PART FOUR EVOLUTIONARY THEMES
The Direction of Evolution
Since its beginning in the eighteenth century, reasoning about social and cultural evolution has taken two forms. On the one hand, it has become a more-or-less elaborated scientific theory, reflecting the scientific and theoretical requirements of the day. On the other hand, it has served as a self-description of the entire society. The latter form has to be elaborated by social communication within the society of which the observers are a part. In other words, social science tries to look at society from and outside position, but inevitably its descriptions are part of society, always changing the objects that are described. It is not a matter of objective versus subjective knowledge; rather it is a matter of whether or not social science is able to reflect its own position by describing the ways in which it contributes to the self-description of society.
During the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries such self-descriptions drew on the imagery of Newtonian science. Scientific research on social issues was stimulated by its supposed relevance for comprehending civilization, commercial societies, and modern states. Although cognitive theory was troubled by the issue of its own "conditions of possibility," this did not prevent the development of increasing trust in science. Even history moved from the traditional narrative style toward a scientific model, at least in Germany after the second half of the eighteenth century.
This new scientific history broke radically with former traditions, giving new meanings to terms like development, evolution, and history itself (see Koselleck 1975). In the context of the aristocratic societies of the past histories reflected the needs and the interests of the leading groups. They were stories told to instruct the hereditary prince or the king himself.
They were histories of heroes and villains, kings and military leaders, their ladies and daughters, and their advisers. They were histories of interaction within a framework of destiny. And they referred to the religious meaning of the world. The guiding distinction was between virtue and self-control, on the one hand, and fate, on the other, that is, between the internal and the external causes of events. Only events and actions were thought of as changing within a world of stable essences, species, and forms. The notions of mutation, vicissitude, and change referred to this level of events, not to the levels of structures, time, or eternity. In regard to the form of the narrative, one had to distinguish between history and poetry, that is, between real versus fictional narrative, both of which served rhetorical and educational functions.
All this disappeared by the second half of the eighteenth century. The histories of interaction were replaced by the history of society, histoire de la société, as Bonald would have it. Destiny was now no longer outside of history but inside of it. History became fatalistic, or at least observers disputed the extent to which intentional action was important in history (but certainly not as history) (see Hoeges 1984).
My hypothesis in this chapter is that the change from the histories of interaction to the history of society reflects a radical transformation of the structure of society. The societal system itself changes its primary mode of differentiation from a hierarchical to a horizontal or functional order (see Luhmann 1982, 229–54).
Society's primary subsystems are no longer based on strata but on functions. Social order is now maintained by the adequate functioning of politics, scientific research, economic care for the future, family-building, public education, etc., and no longer by living life according to one's inherited position in society. This does not mean that stratification has vanished, but it does mean that it loses its legitimacy. Stratification is no longer the social order per se but a consequence of the way social order is reproduced, particularly by the rational workings of the economic and educational systems. Inequality is no longer simply ascribed to the different qualities of people living in God's creation. For writers of the eighteenth century inequality became a problem of "civilization" (as distinguished from "nature"). Inequality was not created by God. Rather, it was a deplorable necessity of civilized social life—vel ratione imperii, vel ratione dominii, as Gundling says—anticipating the need to distinguish between force and property or Staat und Gesellschaft
(Gundling 1736, 40). Nineteenth-century writers adapted the self-description of society to this new situation through the notion of "class society" and its ultimate projection of a society without class (albeit within the constraints of the division of labor).
The substitution of functional differentiation for stratification implies a radical break, completely changing the basis on which social order is built. The people in a system undergoing such a transition cannot observe or describe this transition. They may perceive it as a catastrophe or as leading eventually to utopian future. For Bayle and Voltaire, as for all who participated in the Enlightenment, their perspective on history had already changed. History became the prehistory of reason, a prehistory of opinions (including religious opinions) that would not stand the test of reason. A few decades later history is perceived as crisis. Herder, for instance, explicitly said that his interest in a new concept of history was a reaction to what he called a crisis of the human mind. One occasionally has to live for a while in a society that cannot be easily described. Because the descriptions of society vary so much it soon becomes clear that all descriptions are either prejudiced or serve latent interests or functions. The sense of reality is shaken at the level of "second order observations," that is, observations of observations. Essence and reality—the old kosmos —are replaced by ideology, that is, by descriptions of what others cannot observe.
1. Temporal Descriptions of Society
These sketchy considerations are a prelude to my main topic. I want to suggest that in a situation characterized by declining belief in stratification, vanishing essence of beings (in the sense of essential, i.e., the being that explains what the being is), and disputed descriptions of reality, time becomes important as a dimension of describing the society in terms of the past and of the future, in terms of a "no longer" and "not yet." The present is no longer seen as mediating "this time" (tempus ) of human life with eternity. It is now the terra incognita between the past and the future, fostering the paradox of the simultaneous presence of the no-longer and the not-yet.
In Christian cosmology there was a long-standing debate about whether time tends toward decay followed by final salvation. But this
debate was related to the level of tempus, of vanishing times, of human life, not to eternity. At the end of the eighteenth century the similar topic of the direction of time assumed a very different meaning. Observers used it to compensate for the ontological emptiness of a present that was between an obsolete past and an unknown future. What gave meaning to the present was no longer eternity, with its implication of life after death, but the direction of time. In modern times there is no other level of temporal order outside of the fluid concept of time that connects the past, the present, and the future. This new one-dimensionality of time eliminates easy explanations that refer to the variety of times (in distinction from eternity). Time no longer exists outside of history. The direction of time is the direction of history, and the nineteenth century came to the conclusion that no ethical principles, cognitive forms, or natural laws exist outside of history.
Moreover, we can temporalize this temporal description of modern society. It is itself a result of historical changes that emerged not before the second half of the eighteenth century. Time becomes historical because every present constitutes its own past and its own future, and history itself is the movement of the present on the difference of past and future states, so that new pasts and future emerge. The Zeitgeist (Herder  1967) is historically situated, looking at the past and the future. As historians since the eighteenth century have known, history must now be rewritten for every generation. But how? Arbitrarily or according to national interest and political fortune?
Historians have given a great deal of methodological reflection to these issues and have tried to avoid being completely relativistic. But this is not the point. Considerable time has passed since the beginning of the historization of history and by now we can detect the structuralism of conceptions of time. Looking back three hundred years, we can distinguish at least three different periods. In each period observers conceived of modern society in temporal terms. The meaning of the direction of evolution, however, changes from period to period. Each period is marked by a different semantics of societal self-description, and the change of these semantics follows a certain pattern: As soon as the new consequences of functional differentiation become visible, the self-description of modern society has to change. Although the new self-description does not allow for a view into the future, except in the most general optimistic or pessimistic terms, it does require a continuous adaptation of descriptions to the realities that have to be accepted as features
of modern society. I hesitate to use the Hegelian terminology about the self-revealing character of society because of its theoretical premises and "end of history" results. But at least the awareness of structural consequences of the modern system of society has increased during the last two centuries, and new insights have to be continually incorporated into any attempt to describe society.
Different modes of describing modern society in temporal terms produce, of course, different views of the past and the future. They stimulate different ways of reflecting history within history and temporal horizons over time. History becomes the main mechanism for collecting information about the new society. This is why the "history of society" has replaced the traditional "histories of interaction." Even the term "new" and its derivatives (for example, Neuzeit ) take on a new meaning. Now, different ways of conceiving the direction of history become possible.
The question of what constitutes the unifying tendency of history for a given period, linking the past and the future by an intrinsic direction, leads us to observe the ways in which the self-descriptions of modern society adapt to new experiences. We can distinguish three different ways of connecting different phases, stages, or epochs in social history. The first uses the idea of progress. The second describes history in structural terms as increasing differentiation and complexity. The third describes history and, in particular, evolution as increasing improbability, for instance, considering the concept of thermodynamic "negentropy," that is, negative entropy, or the idea of the increasing artificiality of social institutions that are the solutions of problems that are the consequences of previous solutions to previous problems. To some extent these three ways of understanding represent different expressions of the same idea. My hypothesis, however, is that since the late nineteenth century the emphasis has changed from progress to differentiation and complexity and from there to improbability. This semantic changes reflects an increasing awareness of the problematic nature of the structures of modern society. The sequence of semantic "discourses" from progress to differentiation and complexity to improbability does not simply reflect a change in the history of ideas. Rather, it is rooted in processes of industrialization and technological development, political democratization, and the provision of mass education in schools. Moreover, this semantic sequence corresponds to the slow process of discovering the contours of modern life.
The idea of progress became idée directrice in the second half of the seventeenth century. At first, however, the term "progresses" was used
and referred to the arts and sciences only, not to society as a whole. Only during the eighteenth century did progress become a concept used mainly in the singular, referring to a generalized range of objects such as the economy, science, civilization (mankind) and commercial society. The main reason for this change seems to have been a new kind of discourse that attributed progress to the economic system, or more accurately, to the political economy. In other words, the semantic change was caused by the differentiation of the economy as a functional subsystem. This semantic change, however, could not describe the functional differentiation of society as an all-encompassing system. No concept (except "mankind") was available to describe the change in the total social system. Instead, the very concept of society changed, shifting from a political and legal meaning to an economic one. During the second half of the eighteenth century the term "society" took on connotations of exchange and commerce (including the doux commerce of social relations) and eventually became a term for the system of needs and need-satisfaction, of property, money, and labor. Society was now identified with the economic system in distinction to the state, which was identified as the political system.
Because progress was observed in the framework of society in the new, economic sense, the meaning of the term became ambivalent, particularly in French writings. The Marquis de Mirabeau, to give an example, speaks of "dégradations nécessairement résultant des progrès même de notre perfectibilité possible ." Progress became a mixed blessing and civilization (in distinction of nature) an ambivalent term. These developments paved the way for the ideological disputes of the nineteenth century. Progress remained a promising idea for about a hundred years but the ways to achieve it (and therefore the ways society described itself) were judged differently, according to different political and ideological preferences.
Since the notion of progress was now contested, the fledgling discipline of sociology had to look for other foundations. For a while "differentiation" became the substitute term (Simmel 1890; Durkheim  1930). This notion had many advantages. It could explain the phenomenon of individualism, that is, the increasing emphasis on the individuality of the human being in the wake of the increasing division of labor and differentiation of roles. It could also explain cultural developments by assuming a correlation between structural differentiation and symbolic generalizations. And after Darwin differentiation could be conceived as a necessary outcome of social evolution. Darwin had explained the immense differentiation of species by one or eventually a few simple mechanisms.
In the long run the complexity of the phenomenal world could be reduced to one genetic principle: natural selection. Historical "conjectures" and "doubtful periodizations" were no longer needed and were in fact artificial assumptions. From a "scientific" base the new theory of evolution combined genetic simplicity with phenomenal complexity. It was no longer necessary to identify decisive events (such as the invention of artillery or the printing press, the discovery of the Americas, or revolutions) to articulate the direction of time. The identification of decisive events was replaced by the concept of evolution, a mechanism that produces increasing differentiation and complexity.
If this replacement was the starting signal for sociology and the point of departure of the up-to-now unmatched theoretical performances of its classics, the general public was not prepared for this type of theory. Unable to steer the mass media, sociology could influence but not control the self-description of society (Heintz 1982). A strange new mixture of hopes for progress called Social Darwinism was prepared for the general public by sociologists during the last decades of the nineteenth century, but it was soon replaced by a new emphasis on social values (Hofstadter 1945; Francis 1981). Looking back at this time, we find sociology more on the social side of the battle (Ross 1907). We also find disputes about accepting or rejecting the idea of social evolution and disputes about whether structure or process should serve as the guideline of theory-building. However, the level of the theoretical development of sociology was still too low to resolve these issues, let alone impress the general public with new ideas. Within the social sciences evolution, then as now, was conceptualized as a theory of phases or periods of development.
During this period, which ended only after World War II, the presuppositions of society's self-description were defined relatively strictly. The consequences of the industrial revolution fascinated contemporaries to such an extent that theories were considered useful only if they had a direct relation to the so-called social question. The concern about the social question reflected the general uneasiness about class structures, working conditions, technological developments, problems of welfare and social security, and, above all, the passing away of a whole set of traditional structures and views. Weber and Durkheim directed their intellectual energies toward the metatheoretical virtues of objectivity,
methodological control, causal explanation, and value-free research. And they were quite successful at founding a particular academic discipline, namely, sociology. But there were also strong demands for a self-description of society that takes sides on political issues, defines situations, copes with difficult and unfamiliar aspects of modern life, and offers remedies. In this regard it became more and more difficult to maintain the idea of a direction in history. The consequences of social evolution, differentiation, and complexity were still widely discussed, but this discussion occurred not under the heading of progress, but under the heading of obstacles to planning and social control.
The social scene finally changed in the 1960s. At this time it became clear to a larger audience that the theory of system differentiation did not have enough conceptual space to include all the negative statements about modern society one wanted to make. Nobody took the trouble to refute Parsons. He simply became obsolete as a theorist focusing on the functional differentiation of the system of action. For a while "complexity" became a conservative topos (and particularly a topos for right-wing people in left-wing parties). In search of a better theory, many intellectuals turned to the "cheeky teenage years" (roughly 1850–80) of the social sciences and, in particular, to Karl Marx.
However, this interest in outdated theories did not last long. It faded away as a result of a remarkable shift of interest in societal self-description. New ecological topics, anxiety about the future, daily news about technological advances, and disasters tend to catch people's attention. The inequalities of economic distribution to exist, but the risk inhering in the day-to-day functioning of the economic system seem to be more relevant from the short-term vantage point of daily news-making. Examples of these risks include the international credit system, free-floating money flows (sometimes several hundred billions of dollars a day), unemployment, the destructive consequences of free trade for local economies, and destructive consequences of national trade barriers for the international economy. New fields of scientific reasearch, such as nuclear physics and biogenetic engineering, offer both great prospects and terrible fears. "Orientation" is the futile demand of the day. Symptomatic of the embarrassment of the public, commissions on ethics are invoked to act as if they are in control of the situation. Sociology has responded with more or less untheoretical discussions about the fashionable terms of postindustrialism or postmodernity, trying either to catch up to the train of social movements or to run business as usual, that is,
conduct empirical research. Does this mean that we are losing all sense of direction in social history? It seems as if the temporal self-descriptions of modern society and increasing complexity only leave us with the certainty of the uncertainty of the future.
2. Evolution and Improbability
A short look at the larger context of scientific developments and inter-disciplinary discussions does not confirm such a desperate conclusion. On the contrary, we can easily find many theoretical attempts to give new meaning to evolution. They provide the conceptual space for describing modern society as a highly selective arrangement of unusual accomplishments. We can characterize this state of modern society by its evolutionary improbability.
As an introduction to this idea, consider the following example, or "paradigm." We can say that an organism that needs a constant internal temperature even when the temperature in its environment changes is in a more improbable state than an organism that adapts its own temperature to the variations of its environment. Organisms that are in a state of higher improbability can afford other differences between the system and its environment. Such a difference is not a sharp one; it can evolve gradually. But once there is a sufficient guarantee of bodily temperature and blood circulation, other improbable states of being can develop and stabilize. This means that more and more variables can be controlled by the system in relation to its environment. The "range of correspondences," to use a term of Herbert Spencer, grows. As the complexity of the relevant environment increases, new forms of complexity emerge within the system.
Biologists commonly describe the incredible stability of life on earth in terms of statistical improbability. The only controversial question is whether this stability is explained by the capacity for adaptation or by the capacity for detachment (Roth 1986). The evolution of society can also be conceptualized in these terms. Evolution accumulates improbabilities and leads to results that could not have been produced by planning and design. The point, however, is that the improbabilities once attained are preserved in the form of highly structured complexity. Complexity implies a highly selective arrangement of elements (see Luhmann 1984, 45ff.). It retains the possibilities of other combinations passed over in its morphogenesis. Complexity is based on repression or inhibition and
readmits the unused combinatorial possibilities as limited potentials for structural change.
From the perspective of information theory structured complexity contains information in the sense of a choice between possible states and redundancy in the sense of connections between different choices. Thus it is not completely arbitrary to expect certain elements if you have information about others. Information is a measure of improbability, and redundancy is a measure of probability (Atlan 1979). Concrete systems are always mixtures of probabilities and improbabilities. If we add, however, the genetic perspective and describe the system, starting with entropy, in terms of its probability here and now, it becomes extremely improbable.
Of course this improbability is a matter of observation and description. Whatever we observe and describe has the following characteristics: it is as it is; it is neither probable nor improbable; it is neither necessary nor possible; it is not different from what it could have been; and it has neither past nor future. These modalizations are instruments of observation and description. Therefore they depend on the ability of systems to observe and to describe, to use negations and distinctions, and to project unity onto what they perceive as highly complex. For our purpose, however, these epistemological caveats do not matter because we are discussing the self-description of modern society, something that is a description anyway. A society cannot know what it is. It can only know what it describes and why it prefers certain descriptions to others. But do we, in fact, describe our society in terms of evolutionary improbability, and if so why?
To begin with, I list a few indicators of such a change in description.
1. Immanuel Kant proposed to elaborate a new kind of metaphysics, one that was based on a new type of question, namely "How is x possible" (Kant 1783, preface). The new metaphysics did not develop, but the way of putting the question remained influential. Nobody doubts that x is possible. The question how, then, refers to the improbability of quite normal and accepted facts. For example, when referring to the Hobbesian problem of order, the question becomes "How social order is possible" (Parsons 1949, 87ff.; see also O'Neill 1976; Luhmann 1981). This formulation of the question tends to move the problem from rational to empirical
grounds. Habermas in particular objects to such a shift. For our purposes, however, the interesting fact is the disjunction between that and how, representing the distinction between the normal world as we take it for granted and the improbability of its present state. As a very recent consequence of this disjunction, modern cognitive sciences tend to transform "what" questions into "how" questions.
2. The famous distinction between entropy and negentropy has fostered the interest in improbability and probability. However, the former distinction is not identical with the latter one because the first distinction presupposes an observer "in between." In the direction of entropy the observer sees the probability of the improbability of an equal distribution of indistinguishable entities. In the direction of negentropy the observer sees the diminished possibility of randomness in the social order. In both directions the observer has to use a paradoxical technique of observation. Otherwise the observer cannot make use of what physicists present as an "objective" distinction that is based on the laws of thermodynamics.
3. Recently, there has been a shift in the meaning of "noise." It is no longer a technical problem that involves the disturbance of the transmission of information and that is solved by redundancy. Now, noise is a necessary condition for the development of order (von Foerster 1960; Atlan 1972).
4. A similar upgrading has occurred with "randomness." Only since the twentieth century have we been trying hard to produce randomness, be it in mathematics or in art (Brok 1967). This seems to indicate that we need, for whatever reasons, access to randomness as a position from which we want to see order. And because the world is in an ordered state, we utilize highly sophisticated techniques to produce the counterfactual state of randomness. Mere accidents do not suffice. They are not random enough.
5. At the beginning of this century observers generally assumed that an evolutionary development violating the second law of thermodynamics would require a nonphysical, that is, teleological, explanation. Today, this problem seems to have been solved by theories about nonequilibrated thermal processes. With respect to teleological explanations, one has to accept the dictum of Warren McCulloch: "The circuit must be closed to be purposive" (1965, 41).
6. Although throughout history the elements of nature were considered stable, changeable only by divine intervention, our century has reversed this view. Ilya Prigogine takes the discovery that elementary particles are generally unstable to be "one of the most extraordinary discoveries of this century" (1981, 42). To support this point, he refers to a lecture of Steven Weinberg titled "The End of Everything."
By observing observers who use the six devices just discussed, we can extrapolate a common tendency to look at natural and social facts as if they were highly improbable. This approach does not dramatically shake our confidence in everyday expectations, but it adds the new dimension of observing what others do not observe: the improbability of the bases of their observations.
To be sure, such a formula remains paradoxical: we observe observers who do not know that they do not know that they observe improbable probabilities. Although a paradox, it might be a creative paradox, suggesting strategies of "unfolding" that might lead to theoretical advances. The advantage of this instruction for "observing systems" is that it directs attention to time and history by using the asymmetry of time to dissolve this paradox.
In this sense terms like "higher improbability" connote a temporal description of states of nature or society. The concept of evolutionary improbabilities refers to the dimension of time. It indicates that time is needed to build up systems that presuppose themselves in the course of further developments. The arrow of time, then, points from more probable (easy to generate) to more improbable states that feed on previous developments. This description of temporal direction includes progress in the sense that we may or may not want to live in, maintain, and develop the improbable states we find ourselves in. This description also includes the ideas of differentiation and complexity in the sense that the modern type of differentiation, namely, functional differentiation, is a highly improbable state with more negative aspects than either segmentation or stratification. The new framework of temporal description encompasses the old ones. Moreover, it also reevaluates them and provides conceptual space for including actual feelings of insecurity and risk, distrust in optimizing strategies and good intentions, and unavoidable alienation.
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The Temporalization of Social Order:
Some Theoretical Remarks on the Change in "Change"
Anyone who does not wish to confine the analysis of social change to merely sketching temporal variations in social phenomena but insists on aiming to propound an autonomous theory of social change is soon confronted with the suspicion that to indulge in such a hope is to indulge in speculation. Social change, it might be argued, is no more and no less a specific object for theory-construction than is history itself. Moreover, it might be argued that explanations for the sequence of and relationships among the events that make up history and social change have already been provided by the theories of action and structure; consequently, there is no need for any separate theoretical concepts.
However, any such attempt to decouple the analysis of social change from autonomous theoretical concepts overlooks the tacit categorial assumptions made in all analysis of social change. Although "temporality" has to be regarded as a universal presupposition for experience, conceptions of temporality and change are themselves subject to alteration over time. The observations that follow are concerned with social change and the evolutionary development of these categorial preliminary assumptions regarding change and development.
These reflections start with the assumption that it was necessary for certain differentiations and structural transformations to have occurred during the course of the history of ideas before alterations over time could be conceived of as "social change." If one pursues the story of how the concept of social change came about, there is some evidence for the supposition that "social change" as a sociological term already represents a further transformation of the temporal structures that underlay the historical
I am indebted to Wolfgang Schneider and Uwe Sibeth for stimulating criticism and assistance in investigating the conceptual history of "change."
theory of the modern era or, before that, the history-of-salvation models in Christian philosophy (see Löwith 1953). Consequently, these differentiations set out a repertoire of possible approaches to the subject of social change that delimits and structures any theoretical treatment. The following evolutionary-theoretical outline is guided by the notion that the switch from historical to social change transforms temporal structures in a manner analogous to the process of secularization in which the problem of social change is differentiated from that of social order.
1. The Analysis of Temporal Structures
The basis for the remarks in this chapter is the following model for the analysis of interpretational patterns. According to this model, analyses of worldviews, interpretational patterns, and categorial structures can be developed along three dimensions. The first dimension involves the depiction of various systems for classifying the world. These systems are characterized by the spatial-topological distinction between different spheres, occurring in its most basic form in the dichotomous differentiation of internal and external, near and far, above and below. The second dimension is concerned with various models for the production, genesis, and temporal linking of events. These process models, which are incorporated in interpretational patterns, can be traced back to the elementary experience and shaping of temporality as actions are performed. The third dimension is concerned with the forms and methods by which a subject reflexively verifies and adopts a posture toward the world (the matter of whether that subject is an individual or a collective is irrelevant). In analyzing interpretational patterns or categorial structures I assume that all interpretational patterns of whatever kind incorporate a structural, a processual, and a reflexive dimension.
1.1. Topological Structure
As is true of other models, models of temporality and change can only be conceived of with great difficulty in the absence of points of reference. In this instance, the structural and topological reference is represented by a fundamental difference on which our awareness and conception of
change depends: the difference between a sphere of stability, continuity, and identity, on the one hand, and one of variability, transformation, and dynamism, on the other hand. Change can only be perceived against a constant background just as continuity can only be recognized against the sphere of change. In an elementary form this difference between stability and continuity occurs as the boundary between the continuity of the subject having the experience and the chaotic change in that which he is experiencing in the "world." Naturally, positions providing a guarantee of identity and continuity may also develop outside the experiencing subject in the world. Thus the development of differences in temporality between different spheres and the topology of those spheres constitutes the first axis in an evolutionary-theoretical reconstruction of models of change.
1.2. Process Models
Process models have been given particularly close attention to date by those who propound historical theories and metatheories of social change. Observers draw distinctions between cyclical and recurrent conceptions of the course of time, on the one hand, and cumulative models of progress and purposive development, on the other hand. A third concept of temporal sequence has gained less attention: the idea that events succeed one another chaotically and at random, the idea of chance and indeterminacy.
Such elementary experiences as purposive action, aging, the sequence of day and night, and uncertainty about events in the world provide the ontogenetic basis for process models. The nature of such processes provides a second important means of distinguishing between the models: change can be kept in motion by action-type processes or it can be determined by natural events. The increasing differentiation between natural, objective processes and those in which action is involved represents an important line of development in the evolution of temporal structures.
No society has confined its concept of change exclusively to one particular process model; several such models have always been used simultaneously, even though they were of course differentiated on the basis of spheres. Together with differentiation according to tempi, that is, according to the speed of change, then, the differentiation of spheres according to the cyclical, cumulative, or chaotic sequences involved is a further area of attention in an evolutionary analysis of models of change.
1.3. Reflexive Forms
The subject of processes of change can adopt three possible responsive postures. One alternative is that change is actively and purposefully driven on by the subject, accelerated or decelerated by him. Another alternative is that the subject experiences change as inevitable and uncontrollable, even though his own action is affected by it. The third posture is that the subject experiencing change is insufficiently affected by it and perceives it with an attitude of indifference. Of course no society confines itself exclusively to just one attitude to processes of change, but attitudes are invariably differentiated to suit particular spheres. For example, even if they accept change in the majority of spheres fatalistically, actors may nevertheless adopt an activist attitude to carrying out their everyday actions and remain indifferent toward the changes in natural phenomena that they perceive but by which they are not clearly affected. Thus the attention of evolutionary-theoretical analysis is directed toward change as it is distributed between spheres in which it evokes activist, fatalistic, and indifferent attitudes.
2. The Change in "Change"
2.1. Time as the Action Period
An analysis of this kind starts out from an interpretational pattern that makes no distinction between processes of social action, on the one hand, and processes of social order and social change, on the other hand. There is no recognizable social order standing out above processes of interaction within the framework of this interpretational pattern. The perception of change and temporal alteration is limited to the time-period one has lived through and remembered, to the durée of social action. Hence the "narrative" logic by which action is recounted both frames and structures the logic underlying the passage of time. The "stories" recalled are kept in motion by interaction among a number of actors, and the stories' beginnings and ends are determined by how the theme of interaction is dealt with.
Both the change experienced in the world during the course of action and the change experienced in the subjects themselves that they remember as they consider own personal experience of getting old are of
course limited as long as there is no social structure differentiating among time periods. Aging processes take place synchronously and therefore hardly give cause for the social differentiation of periods of time or of temporal levels. Beyond the period of action and the lifetime as directly experienced the world is experienced as something timeless and ultimately chaotic.
Primitive classifications, which by definition are not systematized by any superordinate principle, clearly show the unordered complexity of the world. They barely offer a topological "toehold" for identifying time that reaches beyond one's own lifetime or beyond the actions of the present (Lévi-Strauss 1962). The only way in which primitive classification allows a number of lifetimes to be linked together is via the kinship link of conception and birth; this pushes the temporal horizon back into the past and creates an awareness of continuity and change independent of the experience of the present. Evidently, the extension of such a genealogical model of time marks out a line of development running from the action-period notion of time to the socially differentiated notion of time.
2.2 Historical Time
2.2.1 The differentiation of temporal levels.
It is only possible for such a socially differentiated notion of temporality to exist and to be capable of grasping change even when change occurs beyond the course of action or individual experience if the structure of social order breaks free from processes of interaction to take on a duration and scope that is cast more broadly than individual interaction processes. In early high cultures the topological structure of such an order emerges as a vertical hierarchical ranking of a number of levels distinguished according to the tempo of change and according to the forms of process (see Kanitscheider 1974, 27; Lämmli 1962). The highest level in the hierarchy is generally timeless and infinite: the sphere of the gods, the sacred and the cosmic order. This realm preserves continuity and stability, instills time with unity and cohesion, determines change in the world, and determines the fates of human beings. This celestial sphere was initially—and for a considerable time afterward—conceived of in terms of acting personages: almighty and immortal gods who created the world, who guide the history of humankind by their active involvement, and who command the laws of the world as its supreme rulers. The fact that the reference of continuity had been detached from the individual human subject did not yet mean that the action scheme has been abandoned as a process model.
Below the eternal, infinite order of the sacred, but still determined by it, change takes place in the political passage of time, that is, in the rise and fall of empires. When set against the eternal order of the cosmos, the rhythm of this level takes the form of a short-term cyclical sequence, remaining a series of mere "histories" in which cohesiveness can be found only on the uppermost level (Hager 1974; Meier 1975; Koselleck 1973). However, when set against the action period experienced by the individual, the processes by which states and unions are formed, i.e., the passage of time on the political level, represents long-term growth and development. It serves as a reference point of lend "superordinate meaning" to the parallel courses and the chaotic multifariousness of individual lives.
This middle level of historical and political change was separated from the eternal order of the cosmos, on one side, and the juxtapositions and sequences of the actions of the present, on the other side. But these separations still do not rule out the possibility that superordinate historical processes were understood in terms of the familiar model of the action period. Action-theoretical metaphors continued to set the scene: struggle and conflict, victory and defeat, ambition and avarice. The development of historical time initially takes place as a topological differentiation of tempo, but not of forms of process.
Beneath politically constituted "historical time," that is, on the level of social action and interaction, change continues to occur according to the principles of the action period. However, having recourse to the historical time-axis makes it easier to recall past action situations. The hierarchical construction of temporal levels means time can be perceived in a special way and more keenly: rapidity, fleetingness, and transitoriness are no longer perceived only via contrast with the continuity maintained by the subject. Individuals become able to be aware that their own lifetimes and actions are transitory, fleeting, and solitary. It is via this solitude and isolation of human action that conceptions of human individuality then come into view, in Roman thought, for example (see Seneca 1969; Boethius 1974). At the same time, the desire to transcend one's own short-lived existence and attain the level of immortality becomes a powerful motivating force for human action and the central theme of the high religions.
As divine order, historical change, and human action diverge from one another, a final essential aspect is that the acting subject must adopt some posture: activism and fatalism then diverge from each other. Activism is
limited to the subject's relationship to processes occurring on the same temporal level or on the next level down, whereas fatalism applies to the attitude toward higher levels. The assumption here is that, although interaction between "neighboring" levels is always possible, differences in temporality generally prevent control being exercised upward from below. Human action is too short-lived to be able to determine historical processes, and the course of history has no influence on the gods. An indifferent attitude to change, the final alternative, cannot develop until certain levels have been depersonalized and objectivized, when, for example, the responsibility for ensuring the unity of the world and maintaining the progress of history no longer lies with the will of an eternal God but with an impersonal cosmic order. As long as action-type processes keep the world in motion, the predominant forms of response remain fatalism and activism.
2.2.2 The history-of-salvation model .
It is now common to view Judaeo-Christian eschatology as having transcended the cyclical concepts of history that prevailed during the classical period. The Christian promise of deliverance meant that the tension between life on earth and the hereafter, between the eternal kingdom of God and the finite and changeable terrestrial realm, was to become the driving force for an irreversible and linear history of salvation. At its conclusion, by the grace of God and the striving of the chosen, life on earth and the hereafter would be reconciled. In this view it is the task of humankind to drive on this history-of-salvation by sacralizing the here and now and to make progress with a view to the return of the holy spirit. It was the agreement to fulfil this task that separated the chosen people from the damned.
The original Judaeo-Christian eschatology still conceives history within the bounds of a model based on the action period. By virtue of its covenant with a mighty God and the intervention of his Son, a people remembers and experiences its history as the path toward a salvation that, to begin with, was understood in quite earthly terms. This ultimately magical pattern of interpretation was not so much based on the separation of different temporal levels as on the topological difference between the chosen people and the heathens. It was not until after it became obvious that the return of the Redeemer could not be expected within a single lifetime that—under the influence of classical philosophy—the time horizon and the topological difference between life on earth and the hereafter, between God and the world, between the immortal soul and mortal flesh, and between the terrestrial and heavenly realms were expanded and thus diverted attention away from the division between the chosen people and the heathens. There was an added topological difference between the individual and the
world historical levels of explanation. The individual was able to make progress along the path to salvation; the world, via the sequence of the three realms (paradise, life after the fall, and salvation), carried out God's promise of deliverance.
Another development of momentous significance was the new form taken on by the process model for change in the secular sphere. The cyclical view of the rise and fall of empires was supplemented by the perspective of the unilinear and irreversible development of the world and progress toward salvation.
Moreover, for history to be seen as the history of salvation, it was also necessary for humankind to be active in its approach and to strive for salvation. Redemption and the reconciliation of earthly life with the hereafter were not solely the work of God but involved humanity as well. This eschatological dualism introduced a comprehensive, positive moment of tension into historical change. No longer was change merely short-term unrest without underlying hope. It now had as its goal and ultimate end the perfection and redemption of the world. The beginning and end of history were in turn determined by the timelessness of paradise, past and future. Naturally, the eschatological process at first remained completely within the bounds of action-theoretical notions: the world has been created by a personal God who issued commandments, and if humanity followed these it would ensure its own progress to salvation.
2.2.3. Secularization as the structural transformation of the history of salvation.
When the rediscovery of classical philosophy occurred in the twelfth century, a topological differentiation began that laid the foundations for the secularization process of the modern era within the hierarchical model of temporal levels (Hoffmann  1960; Baeumker 1927; Beierwaltes 1969; Bredow 1972). The secular sphere now became more markedly and more clearly differentiated along two lines. First, the course of history and the prevailing social order was separated from the individual striving for salvation and morality. Second, the sphere of action and history was separated from the natural order. Nature, however, was no longer seen as unredeemed, unholy, barbaric, and the source of the base desires of the flesh. Rather, it was seen as the creation of God, a creation that reveals the eternal principles of the divine. The individual, by actually withdrawing from the spheres of worldly interests and the changing times into his or her inner being,
becomes an equally timeless stage for encounters with God and gaining knowledge of the truth.
The "dehistorification" of nature as a reflection of the divine and the dehistorification of the individual as the locus of the search for salvation and knowledge have the corollary effect of making the level of historical processes appear particularly secular, profane, and time-bound. As the level of individual action comes under increasing pressure from the history of salvation and as the eternal laws of the creator are sought in nature, history and the sphere of politics are gradually freed from their eschatological ties and are treated as a specific field of unrest in human action with a dynamism of their own. Even the final attempts to provide history with a theological intent in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries (by Bossuet and the Protestant universal historians) could not avoid making the assumption of inner-worldly regular patterns in their presentation of the course of history (see, for example, Carion  1966; Bossuet 1964; Klempt 1960, 8). Following Guicardini's and Machiavelli's historiographies of the Renaissance, active intervention by the eternal God recedes into the background. God no longer reveals himself to the faithful. Rather the faithful experience him through their own reason. Nature follows the unalterable, eternal laws of its maker, and history becomes the stage for interests and politics functioning according to their own secular principles (Machiavelli  1962; Bodin  1961; and Pufendorf  1967).
In modern thought, too, the level of historical time, which lies above that of action-period time, is primarily constituted by politics and law. Political interests are what move history, and the principles of legality and the state are what constitute the order of society. The legitimation of the law and authority by God through his grace, by reason via enlightened monarchy, by nature via the notion of natural law, or by individual freedom via the concept of contractual agreement thus become the central problems in conveying continuity or discontinuity. The "detheologization" of history and dehistorification of nature bring about a fundamental transformation of the temporal levels. The level of timelessness is no longer conceived of as a level involving acting personages. The place of the eternal God is now taken by the objectivity of reason, natural law, and the laws of nature.
In contrast to this, the social level, which includes customs and common usage, initially appears incoherent and random, to be made up of illusions and mere fashions, to be "irrational" (see Fontenelle  1908). The differences between the sphere of the social, on the one hand, and the principles of nature and morality, on the other hand, nevertheless provide an avenue for analysis and explanation. "The external circumstances which cause the differences in human customs and
may be supposed to favour them further should be divided into natural and moral circumstances," according to Walch's Philosophical Lexicon, published in 1726 (Walch  1968). The main natural causes are taken to be physical constitution and climate, and differences in upbringing and education are thought to be the main moral causes (Montesquieu  1950. The education of humankind by enlightenment thus offers itself as a paradigm of historical change and progress. The idea of progress was to develop in the wake of the famous querelle des anciens et des modernes, " that is, the argument about the respective merits of ancient and modern learning, into the central concept of historical theory in the eighteenth century (Burry  1955). By applying reason and gaining knowledge of nature, observers believed that it was possible to repeal superstitions and misconceptions to an ever greater degree and to make history itself rational.
The new model and paradigm of history, then, is academic and scientific progress, which many believe will allow the fortunes of humanity to be planned in a society of the enlightened. "The perfectibility of man knows no factual bounds, and can never reverse into decline," writes Condorcet in 1793 ( 1963, 27, my translation). The conception of infinite progress had as its opposite number the universal expansion of history's area of concern as proposed by Voltaire in his famous Essai sur les moeurs . Europe and Christendom were no longer the self-evident reference points for historical change. Shortly before this, Vico, in his Szienza nuova, had made the mondo civile the object of a special branch of science investigating social action and societal order. This investigation was not conducted, as before, with reference to moral precepts or the history of salvation but with respect to actual conditions. Once the future had been opened up as offering the prospect of never-ending progress, the space under consideration was extended and the "social" was discovered as an object of empirical science. The confines of the hierarchical model were overcome once and for all.
Apart from the extension of historical space in Voltaire's philosophy of history, the natural sciences' concept of time in the eighteenth century also broke through the barriers of the hierarchical model of temporal levels. The concept of an objective measurable passage of time determined and moved by the laws of nature gradually asserted itself as a point of reference. Against it, historical time appears limited, imprecise, and inconstant. The temporality of the world, on the one hand, and that of the passage of history and experience, on the other hand, are hence ever more sharply delineated by different process models. "Objective"
time moves according to the eternal laws of nature, whereas historical time is kept in motion by the progress of the human race (Elias 1984).
2.3. The Emergence of "Social Change"
2.3.1. The temporalization of the topological structure.
The years of the late eighteenth century and the early nineteenth century are regarded by historians today as a threshold period. This applies, indeed especially to the understanding of temporality, history, and change. The hierarchical topology of different temporal levels, where change and adjustment form part of a comprehensive and stable order, is replaced by a model that understands change as an abstract, universal process that reverses the relationships between order and change. No longer is change contained within the framework of an order guaranteeing continuity, but order is the continually new product of a comprehensive, persistent process of change.
The "temporalization of order" as part of the consciousness of progress in the nineteenth century is initially recognizable in a changeover from fundamentally synchronously arranged topologies to a series of consecutive development stages. The stage that comes later in time is regarded as superior and accorded a higher rank. Historical change no longer funds unity and a reference point guaranteeing continuity in an upper level of timelessness but rather in the infinite future that should be made a reality "as quickly as possible." From the point of view of the modern consciousness, change becomes the normal state. Moves to consolidate processes of change in stable orders pushed to the verge of the pathological, and the modern order's legitimacy consists primarily in its capacity to be systematically revised and refashioned. Progress, history, development, and finally evolution are the comprehensive "collective singulars" (Koselleck 1972, 1973). Their processes and their courses provide the material for the differentiation of different forms of order as "developmental stages" (Koselleck 1972, xvii). Although one could talk of progress in the sciences at the beginning of the eighteenth century, neither the terms development nor progress, nor even history, would normally be found in philosophical dictionaries. But by the first half of the nineteenth century these terms were part of the recognized inventory of philosophy (see Krug [1832–38] 1969, 1:776, 2:591, 216).
The temporalization of order is also apparent in the change in meaning over time of the term "revolution" (Koselleck 1984). Kepler still used the term "revolutio " to describe the orbits of the planets. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries the term referred to the renewed establishment
of the old, just order as history, having lost its innate order, completed another cycle. Yet in the nineteenth century revolution was understood in terms of the acceleration of history. The old order stands in the way of change and progress and so must be smashed to clear a path of history. Finally, in the following century, "permanent revolution" marks the attempt to prevent any tendency of history, having once been accelerated, to become settled enough to produce a new order. In this latter case change in itself is thought to be enough to ensure that reason prevails.
In the view we hold of social structure today the temporalization of order is brought out by the metaphor of the avant garde, which is now beginning to replace the concept of societal rank and honor: It is no longer one's traditional rank but one's ability to preempt whatever is new and of the future that creates social respect. The concept of avant garde is temporalized to the core. An attribute that is avant garde today will be generally known tomorrow, and shortly after that will even be seen as "backward" (Eco 1984, 77).
Neither the principles of a societal order as a whole nor its law and politics can be made comprehensible except when placed in terms of time: The contradistinction between progressive and conservative is an allusion to historical orientations. The working class does not build its interests on old claims that have been disregarded in the past but on the societal order of the future. And the law as it exists is under the notorious suspicion that it is "outmoded" and that it impedes the march of history. The classical theory of society, from Comte and Hegel to Marx and from Spencer and Mill to Durkheim, is determined by this model of the temporalization of social order. Observers can only analyze and understand a social order by contrasting it with its past and future stages of development and by conceiving of it as the product of historical development. No longer do monarchs, as symbols of either state unity or God, guarantee a society's unity. Their place is taken by the future and the orientation of action toward the project of creating a society of the future.
This temporal relativizing of the social order obviously caused problems for a purely moral approach to the social, which was still emphasized in the eighteenth century, for example, in the Scottish School of Moral Philosophy. The focus of attention was not now on a historical institution's relationship to the universal order of reason or morality but on its temporal relationship to preceding and succeeding developments.
The temporalization of the topological structure is backed up by the cumulative process model, which the late-eighteenth-century philosophers of history retained from the phase of secularization. Within this model every event and every state of rest is accorded its own position in the flux of time. History, therefore, is unique; it is a sequence of historical
individuals who can only be understood and placed in order according to a single, timeless principle: the principle of temporal consecutiveness itself (Meinecke 1959a; Meinecke 1959b, 118–20; Faber 1982, 45–65).
The temporalization of order thus also cleared the stage for a theory of society that was intended to be "positive science," that is, for an autonomous theory of social change that could no longer be reduced to terms of action theory or to the theory of social order but could claim to be a fundamental theory of the social in its own right. Since that time the theory of society has no longer been the theory of contract but the theory of evolution.
With the turn toward the theory of society in the nineteenth century there is also a change in the topological relationship between the individual, on the one hand, and the sphere of the social on the order hand. Until the Enlightenment the old European tradition contrasted the individual, in whom universal reason and natural morality were located, with the sphere of customs, fashions, errors, and variations that went to make up things social. In Hegel, at the latest, although probably earlier (in Proudhon and Turgot), this relationship begins to be turned on itself. The individual now appears to be myopic, governed by particularized interests and blind passions, and incapable of comprehending what reason underlies societal development and the march of history. It is only through the cunning of reason that the historical forces that stand behind the backs of acting individuals (Marx) and that also assert themselves against the will and without the understanding of acting individuals shape historical progress. Reason in history might be discerned by scrutiny, and the important point is to unveil the essential and general aspects beneath the surface of particular individual actions.
2.3.2 Functional differentiation as a process model.
The temporalization of topology is complemented by the rebuilding of the process model so that the dynamism for change no longer derives from the relationship of tension between unequal levels in a hierarchy but from the relationship between equally ranked units of society. The individual striving for salvation gives way to the dynamics of functionally differentiated subsystems.
In the context of the old European temporal-level model the political functional aspect has already emerged in differentiated form for the level of historical change. This point of reference was formulated in terms of action theory and the theory of order as, respectively, the logic of the rational pursuit of political interests and as the question of just rule and authority. The "self-thematization" of society as it entered the
modern era is a clear reflection of this differentiation of politics. The theory of society was indeed political theory, an identity that can also be inferred from the increasing "legalization" of social action and societal processes. The demand that authority claims be legally regulated long represented the focus of modern conceptions of progress and the central theme of political movements.
The theory of society during the Enlightenment, with its orientation to knowledge gained by science, reason, and natural morality, presented an obstacle to the dominance of politics. Scientific advances caused political authority and legal stipulation to seem backward and wanting in justification. Progress had now changed horses: the differentiated sphere of science and culture, not politics, was in the vanguard of history. (Even in Comte, the highest level of historical development is still characterized by the rule of positive science.)
At the turn of the nineteenth century another functional sphere provided the theme for the theory of society: the economy. A considerable part of the nineteenth-century theory of society consisted of the analysis of society using the terminology and guiding concepts of economics. The terms "division of labor" and "functional differentiation" became the fundamental structural concepts of the theory of society, and the notion of progress was interpreted more and more as increasing economic productivity. In this movement the orientation to economic goals seemed to envelop and regulate all other conceptions of progress. The raising of production levels signified prosperity and happiness for the individual and progress in the sciences and became a guiding conception of politics and the law. This fascination with economic dynamism as the fundamental driving force for societal motion can be felt in an exemplary way in Marx, who wrote that history is held in a state of unrest by the contradiction between the dynamics of the forces of production and their enchainment by the law, politics, and ideology, that is, by the backward spheres. Not until ideology, the law, and politics have made up for this developmental lag is history able to come into its own. Thus, as Löwith (1953) has shown, the old motif of the history of salvation is taken up anew, and, in addition—especially when communist society ceases to be a realistic historical expectation—a new process model is documented, one that will take on an increasing significance as time moves on.
Once politics, science, and the economy had been identified and differentiated, both symbolically and institutionally, different societal spheres came into existence and interrelated in such a way that unrest in even one of these spheres caused relations among spheres to become fundamentally imbalanced and loaded with tension. Establishing relations among spheres that have differing dynamics presents us with a new way to experience time. If temporality and change are the fundamental givens of history,
specific fixed points can no longer be used as the guarantors of continuity: everything is always in motion, and the only constant in change itself. The relativistic perception of time only remains in the relationship that different processes of change have with one another, in the differences in dynamism between spheres, and in the gap between advanced and retarded spheres.
If these differences in dynamics do not occur, and the various spheres develop "in time," that is, synchronously, then the possibility of historical time also disappears. When developments accelerate and a particular "pace-making" sphere triggers a societywide take-off because of its own dynamism, then history and change have their chance. Consequently, order in any particular society can never be a concrete and ultimate phenomenon. Order is always a process-generated, provisional, and transitory structure that has its continuity solely in the infinite nature of the process itself and in the lack of simultaneity among different spheres. As society undergoes conversion from a stratified to a functionally differentiated structure, the models of temporality are likewise fundamentally reconstructed. Within the framework of the order the guarantees continuity change is replaced by the temporalization of order, and the social hierarchy is replaced by the market as the model of history and change.
An analogous paradigmatic switch occurred in biology when the Linnean classification of natural processes was succeeded by the Darwinian theory of evolution. Darwin's theory of the origin of the species by natural selection, which was to prove extraordinarily momentous for the theory of society that followed, brings out, in its very name, the temporalization of order. A number of observers have noted that Darwinian theory itself took as its model certain economic theories of the day.
2.3.3.The objectification and moral neutralization of the social realm.
The changed makeup of the topological structure and the switch in the process model that occur in the modern theory of change have as a counterpart alterations in the prevailing reflexive forms in change. These alterations primarily involve moral aspects giving way to cognitive aspects in society.
This movement, which forms part of the comprehensive process of rationalization in modernity, is brought out in the value-neutral attitude adopted by scientific observation. This changeover is as apparent in the alteration of the concept of society during the nineteenth century as it is in the objectification of social structures, which become ever more markedly separated from the level of individual social action.
In the seventeenth century "society" still largely refers to particularized societies in the sense of organized groupings serving a specific purpose. It later takes on the additional sense of a community of educated and civilized persons. Only during the course of the nineteenth century does "bourgeois society" lead to the concept of society as a comprehensive social system that cannot be reduced to the terms of its constituent parts (see Riedel 1975). The objective structures of history and society, on the one hand, and the processes of individual and collective action, on the other hand, take on their own separate identities. The progress of history and the development of the individual or the development of a collective subject, e.g., mankind, the nation, followed one and the same pedagogical principle in the philosophy of the Enlightenment, and in the model of the theory of contract the structure of the state always remained bound to the interests of contracting parties. But in later times the collective singulars (see Koselleck 1972, 1973), i.e., history, society, and progress, became a set of impersonal, abstract, and objective interrelations actually developing in contrast to both subjectivity and particularized organizations. The levels of interaction, organization, and society part company (Luhmann 1975a, 1984, 551ff.).
This objectification of the societal is especially evident in the nature of the relationship linking the various levels of society. In premodern hierarchical historical models the relationship was one of command and obedience, of moral prescription and adherence to precepts. The notion of an action-type relationship between various actors that was capable of being moralized was still a binding one for the Enlightenment's idea of history. However, it should be noted that these relationships were viewed in reverse: in the conflict between rulers and the ruled, the apologists of the ancien régime and those of the revolution, and later between society and the individual, the higher level in the hierarchy bore the taint of immorality.
In the nineteenth century the concept of society begins to separate from the notion of intentional action that one has to relate to in moral terms, whether in the form of rebellion or obedience. Society is comprehended as an objective structure that is only linked to the action level via
the unintentional consequences of action or, more frequently, via the preconditions for action that are not necessarily conscious. As structure and action or, stated in a different terminology, system and life-world or, to use yet another famous phrase, society and community part company, this tendency is initially treated morally—as an opportunity to register critical complaints against modernity. But it is later treated theoretically—as a theme and point of departure for sociological reflection. Although Marx criticizes the commodity form and the abstractness shown by social relations, he still systematically uses the parting of societal conditions, individual consciousness, and societal consequences of action in his own conception of crisis. In comparison with the impersonal and objective mechanisms of the process of capital exploitation, the individual consciousness, and indeed the collective consciousness of particular classes, appears to be of secondary significance. Yet even the economic relations involved in the process of capital exploitation are themselves those of a tacit and more deep-seated relationship that of course must be understood in the Enlightenment tradition as authoritarian and as an impediment to the realm of freedom.
In Durkheim, however, the noncontractual elements of contract are made the constitutive structures for society and the moral foundation of society is drawn away from the sphere of individual or collective action. No longer does action provide the explanation for societal structures; rather action is now explained as a product of those structures. At the same time the objectivity of societal structures is delimited by its forms of manifestation in culture, religion, and the economy. Thus the relationship between knowledge and society has changed fundamentally since the Enlightenment. No longer does the dynamism—or the backwardness—of knowledge govern changes in customs; instead, the structure of society explains the variation in knowledge and religion.
Since Durkheim, society has irrevocably become an objective and empirical reality that can no longer be adequately grasped in moral reflection or controlled by political action. Rather, as an empirical system in reality, society needs to be approached scientifically and cognitively in an effort to ascertain the principles peculiar to all that is social. Sociology comes on the scene as an empirical and positive science. The posture adopted toward change by science rests primarily on the impartiality of the observer, who is at pains to be objective. Although activism remains the predominant attitude of the citizen within society, this orientation necessarily recedes into the background when the scientific examination of the actual situation begins. Weber's theory of sociological science, in particular, documents this attitude of impartiality toward social reality. His work, in which social action becomes the comprehensive concept commanding the subservience of economic action, marks the end of a line that reaches from the
idea of the irrationality and randomness of customs to that of a distinctive logic of the social providing the foundation for the multifariousness of historical change. Finally, the modern sociological theory of a social change comes forward with the claim to assume the position of the theory of history and to take over the legacy of secularization.
3. On the Current Situation of the Theory of Social Change
Contemporary theories of social change are confronted with a scenario that has not only developed beyond the temporal structures of the secularized history-of-salvation model but also beyond the evolutionism of the nineteenth century. The topological differentiation of various temporal levels is supplemented and overlaid by the unregulated juxtaposition of several equal-ranking subsystems. Societal structures are no longer simply seen as a reflection or consequence of individual or collective action, but as a comprehensive determinant basis for action.
Nor is the interpretation of the process of change itself any longer reliant on a secularized version of the history-of-salvation model. History has lost sight of its goal, and the concept of a cyclical passage of events is also no longer able to offer a plausible overall interpretation of the historical process. Unrest and change in societal structures are no longer solely the product of the contingencies and interweaving of individual action; they are also the product of the unregulated relationships social system have with one another as they attempt to maintain and reproduce their structures in the face of insecure environments. Although stratified structures and cyclical sequences do occur in processes that are temporally and structurally limited, they do not occur in the overall process of societal change itself.
The overall process of change is no more than the most general, empty frame of reference for the development and decline of structures. In this extreme formulation change is synonymous with temporality. This generalization, together with the dilution of the concept of change, is reflected by the switch from the experienced and recalled action-period time, via the time reflected in the course of history, to the objective time used in physics, which also provides the self-evident frame of reference for the sociological analysis of change. This time is infinite, vacuous, reversible, equally divisible, and measurable.
There are a number of ways in which sociological theory may react to this situation. I outline the two most important options.
1. The first option is to abandon the aim of achieving an autonomous theory of social change because temporality and change form a
general determinant of the social realm. The category of change is too empty and unspecific to serve as a worthwhile object of specific theory-building. The sociological analysis of change should therefore be confined to investigating certain empirical aspects of specific processes of change. Thus this option completes—after a certain amount of delay—the turn away from the ambitious theory construction already carried out by the historical sciences. The obvious gain from such a strategy is that the methodological approach would be between quantitative historical science and the empirical analysis of social change. The price would be the underdevelopment of the theoretical concepts implicit in this option and the surrender of the subject of time to the natural sciences.
2. In contrast to this, a number of theoreticians insist on a second option that continues to treat the question of change sociologically but does so within the framework of simple—sometimes too simple—temporal structures.
One can initially conceive of four options in terms of theoretical strategy for analyzing and explaining social change in the context of premodern temporal structures. Two of these fall within the model of action-period time and do not make any strict distinction between the themes of social action, social order, and social change. Two other options, although they establish differentiated levels with regard to social action and social order, nevertheless still treat the question of social change in a frame of reference defined by a theory of order. In these two cases the background is provided by a model of temporal levels.
1. Individualistic explanations and analyses of social change give primacy to theories of instrumental, or strategic, action, even when it comes to answering questions of social order and social change (see Schmid 1982, 58–92). Although it is true that individualistic theories, in their topologies, set the action level apart from the structural level or level of order, the only factor admitted as a process model is the dynamism of individual, utility-oriented action. The interconnection and interweaving of these actions on a larger scale, resulting in unintentional effects, are, however, not generally treated using specific theories of social order. Rather they are explained by a theory of instruments of action. Similarly, social change is seen as change in structures that is generated by action. Hence it is explained in action-theoretical terms. Consequently, social change is taken to have been adequately explained only if it can be traced back to the actions of empirical subjects. Just as a
social order or a social structure is inconceivable without the individuals who compose it, so too social change is incomprehensible without the actors who are its moving force. Because this involves temporarily breaking down the process of change into actions and their consequences, the analysis of long-term structural change is impaired. The pursuit of far-reaching results of action is tortuous from a theoretical point of view and painstaking from an empirical one.
2. Interactionistic analyses of social change also have difficulty in using theory to trace the differentiation between social action, social order, and social change. Indeed, the very ambition of interactionistic theory is to present social order and structure as the fragile and fleeting result of a continual process of social interaction and construction. Change is directly located on the action level and does not require any special theoretical question to be posed. If lasting structural relations have any part to play at all in the context of interactionistic analysis, it is as symbolic structures of knowledge that form the prerequisite for communication. Of course change and adjustment in these structures are entirely bound up with an action-type process model.
3. In contrast to individualistic or interactionistic analyses, classical system-theoretical and conflict-theoretical explanations do not start out from the theme of action but from that of social order. They comprehend social change as either instability on the part of structures or adjustments to solutions to the problem of order. Associated with the shift in primacy from the theme of action to that of order is a similar shift in temporal structures: action-period time gives way to the model of temporal levels. The common objection to the classical functionalist theory of society that it is incapable of delivering an appropriate explanation for social change may be reformulated at this point. Traditional functionalist analyses are in fact in a position to analyze social change but in doing so they always start out from a general assumption of social order. Change is produced when actors attempt to eliminate disturbances in equilibrium, maladjustments, or tensions arising from within the system
and to restore a state of relative order or relative equilibrium. In this case change always occurs within the context of order and with regard to the creation of order. The concept of different systemic levels where change may take place points to the model of temporal levels as a topological structure. This concept means that action-theoretical assumptions concerning the process of change are no longer necessary. Change occurs as a process of seeking equilibrium or adapting to a changing environment.
4. Conflict-theoretical analyses of social change maintain the use of action-type process models but apply these models to the relations between collective actors. Again, the problem of order is placed in the foreground. Conflicts between societal groups and contrary interests emerge out of the existing social order, and change can only be conceived of as a result of the conflicts surrounding social order (see, for example, Dahrendorf 1958). It is difficult to imagine any original conception of social change independent of the theme of order in this situation. The conflict-theoretical analysis of change also moves within the framework of the model of temporal levels. An indicator of this model is provided by the topological difference between the ruling class, which is presumed to have conservative interests, and the groups over which it rules, which are regarded as the sources of change and the conveyers of interest in seeing some alteration to the status quo.
5. In contrast to classical systems and conflict theories evolutionist theories in sociology take the temporalization of order in the modern worldview into account but shift theoretical primary from the theme of order to that of change. A fundamental distinction needs to be drawn here between two evolutionist conceptions. One encompasses the materialistic theories of evolution, which see the dynamics of societal evolution in terms of a progression in the relationship of society to nature (see, for example, Lenski and Lenski 1970; White 1959; Sahlins and Service 1960; Harris 1977). The other includes idealistic evolutionary theories, which analyze societal evolution as a pedagogic relationship between the members of society, or even between the intellectual vanguard and the people, a learning process, or the rationalization of worldviews. Both materialistic and idealistic variants of evolutionism, however, assume that there is a topological difference between a universally valid motor of evolution, on the one hand, and the spheres it moves, with their tendency toward backwardness, on the other
hand. Of course there are various and frequently contradictory interpretations of which is the motor and which are the backward spheres. Societal evolution, then, is perceived as a progressive relationships, as growth and unilinear development. One such view focuses on thermodynamic efficiency and growth in productivity; another focuses on the development of the moral consciousness, progress, and the differentiation and rationalization of knowledge. Both variants of evolutionism have recourse to models of progress from the Enlightenment and the nineteenth century, and both have been the targets of fierce criticism from the empirical, historical, methodological, and theoretical standpoints (see Smith 1973; Schmid 1982; Giesen and Lau 1981).
6. If one wishes to take note of these criticisms yet not to abandon the temporalization of order, another concept of evolution understands functional differentiation as a process model and regards the concept of directed development as inappropriate to societal change as an all-embracing phenomenon.
Theories that are based on the analytical primacy of the question of change and assume a polycentric and relativistic conception of history have to reject the idea of progress and development in global history. They must replace the concept of global and unilinear modernization and progress with a relativistic conception of rationality, that is, with the idea of the structural "epigenesis" of the temporally limited emergence and decay of structures. History and progress dissolve in a diversity of contingent histories and progresses that are, however, interconnected and intermingled in a global process of change.
The radicalization of the modern pattern of temporarily and change finally engenders a "postmodern" view of society. The topology of postmodern models of change abandons the moral opposition of individual subject and society and renounces the evaluative differentiation of backward and progressive spheres of society. Instead it conceives the realm of the social as being composed of objective structures existing above and beyond the acting subjects and focuses attention on the internal and external relationships of structures. Postmodern topology centers on the differences between system and environment, between structure and situation, and between text and context, and it temporalizes these differences: the emergence and disintegration of structures are at the core of the postmodern paradigm of change.
Even if the elaboration of this postmodern paradigm is still in its infancy, two alternative theoretical options can be discerned. The first option is represented by attempts to apply advanced theoretical concepts from the sciences—in particular from either the biological theory of
autopoietic systems or the theory of dissipative structures—to social processes (Luhmann 1984). The second option for a postmodern paradigm of change is the "poststructuralist" analysis of texts and related concepts that aim at the transformation of symbolic systems (see Lyotard 1984; Baudrillard 1983). Both options dramatically increase the objectification of social reality and the temporalization of social order resulting from modernity. One may doubt, however, whether a discipline that is deeply rooted in modernity and that considers Max Weber as one of its founding fathers will be able to survive in the thin and cool air of postmodern conceptions of change.
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Contradictions and Social Evolution:
A Theory of the Social Evolution of Modernity
1. A Critique of Modernization Theory
1.1. The Key Concepts: Differentiation and Rationalization
The classical theory of modernization is based on the general evolutionary assumption that modernization is the result of differentiation and rationalization. However, the extent to which these processes are necessary aspects of modernization is an open question. Discussion of modernization must at least ask about the extent to which dedifferentiation and derationalization are also developmental processes that characterize modern societies. If these counterprocesses can be shown to be part of modernization, then differentiation and rationalization are only two among the many possible results of the evolution of modern society. They then lose the explanatory power that is attributed to them in classical modernization theory.
The real problem is that differentiation and rationalization are not variables explaining modernization, but processes needing explanation. In other words, I propose that differentiation and rationalization are not causes, but effects of modernization. My strategy is to look for the processes producing and reproducing these effects. The theoretical starting point is to look first for the modus operandi, a generative structure of
modernity, and then for the opus operatum, that is, differentiation and rationalization as possible outcomes.
I start by restating two classical problems of sociological theorizing. The first is the Durkheimian problem of relating the process of social differentiation to the conditions producing it. How does differentiation come about? What forces underline the process? Durkheim's answer is unsatisfactory: he takes demographic growth and increasing social density as the central causal variables for the progressive dissolution of collective consciousness (and the individualization resulting from it). Thus the key to explaining modernization is ultimately demography, something nonsocial (but as we know, socially produced!).
The second problem is the Weberian problem of relating process of rationalization to the social conditions producing it. How does rationalization come about? Weber gives a historical answer. He identifies specific social groups as the carriers of the process and then relates these groups to the general social structures, that is, the system of status, class, and power. Thus modernization is explained through the more or less contingent historical emergence of specific social groups. For Weber it is history that ultimately explains modernization.
The alternative theoretical approach to Durkheim and Weber is that of Marx. Marx's theory states that the evolutionary change of society (a change that has been conceptualized by later theorists as differentiation and rationalization) is the product, first, of the contradictions between the forces of production and the social relations of production and, second, of the contradictions between social classes. Ultimately, contradictions are the causes of modernization.
Within the Marxian theoretical framework social development is a process based on two types of contradictions. The first type is a contradiction between social actors, that is, the conflict between social classes. As long as contradictions are understood as contradictions between social groups, the theory explains the development of society through genuinely social factors. The second type refers to a more abstract concept of
contradiction. In it social structures rather than social actors are seen to contradict each other. The configuration of social structures is supposed to set into motion the evolution of society. This abstract use of the notion of contradiction has become relatively important in more recent theoretical thinking: contradictions between systems are seen as leading to self-blockading situations and contradictions within systems as generating incompatible functions that the systems fulfill.
But these functionalist reinterpretations run the danger of an analytical nominalism that is empty of any social theory. I consider communication theory to be a more promising theoretical approach to a reinterpretation of the Marxist approach of explaining social change because it is more adequate to the study of modernization than functionalist and neofunctionalist reinterpretations of Marx. In communication theory the analyst can give a systematic place to the concept of contradiction. Reformulated in this way, the concept of contradiction becomes the starting point for a more adequate theory of modernization.
1.2. Evolutionary Theory and Modernization
I propose the following preliminary theoretical assumption: contradictions are mechanisms that initiate or continue communication. Insofar as societies are the most complex system of communication, contradictions can be treated as the mechanisms for the evolution of such systems. This hypothesis entails an evolutionary theory that draws from beyond the old alternative of an epigenetic mysticism and a Darwinistic functionalism. It takes contradictions as the mechanism producing modernizing processes like (functional) differentiation and rationalization.
This hypothesis changes the evolutionary assumptions underlying modernization theory in a fundamental way. I discuss two modifications here. First, modernization theory should not be tied to the idea of a fixed and unidirectional path of development to modern society. Differentiations is not an explanatory variable but only a descriptive category that says that there are increasingly more fields of social conflict and struggle. Differentiation must therefore be described as the structural by-product of collective practice that produce a modern social order. Second, modernization theory is not to be tied to the idea of a self-propelling force (reason or unreason for example) that pushes social development. Rather, rationalization is the cultural by-product of collective practices that construct a cultural order through learning processes and symbolic struggles, both of which together establish legitimate authority and generate the symbols society needs to reproduce itself as a legitimate social order.
As a substitute for the two evolutionary assumptions that modernization is self-propelling and unidirectional, I propose the idea that contradictions open up diverging and even incompatible paths of development. There is no prescribed way to and though modernity. There are as many ways into modernity as there are historical developments. Therefore, modernization theory cannot be constructed by conceptualizing its outcome but only conceptualizing the way this modern order is produced.
The problem then is to conceptualize and explain the social production of modern society. The conception I propose is threefold. First, it suggests looking at the learning processes of those social groups that create a new collective consciousness, that is political and social ideas, to orient individual and collective social action. But because these learning processes are part of a larger historical environment, we must also look further.
Second, we must consider the idea of class conflict. Class conflict should be conceptualized on the level of the system of status and power. In order to reproduce a given system of status and power, social classes engage wherever possible in struggle to classify and reclassify each other. They struggle to have "right" on their side. The symbolic universe of right, the idea of morality, sometimes even universal morality, has to be mobilized to secure the reproduction of the class structure.
Third, my conception examines how differentiation and rationalization are related to the evolution of modernity. I explain them as the structural by-products, that is, the combined effects, of learning processes and class conflict that in turn reproduce these generating conditions. Learning processes and class conflict change the social and cultural dimensions of the structure of society. They lead to what Weber has called the differentiation and rationalization of Wertsphären . This modern differentiation between moral, aesthetic, and theoretical symbols restricts the possible images of a legitimate social order to the moral sphere. In modern times this differentiation of the moral sphere (which structurally is probably the most important one) can no longer be grounded on a holy order, that is, a hierarchy, but only on the abstract and formalistic idea of a social order based on the equal agreement of those belonging to it.
With this theoretical program the reformulation of the notion of contradiction in communication theory should allow for the revision of the theoretical assumptions underlying the conceptualization of differentiation and rationalization as the path to modernization and offer new grounds for describing the processes of modernization. And on a more general level it should allow for the revision of the implicit evolutionary assumptions of modernization theory.
In the following sections I discuss how the concept of the social production of modernity can be made fruitful in a systematic (not historical) reconstruction of development processes in modern society. First, I discuss the role of learning processes in the social production of modern society. These processes take place first in "enlightenment societies" (Aufklärungsgesellschaften ) that call themselves "association" in order to differentiate themselves from "corporations" and from the corporate groups of traditional society such as guilds, estates, etc. These associations contain the elementary structures of specifically modern collective learning processes. Next, I attempt to locate this evolutionary new type of association within the social structure of early-modern society. Here the specificity of modern social classes and the corresponding class conflict become the analytical focus.
This analysis then allows me to describe the evolution of modern society as one that is generated by learning processes and class conflicts and reproduced by processes of differentiation and rationalization. Differentiation is the key part of the mechanism that reproduces these generating conditions. But differentiation is in itself insufficient; it must also mobilize symbolic resources in order to continue reproducing differentiation.
Rationalization is the process producing the symbolic resources needed for this reproduction. The analysis of the reproduction of modernization by differentiation and rationalization gives some preliminary answers to two central problems in modernization theory: the problem of alternative paths to modernization and the problem of the rationality of these different paths to modernization.
2. The Social Production of Modernity
2.1. Association and Communication
Since the beginning of modernity certain social groups that are characterized by an evolutionary new form of communication have had a profound effect in triggering modernization processes. Such groups try to organize their mode of organization according to the principles of the equal and discursive handling of disputes. This type of discourse is based—ideally—on the free and equal exchange of arguments, that is, on Aufklärung (enlightenment). Associations are the social contexts within which this evolutionary new type of discourse can take place.
I would like to distinguish among three historical manifestations of associations in modern society. The first is tied to the rise of groups that since the eighteenth century have identified themselves as the bearers of enlightenment. Within these groups social and political life is discussed in a way that differs fundamentally from the past. This form of collective discussion, which is learned in small political and private associations, forces these associations to describe themselves in a way that is independent of their in a hierarchy. They begin, instead, to describe themselves as part of a social movement, as Aufklärungsbewegung .
A second historical manifestation of the modern type of associations is that found in the working class movement. The culture of discussion found in the working class movement continues the tradition of the Enlightenment. The difference between the associations of the working class movement and the earlier associations of the Enlightenment is in the content of the discussion. The discourse organized in the associations of the working class allows for learning the competence needed for
organizing the workers as a collective social force. Thus the specific social experiences of the workers modify the contents, but not the form, of the discourse of the eighteenth-century associations.
A third historical manifestation of the modern type of associations is the associations that have emerged since the end of the last century in the petit bourgeois classes. But the social experiences necessary for these "middle" classes to produce an autonomous discourse arise only in the second half of the twentieth century when the old petit bourgeoisie is complemented and strengthened by a new petit bourgeoisie that is the result of the increasing professionalization of work. The associations of these new social groups describe themselves today as "new" social movements. These new associations defend a private "life-world" differs from both the just society defended by the working class and the public sphere defended by the bourgeois/citoyens . This new life-world is their own private world. their own psychic and physical integrity. Thus the specific experiences of these groups modify the content of discourse, but they do not modify its logic.
In all these groups a reflexive use of communication is practiced. As people learn to communicate about communication, they revolutionize the traditional order. The evolution of modern society becomes dependent on the communication that is the subject of communicative relationships. Reflexivity in communication is the starting point for the social production of modern society. Those who participate in modern associations know that they are taking part in a collective learning process. In the Aufklärungsgesellschaften of the eighteenth century (the Jacobin clubs were their radical variants), the Arbeiterbildungsvereine of the nineteenth century (the associations for the self-education of the workers), and the therapy groups of the late-twentieth century, the function of learning has become part of the process of communication. The mechanism constituting the modern associations since the eighteenth century can therefore be defined as discursive communication.
The form of communication practiced in these associations throughout modernity changes the form and the content of the learning processes taking place in these associations. Thus the idea of an evolutionary new type of learning is the theoretical key to the cultural consequences of the emergence of associations since the beginning of modern society. Cultural change in modern society is produced by a collective learning process whose logic is defined by the logic of discursive communication.
Cultural change, then, is bound to the logic of modern discourse.
2.2. Collective Learning Processes
The constitutive element of discursive communication is a "generative," or "deep," structure. This structure is defined by two principles: equality and the discursive handling of conflicts. The logic of discursive communication is structured according to the principles that we ascribe as being central to modernity. The logic underlying the modern discourse thus allows for learning processes that are fundamentally different from traditional ones. These modern learning processes are based on the principle of ceaselessly testing the universalizability of the normative order of civil society. Their mechanism is the resolution of contradictions by argumentation or "critique." They are modeled according to the logic of a universalization procedure.
A universalization procedure is defined as the impartial consideration by everybody concerned. The basic structure of an impartial judgment is "equality more geometrico." Equality more geometrico means to consider only the behavioral manifestation of an act, not its motivations or circumstances. This basic structure must then be applied to a specific case. First, impartiality can be described as giving everyone an equal chance to act in his or her own interest. This condition is the equality of opportunity. A second way to construct a situation of impartiality is to distribute chances to act in such a way that all possible positions within the distribution are acceptable to all. This condition is the equality of differential chances to act. The logical structure of the operation of the principle of the equal consideration of everybody becomes logically more complex in both cases. In the first case it is applied to an abstract other; in the second case the relevant other becomes somebody with needs that clash with yours, a situation that has to be taken into account within the procedure of universalization. Going from the first to the second level, the hypothetical operation takes additional empirical parameters into account. The problems inherent in these approaches result in a third way of describing impartiality: the unequal distribution of chances to claim the universality of wants and interests within a process of collective discussion. This condition is the equality of communicative relationships.
Thus we can distinguish three steps in the development of the logic of
universalization that underlies collective learning processes since the eighteenth century. the form of communication invented and practiced by the early associations (the societies of enlightenment) has become the foundation for the model of modern society. This model is civil society. This model sets forth the characteristics of association—the equal rights to free thinking, speech, and association—as basic to civil society. The more this complex learning can be organized, the more the idea of a democratic organization of civil society can be radicalized into the postulate of the democratic organization of the well-being of society. This idea culminates in the idea of the democratic realization of the good life by civil society. The theoretical proposition is that these increasingly complex forms of a civil society are incorporations of the logic of the learning processes that have been going on since the eighteenth century. This development, then, can be conceptualized as the manifestation of collective learning processes using the logic of universalization as its basic mechanism.
2.3. Social Class and Class Conflict
The concept of discursive communication is insufficient for explaining the production of a social order in modern society because discursive communication cannot control its institutional environment. On the contrary, it sometimes even serves ends contradictory to its intentions. Associations do not exist merely in the thin air of discussion. Being part of a wider social context, they are not independent of the power system inherent in the social order. They are bound to an institutional framework. And the symbolic universe produced by discursive communication is used for legitimating purposes within this institutional framework. To grasp this aspect of the social reality of modern society, we have to look for the social struggles accompanying and controlling the processes of discursive communication.
Associations are part of the class structure of society. This being so, contradiction comes into play as a mechanism of class struggle. Class conflict thus constitutes a social reality beyond the collective learning processes initiated in associations. This social reality has been described
since the beginning of the nineteenth century as a reality structured according to class-specific opportunities and rights. Whether such classes correspond to concrete groups has been the object of controversy. But in modern societies class has become a specific way of describing social differences in society. How far the implicit self-description is adequate varies historically.
Since the eighteenth century the classification of the objective positions that separate social classes has followed a different logic from that underlying the previous classification of estates. The transition in early-modern society to a new logic of classification was a result of freeing the social order from traditional bonds and was part of the process of commercializing agriculture and handicrafts. The new social order became different from traditional bonds because the unifying hegemony of the church was broken. Without the church a society without religious bonds arose. In order to substitute for hierarchical classification, a new classification system had to be built into the social structure.
During the transformation of traditional society into early-modern society social relations remained organized around the bonds of patron-client relationships. Class relations were established, as Thompson puts it, between the patrician culture and the plebeian. The patrician culture was organized around the idea of autonomy and self-determination in private life. The plebeian culture, however, was organized as a "moral economy." The moral economy was opposed to the market economy; it defended "just" prices against market prices and the principle of concrete reciprocity against the principle of subjective rights. Taking the example of eighteenth-century England, the structure of these class relations can be described as gentry-crowd reciprocity. The gentry, which is defined as a polite culture dissociating itself from the plebeian culture of the crowd, employed the classical means of control: the majesty and terror of law and the symbolism of their cultural hegemony. Both contributed to the theatrical representation of patrician culture. The plebs, however, had at their disposal the elements of a traditional culture: the
moral economy. The struggles between social classes were still struggles for the reconstruction of the traditional good society and were struggles between traditional status groups. Thus the conflict between these class cultures functioned like a bridge between the old and the new.
As soon as class conflict is identified as being concerned with the social organization of industrial work the classification underlying class conflict becomes more clearly defined. Social classification starts to be thought of as the result of individual effort. But the classification of social reality can still be reduced to a dichotomy: to the contradiction between capital and labor. Classes are constructed around the contradiction between those who sell wage labor and those who buy it. But contrary to the preindustrial phase of modern society, both factors, capital and labor, are defined in ways that are independent of cultural or political traits. Culture and politics become the superstructure, something actually secondary in describing the class structure of industrial society. The further development of modern society, however, has called this dichotomy into questions.
Later, with the withering away of the industrial model of development and the coming of "postindustrial" society, a new contradiction appears between social groups defending technocratic progressivism and those defending a communicative life-world. Today class conflict is being transformed into a fluid antagonism that reaches into every aspect of social life. Class conflict has expanded in time as well; it has become permanent class conflict. The social reality created by this permanency is a system of classification that radicalizes the individualist premises of the modern system of classification. This system of classification that compares individuals and that counts the (economic and cultural) capital they own results in the highly individualized class structure of modern society.
These ways of classifying people create a power discrepancy between social groups that has to be shown to be normal; the discrepancy must be seen as being legitimate. Class conflict necessarily is accompanied by practices that generate the legitimating symbolic order. The purpose of
legitimating practices is therefore to make the existing relations between individuals appear to be normal relations. Resolved in this way, legitimating practices allow for the symbolic reproduction of the class structure of a society. The symbols favored by those who are on top are the symbols claiming universal validity because such symbols produce the most perfect image of legitimacy for the class structure of modern society. Thus on the level of class conflict, another logic of cultural change intervenes. Cultural change is not only the result of learning processes but also the result of class-specific symbolic practices.
2.4. Legitimating Practices
The production and reproduction of class structure is dependent on the symbolic practices by which classes try to maintain their differences. For this purpose symbolic resources are used to legitimate the class structure. Class conflict produces not only a social relation but also a symbolic relation. This symbolic relation serves as a specific mechanism for organizing and reorganizing the symbolic universe that legitimates moderns society. A look at modern history might clarify this point
In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries princes and the newly established parliaments tried to break the sovereignty of religious authority by postulating a new basis for legitimizing political domination: the welfare of the people. This secular ground for domination legitimated either the absolute sovereignty of the king or the representative sovereignty of the estates. The plebs still lived in the old world of the moral economy, which was culturally opposed to both the world of the absolute prince and the world of the new estates. The ensuing struggles on the symbolic level were struggles between the modern and the traditional world. Thus the symbolic practice of the absolutist state (constructed as the practice of the rule of law) was opposed to the symbolic order of traditional life (defined as the practice of customary law) that was defended by the lower classes.
At the beginning of the industrial revolution a new field of symbolic struggle was added. The dominance of the old class cultures was broken by the rising bourgeoisie, which transcended these cultural world with its idea of an individualistic and competitive society, a society based on
"industria." It was legitimated by a radically individualistic ethic, the Protestant work ethic, and its telos of never-ending maximization and perfection. This class made the individualistic society of a market economy the symbolic world shared by both the upper and the lower classes. The legitimating practices based on this symbolic world led to the model of class relations that was created in nineteenth-century Europe between the labor movement, on the one hand, and the organizations of the industrial elites, on the other hand, This model conceived of this relationship as a game between pressure groups bent on maximizing power and interests. It conceived of the capital-labor relationship as a bargaining one. This symbolic world created the illusion that was necessary for the reproduction of this individualistic and competitive society. This illusion helped to reproduce—at least for a time—the class structure of modern society in its industrial phase of development.
The developmental dynamic of advanced industrial societies again changes its field of symbolic struggle. The world of the unlimited development of the industrial forces of production is replaced by a new legitimating practice: the programming of the economic, cultural, and social reproduction of society. The cultural world opposing such an encompassing program developed in both the working class and the bourgeois classes. This development took the form of a romantic culture emphasizing naturalistic sentiments that are opposed to the "coldness" of modern economic and political life. In late-modern society a new "green" philosophy, which is trying to develop another moral image of the good world, carries on this tradition of a culture that is opposed to a world controlled by the bureaucratic welfare state. The "new" social movements are explicitly opposed to the welfare state; instead they speak of health, green nature, and aesthetics, and they generalize the idea of the "good life" into all fields. The ensuing symbolic struggles between different "modernities," that is, between modernity and romanticism, legitimate a society with a highly individualized class structure.
The winners in these symbolic struggles try to produce the image of defending claims that are universally valid. The claim of universalism is, at least in modern societies, the most promising strategy to reproduce a given class structure of society. If symbolic struggles arrive at defining the symbolic world of the upper classes as the legitimate one, the lower classes have to see their own existence as an illegitimate one. The degree
of legitimacy becomes the reference point for distinguishing social groups. The history of legitimating practices is therefore the key to an understanding of the processes that constitute the symbolic universe of modern class society.
The symbolic universe of law offers the exemplary case of the processes of legitimating the class structure of modern society. On the one hand, legal norms fix the objective classification of legal rights. On the other hand, law has symbolic power because it claims to have morality on its side. Law is a mechanism that is used in different contexts for the symbolic reproduction of an institutional order. In order to analyze this function of the symbolic universe of the law, I use examples from the history of legal and political thought.
At the beginning of the sixteenth century both traditions adopted the new premises that there no longer existed a metaphysical order on which political and social life could be built and that the anthropological nature of man is the basic fact. These new premises emerged from the reflexive structure of modern social thinking: social thought had become dependent on the thinker (and his nature) as such. Hobbes's Leviathan and the radical Puritan theories of the covenant are examples of this radically new kind of social thinking; they mark the beginning of the evolution of modern representations of society.
The symbolic authority of the modern legal order is based on these new normative grounds. There are three key ideas: the idea of the maintenance of order by the rule of law; the idea that the state's function is to maximize the welfare of its constituents; and the idea that a good way of life must be defended against the consequences of uncontrolled progressivism. Order, welfare, and a good life are the normative grounds for the symbolic authority of modern law.
The images of a legal order constructed on such principles are most effective mechanisms for producing the illusion that is necessary for the reproduction of society. The more complex the social structure of modern society becomes, the more complex these images become. The first idea, the idea of a formal legal order founded on the universalistic principle of the reason of state, structures and legitimates the absolutist
state that ended the religious wars by guaranteeing indifference to religious and social differences, thus creating order through law. The second idea of a legal order take into account the fact that the modern state has taken on the regulation of the economic sphere, which up to that time had been integrated into traditional forms of living. The telos of a legal order is maximizing the welfare of a society through law. The third idea emerges from the dysfunctional consequences of maximizing social welfare. Because perfect order is no longer produced by regulative law, "progress" has to be corrected or, better, planned "by the people." The law then distributes the chances to participate in the planning of society. Law, conceived primarily as procedural law, becomes the incorporation of the democratic creed.
Against the majesty of such a law the lower groups either mobilize a cultural world beyond the law or—and this is normal case—they subject themselves to the law, accepting its authority and thereby contributing to its authority. Thus law is one of the foremost mechanisms of legitimating class structure. Legal practices are the most important among the symbolic practices reproducing the power structure of society.
3. The Evolution of Modernity
3.1. The Social Reproduction of Modernity
In the preceding section I laid the foundations for a theory of the social production of modernity. I identified the mechanism that launches processes of social and cultural change, but I have not yet described the specific nature of the processes launched. The processes of social and cultural change that are seen as crucial by traditional modernization theory are (functional) differentiation and (formal) rationalization. Whether they are the master trends of change in the course of modernization is a question that must be answered now. My answer has two aspects. First, differentiation and rationalization can take different courses than those ascribed to them in classical modernization theory. Second, there are differences in the "functionality" and "rationality" of these processes that have to be explicated.
The first of these processes, differentiation, is a structural arrangement to meet the functional consequences of two types of modernizing forces: modern associations and modern class structure. This structural arrangement has to reproduce these generating forces. Otherwise, modernization cannot go on. Thus differentiation can be defined within my theoretical framework as the mechanism for the social reproduction of
these modernizing forces. A theory of differentiation describes how the opus operatum reproduces the modus operandi.
Classical modernization theory says that in modern societies differentiation takes on the course of functional differentiation, a course that is different from the traditional course of stratificational differentiation. The decisive innovation is the functional autonomy by which structural arrangements are equally and without external constraints able to accommodate the functional consequences of the modernizing mechanisms. By separating and multiplying the fields in which the construction of modern society can take place, functional differentiation make this accommodation possible.
Thus differentiation allows modern societies to accommodate learning processes and class struggles by structurally separating the specific spheres of action that are the objects of these collective actions. For example, the economic system and the religious system are based on functionally specific ways of accommodating the consequences of modernizing activities. Economic class struggle is no longer logically adapted to enactment in the religious sphere of action (as in traditional society). But there are still social struggles within the religious sphere, for example, in conflicts between religious professionals and the lay public. Specific class conflict occurs in the economic sphere and is manifest in the distance between capital and labor. And there are analogous struggles in the political and the cultural spheres. The most conclusive example is the effect of differentiating the educational system from other systems. The modern educational system reproduces the class structure of modern society much more efficiently than before, at the same time guaranteeing the cognitive skills a complex, modern society needs for its reproduction. Functional differentiation is the mechanism by which the dominant elites reproduce their positions in an increasingly complex modern society.
But such differentiation is not a master trend; it is the trend of the masters. This observation implies that there is more than one path of differentiation in modern society. Functional differentiation, I propose, reproduces class structure by producing a distinctive structure for the
formation of relatively autonomous elites and for the deformation of the people as the clients of these elites. Whether dedifferentiation takes place depends on whether social forces are strong enough to get rid of their confinements to the specific social spaces that, from the perspective of the elites, are rational and to redefine the social space in which they act. Such dedifferentiation mobilizes class conflicts that generate collective action beyond the established networks of communication to involve those who do not yet communicate with each other.
Thus those who argue that the formation of elites is the most important function of structural arrangements have to plead for functional differentiation. Those who argue that the organization of the collective interests of the lesser classes is the most important function must plead against functional differentiation. Ultimately, functional differentiation is an option, not a fate. It is a possible but not a necessary trend of modernization. Using it as a master trend implies a value judgment. To give theoretical distinctiveness to it contributes to its image of being "rational."
3.2. The Cultural Reproduction of Modernity
The ability of functional differentiation to dominate the process of modernization depends on its ability to reproduce the image of an egalitarian social order. Thus a second form of the reproduction of modern society has to be taken into account: Rationalization allows for the cultural reproduction of modernity.
As I have already indicated, in modern society rationalization is the result of a double production of culture: learning processes and practices that legitimate class differences. Collective learning processes constitute the discourse within which modernity is made possible. Symbolic practices try to mobilize the universe of discourse produced in these learning processes to legitimate existing distributions of power and positions in modern society. The mechanism generating rationalization is, first, discourse in associational life and, second, the interest on the part of social classes in legitimating their own position and illegitimizing the positions of other.
Rationalization is the result of two types of generating conditions and can assume different forms. What holds for differentiation also holds for rationalization: there is more than one path of rationalization in modern society. Rationalization is made possible by both the disenchantment and
the reenchantment of the world. The social preconditions for the difference are the differences between the high and the low cultures of modern society; both cultures are rationalized in different ways. Their differences consist in the differential use of the symbolic resources that are at a society's disposal. there are two ideal types of rationalization: disenchantment, which is related to the dominant groups in society, and reenchantment, which is related to the dominated groups. Both processes produce different images of the modern world, images that I refer to as "official" and "unofficial." What looks, when seen from the Weberian perspective, like historical vacillation between rationality and irrationality can be seen as the rivalry between an official and an unofficial type of rationalization. This difference has become central in deciding the course of modernization.
Among the best examples of the official version of rationality is legal rationality. There are, however, other symbolic universes based on this type of rationality. For example, the symbolic universe of political discourse and that of scientific discourse contribute in their specific manners to the official rationality of modern society. Rationalization triggered by these forms of rationality ends up, as Weber has argued, in disenchantment.
Rationalization takes a different course when strong cultural movements put a society's accepted practices and ways of thinking, that is, its hegemonical symbolic order, into question. Such movements can be brought about by psychic or ecological crises that cannot be resolved by purely political or economic means. Rationalization that takes a direction other than the official one ends up in reenchantment. Whether rationalization really takes this direction depends on the developmental paths set by such cultural movements.
Reenchantment does not necessarily mean "irrationalization." Reenchantment can be based on the old symbolic resources of religious orientations. For example, we know the extent to which Catholic and Protestant ideas still influence individual and group choices in the continuing path to modernization. We know the effect of non-Western religious
traditions on the process of the social production of the modern social order. Weber has proposed the difference between this-worldy and another worldy orientations to distinguish between different symbolic logics.
Beyond such religiously based forms of reenchantment another form or reenchantment is the attitude toward nature. This form of reenchantment challenges the productivist image of modernity, which is defined modernity that is defined by the integration of society into nature. This reenchantment leads to a rationalization of a more moral kind. Weber called this moralization "material" rationalization. It questions the dominance of formal rationality and serves as the vehicle, as Weber saw it, of an irrational rationalization.
But Weber's interpretation is misleading. Both processes are contradictory forms of rationalizing the modern world. In traditional societies cultural differences center around the poles of orthodoxy and heterodoxy. In modern societies they center around the poles of formal and material rationality. But how do we decide on their respective degrees of rationality?
3.3. Falling Short of Modernization
The question of rationality comes up on both levels of the reproduction of modernity: on the level of differentiation and on the level of rationalization. When functional differentiation is substituted by segmentary forms of differentiation, a social structure emerges that is unable to reproduce the class structure of modern society. Moreover, when rationalization is replaced by a new magical image of the world, a cultural system emerges that is unable to reproduce the collective practices underlying the production of modernity. In this case a manifest regression occurs. But can we describe such a development as "irrational"? In addition, on the levels of differentiation and rationalization we are also confronted with antagonistic paths to modernization. Whether one of these paths is more rational than the other becomes a problem for a theory of modernization.
The key to these problems is not the theory of differentiation but the theory of rationalization because this theory contains the double problem: to look at the way social order is rationalized and to identify the criteria for distinguishing what is to be considered as rational. Thus the theory of rationalization cannot escape the process of rationalization of which it is part.
There are only two ways out of this problem: either to postulate a substantive normative criterion of rationality or to identify the social conditions that are necessary for rationalization to occur. The first solution is tautological because such a postulate itself becomes part of the symbolic struggles pushing rationalization in whatever direction. The second solution is to see the social conditions of rationalization as the "procedural" norms that are necessary for rationalization and to examine whether they are in evidence and, if so, to what extent.
Reduced to its procedural form, the ultimate ground of the rationality of modernity, then, is that we can choose our symbolic orders, that we are not stuck with any one type of rationality, and that we can at any time abandon what we have ceased to accept rationally. Whether or not such a rational outcome is to be expected has to be treated as an open question. Classical modernization theory seems to have already decided this question by describing modernization as rationalization. In the following section, however, I show that this modernization is not necessarily a rational one. Therefore, modernization theory has to incorporate a more explicit notion of rationality into its conceptual framework. I suggest that we look for procedural rationality on the level of the conditions generating what has been called rationalization.
As I have shown, rationalizing the modern social order is dependent on two mechanisms. First, rationalization is the net result of social struggles between social classes. Second, these social struggles are dependent on collective learning processes to reproduce the cultural conditions of their existence. Thus two mechanisms are necessary to arrive at a modern social order. Although difficult to achieve, such a social order is even more difficult to reproduce. It has to be assured that learning processes and class conflict can go on. When reproduction fails, then social development regresses or is rigidified. The historical process becomes "pathological." The result of blocked class conflicts and blocked learning processes is the pathogenesis of modernity.
Historically, pathological processes seem to predominate. Collective learning processes are more often blocked than released. Associations more often turn into forms of interaction producing enemies rather than forms favoring learning processes. The history of modern associations is much more a history of private feuds than a history of learning.
The same applies to class conflict. Often class conflict is neutralized by populist appeals or reduced to an elitist struggle.
Either way, the result is cultural conflicts that try to mobilize either the moral majority or the moral minority. Fascism radicalizes the moral majority: it offers integrative formulas with racist, nationalist, or imperialist orientations. Terrorism is the radicalization of a moral minority and is exemplified by the Jacobin terror after the French Revolution, the terror of Stalin, and that of the Khmer Rouge. Whether class conflict ends up as fascism or moral terror depends on the cultural logic of a modern society.
This conceptualization allows us to tackle the problem of pathological developments in a more promising way. Although associations "learn" and social classes "struggle" with each other, modernization nevertheless fails. Nationalism mobilizes expressive resources that are not rationalized by the former factors. Fascism mobilizes sentiments that cannot be controlled by the modern political and social movements. But why do such pathological developments occur? Why are learning processes blocked? Why is class conflict negated? What are the cultural foundations that make possible such outcomes?
A provisional answer to these questions can be given here. Ultimately, it is the symbolic universe in which a society lives that seems to be the decisive factor in determining whether modernization, once triggered and set into motion, will actually succeed or not. Variations concerning the degree of associational life and class conflicts in modern societies raise secondary questions: Why is there no socialism in the United States? Why is there such a strong tradition of class conflict in England? Such factors determine the tempo of modernization and the injustice tied to it. But they do not block modernization.
The crucial question, then, is why modernization in some societies within this reach of variations fails—at least for some time. It does so because there are cultural traditions that become dominant in specific phases of modernization. An example is the German modernization experience in the second half of the nineteenth and the first half of the twentieth centuries. Although starting modernization like the other European nations, collective learning processes and social struggles over the cultural orientation of modernization were blocked in favor of a civil society that was controlled by the state. The state took tight control over associations, thereby controlling collective learning processes. The state also neutralized class conflict, thereby imposing a symbolic order on
modern society. The modern culture was created in an authoritarian manner. And as long as this type of creation remains dominant the possibility of pathological cultural evolution exists.
Therefore, the key to explaining the path of development leading into modernity lies in the learning processes and the symbolic practices in the sphere of culture. These processes and practices determine not only the type of rationalization (disenchantment or reenchantment) that will take place, thereby restricting the possibilities of structural differentiation, but they also determine the degree of rationality. Thus we will be able to regard the counterprocesses to functional differentiation and formal rationalization not as simple aberrations from the path of modernization but as possible outcomes of modernization. The normality of differentiation and rationalization is precisely not the point. The question of normality and pathology is rather a question of the social conditions generating differentiation and rationalization. Only by taking into account the conditions that block collective learning processes and symbolic struggles will we be able to explain pathogenetic forms of differentiation of dedifferentiation, of disenchantment or reenchantment.
The description of modernizing processes as pathogenetic developments, which is much in vogue today, is a communication about the conditions that trigger collective learning processes and change the universe of discourse used in class conflict as a means of legitimating practices. Such communication, defined as the condition of rationality, about the pathogenesis of modernity cannot exclude, but can minimize, the possibility for the pathogenesis of modernity.
4. Contradictions and Evolution
4.1. A Theoretical Treatment of Contradictions
The foregoing analysis of the social production of modernity has led to an analysis on three levels: collective learning processes, class conflict, and reproductive structures. This analytical distinction of levels allows for localizing both the structure and the functioning of contradiction as the mechanism for originating and reproducing communication. This implicit notion of contradiction must be clarified in the following sections.
Contradiction can be defined as a social event where somebody opposes what somebody else says. This definition leads to a first thesis: the notion of contradiction presupposes the notion of communication. Without communication contradiction is a meaningless category. Only within
a communicative relationship can contradiction occur at all. This thesis leads to the following corollary: contradictions work on different levels of social reality.
On the level of associations contradiction is the mechanism by which participants in a collective discourse can construct a shared world of meanings. Such a shared world relies on concrete interaction, which forces those engaged in it into a logic that transcends their personal involvement and egoistic interests. A communication on the level of concrete interaction that uses the mechanism of contradiction is bound to the logic of argumentation. Argumentation is in turn a mechanism that binds all engaged in it to a collective reality, one defined by the learning process triggered by communication. Thus contradictions are fundamental for a first type of social reality: the reality of social groups. On this level we have to deal with concrete actors trying to communicate with each other.
But contradiction can be pushed to the point where argumentation is itself put into question: one side can argue against further argumentation and start to resort to power. The reproduction of communication in the group is interrupted. A substitute for the social basis of communication must therefore be found. The new basis is constituted not by social relations between persons but between classes of persons. On this level communication is a mechanism for locating and relocating classes in relation to each other. The mechanisms that force social classes to communicate, that is, to struggle, with each other are those of the marketplace because those who do not participate are necessarily the losers of the game. But at the same time this situation forces institutional agreements in order to reproduce the marketplace. Generating distinctions, that is, a world of social classification, is the result of communication on this level. Thus contradictions are fundamental for a second type of social reality: the reality of social classes. On this level we have to deal with social classes communicating by struggling with each other.
But there is still another type of contradiction that escapes the description of contradictions given so far. These are the contradictions built into the structural effects of group and class action, into differentiation and rationalization. This level of contradiction is not the same as a contradiction between society and its environment because society cannot contradict its environment: the environment is defined by the fact that it does
not communicate. The contradiction I mean is still within society. Thus we arrive at the broadest and most fundamental level of social contradictions: the level of structural contradictions that constitute the social reality of society. Structural contradictions do not constitute communication. But because they are communicated they allow for the reproduction of communication both on the level of group and on the level of class.
The levels of the communicative constitution of social reality can be summarized as follows:
—The first level concerns contradictions between actors communicating with each other. This level constitutes the social reality of the group and the learning processes triggered by communication between actors.
—The second level concerns contradictions between groups engaged in classifying and reclassifying each other. This level constitutes the social reality of class and the social struggles going on between classes.
—The third level concerns contradictions built into the developmental processes that are the structural effects of learning and class conflict. This level constitutes the social reality of society.
Contradictions on all three levels work together to produce social evolution. The implications of this conceptualization for the theory of social evolution can now be clarified.
4.2. Contradictions and Social Change
This discussion of the communicative function of contradictions on different levels of social reality shows that contradictions are the medium and the telos of communication. The telos of communication is not the resolution of the contradiction—for that would imply the end of communication. Rather it is to reproduce communication, to assure an ongoing stream of communication. This ongoing stream of communication means that social reality is something that is always in flux.
This relationship between contradiction and communication opens up a new theoretical perspective on social change. The second thesis concerning a theory of social change follows: contradictions generate social change and these changes are the mechanisms of evolution. This proposition differs from usual conceptions of social change in one fundamental respect: it tries to explain change not by changes in factors outside the system but by internal generating mechanisms. Social change is
itself a social product. A corollary of this general assumption is as follows: contradictions are constitutive of social change; they produce social change in the process of constituting social reality.
Social change is constituted on the level of association by the very fact of contradicting. Communication exerts a specific constraint: it forces those participating in communication to learn or not to learn. Contradictions can be used to reinterpret the world; if this use is declined, those engaged in the communication must explicitly negate the possibility of learning that is offered to them. In either case social reality changes. In this problem, the theory of practical discourse has its generic field of application: it is an ideal model of the constitution of social reality. It leaves the other levels of social reality to other theories, such as systems theory. Contradictions on this first level produce social change by triggering collective learning processes.
But these learning processes do not suffice to explain social change because not every learning process survives on the level of the institutional order. Social change can therefore be seen on the level of the institutional order as the result of struggles between groups interested in classifying or reclassifying others or themselves. Contradictions on this second level produce social change by forcing social classes into class conflicts.
These conflicts, whether they are described as class struggles or as forms of status politics, have structural effects beyond their intended effects. The structure of communication producing these effects gives rise to a type of contradiction beyond the actors and classes of actors. Contradictions on the level of the reproduction of the conditions generating society produce social and cultural change by mobilizing antagonistic models of reproduction (i.e., differentiation and rationalization)
that take for their theme the structural basis of communication. Thus Marx's idea of the contradiction between the social relations of production and the forces of production is abstracted to become a contradiction between the antagonistic forms of differentiation and rationalization that are to be specified on each level of the evolution of society.
4.3. Evolutionary Mechanisms
This discussion still leaves open the problem of how contradictions on the different levels of reality are related to one another. How are contradictions that generate learning processes related to contradictions on the level of class conflict? And how are the contradictions on this level related to contradictions on the level of the reproduction of society? This problem leads to a third thesis: the social changes on these different levels are the mechanisms of social evolution. Evolutionary changes are the result of the combined effects of contradictions producing changes on different levels of social reality.
This thesis implies that it is neither collective learning processes nor class conflict nor structural strains alone that explain the evolution of society but their evolutionary interaction. Collective learning processes function like the mechanism of mutation, offering varying patterns of social reality produced in various social groups. Class conflict functions like the mechanism of selection, favoring the patterns of social distinctions that will be integrated into the institutional system of society. Differentiation and rationalization function like the mechanism of reproductive isolation, stabilizing the system of society.
But there is a problem in grafting such an evolutionary-style theory, well designed though it may be for biological evolution, onto the process of social change. The processes described are not tied to a specific evolutionary mechanism. The evolutionary mechanisms these processes serve are interchangeable. This implies that learning processes, class conflicts, and structural antagonisms can all be selection environments. And mutations can result from any of the social processes mentioned. The same reasoning is valid for the mechanism of reproductive isolation
(stabilization). The possible recombinations of mechanisms and processes thus strongly suggest a theory of evolution with a highly complex structure.
An important corollary goes along with this theory of evolution: given these mechanisms, a strict Darwinian theory, which may be defined as a theory that assumes no relation between mutation conditions and selection conditions, is not feasible. A Lamarckian theory would work better. The Lamarckian approach, which assumes a strong relation between mutation conditions and selection conditions, is better suited for explaining the interchangeability of mechanisms and processes in the theory of social evolution. It would allow us to anticipate that the mechanism of stabilization could be transformed into the mechanism of mutation as soon as structural antagonisms became the topic of communication in groups. Or it would allow us to anticipate that the mechanism of stabilization could be transformed into the mechanism of selection as soon as the description of structural antagonisms became a weapon in the hands of one class of actors against another class of actors.
The analysis of modernization, then, demands a much more sophisticated theory of evolution. Evolutionary theory, itself a product of modernization, is a way of describing modern society. As such, it must take into account the force of collective action. It must also take into account the dimension of social and cultural conflict. And it must be able to account for the success or failure of historical developments. It would seem that only an evolutionary theory that leaves open the question of what a modern order is about and that concentrates on the question of the social production of modernity will be able to grasp the changes occurring in society. These are changes that, after all, often contradict the theory of modernization that sociologists have formulated concerning this type of society. But perhaps this contradiction is still another mechanism of change in modern society.
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World Society Versus Niche Societies:
Paradoxes of Unidirectional Evolution
Karl Otto Hondrich
Catastrophes cause people to learn; the same is true of innovations. It follows that catastrophes that are innovative in the sense that they are without precedent have a strong didactic effect. Indeed, in the wake of the meltdown of the Chernobyl nuclear reactor in the Soviet Union, some European countries learned very quickly that nuclear energy could and should be replaced by a new combination of other forms of energy, particularly solar energy, as well as energy-saving innovations. In contrast, some have cited a different lesson that should be learned from this catastrophe, namely, that it is supposedly both futile and impossible to extricate oneself from a trend that has become established on a global scale.
I do not want to discuss the question of energy resources but rather that of worldwide inevitability. Some sociocultural and technocultural patterns have become so pervasive worldwide that no country is in a strong enough position to ward them off. Markets, mass media, modern weaponry, sports competitions, blue jeans, pop music, government legitimation by majority consent, equal rights for men and women, nuclear power plants, and the nuclear family all belong to this set of technical and normative patterns. Global patterns such as these create the impression that societies all over the world are becoming ever more alike and that this trend is ineluctable.
This pattern may seem regrettable to us in some respects, but in other respects it is a source of hope. "Good" norms, such as mutual understanding and nonaggression in the framework of world government, may be disseminated and generally accepted as desirable future solutions to the world's most dangerous and potentially destructive conflicts, including thermonuclear war.
Rather than seeing such patterns solely as a source of hope, I argue that the risks inherent in the prevailing trends toward world unity, socio-ultural homogeneity, and efficiency in all areas outweigh the advantages. The more established such trends become, the more paradoxical their effects.
From this point of departure the question as to the ineluctability of prominent patterns becomes all the more crucial. Are there no other possible courses of development? I pose this question with the sociological classics in mind but get no answer. As I see it, there is no alternative to Spencer's and Durkheim's vision of social evolution as a unidirectional process of functional differentiation. I interpret the theories put forward by Marx, Weber, and Adam Smith as different versions of this same answer. I must turn to evolutionary biology in order to find two models of evolution within one paradigm.
Thus, in my short analysis of functional differentiation as the motor of modernity I point in particular to the paradoxes and pitfalls the concept entails. Reality protects itself against risks by resorting to segmentation, the counterpole to functional differentiation. The reality of modernization is to an increasing extent characterized not by functional differentiation replacing segmentation but by both principles cooperating in very subtle combinations. Biology and ecology, which both emphasize the evolutionary function of niches, take us one step further toward the rehabilitation of the principle of segmentation. Taking societies as the units of analysis, I juxtapose functional differentiation and segmentation in terms of their expression in the notions of "supersociety" and "niche societies" respectively. I understand the prevailing concept of modernization to mean the transformation of niche societies into supersociety by means of functional differentiation. In other words, the concept of modernization is theoretically one-sided, to say the least, and does not take into account its own risks and political implications. Although strong empirical, political, and moral support exists for the concept of modernization, a countervailing concept is in order that would, politically speaking, represent the interests of niche societies against those of the large and dominant societies. This concept, however, would present as far from satisfactory theory of evolution if it could not claim to be in the interest of evolution itself.
1. Paradoxes of Functional Differentiation
The sociological tradition makes use of a simple and convincing paradigm of Vergesellschaftung or social evolution: two or more small and relatively self-sufficient hordes merge—whether as a consequence of
one dominating the other, outside pressure, or "free choice"—and form a new and larger social unit. Internally, this new unit tends to subdivide into functions and functional subgroups. This model of social evolution has a threefold advantage with regard to survival: it increases the power of the whole unit vis-á-vis its environment, it increases its internal power by providing a new and stronger form of integration, and it increases its efficiency by introducing the social division of labor.
The model of evolution has become the core of the theory, first elaborated by Spencer and Durkheim, that sees social evolution as an ongoing transformation from segmentary to functional differentiation. When we look at world society today, we see that the power of functionally specialized economic, scientific, and cultural subsystems is eroding the boundaries of the segments of national societies. Thus we may conclude may conclude that the process of functional differentiation is still under way.
It is useful to reconceptualize this "tranformational model" into the terminology of systems theory, making it an ideal type, free of historical connotations:
1. Two or more social systems merge into one system. However, one can also consider the status quo ante as "one" system, consisting of several loosely connected segmentary subsystems. In any case, this transformation amounts to an increase in power and size.
2. A variety of either dissimilar segments or loosely connected systems is replaced by a variety of dissimilar functions and functional subsystems within one strong system. This view is certainly not in accordance with the popular conception of functional differentiation. Nor is it in accordance with the view put forth in the classics. Durkheim and Spencer proceeded from the assumption that social segments are similar or homogeneous from the very beginning. Indeed, the clans and tribes of primitive societies may look similar when seen through our eyes, but in terms of their own self-description they are meaningfully distinct from each other and constitute a variety of social systems that are both heterogeneous and independent of one another. For them, functional differentiation means the transformation of their own particular sociocultural structures into more general ones. The same is true for these new systems. They have transformed heterogeneity into homogeneity. Spencer's dictum that evolution is the progression from homogeneity to heterogeneity is only true with respect to functions. As for sociostructural arrangements, there is an increase in homogeneity.
3. The reduplication of any function or set of functions in two or more systems or subsystems is reduced. The principle involved is that functional differentiation must progress as far as possible, which
means that it continues up to the point where there is only one structural representation (or one subsystem) remaining for each function in the system. The redundancy of functions and structural subsystems is transformed into uniqueness. This amounts to an increase in efficiency. Adam Smith's famous use of the example of pin production to illustrate the division of labor is a case in point. Thus, an increase in efficiency and a tendency toward the increasing uniqueness of functions and corresponding structural subsystems is implied in functional differentiation.
The list of the implications of functional differentiation as an ideal type can be extended to include the transformation of internal power relations, personalities, and micro-macro relationships. Our insights into functional differentiation are as yet very poor. Nevertheless, I end the list here for the time being and turn to the question of risks. What risks do social systems encounter as they approach the ideal type of modernization represented by functional differentiation? Following the order of the three points outlined above, I discuss the risks of largeness and power, the risks of homogeneity, and the risks of uniqueness and efficiency. In order to change the emphasis somewhat, I at times speak not of risks but rather of paradoxes or paradoxical developments. What is paradoxical is that social systems grow weak owing to their own largeness and strength.
The fact that systems are weakened by their very strength is the "paradox of largeness and power." Similarly, the "paradox of evolution" is that functional differentiation not only creates variety but also creates homogeneity and that homogeneity threatens to decelerate evolution. And it is also paradox that the increasing efficiency that results from decreasing redundancy makes systems more vulnerable because the slightest disturbance in one of the subsystems dramatically decreases the efficiency and viability of the whole system. I call this tendency the "paradox of efficiency."
1.1. The Paradox of Largeness and Power
The weakness of strong systems may be explained in several ways.
1. As systems grow in size and elements, their contacts with other systems decrease because they have sufficient opportunities for a wide range of contacts within themselves. In large societies, as Peter M. Blau (1977) has argued, the ratio of internal to external interaction is higher than it is in small societies. This holds true for economic, cultural and social interaction. In other words, the amount large societies have to learn from small countries is not as much as small countries can learn from them. This analysis also
suggests that large countries are more "closed" toward the flow of information from other countries and that small countries are more "open." This is true despite the fact that some large countries understand themselves to be "open societies" in the Popperian sense. This may also explain the greater incestuous conformity of sociocultural patterns within large societies as compared with smaller societies. Large numbers of elements thus have a negative effect on the receptiveness and diversity of large systems.
2. Even if large systems do exchange information with smaller ones, they do not learn as much from small systems as small systems learn from them. For example, in the case of five million Americans having five million contacts with five million Swiss people, only about 2 percent of the population of the United States learns something about Switzerland but about 90 percent of the total population of Switzerland learns something about the United States.
3. Inasmuch as large systems are powerful and power amounts to "the ability to afford not to learn" (Deutsch 1966, 111), large systems do not have to learn as much as small systems must in order to survive. Furthermore, the consciousness of being powerful enough not to have to learn may have an additional effect: lowering the tendency to learn. I call this tendency the "stubbornness" of large power systems.
4. As Gödel has shown for mathematics, Turing for computers, and Hofstadter (1979, 101) has reminded us, all systems are incomplete and contradictory insofar as they cannot know or prove the consistency and completeness of themselves without resorting to assumptions from outside. From the point of view of cybernetics, one can add that systems cannot be self-steering if they do not receive information about their goals from outside. Large systems, which process less information from outside than do small systems, learn less about themselves and about their own contradictions than small systems and are therefore less in a position to determine an appropriate set of goals. In the extreme case of a supersystem that has absorbed all other systems to the point that it alone remains, the system completely loses any ability to set appropriate goals. As a consequence, it is also stripped of its self-steering capacity. This would hold true for a world state that had swallowed all other nation states.
1.2. The Paradox of Evolution
To understand the paradox of evolution, it is necessary to resort to a generalized version of the model of evolutionary biology. Evolution may be understood either (1) from the perspective of an ecological system, as
increasing or maintaining the variety of all species, or (2) from the perspective of each species, as increasing its population and the variety of different individuals within this population. Each of these two perspectives puts the other in a dilemma. Additionally, a contradiction also exists between increasing numbers and variety. It is therefore wrong to confuse the evolutionary success of one species with that of a system of species. It is also misleading to measure the success of a species by its increasing numbers alone. Evolutionary "success" is an ambivalent and diffuse quality, and it is so for good reasons.
Living systems—among them, societies, as one form of social system—can be considered a species if they (1) possess a common set of features, and (2) reproduce themselves by the recombination and mutation of a certain number of basic elements (genes) drawn from a common genetic pool. There is a variety within this common pool, and the recombination and/or mutation of its elements makes for continuing and ever-new variety. However, selection reduces variety by increasing the number of individuals in a given population that are similar in the sense that they are best equipped for survival in a given environment. Such a tendency toward homogenization within a population takes a long time to assert itself and thus cannot be detected easily in very large and segmented populations, for example, the human species.
Species with small populations, however, are different. With a population of only 160—if we take membership in the United Nations as a rough indicator—the species of nation-states is exceptionally small. Thus, applying the paradox of evolution, the tendency of a species to destroy its own internal variety by homogenization of its population may be particularly strong within the species of nation-states. Homogenization by functional differentiation and homogenization by selection both work in the same direction. Should they be considered as two sides of the same phenomenon? As yet I am not sure. I am inclined to see a parallel, or even a synonymity, between the sociological notion of functional differentiation and the biological concept of a recombination and mutation of elements (genes). If this approach is correct, it makes the case for homogenization even stronger. Biologically speaking, homogenization does not commence with the process of selection. Rather it is triggered by the process of recombination and/or mutation.
1.3. The Paradox of Efficiency
The paradox of efficiency can be understood as the result of competition among several systems or subsystems that all fulfill the same function. The most efficient one will endure and incorporate the work done by the others. The realization of the principle "one function, one system" brings about maximum efficiency, not only because the most efficient system is
the one that survives the competition but also because the energies of the embracing, higher-level system are applied most effectively Monopolization processes in markets are a case in point. The paradox arises not so much from an abuse of power but from the increased safety risks inherent in the unification process. If there is only system left to handle each function or set of functions, a defect in that system causes an inversion from highest efficiency to highest inefficiency.
An even stronger version of the paradox of uniqueness and efficiency may be derived from the theory of the hypercycle (Eigen and Schuster 1979), an explanation of the origin of life. Molecules that start reproducing themselves do so not on their own but in cooperation with others. This process, a hypercycle of reaction cycles, has many variants, but the "fittest" soon forces its competitors out of existence. This analysis explains the uniqueness of the genetic code for all living beings on earth. If we apply this to societies, their propensity to gradually merge—via functional differentiation and homogenization—into the uniqueness of one supersociety would eventually bring the process of societal reproduction to an end. In a species with a population of one there can be no self-reproduction in a cooperative hypercycle. In terms of cybernetics, a system that has no other systems of the same species left is highly endangered because it lacks not only cooperation but also competition. It is only through "cooperation by competition" that a system comes to know the possibilities open to it and the restrictions on it with regard to setting realistic goals. A "lonely system" loses its capacity for self-organization and condemns itself to death.
2. Segmentation and Niche Systems
Fortunately, the evolution of systems, and social systems in particular, does not follow the risky path suggested by the ideal-typical theory of functional differentiation. On the contrary, it makes great use of segmentary differentiation as a supplement to and a safeguard against the dangers of functional differentiation. Segmentation does the following:
1. It breaks large systems down into small ones and reduces the power of the subsystems.
2. It maintains and increases a variety of functionally equivalent structures with dissimilar sociocultural patterns despite the tendency toward homogenization.
3. It creates redundancy in the form of similarity as a counter to the pressure toward uniqueness.
We are mistaken to look at segmentation as an alternative that replaces functional differentiation and leads to dedifferentiation. At least
in the case of social systems, it would seem improbable that such systems simply "forget" the level of functional differentiation that they have already attained. Thus, even if there were a planned dedifferentiation of structures, second-level, underground structures that retain and preserve a higher degree of functional differentiation would remain.
But this is not my main point. What is crucial is that any step toward more functional differentiation invariably produces more segmentation as well. This is true at all levels of the system. At the level of society, functional differentiation has been pushed forward particularly by the formation of political and economic subsystems. Because of its increase in size, homogeneity, and uniqueness, the political subsystem can be regarded as a paradigmatic example of functional differentiation. And yet at the same time the very same process has led to the contrasting program of a socioemotional subsystem composed of families, friendships, private acquaintances, and intimate relationships, a subsystem segmented into many small systems, each with a high variety of structural patterns and a high degree of functional redundancy.
Within the second-level functional subsystems, segmentation is an ongoing process. In the political system we usually find a variety of parties and interest groups and regional and local governments. In the economic system segmentation occurs mainly among enterprises and households. In the single family segmentation comes to an end because of the smallness of the unit; instead we find different patterns of functional differentiation, both emotional and economic. In summary, Vergesellschaftung as societal evolution leads to an "architecture of complexity" (Simon  1981, 193), which is characterized not only by a hierarchy of systems, subsystems, subsubsystems, etc., but also a typical mixture of functional differentiation and segmentation, a mixture different for each subsystem and each level of subsystem. There is strong evidence that the range of freedom to change this mixture is very limited. It would not make sense to organize emotional-affective functions at the level of society by applying principles of functional differentiation. And yet conversely, to start organizing the economic and political spheres by segmentation would result in a tremendous loss of efficiency. Thus for all functional subsystems, there seems to be an appropriate (if not optimum) combination of the two principles of differentiation and segmentation. Social planning may change the weighting within this mix. In its attempt to "modernize" social structures, if often overemphasizes the functional principle, as in kibbutz education or in the central planning of an economy. As a result, segmentation is pushed into the underbelly of society, into unofficial structures such as black markets, informal groups, and secret networks of communication.
Generally speaking, any step toward changing social differentiation creates its opposite: diffuseness, a repository that embraces all those
functions and relations that are no longer or still not accounted for or thematized by differentiation. The forms in which these functions and relations exist in unclear, uncertain and undetermined as well as covert, unconscious, and only latent. But exist they do. They are "the other side of the coin." Sociology does not look at this obverse side too often.
As differentiation does not destroy, but rather generates diffuseness, so the relationship between functional differentiation and segmentation is one of two opposing yet collaborative principles of evolution. Functional differentiation represents the dynamic, innovative, expanding, and risky aspects of evolution. Segmentation stands for preservation, stability, and the reduction of risks. We must abandon the classical model of social evolution that envisions progress from segmentation to functional differentiation. And we should also question the analogous model of modernization.
Such a revision of the transformational model opens up a wider range of interpretations of problems of evolution. Some of these problems arise not because there is "still too much" segmentation but because there is "not yet enough" segmentation in evolving social systems. Segmentation cannot be regarded as completely rehabilitated if it is only thought of as the companion of functional differentiation. It is more than that because it is an originating source of evolution itself. To understand this more fully, let us again consult the biological and ecological model of evolution. As explained above, the evolutionary process that leads to the homogenization and/or the extension of the population of a species is only one alternative within the transformational model. Another would be evolution through the formation and isolation of niches.
Niches are the set of conditions by which a part of the population of a species lives in the relative specialization, isolated from the rest. To find a niche means to find or establish boundaries preventing the unlimited exchange of contacts with the rest (or majority) of the population. Thus the recombination of genes is restricted to the niche population, which is another way of saying that this group is protected from having to compete with the rest of the population on their terms.
In a number of isolated ecosystems each will unquestionably follow evolutionary dynamic processes of its own as a result either of random shocks or of environmental differences. This will lead to a very much larger number of different species in totality [that is, different ways of life in the total population] than would a single, large ecosystem, in which many of the mutations that have survival value in the small system would not have survival value in the large. (Boulding 1978, 113)
This model of niche development amounts to "evolution by segmentation." The niche forms the segment in which one or a few individual
systems develop their own peculiarities independently of the other systems.
The isolation of niches, therefore, leads to a variety of systems that are functionally equivalent but structurally distinct from one another. As societies, the United States, the Soviet Union, Sweden, and South Africa all have the same function but each fulfills this function via totally different sociostructural patterns. As elements of the "higher" system of international society, however, these societies fulfill different functions or play different roles, such a competing superpowers, neutrals, even outcasts (see Luard 1976, 259ff.). Redundancy exists within this higher system in the sense that the functional subsystems—the economic and political spheres, the socialization system, etc.—are each replicated many times, in both similar and different forms. The similarity of patterns has its survival value. If one system disappears, others make sure that the pattern endures. And yet the variety of patterns has its survival value too. Systems can choose between different patterns, they can recombine different patterns, or they can learn from the differences in one another's patterns.
Certain conditions must be fulfilled in order for niche-produced variety to become important in terms of evolution:
1. Niches should not be too small. Large systems have a better chance of producing improbable mutations and of protecting these against outside interference.
2. Adaptation to niches should not go too far. Niches are in a continual state of change. If the niche shrinks too much, the population that is too well adapted to this niche will cease to exist as a distinct entity. Adaptability, however, increases the capacity of a given population to expand niches or to find new niches. Catastrophe favors adaptability and eliminates the previously well-adapted but unadaptable (Boulding 1978, 111, 114).
3. Mutations or innovations that generate increased complexity, especially those that increase adaptability, have a better chance to discovering new niches than do those that reduce complexity.
4. Niches that are too open to their environment will be invaded by populations that are either more complex or greater in size and power and will thus lose their distinctness.
5. Niches that close themselves off too much forfeit the chance to become more complex by absorbing innovations from outside; they will not be able to expand.
Opening and closing are important strategies for increasing and preserving variety (Klapp 1978). Evidence for this point is provided by socialist countries in Easter Europe; they have become open societies today by
admitting many new elements of political and economic culture, thus increasing their internal variety.
3. The Prospects for the Evolution of World Societies
How strong are the trends in the international system of societies toward functional differentiation? And what are the chances for niche societies to oppose this tendency?
Society may be seen as an interesting species of living systems. It appears late in the history of evolution, which moves from the physical to the biological to the societal level (Boulding 1978, 29–30). Among social systems, society is also a latecomer. It is characterized by its degree of coordinative or synthesizing power: "More inclusive of controls over action than all others …, a type of social system, in any universe of social systems, which attains the highest level of self-sufficiency as a system in relation to its environment" (Parsons 1966, 2, 5). Today we would be critical of such a definition, knowing that all living systems are self-sufficient in the sense that they are self-organizing that they are not self-sufficient because in order to reproduce themselves they require the cooperation of many others systems of numerous different levels.
Thus, the most important difference between society and other social systems is the symbolic social meaning attributed to society. It represented a "higher" social system that symbolized the unity of social organization at a time (in the eighteenth century) when such a unity was already fragmented and continually endangered by ongoing functional differentiation. In this situation the search for society as the symbol of unity had completely contradictory results. On the one hand, the unity and identity of the whole seemed to be best represented by the political subsystem as the locus of control over a territory with visible geographical boundaries. On the other hand, Hegel viewed society as something that included both the family and the economy, two subsystems with different boundaries that were otherwise overlooked in the political understanding of the term. The paradox of society is that it came into beings as a symbol for unity at the very time that unity was disappearing.
The species "society," although comprising less than 200 "individuals," shows a remarkably high degree of dissimilarity. These dissimilarities include (1) both very big and very small individuals in terms of territorial boundaries; (2) both growing and shrinking individuals that result from the reproductive strength or weakness of their respective elementary parts; (3) both strong and chaotic individuals with respect to internal normative control, self-organization, and outlook; and (4) both independent and dependent individuals.
It is peculiar to the species "society" that it may reproduce itself either
by segmentation, that is, by increasing its population and decreasing the size of its individuals, or by means of (frequently coercive) functional differentiation, that is, by decreasing the population in favor of ever larger individuals.
Both segmentation and functional differentiation can be perceived in world society today. Segmentation took place particularly after World War I (the division of the Austro-Hungarian Empire) and World War II (the division of Germany and Korea) as well as in the course of decolonization. Within the same period Soviet and Chinese societies grew larger in size. Contemporary societies in Western Europe have retained their territorial identity but seem gradually to be merging their norms and control mechanisms. Some African cases, however, illustrate reproduction by territorial integration without a concomitant successful integration of control norms. What has been most remarkable, however, has been the development of three superpowers, each characterized by its large size, its large population, and its high degree of complexity—although each superpower is complex different ways. All three illustrate the paradox of largeness. Chinese society has made recent attempts to overcome this paradox by means of birth control, by opening its borders to knowledge from abroad, and by introducing market segmentation. The result has been an increase in the degree of segmentary independence and learning within China. In the Soviet Union, however, the paradox continued to flourish unabated until the system practically broke down. The traditional insularity of the system and its overemphasis on functional differentiation have led to the centralization of political and economic activity without the concomitant exploitation of the learning potential inherent in independent and competitive segments (parties, enterprises, and interest groups). These characteristics lead to the kind of inflexibility and deficient adaptability expressed by the paradox of largeness. The United States may be proud of its openness and the philosophy and structures of conflicting and competitive segments that it upholds, but this trust that these structures are the best suited to solve problems can prevent Americans from seeing that such structures cannot solve the paradox of largeness and power. As a consequence of its largeness, the United States has developed many self-steering mechanisms at the local and regional level. The attention of the public—and of the politicians who rely on public consent—is focused on these events, and not on what is going on outside. Compare, in this respect, the ratio of international and local information contained in American and is Swiss or Dutch newspapers.
The "inner-directedness" of social self-sufficiency of large societies would not in itself pose a problem if these societies were not in the position of being superpowers in relation to small societies. Virtually all societies in Western and Eastern Europe are protectorates of the superpowers, inasmuch
as they are not able to defend themselves against the superpower that represents the other side. Nobody likes to have to depend on somebody else, especially if the other person is powerful and as a consequence of his size-induced self-centeredness does not really understand and care about the other. This is not a moral dilemma that can be solved by an effort on the part of the powerful "to understand others." It is, as the paradox of largeness teaches us, a sociostructural "dilemma of asymmetrical understanding," which resists even the best intentions of the powerful systems. As a consequence, they run into a threefold complex of misunderstandings. First, they do not understand the small and dependent systems to the same degree that these systems understand them. Second, they do not understand that they cannot understand the small societies sufficiently, even if they were to make an effort to do so. Third, they do not understand why the small societies think that they are misunderstood, and small societies do not understand why they are not sufficiently understood. As a result, everybody gets angry.
Turning to the paradox of evolution, at first glance there seems to be no empirical evidence that supports its existence in world society. The number of independent state-societies is increasing and the variety of their cultural patterns is very great. However, there is some diffusion of common norms—for instance, where child labor or discrimination against women is concerned—all over the world. The work of international organizations such as ILO and UNCTAD gives us an idea of what the increasing body of commonly accepted norms is like.
The trend toward a homogenization of technocultural and sociocultural patterns is even more striking, a trend that persists in both official and unofficial forms. Some might argue that in the course of the gradual expansion of homogeneity throughout world society, there has been an expanding of cultural heterogeneity as well, that is, the mixture of the diffusing modern elements with the remaining traditional elements in each society creates new and specific sociocultural patterns and life-styles. This heterogeneity, however, is only meaningful to a certain degree because at another level of abstraction the new patterns and life-styles that result from the mixture of the modern and the traditional merely lead once more to the homogenization of societies. They all become multifaceted societies, permitting the existence and practice of many different life-styles at a time. This coexistence of the traditional and the modern, of individualized and standardized life-styles can be described, albeit incompletely, using the concept of the "dual society." In most countries this has increasingly given way to a "multifold society."
In many countries of the Third World the modern "international" sector is declared to be the official one, whereas in others (such as Iran) and in countries of the socialist camp it forms an unofficial structure, a
"second society" (Hankiss, 1985). Be this as it may, those goods, norms, and social patterns that bring about homogenization among and within societies are and must be considered to be the most modern, dynamic, and important ones—or, from the point of view of the traditionalist, the most dangerous ones.
The most remarkable aspect of societal homogenization is its asymmetric character. Unlike human reproduction, in which both sides have an equal chance to be represented in the recombination of genes, one side is almost always disadvantaged in the recombination of technocultural and sociocultural patterns. The side that offers the highest degree of complexity or the strongest combination of complexity and power dominates. In world society today this is the side of the United States. American society is the leading society in the sense that it diffuses its sociocultural patterns and products in what amounts to a one-way process. Other big countries, such as the Soviet Union, China, Japan, and Europe, do not send as many or such important things back to the United States as they receive from it. And countries in the Third World do not copy as many patterns and things from other leading societies as they do from the United States.
One explanation for this one-way dynamism is the fact that the United States, as an immigrant society, is traditionally open to the most dynamic elements of other countries. It does not import them as products or institutions but integrates them in the form of the personal "know-how" of the pizzamaker, the rocket engineer, or the scientist. World society receives the dynamic elements imported into the United States back from the United States in a transformed and enriched form.
The last step in the homogenization of world society would, of course, be the disappearance of state borders. In reality, the borders are only being eroded, not abolished. Diversity is covertly being eroded while officially the diversity and independence of state societies is respected.
If the significant variety of different societies is decreasing, then evolution must also be losing its capacity to recombine and select variety at the level of society. But why should recombination and selection not be going on "below" and "above" the level of state society? Below—or, rather, in addition to—the level of state society exist functionally specific segments of enterprises and households, universities and schools, etc., that could still exist in the absence of the nation-state. They could maintain their selectively by competing with one other: one scientific community pitted against another, and both against religious communities. The public, be it by means of market or quasi-market procedures, could be the arbiter in such processes of selection. But could not a world state play the role of arbiter in exactly the way that the existing nation-state does? After all, the nation-state at present already takes care of the functioning of markets, protects the family, allocates research funds to different scientific
enterprises, and so on. An evolutionary superstate could quite plausibly guarantee the maintenance of the evolutionary potential for diversity.
However, a world state could not substitute for the regulatory functions of the state itself. Where politics and the judiciary are concerned, a loss of diversity seems inevitably. Legitimately, there can only be one political and legal order prevalent in one place at one time (although there may be federal and communal substructures). Thus, a supranational world state would mean the end of existing alternatives and competition with regard to political and judicial cultures. In other words, only a variety of nation-states or camps of nation-states can guarantee the evolution of political and legal structures by recombination and selection of alternatives.
A superstate efficiently enforcing common norms in the face of the conflicting interests of nation-states is one of the most hopeful visions for world peace. Unfortunately, this vision is inextricably bound up with the paradox of uniqueness and efficiency. The more efficient a world state is, the more it destroys its own functional alternatives, that is, the environment of systems of the same kind that have to cooperate as one learning system in order to find out what the appropriate functions and limitations of the state are. In addition, as far as nonstate functions and institutions are concerned, even a superstate aiming at diversity runs the risk of favoring either the wrong alternatives or too few alternatives. Finally, in view of the accumulation of regulatory power necessary for the management of world society, a superstate simply magnifies the risks implied in social largeness and power.
In opposition to the prevailing trends in world society toward both large supersociety and a decreasing variety of technocultural and sociocultural patterns among societies, is there a chance for niche societies to escape to a certain degree?
Niches, at the level of societal evolution, do not exist by virtue of nature or fate alone; they can be made by social effort. An effort certainly is necessary if niche societies are to become a successful alternative to the supersociety. This effort has to take into consideration the conditions, mentioned earlier, under which niche systems arise, if these systems are to be relevant from the point of view of evolution. Niche societies should not be so small, powerless, and niche-adapted that they are reduced to an existence of museumlike preservation. They should be complex and open enough to enter into a limited but fruitful exchange with the supersociety.
Primitive societies may be so far removed from modern societies in this respect that they do not even belong to the same species, as Giesen (1980) has argued. Consequently, the chances of finding niches that are
meaningful to evolution increase with the levels of complexity and power of societies. And niches cannot be found within the boundaries of the nation-state or a federation of states alone; the concept of variable niches presupposes a flexibility of changing coalitions. For example, there may be a European-Arab niche with regard to the development of solar energy but not in terms of a common religious pattern.
The concept of niche evolution at the societal level has its own paradox: It is successful to the extent that niche systems are powerful enough to protect themselves against world trends and that they have complex alternatives to offer to complex mainstream problems. Unfortunately, the success of niche systems serves also to reproduce the paradoxes of largeness and power and of evolution within the niches.
But these are the problems of the day after tomorrow. The problem facing niche societies today is the extreme difficulty of developing alternative technocultural and sociocultural patterns in opposition to the dominating and homogenizing trend that emanates from the favors the leading societies. There seems to be a law of increasing power differences. Innovations that are disseminated by the leading countries to the rest of the world strengthens the superiority of the leading societies for three reasons.
1. The leading societies are superior in terms of resources and so their own innovations and follow-up innovations have a competitive edge.
2. The leading societies also have a competitive advantage inasmuch as the innovation is a product of their own societal culture, which is likely to encounter difficulties or "implantation cost" in other societies.
3. The leading societies have, in most cases, an advantage of power: power is the chance to promote a solution to the disadvantage of better solutions.
In this situation the development of niche societies not only amounts to creating a countervailing power. It also means a change in competition in the sense that niche societies reject the worldwide competition for those patterns and solutions that are offered by the leading societies. For the reasons just outlined, to accept this competition would be to continually strengthen and increase the differences in power and welfare between the leading societies and the rest of the world. The chance open to the niche society is not to avoid all competition but to offer indirect competition in the form of different sociocultural patterns problem-solving devices. Niche societies want to be free in their choice of realms of competition.
Although most of us cherish values of pluralism and multiculturalism, in the final instance we are hardly prepared to accept the images of niche
societies that are really their own. Fundamentalism in Iran is usually interpreted as a backlash against modernization processes that were enforced in that country too quickly and too strictly. The common view is that it constitutes a temporary obstacle to further modernization. But perhaps we should accept it as a valid and valuable sociocultural pattern of its own.
As I see it, the concept of niche evolution is a necessary theoretical and political complement to the prevailing concept of a functional differentiation that culminates in the vision of a supersociety. Admittedly, the obstacle and resistances to the realization of niche societies are stronger than the forces in its favor. Any planned effort will probably not be enough if it is not supported by the tacit work of the paradoxes I discussed in this chapter, paradoxes that can be seen as the self-regulating mechanism of social systems and that function to ensure that the "trees do not grow up into skies," as a German saying would have it.
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