanations of cultural change and highlight the importance of considering the specific contexts, processes, and mechanisms that translate broad societal changes into concrete episodes of innovative cultural production. In the remaining space it is not possible to fully follow up on these suggestions. I can, however, indicate some of the directions in which such a discussion might go.
As a starting point, we should recognize that a considerable amount of rethinking of the basic concept of "culture" has taken place since the cultural adaptation and class legitimation models came into prominence.
Rather than viewing culture primarily as a subjective set of beliefs, values, or orientations current treatments of this concept increasingly focus on the observable features of culture, namely, discourse and other kinds of symbolic acts. Once culture is understood in this fashion, it becomes more apparent that the study of culture must pay attention to speakers and audiences, discursive texts, the rituals in which discourse is embedded, and the social contexts in which it is produced. As something that is not simply affirmed subjectively but produce collectively, culture clearly depends on social resources, and the availability and distribution of these resources is likely to play a major role in influencing the direction of cultural change. Cultural change necessitates, even more so than before, an approach that focuses on the institutional contexts in which it is produced, enacted, disseminated, and altered.
That cultural change comes about not simply as a result of the disparate pressures of social experience on individuals but as the product of culture-producing organizations has generally been de-emphasized in the cultural adaptation and class legitimation literatures. But it has not been entirely overlooked. One can, for instance, find suggestive passages in Marx that point toward this conception of culture. Writing in the Communist Manifesto about the creation of a world market for economic goods, Marx and Engels ( 1967, 84) add: "As in material, so also in intellectual production. The intellectual creations of individual nations become common property. National one-sidedness and narrow-mindedness become more and more impossible, and from the numerous national and local literatures, there arises a world literature." They also liken cultural production to material production in their discussion of the problem of oversupply in advanced capitalism, stating that there is "too much civilization, too much means of subsistence, too much industry." They also speak of cultural change in these terms, asking rhetorically: "What else does the history of ideas prove, than that intellectual production changes in character in proportion as material production is changed?" ( 1967, 102).
But if culture is produced and cultural production requires social resources, then we must ask about the range of variables that may be relevant for understanding changes in the form and content of this product. For heuristic purposes it may be useful to divide these variables into three categories: the institutional contexts in which culture is produced, the broader environmental conditions that influence the kinds of social resources available to these institutions, and the specific action sequences within institutional contexts by which culture is produced.
Institutional contexts serve as the immediate settings in which culture is produced. Of particular relevance are the roles occupied by the direct
producers of culture, their relationships with other producers (both colleagues and competitors), and the nature of their contact with relevant audience groups. Beyond the immediate interests and experiences of these actors, their relationships with broader sets of organizations, coalitions, and interest groups are also likely to be important. Because resources are crucial to the production of any cultural activity, the relationship of cultural producers to the state, to economic elites, and to other cultural authorities is likely to be especially important.
The broader social environment subsumes many of the variables that have been identified in the traditional literature—social complexity, rates of economic growth, distributions of power among social classes, etc.—but it is particularly concerned with the character of the resources that may influence the institutional configurations in which cultural activities are produced. Rather than positing that these variables have a direct, unmediated influence on culture, the institutional perspective conceives of a mediated form of influence, channeled through the institutional contexts in which cultural production takes place.
Finally, the idea of "action sequences" highlights the fact that even within institutional contexts the production of culture is a process. Among the questions encountered in examining this process are questions about agency, the activities of cultural producers, their responses to crises and other contingencies, and the manner in which their responses are limited by the institutional structures in which these responses take place. By bringing questions of cultural change to this level of specificity, investigations can also focus on the ways in which different ideological formulations compete with one another, how social relations are imbedded in the "texts" produced, and how these texts are mirrored in the social interaction that ensues.
An institutional approach of this kind implies a great deal of indeterminacy in identifying the broad factors generating cultural change. This indeterminacy, however, appears to be truer to the historical record than the tight theoretical formulations with which sociologists have labored in the past. If anything, the cultural adaptation and class legitimation models have suffered from ambiguity because their simpler formulations strain the bounds of credibility. In contrast, combinations of institutional variables, environmental variables, and action variables leave room for considerable diversity in the factors that operate to produce cultural change in different times and places.
To suggest that theories of cultural change move in the direction of looser, more multifaceted models does, of course, not imply any radical deviation from the empirical work that has already been under way for some time. It merely affirms what the more insightful of these studies have already begun to show.
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