Action and Its Environments: Toward a New Synthesis 0231062087, 9780231062084

Jeffrey Alexander, known for his work in sociological theory, breaks new ground in Action and Its Environments. The book

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Table of contents :
Preface
Acknowledgments
IntroductionPart I: The Problem Stated
One: Social-Structural Analysis: Presuppositions, Ideologies, Empirical DebatesPart II: Structure, Action, and Differentiation
Two: Durkheim's Problem and Differentiation Theory Today
Three: Core Solidarity, Ethnic Outgroup, and Social Differentiation
Four: The Mass News Media in Systemic, Historical, and Comparative Perspective
Five: Three Models of Culture and Social Relations: Toward an Analysis of Watergate
Six: The University and MoralityPart III: The Micro-Macro Link
Seven: Social Differentiation and Collective Behavior (with Paul Colomy)
Eight: The Individualist Dilemma in Phenomenology and Interactionism
Nine: From Reduction to Linkage: The Long View of the Micro-Macro Debate (with Bernhard Giesen)Part IV: The Problem Restated
Ten: Action and Its EnvironmentsIndex
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Citation preview

'‘tic .^ivATto"-

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boc>k

wa5 purchased

With funds

giWn

DeWitt Wallace founder of

^e^idcr's

Digitized by the Internet Archive in

2017 with funding from

China-America

Digital

Academic

Library

(CADAL)

https://archive.org/details/actionitsenvironOOalex

I (

Action and

Its

Environments

i

Action and

Its

Environments #

Toward

a

New

Synthesis

Jeffrey C. Alexander

Columbia University Press NEW YORK 1988

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Alexander, Jeffrey C.

Action and

its

environments.

Bibliography: p.

Includes index. I.

Social structure.

structure

2.

— United

HM24.A4647

1988

Social action. States.

I.

305

3.

Social

Title.

87-23910

ISBN 0-231-06208-7

Columbia University Press

New York Copyright

©

Guildford, Surrey

1988 Columbia University Press All rights reserved

Printed in the United States of America

Clothbound Columbia University Press editions are Smythsewn and printed on permanent and durable acid-free paper

Book design by Ken Venezio

To

my mother zvho

and Fred Alexander, internal and external

arid father, Esther

balanced the

environments of action

Contents

Preface

ix

Acknowledgments Introduction

PART

i

I

The Problem

ONE

xi

Stated

Social-Structural Analysis: Presuppositions, Ideologies, Empirical Debates

PART

ii

II

Structure, Action, and Differentiation

TWO

Durkheim’s Problem and Differentiation Theory Today

THREE

Core Solidarity, Ethnic Outgroup,

and Social Differentiation

FOUR

The Mass News Media

in

Systemic, Historical, and

Comparative Perspective

FIVE

Three Models

Toward an SIX

The

of Culture

78

107

and Society Relations:

Analysis of Watergate

University and Morality

PART

153

175

III

The Micro-Macro Link

SEVEN

Social Differentiation and Collective Behavior

(with Paul Colomy)

193

49

Vlll

CONTENTS EIGHT

The

Individualist

Dilemma

Phenomenology and Interactionism

NINE

From Reduction

to

Linkage:

in

222

The Long View

Micro-Macro Debate (with Bernhard Giesen)

PART

IV

The Problem

TEN

Action and

Its

Index

Restated

Environments

335

301

of the

257

Preface

These essays have been prepared over the produced occasionally,

demanded. Like

tion

as the opportunity presented itself all

specifications of broader

ments. That,

eight years.

last

They were

and the

situa-

contingent activity, however, these essays are

commitments, not completely independent

at least, is

the case

I

make

in the introductory

state-

statement

that follows.

Years ago Warren Hagstrom wrote that the

upon the exchange entirely apt.

of information for recognition.

Every piece collected here was,

sented in spoken form. occasions

scientific

From

at

This

community still

to

me

one time or another, pre-

the direct responses of colleagues on these

have greatly benefited. Because their number

I

seems

rests

is

great

and

many were unknown to me, I can extend my gratitude only indirectly. Those who read and commented on these papers in draft form because

acknowledged

are directly It is

in the essays themselves.

customary when introducing collections of

this sort for authors to

say that, while various changes could have been made, they have preferred to

reproduce them

but

I

must admit

called for,

I

that,

where

alterations

have made them. In only

a

and additions have clearly been few cases has

this involved sub-

change. For aesthetic purposes the system of annotations has been

stantial

slightly altered.

pages.

My preference is much the same,

in their original form.

A

Most

of the notes appear as footnotes,

few longer ones have been moved

to the

During the period these essays were written sistance

from various scholarly agencies.

To

I

on the bottoms of

ends of the chapters.

received substantial as-

the Ford Foundation, John

Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, The Markle Foundation, and the I

UCLA

Faculty Senate

prepared the

final

I

would

like,

therefore, to record

versions of these essays as a

of Social Science at the Institute for

member

Advanced Study

my of

gratitude.

The School

in Princeton,

New

JC

PREFACE

Jersey.

The combination

of bucolic repose

and

collegial riposte

proved

particularly stimulating.

With the exception prepared

in

of the

paper on social structure, most of which was

1978, the publication dates of these papers reflect the ap-

proximate time of their actual composition.

Acknowledgments

“Social-Structural Analysis” (chapter

Quatierly (1985) 25: 5-26 and

i)

appeared

first

in

Sociological

reprinted here by permission of the

is

Midwestern Sociological Society.

“Core Solidarity, Ethnic Outgroup, and Social Differentiation” (chapter 3) first appeared in Jacques Dofny and Akinsola Akiwowo, eds., Xatiotial and Ethnic Movements (1980), and is reprinted here by permission of Sage Publications.

“The Mass News Media spective” (chapter 4) eds..

in

first

Mass Media and

Systemic, Historical, and Comparative Per-

appeared

in

Elihu Katz and

Social Change (1981) and

is

Thomas

Szecsko,

reprinted here by

permission of Sage Publications.

“Three Models

of Culture

Watergate” (chapter

290-314 and

is

and Society Relations: Toward an Analysis

5) first

appeared

in Sociological Theory'

of

(1984) 3:

reprinted here with permission from the American Socio-

logical Association.

“The University and Morality”

(chapter 6)

first

of Higher Education (1986) 57: 463-476, and

appeared is

in

The Journal

reprinted here by per-

mission of Ohio State University Press.

“Social Differentiation and Collective Behavior” (chapter 7) in Sociological

sion of the

“The

Theory (1985)

3: 11-23,

first

appeared

reprinted here by permis-

American Sociological Association.

Individualist

Dilemma

in

Phenomenology and Interactionism”

XU

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

(chapter 8)

first

appeared

in S.

N. Eisenstadt and H.

Macrosociological Theory (1985) and

is

J.

Helle, eds.,

reprinted here by permission of

Sage Publications.

“From Reduction

to

Linkage” and “Action and

and 10) first appeared Munch, and Neil J. Smelser,

ters 9

in

Its

Environments” (chap-

Alexander, Bernhard Giesen, Richard

eds..

The Macro-Micro Link (1987) and

is

reprinted here by permission of University of California Press.

None form.

of these essays have

been republished

in precisely their original

Action and

Its

Environments

I

i 1

I p

!

< }i

i

Introduction

When that

social scientists look at society they are

seem vaguely

familiar.

They should

that they themselves have asked.

society cannot

tell itself.

establish the value

We

It is

No

human

commitments

create the frameworks from

beings

are essential, in their

it

own

is

pose the questions.

We

the trouble.

results.

from other

social scientists

question-asking process.

This

solipsism here. But

make inquiry worth

that

would seem plausible

right.

who

is

which empirical studies are designed and

theorists different

plicit attention to this

be, since these are the questions

doubt there

on the basis of which we interpret our

What makes

confronted with questions

that they

If

their ex-

is

values and frameworks

become

objects of reflection

one thing that theorists do. They

course, address themselves directly to society.

When

also,

of

they do, they are

particularly concerned with developing a general explanatory framework.

Although these essays

clearly build

upon foundations established

earlier Theoretical Logic in Sociology, their focus differs in

in

my

some important

ways. First, they address themselves more to contemporary debates than to classical theorists.

terpretive in intent,

Second, while several essays remain primarily

my

efforts here are

more

directly empirical.

I

in-

develop

make definitions, build models, and offer explanations. Third, there is a more explicit ideological and political dimension to these essays. Finally, on questions that directly overlap with my earlier work I open up here some new theoretical ground. classifications,

My

arguments

in these essays revolve

around the nature

tures and social actions and their possible interrelation.

of social struc-

These

issues have

a venerable history in the annals of social thought. In recent debates, they

have become crystallized

in a particularly vivid

way. Vis-a-vis structure,

the essays that follow criticize normative and materialist formulations;

they redefine social structure in a multidimensional manner; and they

INTRODUCTION

2

dynamic and synthetic approach can illuminate a range these essays criof empirical problems. Vis-a-vis the problem of action, approaches. I argue ticize both exclusively micro and exclusively macro must be recthat the centrality of contingency and historical specificity

how

illustrate

this

ognized but that the socially structured nature of action can never be overlooked. I develop a systematic model for integrating contingency and structure and, once again, apply this

Why debate?

model

to empirical concerns.

have the issues of structure and action become so central in recent

The

answer,

I

think,

to develop a synthesis that

a historical one. Parsons, of course, tried

is

went beyond the action-structure

split.

Despite

and sophistication, however, his functionalist formulations were attacked and eventually defeated. Parsons’ synthesis had serious weaknesses, to be sure; in my view, however, they had more to do with their fecundity

failure to

his synthetic goal than

meet

The problem

is

wake

to theoretical synthesis

of Parsons’ decline, traditions that

in one-sided

was thrown

ways assumed center stage.* Western sociology, however,

that this protracted period of theoretical bifurcation

end.

into doubt. In the

emphasized action and structure

are clear indications throughout

There

itself.

that in the course of the battle against functionalism, the

commitment

very

with the nature of the goal

A number

of ambitious

works have appeared,

may be coming all

of

to

an

which aim

at

The recent writings of new movement. My The-

producing some form of theoretical reintegration. Giddens, Collins, and Habermas exemplify this oretical Logic in Sociology

my

focus

is

a bit different

had but

a similar goal. In the essays that follow,

my

intent remains the same.

My

aim

is

to

bring action theory and structure theory back together, in a postParsonian

way. I

turn

now

to a brief consideration of these essays themselves. “Social-

Structural Analysis: Presuppositions, Ideologies, Empirical Debates”

was

written before the others (although not published until 1984) and appears first in this

book. In the course of surveying the most important classical

and contemporary contributions

work

is

established for thinking about the issues taken

that follow. action. First,

For logical

to the structural debate, a general

up

frame-

in the essays

restate the case for a collectivist treatment of voluntary

I

I

contend that individual freedom

this relationship

—whether conceived

of

between Parsons and his critics, see my Twenty Lectures: SocioTheory since World War II (New' York: Columbia University Press, 1987).

INTRODUCTION terms

in epistemological, ideological, or empirical

encumber

the social structures that supposedly

guments

that insist

on

this opposition

is

— cannot be opposed

it.

The problem

with

J to ar-

that they ignore the role that

social forces play in creating the capacity to

be

with his or her society actually forms the

self.

free. If

The

actor’s experience

freedom

ceptualized in a sociologically relevant way, therefore,

it is

is

to

be con-

the historically

variable nature of this social experience, not the historically constant fact

become the

of individual contingency, that should

object of study.

It

follows from this argument that social structures, the “forces outside” the

contingent actor, must be understood as not only material but also moral

and symbolic phenomena.

How

else

the capacity to form the interior self

could they be conceived of as having ?

In the final part of this introductory essay

I

argue that, despite these

limitations in the individualistic approach to freedom,

there are real

achievements to such theorizing that cannot be ignored. These achieve-

ments present

“The

a challenge to collectivist theory that

must be pursued.

conceptualization of these symbolic and material structures,”

gest in conclusion,

“must be

must be conceived

in a

for their

I

sug-

historically specific and, equally important,

manner

that recognizes the continual possibility

fundamental reformulation.”

Articulation of a multidimensional theory of social structure and an

approach to contingent action constitute two of the major preoccupations in the

remaining essays that constitute

troduces a third focus as well, for for a democratic society. villian standards, liberty

it

this

book.

My

opening essay

in-

pays special attention to the conditions

By democratic and equality.

I

mean

I

to

imply both Tocque-

discuss classical and contempo-

rary arguments, then, not only as theories about structure and action but

modern

also as conceptions of

social

development.

My

concern nere

is

empirical and ideological rather than analytical. Democratic societies can

be sustained only

in a pluralistic

environment. What are the processes

that allow a society’s resources to be pluralized this? In later essays

There

I

call this

and what processes prevent

the problem of social differentiation.

are, then, three central questions

around which

this collection

of essays revolves: multidimensional social structure, contingent action,

and democratic

society.

The major

sections of this

questions in different ways. In the

first

action-structure issue in the context of

group

book parse these three

of essays

I

pursue the

work primarily devoted

conditions of social and cultural differentiation. In the section’s

first

to the

essay.

^

INTRODUCTION

the “Durkheim’s Problem and Differentiation Theory Today,” I lay out program on social rationale for what has become an extensive research

problems that

differentiation, defining the critical

The

four essays that follow

tions,

— on

this

program must

ethnic domination, mass

They

suggest that plural democracy

a highly

is

communicareflect these

the Watergate crisis, and university responsibility

concerns.

face.

uneven accom-

plishment and that even in the best of societies the resources for sustaining of Culture and Society Reit are difficult to obtain. In “Three Models lations:

Toward an

Analysis of Watergate,”

I

suggest, for example, that

“progressive” and modernizing struggles often have unintended consequences. They polarize even democratic societies, and in doing so create forces that can differentiated

undermine them

in a variety of

and develop

evaluating

it

structures in

in

a

my

is

that

can sustain themselves only by continually

institutions

creating such conflicts between values and groups. cessity

The paradox

ways.

framework not only

document

I

for explaining

this ne-

but also for

and corporate

analysis of the university’s collegial

“The University and Morality.”

This empirical and ideological research program

more general commitment

to synthesizing material

to social structure.* In discussing

is

permeated by

and

ideal

media and ethnicity,

for

approaches example,

place special emphasis on social solidarity, a realm that mediates

values and organizational power in distinctive ways.

I

am

my I

between

careful,

how-

ever, not to allow this recognition of solidarity to obscure the role of self-

interested conflict groups. In Social Differentiation,”

I

“Core Solidarity, Ethnic Outgroup, and

suggest that societies are founded by solidary

core groups that try to maintain their power by defining the wider solidary

community tration of

in their

own

ethnic terms. Because of this initial interpene-

power and meaning,

shifting ethnic hierarchies

must be

related

both to the subjective responsiveness of core to outgroup and to the nature of the

environment within which core and outgroup interact. In the com-

panion essay, “The Mass

News Media

in

Systemic, Historical, and

Com-

*That differentiation theory need not always be associated with such theoretical commitments is well illustrated by the insightful work of Dietrich Rueschemeyer, whose Power and the Division of iMbor (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1986) filters what are basically similar empirical

theory. For a

articles collected in

C

and ideological

more traditionally materialist of essays that exemplify the approach recommended here, see the Alexander and Colomy, Differentiation Theory and Social Change: interests

through

a

volume

omparative and Historical Approaches (New York: Columbia University Press, forthcom-

ing).

INTRODUCTION parative Perspective,”

argue that the media have an interpretive and

I

same time,

solidarizing function but, at the initiated

by groups struggling

that

media

I

institutions are

community members

to assert over other

While

their singular interpretations.

elaborate the often complex inter-

changes between solidarizing news media and institutions systems,

groups

I

other sub-

in

suggest that the media often remain fused with ambitious social

in their struggle for

media emerge, moreover,

domination. Even

autonomy

their

erful institutions try to blackmail the

bolic

5

is

when

autonomous

relatively

continually threatened.

media by withdrawing

Powsym-

critical

and material support, and they often succeed.

Alongside this multidimensional theory of structure there emerges these essays an emphasis on contingency and action. In contrast to

vaguely evolutionary or purely functional argument, historically specific.

My

focus

on

is

about the actual foundings of ethnic of reporters, the indeterminate

and the value

social

groups and

real events.

and ramifying outcomes of

can also be seen.

some

approach here

societies, the interpretative

interests that sustain university

logical subtext

my

autonomy.

in

I

is

talk

ambitions

political crises,

A phenomeno-

emphasize the internal environment of

I

ethnic relations, the typifying capacities of reporters, the ritualistic re-

sourcefulness of senators, and the experience of moral violation of professors.

The second group and differentiation metatheoretical.

now

of essays takes

up the questions

in quite a different

way.

My

of structure, action,

focus here

is

much more

and empirical concerns about differentiation

Political

take a back seat, entering the discussion only in the context of broader

analytic, or “presuppositional,” concerns. In the essay

structure in 1978,

I

was pessimistic about the

I

prepared on social

possibility for a

new

effort

By the early 1980s it seemed to me that just such movement might well be underway.'*' If my treatment

at theoretical synthesis.

a

new

theoretical

of differentiation can be seen as

one reflection of

this

development, the

essays in this second section just as clearly constitute a manifestation of

another kind. In this work

I

open an area

Theoretical Logic. There

my

that

effort

I

development

in

black box in

had been devoted

possibility for a social individualism.

*I discuss this

left as a

I

argued that

Publications, 1988).

earlier

to establishing the in

“The New Theoretical Movement,”

Handbook of Sociology' (Los Angeles: Sage

my

order to do so

in Neil

Smelser, ed.,

INTRODUCTION

6

individualistic theory

insufficient; instead, collectivist theories

was

must

wake of recent disbe enlarged to include meaning and volition. In the apparent to me cussions about action and structure, however, it became appreciative response to individualistic theory must also be that a

more

must be theorized and related to cultural and material constraints. The challenge is to do this without resorting to efforts the atomism and mechanism that often detracts from the synthetic romanticism of theorists like Giddens and Collins or to the residues of

made. Contingent action

and rationalism that In chapter

Colomy and

7, I

itself

affect

Habermas’ quite different synthetic attempts.*

“Social Differentiation and Collective Behavior,” Paul

outline

how

the positive contributions of individualistic

be brought directly into a systematic theory of social differentiation. In making explicit Eisenstadt’s revisionist challenge to

theory can, in

Parsons,

fact,

we show

that

any satisfactory approach to differentiation must

phenomena

theorize contingent

historical events. Just

like social

movements, leadership, and

such theorizing can be found in the collective be-

havior tradition of symbolic interactionism. Building on a synthesis of collective behavior

and differentiation theory, we go on

between

of propositions about the relationship

social

to develop a series

movements, public

opinion formation, and social change. In the chapter that follows,

enology and Interactionism,”

“The

my

concerned with presuppositions. differences between classical

I

Individualist

Dilemma

in

Phenom-

argument becomes more exclusively isolate

what

I

take to be the critical

macro theorizing and the micro traditions

of

interactionism and phenomenology. While criticizing their reductionism, I

reconstruct from the major pragmatist and phenomenological works the

elements they contribute to a more balanced, synthetic approach. Contingent individual action

must be seen,

collective order in situations that cannot

In the long essay that follows,

View

of the

I

argue, as an attempt to specify

be predicted by broader patterns.

“From Reduction

to

Linkage:

Micro-Macro Debate,” Bernhard Giesen and

*See Alexander, “Habermas’

New

I

The Long

generalize this

Theory: Its Promise and Problems,” Journal of Sociology 91 (1985): 400-24. As Margaret Archer (“Structuration Versus Morphogenesis, in S. N. Eisenstadt and H. J. Helle, eds.. Macro Sociological Theory [London: Critical

Sage Publications, 1985] PP- 58—88) has observed, Giddens’ exaggerated separation of individuals from their environments is the other side of his frequent overemphasis on the »

coercive materiality of social structure.

INTRODUCTION discussion. Tracing the

7

argument about contingency versus structure back

to the historical situation in

medieval times,

we

link

it

analytically to

ontological and moral concerns. In the course of this extended theoretical discussion, five ideal-typical approaches to the micro-macro link have

emerged. Once again, ends.

Our

intent

is

to

this exercise in interpretation serves theoretical

demonstrate the need for

model

a

that can

encom-

pass each of these five emphases without endorsing the selectivity that follows

when

they are polemically embodied in one-sided general theories.

“This can be achieved,” we suggest

in

our conclusion, “on the basis of an

emergentist, or collective, understanding of order, a multidimensional

understanding of action, and an analytic understanding of the relations

among ment

one sense

different levels of empirical organization.” In

reiterates the conclusion

written

some

standing of

years before.

how

had reached

I

What

my

in

differs this time

this state-

essay on structure

around

my

is

under-

microtheorizing helps to explain the relationship between

different levels.

My

intent in the concluding essay, “Action

to develop the

model

for

which Giesen and

I

and

Environments,”

Its

asserted the need.

I

argue

that the contrasting concrete, empirical types of action envisioned

competing individualistic traditions can be reduced

to analytic

is

by

compo-

nents of action as such. Conceptualizing contingent action as simulta-

neously strategic and interpretative,

I

differentiate the latter into typifying

and inventive components. However, even when in a

it is

so reconceptualized

multidimensional form, contingent action can never be equated with

the behavior of the individual in an empirical sense.

It,

viewed analytically. Contingent action can be conceived,

too,

must be

believe, as

I

occurring within collectively structured environments. Because two of these,

the psychological and the cultural, constitute internal environ-

ments, they are rarely experienced by the actor as collective constraints. Indeed, they form the very is

self that

experiences action as contingent.

only the third, external environment

— the

social

system



It

that readily

appears to be outside the actor. For this reason, social systems have be-

come, quite wrongly

in

my

view, the main object of explanation in social

science. Against this tendency,

action

is

I

would argue

that because contingent

meaningful, a more complex understanding of the nature and

dimensions of meaning becomes central to any micro-macro

renewed attention

to culture

and meaning

is

link.

This

also, of course, vital to the

8

INTRODUCTION

program

for transcending reductionistic conceptions of social structure.

For these reasons, a

a large part of this

concluding

new model of the structures and dynamics of The essays that follow speak for themselves

this introduction has

cultural systems.*

or not at

all.

My

aim

in

is

not, after

all,

entirely solipsistic.

cannot be, since the questions theorists ask are not entirely of their

own making. They

are variations

intellectual disciplines for originality. as

devoted to developing

simply been to suggest a broader context within

which they may be read. Social theory It

is

much

as

But

it is

on questions posed

and communities.

it is

When

to

them by

their

theorists answer, they try

with the community’s voice that they answer back

with their own.

Indeed, there has recently emerged a series of programmatic calls for reinstating the centrality of culture in sociology.

For two of the most far-reaching efforts, see Margaret Archer: Culture and Agency (London: Cambridge University Press, forthcoming), and Robert Wuthnow, Meaning and Moral Order: Explorations in Cultural Analysis (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1987). Such work gives further evidence that a new theoretical movement is underway that seeks to go beyond the one-sided micro and macro theorizing of recent years. My own perspective on what the new cultural sociology should look like IS further elaborated in Alexander, ed., Durkheimian Sociology: Cultural Studies (New \ork: Cambridge University Press, 1987) and Alexander and Steven Seidman, eds.. Culture and Society: Contemporary' Debates (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1988).

J

The Problem

Stated

ONE Social Structural Analysis:

Presuppositions, Ideologies,

Empirical Debates

begun

Social scientists have

to

move away from

models within which they have traditionally conducted their behav-

ricist

ioral studies.

The change

has been effected by the impact of historians of

Koyre and Kuhn, and philosophers

science like

and Lakatos, and by the impact,

opments

that destroyed the ideological consensus of the postwar period.

perspective

is still

very

practitioners. Indeed,

much it

movement toward

a postpositivist

confined to a small minority of social science

movement in an scientism among the pos-

has been paralleled by a strong

opposite direction, an increasingly self-confident itivists

of science like Polanyi

as well, of the disruptive social devel-

In the United States, however, this

and empiricists themselves. Thus, while postpositivist

has been increasing,

we

ciplinary journals, like

formed from broad

are

\\\t

still

living wfith the fact that important dis-

intellectual is

Nonetheless, the minority

and

it

trans-

organs into specialized outlets for a

more concerned with

and deductive precision than with theory

a vocal one,

sensitivity

American Sociological Review, have been

“scientific sociology” that tion,

the positivist and empi-

who now

verification, falsifica-

in a truly substantive sense.

rejects positivism

and empiricism

is

has an increasing impact on the various disciplines.

This impact has coalesced around the idea of “paradigm,” the concept

Kuhn

(1962) introduced to indicate the strong effect that nonempirical

assumptions have on the very perception of empirical variables.

This essay investigates the impact

of certain kinds of paradigmatic, or

framing, elements on social science, specifically, the understanding that action

is

organized by structural constraints that are, in some sense, ex-

THE PROBLEM STATED

12

^

*

ternal to

any particular

perspective, however,

I

term paradigm

in the

must

itself.

deal briefly with certain analytic

problems

enormous

literature

only as

relates to

There

is,

this issue', in the present context,

on

proper

actor. In order to place this discussion in its

of course, an I

deal with

it

it

the particular problem at hand.

In his

initial

formulation,

that provided scientists with

Kuhn

defined a paradigm as a framework

preprogrammed information

the normal task of empirical investigation to

problem solving. The “paradigm”

is

mundane

that reduced

acts of atheoretical

which most

a jigsaw puzzle in

of the

pieces are already in place; the scientist examines reality only to find out

the three or four remaining pieces should be arranged. Yet, while

how

apparently straightforward, this formulation actually obscured

some im-

portant problems, problems that relate to Kuhn’s tendency to exaggerate the unity of science. For while insisting that paradigms provide ready-

made frameworks eral

Kuhn

for research,

metaphysical assumptions,

like

also identified

paradigms with gen-

atomism or holism, and with

ular kinds of models, like equilibrium or

partic-

dynamic models. He associated

paradigms, in other words, with both very general and very specific kinds of

commitments, with philosophical orientations, and with complex prop-

ositions attached to strongly developed research strategies.

digms

consensus that

variation in the

way general

the other hand,

and research

Kuhn assumed,

for there

is

if

para-

produce the

refer only to generalized orientations, they will not

seientific

On

Now

a great

range of

philosophical orientations can be specified.

paradigms refer only to agreement on propositions

if

strategies

—what Kuhn

later called

of the richness of the original formulation

is

“exemplars”

lost

— then much

(Alexander 1982b); the

way it mundane

excitement this seminal idea created was due, in large part, to the linked the metaphysical environment of science to changes in research.

Kuhn’s I

am

original formulation of

suggesting, by contrast, that paradigms contain a range of elements

of different levels of generality. essarily tied closely together.

hand.

paradigm, then, was undifferentiated.

When we

These elements, moreover, are not nec-

This issue

is

directly relevant to the task at

speak, for example, of rational choice theory,

actually referring to a

number

of different levels of analysis.

hand, we are speaking of general assumptions about actors efficient

and

are

the one

that they are

we are talking about concrete theories assumptions are made operational, theories associated

rational.

within which these

On



On

we

the other,

SOCIAL STRUCTURAL ANALYSIS with particular carrier groups rather than with diffuse traditions

IJ

— “the

“Simon’s shop,” Skinner’s research team,” “Tilly’s

British Utilitarians,”

group,” “resource mobilization theory.” Paradigms erate forcefully at both general

and

in social science

op-

specific levels of orientation. “Rational

action,” “normative action,” and “social structure” function as philosophical

orientations and as broad traditions that create the most general lines

of division

between different kinds

of social scientific work.

These

tra-

ditions cross disciplinary lines, for their assumptions refer to presuppositional, analytical

problems rather than

and ideological

to the empirical

concerns that differentiate, for example,

political science

and sociology.

At the same time, these three orientations are embodied, or made operational in “research ories that

programs”

(for this term, see

Lakatos 1969),

in the-

have highly elaborated, empirically specified world views: for

example, neoclassical economics, organization theory, symbolic interactionism, Marxism, and structural functionalism. For a discussion of structural analysis to

be accurate and revealing

must address

it

itself to

both

the general and specific dimensions of this term.'

The

Probleffis of Action

The most fundamental assumptions

and Order

that inform any social scientific the-

ory concern the nature of action and order (Alexander i982a:62-i 12).

Every theory answer plicit

of society

to the question,

assumes an image of

“What

is

man

as an actor,

assumes an

action?” Every theory contains an im-

understanding of motivation.

Is

primarily with objective calculation?

it

Or

efficient is it

and

rational,

concerned

nonrational and subjective,

oriented toward moral concerns or altruism, strongly affected, perhaps,

by internal emotional concerns? The problem

of action

is

concerned, in

other words, with epistemology, with the relative materialism and ideal-

ism of action. Action has vexed and divided

and Aristotle

Modern

to

Augustine and Hobbes, and

social science

classical thinkers it

from Plato

continues to do so today.

was born from the eighteenth- and nineteenth-

century struggles between Enlightenment rationalists and traditionalists,

and

later

between romantics and

important degree, a

fight

utilitarians.

about whether

— and

This struggle was,

how

— action

was

to

an

“ratio-

nal.”

No

intellectual tradition,

action alone.

We

however, can be grounded

in

are concerned here with social theories,

conceptions of

and every

social

THE PROBLEM STATED of order. theory must also be concerned about the problem

How

is

action

everyday life? There arranged to form the patterns and institutions of order, the individhave been two prototypical answers to this problem of

and the

ualistic

may be viewed

Society

collectivistic.

as the

product of

decisions, feelnegotiation freely entered into, as the result of individual society as constituting, ings, and wants. On the other hand, we can view

Emile Durkheim’s famous phrase, a reality sui generis, a reality “in posit society as a metaitself.” Such a collectivist view does not have to physical entity that has an ontological status. It can simply see individual

in

of decisions as aggregated through a long historical process, the decisions

who came before us have become sedimented into institutions. When we make decisions today, we can do so only within the context of those

this social

environment.

Every conception of order action. If

we adopt an

is

by assumptions about approach, we must know whether

necessarily informed

individualistic

these negotiating actors will evaluate one another in an objective or subjective

way.

tivity,

we

If

by contrast, we conceive of order

shall

want

rational interest or

to

know whether

by promoting feelings

course, logically possible for theories to

modes

it

of action; in practice,

by appealing

asserts itself

of altruistic obligation. It

combine

rare for

it is

as rooted in the collec-

them

do

so.

Individualistic theories have exercised a powerful attraction social science itself:

because they emphasize a quality

voluntarism.

Modern

cess of secularization

social

at the heart of

orists,

modernity

and rebellion against the hierarchical institutions of

of the rational prince to

like

on modern

thought emerged out of the long pro-

traditional society. In the Renaissance, Machiavelli

tonomy

of

and nonrational

rational to

is,

to

remake

Hobbes and Locke, from

emphasized the au-

his world. English contract the-

whom

so

much

of

contemporary

thought derives, also broke free from traditional restraints by emphasizing the individual bargaining

upon which

social order

must depend. The same

kind of path was followed by some of the principal thinkers of the French

Enlightenment,

who were

thought into an attempt individualistic traditions

the

at

first

to transform this

new

empirically oriented science.

was strongly

rationalistic.

— each

choices of rational aetors. eny.

The

Each

of these

In different ways and

with an emphasis on different kinds of individual needs ness, pleasure, security

secular social

— power,

happi-

portrayed society as emanating from the

Today

these classical traditions have

crucial conceptual bridge

many

was Utilitarianism, particularly

progclas-

SOCIAL STRUCTURAL ANALYSIS sical

economics, for

/J

theory of markets and resources provided an

its

empirically elegant explanation of

how

gated to form “societies.” There

is

but a short'step from the early Bentham

to the organization theories of

Simon

Homans

(1961),

the

collective

(1964), the exchange theories of

decision-making theories of Coleman

(1966), and the political theories of

Yet despite their origins

individual decisions can be aggre-

Downes

(1957).

the secular rebellion against traditional

in

thought, individualistic theories have also assumed a nonrational form. In

its

inversion of the Enlightenment and

its

revulsion against Utilitar-

ianism, nineteenth-century Romanticism inspired theories about the passionate actor, for example,

Wundt’s social-psychological writing on the

central role of emotional needs.

Freud

is

the most famous

modern

ex-

emplar of such Romantic theorizing, and the psychoanalytic perspective continues to supply one of the fundamental strands of individualistic thinking about society. Another, alistic

movement

issued

is

branch of

less scientistic

phenomenology,

a

movement

this antiration-

that can be traced

from Hegel, Schleiermacher, and Dilthey through Husserl

movements

like existentialism.

symbolic interactionism, the tradition rooted

Dewey, Mead, and Blumer, and

in

in the

more recent

developments of ethnomethodology, which takes tual roots

But

if

one thinks of

American pragmatism

years, of the theoretical

immediate

its

individualistic theories have the great advantage of

we

weakness, for

Do

intellec-

from Husserl, Schutz and Heidegger.

the freedom

easily.

modern

In terms of the social scientific paradigms

that have concretized this kind of individualistic approach,

of

to

it

associate with the

modern

age, this

is

embodying

also their great

seems that they have achieved voluntarism much too

actors really create social order

by

a process of purely individual

negotiation? This, indeed, seems like an extremely unlikely proposition.

Let us consider, for actor.

Are we

a

moment, the problem

really so rational that

and constraints that enter

of order

we can be aware

into our decisions?

We

of

and the rational all

the influences

might think, perhaps,

we are simply trying to drive the best bargain with a salesperson for new car, but is this negotiation completely unaffected by external fac-

that a

tors, for

example, by the

size

and variety of the particular dealership, the

oligopolistic structure of the automobile market, or the

ulation of production?

outcome

These external

government’s reg-

factors, in turn,

can be seen as the

of a vast range of other extraindividual facts,

from the speed of

technological innovation to domestic political struggles over ecology and

— THE PROBLEM STATED

l6

'

^

revolutionary upheavals in the Middle East.

Our

individual negotiation,

be confined to two parties, but it actually is conindividuals, have not strained by a whole host of factors, which we, as moreover, create negotiated at all. Our decision to buy an automobile will,

may appear

then,

to

so omnisciently constraints for future actors: could any actor ever be choice? as to follow out all the ramifications of this individual rational

Thus

far,

I

have confined

my

illustrations to individualistic

approaches

within the rationalistic tradition, but the same arguments can be made the against individualism that takes a more nonrational form. Consider actor as an emotional being

world

who

is

conceived as dealing with the outside

terms of personality needs. Are the personalities of actors their

in

own, which they have developed purely acts?

Or

is

personality not

itself

as the result of their individual

the product of a lifetime of interaction,

which the needs, wishes, and intentions of significant others have become synthesized and internalized to form a self ? Emotionally sensitive actors, therefore, while appearing to respond to one another

something

in

merely as individuals, actually are responding as two separate lines of

development.

social like

those of

The same might be

Goffman

(1959), that stress the moral sensitivity of individ-

uals to questions of face, propriety, are forcefully

embodied

in relationship to

said for interactionist theories,

and

taste.

These concerns,

in standards. Certainly individuals

may

after

all,

negotiate

them, yet the standards themselves are never established

by the individual interaction.

When we ries,

we

closely

examine the most conscientious individualistic theo-

see, in fact, that

that they

they

make assumptions about

social structure

do not actually theorize about: they leave them, rather,

as

un-

thought-out residual categories. Rational choice theories, for example, often assume a certain distribution of resources and a certain relationship of bargainers to

one another; they assume,

in other

words, important facts

about economic and political structure. Homans’ writings on exchange

admit that standards of distributive justice are plains

how

tures

can be seen as products of rational

they

come

about.

critical,

Coleman (1966) argues cost

but he never ex-

that collective struc-

accounting,

but he

acknowledges that the conflict so produced must be regulated by certain givens like constitutions. Nonrational individualistic theories place similar brackets around the structuring of the symbolic world.

without explaining

— the

tural symbolization, the

They assume

aftereffects of socialization, the resources of cul-

norms

that define the nature of social solidarity.

SOCIAL STRUCTURAL ANALYSIS Goffman

IJ

(1961), for example, explains insanity as the product of the self-

conceptions of the professionals

who manage

asylums, yet the sources of

professionalization, and the reasons for the existence of asylums, are never

discussed. In Garfinkcl’s (1981) later search for the ethnomethodology of individual orientation to the collectivity, he also leaves the normative

order of the collectivity unexamined.*

The

realization that individualistic theories cannot

and do not stand

without some reference to a collective order has always been the stimulus

move toward

for social theory to

the perspective of social structure

movement has occurred within both the orientations have described. Hobbes [1982 (1651) 198] was the first great Such

a

individuals

And

it

therefore

composed only

I

theorist of

and completely

of rational

if

selfish

would soon be destroyed.

if

men

any two

desire the

same

cannot both enjoy, they become enemies; and principally their to destroy, or

to action

he recognized that

social structure within the rationalist tradition, for

society were actually

itself.

own

which nevertheless they

thing,

in the

way

to their end,

which

is

conservation, and sometimes their delectation only, endeavor

subdue one another.

Hobbes formulated

a

conception of an all-powerful sovereign, the Levi-

athan, which would counteract this imminent chaos of individualism

through intimidation and hierarchical control. The through

in the

normative tradition can be found

parallel for this break-

in

Durkheim’s critique

of Spencer, the nineteenth-century individualistic social scientist par excellence.

Durkheim argued

against Spencer’s contract theory in terms that

Durkheim [1938 more than some few moments

strongly recalled Hobbes. “If interest relates men,”

(1893) 1203] wrote,

“it

is

never for

.

[and] each individual finds himself in a state of

was

to counter

Durkheim

war with every other.”

.

.

It

such “provisory and precarious” contractual relations that

created his conception of the “collective conscience,” the nor-

mative center of society that controlled individualism by penetrating and socializing individual consciences.

Durkheim’s

From Hobbes’ Leviathan and from

collective conscience every

modern theory

of social structure

can be logically derived.

*For an analysis

of the persistence of striking residual categories in individualistic non-

rational theories, see chapters 8

and

9,

below.

THE PROBLEM STATED

l8

Social Structural Theory in Its

Instrumental

Form

revolt against individualistic instrumental explanation in the nine-

The

teenth century always occurred for ideological, as well as for analytic,

The

reasons.

first

great theories that placed rational action within a col-

were those of Bentham and his Utilitarian followers. BenHalevy 1972 [(1901-04]) saw through the facile assumption of

lective context

tham

(see

the “natural identity of interest” by which classical political tified its litical

economy

jus-

purely individualist argument. Realizing that economic and po-

actors actually possessed unequal

power and wealth

— and

that,

consequently, no “invisible hand” would ever produce consensus and

equilibrium

— Bentham argued

that

government must

the social context in which such action occurs. if it

were ever

to

by such external

The

be achieved, must be one that

Bentham used

force.

act to reformulate

identity of interests,

is artificially

constructed

argument

this theoretical

to suggest

aggressive reforms of criminal law and state bureaucracy, and there direct link

between

his structural orientation

and the

social

and

is

a

historical

theorizing about the effects of the capitalist social structure that Fabian writers produced at the end of the century.

The

greatest theorist of social structure in the instrumentalist tradition,

however, was Marx. tham’s,

it

carried the logic

social structural

which

If his

argument

critique followed the general lines of Ben-

much

further; indeed,

thinking throughout the twentieth century. that society

is

translated the general

into an empirically specific theory, or exemplar,

one form or another would dominate

in

it

this strand of structural

Marx

refuted the argument

the product of individual exchange.

It

is

not simply a

bargain between two individuals that determines the contract of labor, he wrote, or even the aggregation of individual decisions through an impersonal market.

The

labor contract, he insisted,

was determined by

culiarly coercive kind of social structure that issues

the power of

The

command

from the concentration

Marx wrote (1963

of private wealth: capital. “Capital,”

over labor and

its

a pe-

[1844] :85), “is

products.”

power, not on account of his personal or human but as the owner of his capital. His power is the purchasing power of

capitalist possesses this

qualities,

his capital,

which nothing can withstand

[ibid].

Social structure, in Marx’s view, affected action

by

fixing in

advance

its

SOCIAL STRUCTURAL ANALYSIS

ig

material environment. Since actors arc rational, their behavior will follow the structure of this external environment just as response follows stimulus. Marx’s capitalism

economic exigencies

omy

more

as ever

is

a tightly

set the pace.

interdependent system within which

He

specified the function of the econ-

efficient production,

and these productive demands

established the individual role structure of capitalist society. institutions in his system

were the bourgeois

state

The

other

and ideology, yet

as

“superstructures” they performed tasks that were subordinated in complex

demands of capital. Human beings entered this social structure in their role as members of classes, groups of like-minded individuals who performed the same general kind of economic tasks. Role relations ways

to the

reflected this systemic hierarchy: capitalists

dominated proletarians

as the

economic base dominated the superstructure. Yet although Marx emphasized social structure over voluntary negotiation, he did not view his sys-

tem

in

a

static

To

way.

the

capitalism

contrary,

was driven

by

contradictory functional requirements, contradictions that produced a struggle for existence between workers and capitalists and, eventually, the

transformation of the capitalist system

Marx

set the

structure.

itself.

tone for subsequent rationalist theorizing about social

Even those who “secularized”

his

work by neutralizing

The

olutionary, chiliastic spirit followed closely his general logic.

its

rev-

greatest

among these ambivalent secularizers, the man who has been called the “Marx of the bourgeoisie” and the only twentieth-century thinker whose contributions to the rationalist tradition rank with Marx’s own, was

Weber. Although we an effort to

will see in a following section that

criticize instrumentalist thinking,

Weber

fication

and

is

a coercive structure every bit as

economic systems. Bureaucracy responded

tive efficiency

much

as

strati-

Marx had never imagined. Weber (1946:196-

244) insisted that bureaucracy as

the economic

and carved out independent structures of

conflict that

made

his contributions are as

much to the Marxian tradition as to any other. Weber carried Marx’s approach to social structure from into the political realm

also

Max

economic structures

to

demands

like

powerful

for administra-

markets, factories, and

contracts respond to needs for productive efficiency. Bureaucratic roles, like

economic ones, follow from those external demands:

demanded competition and

capitalism

demanded imperorder through political dom-

exploitation, bureaucracy

sonality

and

ination

from above and passive subordination from below,

rationality.

if

Bureaucracy created

a structure.

THE PROBLEM STATED

20

once again, that followed the logic if not the empirical content of Marx’s was the earlier model. If Weber gave any functional system dominance, it sphere within which he discovered this bureaucratic force, and

political

where Marx analyzed

precapitalist societies in

terms of their economic

arrangements, Weber (1968:1006-1111) defined feudalism as a system that created certain distinctive political conflicts. Yet he emphasized that social systems, particularly

external sanction alone.

domains, those of

modern

ones, are never ruled

Weber (1946:180-95) described

class,

by one form

of

three hierarchical

and power. Each hierarchy of control

status,

was the

structured instrumental rewards in a distinctive way, and each

scene of struggles for different kinds of power. People could use a surplus

one kind of goods, moreover,

in

this surplus for tige, as

the nouveau riche do

money,

power by exchanging

goods of another type. They could trade money for pres-

professions or the arts. for

to increase their

They

when they

could, on the other hand, exchange

as corrupt politicians

themselves through political

train their offspring to enter the

power

and bureaucrats do when they enrich

office.

In each case, the motivation

is

instru-

mental, but the bargaining proceeds within highly structured systems of

good empirical application, see Azarya [1978]). The theoretical legacies of Weber and Marx have framed modern

stratification (for a

in-

strumentalist explanations of social structure. Although each theory retains

its

orthodox adherents, more often there has been a more or

conscious melding of the two. followed

Marx and Weber

The most important

in their concentration

less

contributions have

on economic and

political

systems and these systems’ effects on role stratification and conflict. Ar-

guments about the economy have focused on whether the functional exigencies of capitalism have changed,

structures and social conflicts result. that in

its late

and

if

they have, what

new

There has been general agreement

stage capitalism has shifted toward capital-intensive pro-

duction that involves more mental than physical labor, labor that in turn, increasingly

upon education.

On more

specific levels,

there has been vast disagreement about the shape that these

conditions take: (i) Is “capitalism” conditions? (2)

role

If so,

still

a relevant

way

relies,

however,

new

external

of describing these

does property ownership continue to be decisive in

structuring role position and conflict? (3) If not, forces remain?

what structures and

Because Goldthorpe and Lockwood (1963) argue that property ownership is still primary for structuring economic roles, they can argue that

SOCIAL STRUCTURAL ANALYSIS the

new

privatism and individualism of ideological embour^eoisment

21

is

braced by an ideological collectivism. This collectivism, they argue, be-

comes more widespread of their propertylessness

Sweezy (1966) agree “capitalist,”

as the



that

and they

— because

newly created classes are forced

to enter the trade

union movement. Baran and

economic production

in

Western

societies

is

link this capitalist character to the external exigen-

cies of private property.

For them, however, ownership and, indeed,

wealth distribution become largely irrelevant; profit maximization and wasteful surplus are the primary “structures” of later capitalist society,

and they produce

social conflict

on qualitative rather than quantitative

grounds. Braverman (1974) elaborates these qualitative consequences, arguing that capitalism’s destruction of worker’s skills constitutes the “objective”

conditions within which

any working

class

action

must be

understood. Wright (1978) continues the movement away from property

ownership as such; he articulates the structural, antisubjective constraints

and

of capitalist society in a differentiated

contradictory,

ambiguous character

specific

way, emphasizing the

of various class positions.

tradictions are, however, thoroughly “external.”

advanced economic development, and the

They

These con-

are the product of

class conflict they

produce

is

structured by changes in differential interest in turn.

and other

“Critical theorists”

nomic changes tive

power

structuralists

have articulated these eco-

orthodox way. Marcuse (1964) views the producindustrial capitalism as bursting the economic barriers

in a less

of late

of private property itself; he sees

unlimited affluence and technical

its

control as blurring the capitalist/socialist distinction and as anesthetizing

economic

potential conflict over

roles.

Other

theorists, like Bell (1973),

have deemphasized the significance of the “capitalist” element in a more liberal direction, describing recent

toward

economic development

a postindustrial society that will

characteristics

whether

as a volatile force, the

and the growing

as a

have the same basic structural

capitalist or socialist: the decline of

growth

of

work

movement

that centers

manual labor

on abstract knowledge,

centrality of political decisions in a society

whose security

and progress depend more on the quality of the public ethic than on

economic organization. Lipset and Bendix (1959) contributed to this antiMarxist theory of economic structure by suggesting that economic mobility

depends simply upon the complexity of the economic division of

labor rather than

upon the

this division occurs.

capitalist or socialist

Treiman (1977) makes

framework within which

this

argument much more

THE PROBLEM STATED

22

of prestige elaborate and precise, producing a “structural theory aggressively denies any independent role to cultural causation.

Modern debates over

that

the state have taken economic development as a

participation parameter, focusing instead on the possibility for democratic are taken as in a capitalist system whose unequal economic opportunities given.

theoretical assumptions are, however, the

The

same:

first,

the

objective resources available to actors will determine the course of political events', second, the course this particular social structure

will

determine the course of the

ters

around the tightness

whether and how

rest of society.

of the link

political actors are

the state

sets

Empirical argument cen-

between economics and

politics,

subordinated to the needs of domi-

Domhoff (1967) has

nant economic classes. Within the Marxist camp,

taken the orthodox view that capitalists reproduce themselves directly in the corridors of power; there

is

one homogeneous “ruling class,” which

has an economic and a political branch.

By

contrast, while Miliband

(1969) sees the state as completely devoted to capitalist needs, he emphasizes the relative indirection of this process: the importance of factors like differential

educational opportunities to bureaucratic recruitment and

the inevitable dependence of the state on corporate funds.

O’Connor

(1973) takes this argument further, suggesting that the contradictions of

modern

capitalism will take the form of the fiscal crisis of the state.

Another tradition

of

contemporary

political theorizing,

Marxist, comes out of Mills’ argument that the coercive is

really a

This

“power

elite,

elite” that fuses military, political,

in Mills’ (1959) view, is

composed

power over society

and economic power.

of those

who

functional exigencies of these different sectors rather than of a hereditary

upper

class.

Yet the actors who

fill

less directly

control the

members

of

these functional director-

ships are subsequently interrelated through a complicated system of re-

volving directorships, intermarriages, and social clubs. Mills’ argument

has been challenged, or

at least

empirically specified, by sociologists, like

Bottomore (1974: 132-43), who make the issue of the government bureaucracy an issue that varies countries.

Lindbloom (1977), by

elite

recruitment into

in different capitalist

contrast, has recently argued that the

structural independence of different elites

is

partly neutralized

by the

necessary reliance of the state on financial resources in private, corporate

made a broadly similar argument and economy in revolutions. But this

hands. Skocpol (1979) has ative”

autonomy

of state

autonomy, she makes

clear, has

nothing

at all to

for the “relinstitutional

do with the autonomy

SOCIAL STRUCTURAL ANALYSIS

2J

of individual actors in a presuppositional sense. Describing her theory as a “nonvoluntarist, structural perspection,” she links her explicit exclusion

and goals

of individual effort

to the elimination of ideology as a cultural

force. m.

The

line of

thought that actually led to

a

more exclusively

political

view



began with Michels’ (1949 [1911]) argument strongly influenced by Weber that political power had to be sharply differentiated

of state control



from the economic. Michels elite

was bound

to

insisted, nonetheless, that

monopolize

political resources to

any organizational

ensure

its

continued

domination. While Selznick (1957) agreed that fragmented patterns of participation often allowed organizational elites to rule unopposed, he expressed confidence that certain kinds of organizational resources, leadership, could encourage

more

effective participation

like

and more

re-

sponsive power. Lipset and his colleagues (1956) argued that norms assuring the opportunity for electoral challenge would structure the interest of

outgroups

entrenched

elites.

in a

manner

And Bendix

government

“democratic class struggle”

a

would

lead

them

to challenge

(1964) and Lipset (1963) both emphasized

that the effect of constitutional

produce

that

self-

masses could now participate strongly

in

in

Western nations

which the formerly oppressed

in their

own government. Aron

(i960) took the argument for a pluralist political structure to

extreme form, suggesting that

far

w^as to

most

its

from enslaving modern society

to the

exploitation of a primordial ruling class, the extraordinary differentiation of

modern

society has

produced

a situation in

which functional exigencies

cannot be coordinated by any overarching group. is

a

dangerous stalemate between different

The taken a

The

elites of

result,

he believed,

roughly equal power.

instrumental version of the social structural paradigm has, then,

number

of different concrete forms,

shaped by different kinds of

successful research strategies and by different political ideologies. of course,

been applied

space to mention tion, to

law



wide range of subjects that

to education, to race relations, to

— but the The

to a

I

It

has,

do not have

mass communica-

basic theoretical logic informing such various efforts

great accomplishment of instrumental structuralism

is

the same.

to

demonstrate that individual action

context within which

it

is

is

strongly affected by the material

occurs, but this very achievement points also to

the tradition’s great weakness. For by assuming that actors are efficient calculators of their

own

to social structure

makes action

material environment, the instrumental approach largely subservient to external control.

the problem stated

24

Now,

the antivoluntaristic implications of this general position can be

modified by certain empirical propositions. For example, while theorists

may assume

that actors are rational

and directed by external constraints,

they can describe these constraints in a

wide choice among different material options. Thus, although

a relatively

be described in

specific actor will

and

internal volition

be described in

On

makes them extremely

that

Aron). Actors in such a pluralistic society will then have

pluralistic (e.g.,

any

way

will, the situation

a voluntaristic

way that eliminates of modern society as

a

reference to a

whole can

way.*

the whole, however, the social structural paradigm in

instru-

its

mental form denies the possibility of individual control. While clearly articulated the darker side of modernity,

side that can scarcely be ignored

up

has obliterated another

it

— the feeling that modernity has opened freedom and respon-

a vast, almost uncontrollable range of individual

sibility at the

has

it

very center of society. After

we may

all,

agree with

Hobbes

that individualistic approaches to order are figments of the analytical imag-

ination without deferring to his belief that the alternative to individualism

must assume

a purely material form.

There

is

a different

tualizing the action that informs collective order, difficulty.

I

now

way

of concep-

one that avoids

this

turn to this normative approach.

Social Stmctural Theory in Its

The aim

Normative Form

of the normative

approach to social structure has been to allow for collective order without eliminating the consideration of individual

This can be accomplished, however, only

control.

viewed

in a

manner

to the internal sensibilities,

*This

is

that

is

not rationalistic.

components

Only

if

if

the individual

theorists are sensitive

of action, to the actor’s

emotions and moral

can they recognize that social structure

is

located as

precisely the option that Blau’s (1977) social structural theory allows.

one hand, the structures Blau

identifies

— the inequality

is

much On

the

power and the

size and heteroare conceived to be physically external to the individual actor. On the other hand, Blau suggests that under certain empirical conditions these structures allow the

of

geneity of groups

individual

indeed, to be

more

wide variety of options. The

precise, they force

him or her

fact that this possibility exists



to

make choices among

a

within an instrumentally struc-

theory illustrates, once again, the need for a conception of paradigm in which specific research programs and ideologies are given autonomy vis-a-vis more general philosophical assumptions. turalist

SOCIAL STRUCTURAL ANALYSIS

25

within the actor as without. Only with this recognition can social theory

make

the individual a fundamental reference point without, at the

same

him outside his social context. Although we can go back to earlier nineteenth-century theorists, it was Durkheim who translated the logic of anti-Utilitarian Romanticism and

time, placing

the antimechanistic strand of Enlightenment thought



For Durkheim, the emotional bonds of

sociological form.

and the symbolic codes structures from which

of social morality

all

others emerged.



into

its

modern

social solidarity

were the fundamental

These

structures,

social

moreover

(1973 [1898]), protected the independence of the individual rather than eliminated of

moral

it.

On

the one hand,

Durkheim

insisted

on the

collective status

facts as “things” external to isolated individuals.

At the same

time, he argued that individuals themselves were social beings, and these

“moral things” were precisely what gave him his very sense of individu-

Durkheim 1951

ality (see, e.g.,

[1897], 1958 [1896], 1961 [1903], 1915

[1912], 1957 [1900]).

Durkheim developed an the base-superstructure of ical

emphasis on

Marx and challenged

social morality

traditional society. beliefs,

intricate theory of social structure that inverted

to share the conservative ideology of

At the heart of society Durkheim found

symbols representing

system had

had

the belief that a theoret-

collective

a

system of

moral commitments. This symbol

a distinctive kind of organization, for

it

articulated and, in-

deed, enforced morality by dividing symbols into contradictory patterns of sacred

and profane and by encasing sacred symbols

violation sacrilegious. Despite traditional

and primitive

clear reliance

its

religion,

Durkheim

in rituals that

made

on the forms taken by

believed that his theory of

the symbolic core of society applied equally to secular modernity.

The

content of symbolic systems can change, but the form does not.

Modern

society,

Durkheim

believed,

is

centered around a diffuse civic

morality that emphasizes the rights of individuals in a highly abstract,

Durkheim insisted, evolve when different in-

generalized way. This “religion of individualism,”

permeates modern

life.

Particular social roles

stitutions “specify” this moral individualism. Schools, for example, in-

culcate rationality, individualism, and discipline through the powerful

pedagogy ism, for

of the dedicated teacher. its

The

state also reinforces individual-

differentiated institutional status vis-a-vis general morality

allows “representation” to focus public opinion, to define different perspectives

more

sharply, and to develop a morality that can be rationally

THE PROBLEM STATED

26

related to specific situations.

Other secondary groups produce different

morally regulated roles. Occupational associations,

the professions,

like

into economically translate the abstract obligations of individual rights and the legal system develops an elaborate system of

appropriate forms,

justice to articulate

Durkheim

crisis,

such rights

would withdraw from these

believed, consciousness

and embrace the

stricted roles

every possible situation. In times of

in

re-

moral, whole. In such periods,

social, i.e.,

would be reintegrated through ritualistic ceremonies like rallies, speeches, and marches. Such periods of “collective effervescence” would society

revivify the moral structure.

Durkheim’s work, then, formulated a complex economy of moral obligations. Much as Marx had viewed morality as a superstructure irrelevant to the material base, Durkheim relegated economic factors and the political struggle for material

He was

tion.

He

not conservative.

Seidman 1983), but

(see

rewards to an equally inconspicuous posi-

it

was

too perceived a “crisis of modernity”

He

moral rather than material scope.

a crisis of

recognized the often destructive egoism and conflict in

modern

life

but insisted they could be counteracted only by a moral regeneration that could restructure the internal environment of action.

Although Durkheim created

War,

his legacy to

a

powerful school before the First World

contemporary

social science has

been more indirect

than Marx’s. In the interwar years Durkheim’s impact was limited to anthropology.

British

(1952) studied morality in tutions, but the

its

Radcliffe-Brown

anthropologists like

functional

complicated interaction with specific

more recent movement

of

insti-

French “Structuralist” thought

centered around Levi-Strauss (1966) has concentrated on the internal patterns that

Durkheim described

in the

symbolic order

itself.

This sym-

bolic Structuralism, indeed, provides the best possible illustration that

the social structural paradigm can tive,

form

(see, e.g., Sahlins 1976).

ment and

change

is

considered

assume

a subjective, as well as objec-

In most Structuralist analysis, moveto

contradictions of the symbolic system

be

generated

itself.

by the

internal

In Douglas’ (1966) refor-

mulation of Durkheimian theory, however, the binary polarities of culture take on a

more

and impure

is

(1969, 1974;

specifically

related to

cf.

moral tone, and the opposition between pure

group

conflicts in the social

Moore and Meyeroff

turn, has

itself.

Turner

pushed the

anti-

Durkheimian theory more toward a renewed and ritual process, and Shils’ (1975) post-Par-

Structuralist revival of such

consideration of solidarity

1975),

system

SOCIAL STRUCTURAL ANALYSIS

27

sonian writings on sacred charisma as the source of social structure revises

Durkheim of ideas

much

same way. Sewell’s (1980) work, on the centrality about, and forms of, fraternal solidarity to the working class in

the

struggles of postrevolutionary France, continues this return to a socially sensitive

more

Durkheimianism, posing an illuminating contrast

more instrumental type

“structural” analyses of revolution of the

to

(e.g.,

Skocpol 1979). Despite this recent revival, however, the fundamental reference point

Durkheimian

for the

science remains the

tradition in

work

contemporary sociology and

of Talcott Parsons. Later

we

political

will see that Par-

sons offered a significant synthesis of the idealist-materialist traditions,

but his thinking contained a strong strand of

idealist theorizing as well.

In terms of this dimension of his work. Parsons’ theory (Parsons 1964,

Parsons and Bales 1955) functioned to specify and elaborate normative structure in a manner that Durkheim himself never approached. Where

Durkheim had merely

asserted the complementarity of individual con-

sciousness and cultural order. Parsons developed a philosophically sophisticated and empirically specific analysis of the “socialization” of the individual. in a

The

process centered on the internalization of moral symbols

wide range of learning

situations, in families, in early schooling, in

higher education, in work, and in play.

sons performed the

To

critical integration of

accomplish this analysis. Par-

Freud’s personality theory with

the Durkheimian theorv of moralitv and demonstrated that the individ-

uating process that Freud called ego development could also be seen as the inclusion of the individual into the system of moral regulation. Yet the other side of this symbiosis was just as crucial, for Parsons insisted that in

modern

society moral integration itself

on the progressive differentiation

depends on individuation,

of the individual person

from authori-

tarian controls, either moral or material.

From

the Parsonian perspective, therefore, social structure

intersection

between culture and

socialization,

marked the

and differentiated roles

were created by understanding how socialization and culture came particularized in different situations. Parsons (e.g., in Parsons

to

be

and Shils

1951: part 2) defined five different dimensions along which cultural definitions could vary,

which he

called the “patttern variables.”

The

pattern

variables structured situations in terms of the emotional control and bolic universalism they

demanded, and although the

sym-

particular pattern-

variable combination responded to the functional exigencies of particular

THE PROBLEM STATED

28



institutions,

it

was responsive

also,

%

and independently of any practical

within consequences, to the religious and cultural history of the nation which these institutions were embedded. Levy (1949) used the pattern values variables to describe the conservative impact of the Chinese familial on economic development, and Lipset (1963) employed them to argue

and particularism of French and German cultural structures explained the difficulty of their political development and class about the culrelations. Barber (1952) and Merton (i973 [^94^])

that the traditionalism

tural regulation of science

described the hippie

through universalistic norms, and Pitts (1974)

movement

as an emotional, particularistic cultural

reaction against the universalistic, antiaffective cultural itocracy.

Almond and Verba

norms

of the

mer-

(1963) used Parsons’ cultural theory to ex-

plain the degrees of democratic activism in different

Western

political

systems. Bellah (1970:168-89) linked the relative solidarity and progressiveness of vil

to

American

politics to the intensely universalistic

American

“ci-

Deutsch (1963) elaborated the Parsonian theory of culture outline the delicate cybernetic “communication” between morality and religion.”

government.

The

empirical foci of normative structuralism demonstrate

ent assumptions about action create their social

development, even

collectivist

eral order.

if

own

how

differ-

distinctive questions about

these theoretical orientations take an equally

approach and are equally committed to a humanistic and Since the instrumental structuralists give to the

lib-

economy

a

determinate power, they have devoted considerable energy to the internal evolution of industrial economies in the twentieth century. Normative structuralists, in their turn,

ticularly

have focused on recent cultural changes, par-

on whether the process

tutions of a

common

of secularization

religious base

— must

without any moral coordination or solidarity a

morally disciplined secularism

is

if

at all.

This transition toward

this

moral

way, the

be achieved without sacrificing meaning

or soliarity (e.g., Parsons 1969:439-73). Yet this achievement cultural, these thinkers

if

their substantive focus shifts

and away from any particular group. In

rationality of secular thinking can

insti-

necessarily create a society

accomplished, they argue,

codes become abstract and generalized and to the “individual”

—which deprives

have discovered;

it

depends

also

on

is

not only

a vast

network

of internal psychological controls that can be established only

through an

excruciatingly long process of socialization. Because this process

makes

heavy demands on the individual for ego autonomy and self-denial, alien-

SOCIAL STRUCTURAL ANALYSIS ation

is

always

a possibility,

and with

it

a return to the security of

2g

group-

oriented, particularistic morality (Weinstein and Platt 1969: chapter 7;

Parsons 1954:298-322).

'

Instrumental structuralists link economic freedom to separating eco-

nomic modernization from

dom depends on

private property; for normative thinkers, free-

separating cultural modernization from the debilitating

and psychological regression, from struc-

effects of particularistic morality

produce the in-group/out-group morality of ethnic

tural constraints that

and religious war. Instrumental

which the democratic uneven relationships theorists study

how

by

structuralists study the processes

autonomy from the economy and the between political and economic sectors. Normative state gains

“rational” or cognitive codes

become

differentiated

from moral and expressive ones (Geertz 1973:193-233), and they try understand what the optimum balance should be betw^een each kind cultural thinking. of religion?

Should law,

for

Should the cognitive science

1973:304-45)?

Do

of

example, be completely independent

separated from other cultural concerns Platt

to

like

of the university be radically

morality and art (Parsons and

professional ethics have to be oriented

technical, cognitive questions than moral ones;

do they have

more

to

to conflict,

words, with civic morals (Durkheim 1957 [1900])? Instrumental thinkers study how the material aspects of social structure can overcome in other

the invidious aspects of stratification by promoting economic mobility and political

pluralism.

Normative

structuralists,

by contrast, locate the

sources of equality in the interface between culture and socialization.

Equality depends, in their view, on the degree to w^hich the universalistic

and

rational codes of education can penetrate the traditionalism

and pas-

sivity of “family values,” shifting the course of socialization to a

path

emphasizing independence rather than deference. The new emphasis on universalistic

egalitarian

knowledge

relationships

also creates the possibility for

within

organizations

more

(Parsons

collegial

and

1971:86-121),

since professional relationships based on achievement and skill increasingly supersede authority based on inherited wealth or arbitrary power.

This increased equality depends,

in their view,

on the continuing

of a solidarity that institutionalizes feelings of civil obligation

vitality

(Alexander

1980, Prager 1982). If

instrumental structuralists demonstrate the impact of the material

environment on individuals, normative thinkers that action

is

just as forcefully indicate

regulated by moral structures internalized in the personal-

THE PROBLEM STATED

JO ities

Normative structuralism demonstrates, moreover, approach to action does not necessarily have to neglect the

of individuals.

that a “social”

emotion contributions of the individual, the nature of his or her inner and the extent to which collective order depends upon his or her voluntary weak-

participation. Yet this very attention to voluntarism also reveals the

nesses in a purely normative view.

mative, the impression

structure

If

is

taken only as a nor-

created that society depends entirely

is

voluntary acquiescence of

its

members, even

informed by internalized symbols.

if

this

upon the

acquiescence

itself is

ignores, in other words, the very

It

real possibility that material structures

can enforce an order whether or

not individuals participate or morally approve. Further progress in struc-

depends upon the successful integration of these antithetical theoretical traditions and the various research programs they have intural analysis

formed.

The Social Stnictural Theory Its

Multidimensional

in

Form

Weber and Parsons both produced conceptualization of social structure that moved beyond the dichotomous traditions to which they also contributed. Weber’s best known multidimensional theory focused on the notion of “legitimation” (1968:212-301). Weber described political power as involved in a constant dialectic of belief and effectiveness. If power is accepted as subjectively legitimate, Since authority so there

is

must be

opment and

a

matter of

belief,

a relationship

it it

has authority, not just strength.

must be linked

between the history of

religious evolution (ibid 1399-634).

ogy of monotheistic

religions, for

of impersonal, “rational-legal”

The

to cultural codes, a political devel-

universalistic theol-

example, contributed to the emergence

norms

of political legitimacy,

and the

of bureaucratic political structures contributed to the evolution of

universalistic religions in turn. explicit connections

rise

more

Although Weber himself rarely made these

between religion and

politics (see, e.g.,

Alexander

1982c), his formal definitions pointed in this direction and the extraor-

dinary catholicity of his historical investigations certainly supplied the material.^

Where Weber ture clear and

did

make

explicit

the link between material

was

in

his

and normative struc-

discussion of social class.

Weber

SOCIAL STRUCTURAL ANALYSIS

JI

(1968:468-599; 1946:267-301) accepted Marx’s argument that the labor

performed by different classes made them more or

less susceptible to

different ideological orientations, but he insisted that

any particular

ori-

entation must be viewed as the product of specific religious and cultural factors in the class’ environment. political

and economic ethics

ferent civilizations

and

bourgeoisie was as

much

economic

of

He

demonstrated, for example, that the

urban

strata

have varied greatly

Western

that the revolutionary ideology of the a

rationalization. It

in dif-

product of Judeo-Christian eschatology as of

was

just this

multidimensional intention that

inspired Weber’s famous investigation into the relation between the Protestant ethic and the “spirit of capitalism.’’ Walzer’s (1965)

more recent

illumination of the symbiotic relationship between the rising English gentry

and the alienated Puritan clergy that helped

Civil

War

to trigger the English

continues this multidimensional approach to structure, as does

Bendix’s (1964) discussion of the interrelationship of economic and gious factors in the

modern

stadt’s studies (1978)

reli-

proletariat’s struggles for citizenship. Eisen-

examine how revolutionary transformation depends

on certain unique conjunctures

of cultural

development and

political-

economic conditions. Parsons’ multidimensional theorizing was inspired by Webeis, and in the most successful strand of his

Weber’s insights

to

produce

a

work he combines Durkheim’s with

fundamental revision of

social theory. Ide-

alist

and materialist thinking can be transformed. Parsons understood,

only

if

social structures are

viewed

way. Every structure, no matter

an analytic rather than a concrete

in

how

apparently material or ideal,

tually a product of forces representing both kinds of pressures. social system.

ac-

is

For the

Parsons (see Parsons and Smelser 1956) identified four

primordial dimensions: the economic, concerned with maximizing

effi-

ciency and “means”; the political, focused on organization and “goals”; the solidary, representing direct emotional bonds and “norms”; and the

pattern-maintenance, oriented to stable symbolic patterns and “values.”

Parsons called these four dimensions subsystems, arguing that each a continuous interchange with the other three.

needs economic resources, but cultural

it

also

needs the

meaning provided by norms and

these “inputs,” however,

it

kinds of political decisions

The

state, for

must produce the kinds



that the other systems

is

and

to receive

of “outputs”

need

in

example,

legal legitimation

values. If the state

is

in turn.

— the From

THE PROBLEM STATED

J2

X

*

can be seen as the single, concrete product of

this perspective, the state a

number

of different analytic dimensions, although

dimensions with

own

its

By conceptualizing interpenetration

combines these

particular goal.

and

reciprocity

between the

conflict

ideal

symbiosis and — indeed, Miinch 1981) — Parsons transformed

(cf.

and ma-

fundamental

their

dimensions of society

terial

it

the dichoto-

orientation that has polarized and diminished the social structural

mous

approach. Smelser (1959) used the interchange model, for example, to show how factory reorganization in the early phases of industrialization

way

created social crisis because of the

how

this disruption, in turn,

affected family relations

it

was resolved by

political

and

developments, as

well as by changes in solidary groups. Eisenstadt (1963) used interchange,

on

a

more informal

level, to

religious rationalization,

and

formulate the complex interrelationship of

economic development, normative evolution,

political leadership that created the first great

Easton (1965) used interchange

in

bureaucratic empires.

an implicit way in his effort to build

a systematic portrait of political life

interweaving material

demands and

cultural support.

Although Parsons did not always do

model can subsume

his insights that

so,

it is

normative structure represents the

interpenetration of culture and personality. of this synthesis

is

which represents

his

other in interaction.

influence,

He

The most important product

his conception of the “generalized

most direct response

media”

of exchange,

model

to the bargaining

of

Miinch 1983). When people confront each Parsons asks, what kind of sanctions do they have at

instrumental individualism

their disposal?

clear that this interchange

(cf.

identifies four

and value commitments

“media” of exchange

— each

of

uct of one of the four subsystems of society.

manipulate these sanctions

in

— money,

which can be seen

On

power,

as a prod-

the one hand, individuals

an instrumental and self-interested

gain their ends; on the other hand, each of these sanctions

is

a

way

to

complex

product of the larger exchange between institutions within which inter-

embedded. Chalmers Johnson (1966) has demonstrated that revolutionary change is always preceded by a gross deflation of the value of legitimate power sanctions, so that political leaders can no longer bargain action

is

effectively for their ends.

showing how

political

Smelser (1971) has also focused on power,

corruption represents the degeneration of the power

sanction created by an overreliance on

money

in relationship to influence,

value commitments, and political power in the interchange process.

SOCIAL STRUCTURAL ANALYSIS

The Mertonian

JJ

tradition of postwar functional theory also elaborated a

multidimensional conception of social structure that tried to incorporate the warring schools. While

Merton

r968:86-88) tried to define

(e.g.,

structure in an empirical and agnostic

way without

reference to paradig-

matic schools, he was clearly inspired

in this synthetic effort

and Parsons. His work on the origins

of science

by Weber

(Merton 1970 [1938]) stressed structural context rather than individual invention and carefully included in this context military, technological, and religious forces.

The

sociology of science that emerged from this early effort stressed that the structural basis of science

was

political

and normative, that the

relative

weight of either factor was a matter only of empirical variation (see Barber

Merton 1968 [1939]: 591-603 and 1968 [1942] :6o4-i5). In Merton’s (1968 [1938] :i85-2i4) early and extraordinarily influential 1952 and,

e.g.,

essay, “Social Structure

tween means and ends

and Anomie,” he moved from the tension be-

to the

uneven interpenetration

about success and the economic resources to achieve this essay inspired

of cultural

it,

norms

and the tradition

continued to see deviance as produced by the strain

between cultural and economic systems

(e.g.,

Hyman

1953 and

Cohen

1955). Similarly, Merton’s reference group theory (1968 [19571:279-334

and 1968:335-440) moves back and forth between the notion

of role sets

as structures that exist in institutionalized subjective expectations

insistence that such sets

must be rooted

concrete constraints of social groups.

in stratification

Goode

and the

systems and the

(i960) elaborated this multi-

dimensional, structural theory in his concept of role strain.

The Prospects and Problems of the Social Structural Approach I

began

this chapter

sumptions

by arguing

in social science

for the significance of nonempirical as-

and by suggesting that “paradigms” combine

general philosophical assumptions with a variety of

more concrete research

programs. By differentiating the problems of action and order

I

defined

four fundamental general orientations. After discussing the advantages of the individualistic models, namely, their recognition of the centrality of individual volition in

approaches were more

modern

societies,

realistic,

if

often

it

was suggested

that structural

more complicated, ways

ceptualizing the sources and consequences of individual acts.

cussed a

number

of different research

programs

that have

I

of con-

then dis-

been undertaken

3

the problem stated

J4



from

^

within each of the structuralist traditions

normative

freedom

— focusing

in

modern

particularly

— the

instrumental and

their investigations of the scope of

on

Although the clear advantages of an instru-

society.

mental approach to collective order were recognized,

was argued that

it

normative structuralism could more effectively incorporate the important voluntaristic emphasis of individualistic theory. Yet if instrumental structuralism I

is

too deterministic, normative structuralism

would combine elements

dimensional whole. This,

it

too voluntarist.

more successful approach

suggested, in conclusion, that a

ture

is

of these

seems

to social struc-

dichotomous traditions into

to

me,

is

a multi-

the principal challenge for

structural analysis in sociology. It

would be

movement toward such an

satisfying to report that a

lytically sophisticated

model

of structure

are, indeed, certain indications of

is

underway. Yet, while there

movement

in this direction, a

spread commitment to such theorizing has not occurred itive

developments,

I

ana-

have mentioned already the

wide-

As for the poswork of Eisenstadt .

(1963) and Smelser (1959, 1971) within the Parsonian tradition

(cf.

Bar-

ber 1979 and Zelizer 1979, 1985). Geertz’s (e.g., 1973) writings have

promised an even greater extension of Parsons’ advance, for they are more closely in touch with the newest in

any way sacrificing

developments

in cultural

system base. Yet Geertz’s (1980) most short of this promise; it reintroduces the di-

a social

monograph falls far chotomy of structure and meaning even while recent

theory without

it

claims to transcend

it.

Within contemporary Weberian sociology, only Schluchter (1981) has systematically pursued the multidimensional course that Bendix (1964) earlier laid out.

rary

Despite the great turn toward subjectivity in contempo-

Marxism, only Habermas

(e.g.,

mantling task that a noninstrumental

(though see

seriously

1975) critical

begun the

dis-

theory would presume

Gouldner 1976). There is no necessary historical progress toward more multidimensional forms of theorizing. The two great progenitors of this approach, Weber and Parsons, both produced highly ambivalent work: their theories were also, in this regard,

subject to internal pressures that produced strains of purely mechanical

and purely voluntaristic theory respectively. Indeed, after Parsons’ relatively brief period of dominance in the postwar period, critics seized on the weaker points in his synthetic efforts to propose Parsonian idealism and Weberian materialism, either

as

models

for

new forms

of

one-dimen-

sional theorizing or as justification for continuing standard reductionistic

SOCIAL STRUCTURAL ANALYSIS

Much

practices.

Durkheimianism follows

of the revival of

a similar re-

ductionist path. It is

evident from

earlier reconstruction of the

work

in recent structural

more

my

opposing currents

that the last decade has witnessed a return to

exclusively instrumental and normative work.* This can be seen in

Marxism and in the prestige of cultural structuralism and hermeneutics. There has also, in the name of greater the reinvigoration of orthodox

“specificity”

and “realism,” been

more purely

a return to

individualistic

models. Collins’ work (1975, 1981) paradoxically exemplifies these recent trends. On the one hand, actors confront each other as mechanical exchangists, struggling against one another within highly structured situations

unequal

of

material

acknowledges that these structures

To

rational.

On

resources.

the

other

hand,

Collins

on voluntary behavior that

rely

is

non-

reconcile these pressures, he describes actors as motivated

by emotional profit-seeking undeterred by normative conditions the external environments of polity and

economy

as such;

create cathartic needs

that ritualize social relations in mechanical, almost ethological ways.

Yet even

if

the structural paradigm were

much more

consistently multi-

dimensional, certain theoretical problems would remain unsolved. These

problems

refer,

once again, to the

real

achievements of individualistic

theorizing that the collectivist has not yet fully addressed. Despite the

progress that normative theory its

made by

incorporating personalities into

notion of the social, the problem of “voluntarism” remains partly un-

resolved. Collectivist theories have not historical specificity

found ways

to successfully incorporate

and temporal contingency. The

because structuralist theory, both in

its

first

problem occurs

instrumental and normative form,

tends to focus on the systemic qualities of different kinds of social roles: “lawyers” have certain kinds of ethics, “workers” engage in expected patterns of conflict, the “middle class”

is

conservative (or liberal), “intellec-

tuals” are always radical. Indeed, the very notion of “class” carries with

*It

is

my

becomes evident. As I mentioned 1978 and only revised slightly before its

precisely here that the dated element in this essay

composed in publication in 1984. Since 1978, the modes of one-sided structural theorizing 1 describe begun to be undercut by a broad here have at the very height of their disciplinary power in

introduction, this essay was





new movement toward be found, in part, chapter for a

9,

more

theoretical synthesis.

in the

weakness

“From Reduction

to

The

intellectual reasons for this

of the structural positions

Linkage:

The Long

\'iew of the

I

movement can

have described here. See

Micro-Macro Link,” below,

optimistic scenario about the future of sociological theory.

THE PROBLEM STATED

j6

systemic analysis, the quintessential properties of this generalizing, studies whether applied to material structure, as in Marxist or Weberian it

of the

middle

class, or to

normative structures, as in the study of

lectuals, “class analysis” implies a transhistorical

intel-

and cross-cultural simil-

itude that often camouflages the true empirical situation.

When we

look at actual history, to the contrary,

we

see, for

example,

depending on the particular development patterns of each nation, middle classes and intellectuals have behaved in highly variable ways: both have been conservative and both have been radical. This historical

that

specificity in the discussion of

economic

classes

is

the whole point of

Weber’s work (1968:1212-1374; 1946:267-301) on urban strata, yet it has been only fitfully absorbed by later Weberians (for an important excepLacroix and Dobry [1977]) and hardly recognized by Marxists. This anti-Weberian rigidity is equally apparent in the “new class” studies

tion, see

by normative

structuralists, for

example, the analysis of intellectuals by

Parsons and Platt (1973:267-302). Gouldner’s work (1979) combines

in-

strumental and normative forms of such “class analysis,” insisting that

— because structural circumstances that are both normative inevitably, be ideology and uniformly and material — have of

intellectuals

will,

critical

a

the basis for progressive historical change. Yet

numerous

historical studies

hardly the case (for Germany, see, e.g.. Ringer 1969

have shown this

is

and Herf 1981;

for

England,

see, e.g.,

that the individual

members

of

Wiener 1981). The point is not economic or cultural “classes” are not

subject to social structural constraint but that the particular structures

must be understood

in historically specific

and contingent, as well as

in

systemic, ways.

The second problem refers to the promise of the future the effect of the past. The virtue of structural theories is

rather than to that they illu-

minate the constraints that limit individual action, and the better the structural theory the

more

straints in a systematic

however, that the more to

way

effectively

that

it

organizes these external con-

makes empirical

a structure

sense.

The problem

appears coherent the more

it

is,

appears

be ruled by reified naturalistic laws that are self-contained and invio-

lable,

and while the former property

is

desirable and true, the latter

is

The continuity of social systems is at every moment dependent upon human action: this is the seminal insight of the individualistic tradition. The imperatives of social structure are probabilistic; they are always open not.

to the possibility,

no matter how remote, of reversal or revision.

SOCIAL STRUCTURAL ANALYSIS

The most

widely discussed implication of this obdurate fact

newed concern with incorporating aspects collectivist

is

J7 a re-

of individualistic theory into

work, the so-called micro/macro connection

(see, e.g.,

Knorr-

Cetina and Cicourel 1981; Collins 1981; Giddens 1976, 1979; Alexander 1985; chapter 8, below). But another implication has not had nearly as

much

This concern with contingency returns, once again,

attention.

the significance of history, for

opens the analysis of

it

to

social structure to

the importance of critical events.

The

analysis of critical events, like the attention to historical specificity,

must balance attention text.

This challenge

to

contingency with an appreciation for social con-

in different structural traditions,

of continuous concern. for its mechanistic

sciousness,

through

drawn the

has, in fact, recently

though

Thompson

it

attention of theorists

has hardly ever been the object

(1966) criticized orthodox

and unhistorical approach

Marxism

to revolutionary class con-

arguing that classes should be seen as “made” by actors

a process of

ongoing

than as the me-

social interaction rather

chanical reflection of economic development. In the Parsonian tradition,

Eisenstadt (1978) has tried to utilize notions of individual negotiation to

study periods of social creativity, developing the idea of “institutional entrepreneurs” (see Alexander and Colomy 1985 [chapter the most fertile

work done on such

social creativity

7,

below]

).

But

Turner’s symbolic

is

anthropology. Drawing on the theory of ntes de passage, Turner (e.g., 1974) argues that social crisis often creates liminal periods of “anti-struc-

way

to expressive

societies reformulate, or reinforce, their

fundamental

ture,” periods during

community, and

orientations through

which

more

to contingent ritualization

the

more

role differentiation gives

or less

open-ended

must be

refined

Turner’s approach

rituals.

and systematically related

traditional concerns of structural analysis (see, e.g.,

1981; Alexander 1984, 1986; chapter

5,

Katz

to

et al.

below).

In an ironic way, therefore, social structural theory continues to be

bound by the issues ysis must evolve so

that individualistic theory has raised. Structural analthat

its

emphasis on constraint

will

reformulate the

conditions of voluntarism rather than completely eliminate

it.

This

in-

volves two different tasks. First, externality and constraint must be defined symbolically, as well as materially, for only in this

be viewed as producing

social order

and not

just as

way can

the actor

responding

to

it.

Second, the conceptualization of these symbolic and material structures

must be

historically specific and, equally important,

must be conceived

— THE PROBLEM STATED

j8

manner

in a

that recognizes the continual possibility for their

fundamental

reformulation. These tasks should set the research program for structural analysis for years to

come.

NOTES 1

The

.

inability to incorporate systematically the general constraints that

on structural analysis

is,

I

believe, responsible for the relatively unsatisfactory' quality of

Mertonian investigations into the broad theme of structural analysis

Merton 1981 and Blau 1981) has

made

paradigms exert



this, despite

in sociology (e.g.,

Merton “pre-Kuhnwhich is in

the significant substantial contributions

to the formulation of social structure (see below).

The

empiricist, or

ian” status of Merton’s understanding of theoretical conflict in social science



keeping with his belief that sociology can be conducted entirely within the “middle range” revealed by his attempt to explain different approaches to social structure as problem-

is

generated rather than theory-generated. Thus, rather than genuine theoretical antagonism

— an antagonism involving the attempt exview— Merton the same phenomenon from incompatible points that there about social structure

in sociological writing

plain

to

of

primarily theoretical pluralism,

i.e.,

insists

is

the invocation of different frameworks to explain dif-

(Merton 1981 :i) in an Structural Inquiry (Blau and Merton

ferent aspects of reality. “Diverse theoretical orientations,” he wTites

introduction to a book he co-edited. Continuities in

1981), “are variously effective for dealing with diverse kinds,

and

social

problems.”

The commitment

and aspects,

of sociological

to empirical description, not to a priori

paradigms,

induces theoretical disagreement. With the

institutionalization of science, the behavior of scientists oriented

toward norms of organized

skepticism and mutual criticism works to bring about such theoretical pluralism. orientations

come

to be at the focus of attention

.

.

As

particular theoretical

they give rise to a variety of

.

new key questions

requiring investigation [and] to the extent that current theoretical frameworks prove unequal to the task of dealing with

some

of the

newly emerging key questions, there develops

pressure within the discipline for developing

new and

Peter Blau, in a companion essay, makes

a

composite social-and-cognitive

revised frameworks (ibid., v— vi).

much

the same kind of point. Referring to the incredible disagreement that exists in the volume, Blau (1981 ;i) suggests that “such diversity and pluralism of approaches in a discipline tend to be the main source of advances in

systematic knowledge.”

This chapter takes

a postempiricist (e.g.,

conflict in social science as

much more

“Kuhnian”) position

in the sense that

I

view

many instances from preempirical commitments. Major theorists of social structure, it seems to me, usually conceive of themselves as trying to explain the same thing with different concepts, and it is deeply rooted, as deriving in

precisely this confrontation that explains the fundamental retical

and empirical

and ongoing character of theo-

conflict in social science.

That they cannot, in fact, really explain the same thing in different ways a fact to which Merton points to sustain his pluralism thesis shows how competing, widely accepted theoretical concepts can make some “empirical facts” seem inviolate.



2.

Weber

also pointed the

investigation with the

way

methodology

tow'ard an integration of the

methodology of cultural

more instrumentally structural analysis. Although I not focusing on methodological issues in this essay but rather on presuppositional, ideological, and empirical disputes, some implications for methodological controversies

am

of

SOCIAL STRUCTURAL ANALYSIS The

might be mentioned.

theoretical position

ological injunction that the cultural

One

tematic empirical study.

I

J(J

have suggested here implies the method-

environment of action must become an object of

barrier to this, however,

sys-

has always been the difficulties

presented by cultural methodology for the positivist persuasion in social sciences. Instru-

mentally structural environments,

economic

economic and

like

status, are not particularly hard to find or to

in statistical

political position,

wealth and socio-

measure, especially with the advances

techniques. Either they themselves are visible in a material sense, or they can

be tied to indicators that are. By contrast, the variables that compose cultural structures are

much more

harder to find and

Weber (1968:5) put

difficult to

measure,

alone to understand.

let

when he

the methodological contrast well

When

explanation” with “empathic understanding.”

contrasted “observational

sociologists engage in observational

explanation, they must assume that people are acting rationally according to the observer’s

own commonsense

standards of rational action.

structures of action

— those

The

observer can “see” only the external

that are external to the actor in a material sense.

The

tradition

of instrumental structuralism, then, implies the methodologv’ of observational explanation in

Weber’s sense, for the focus

action.

Economic and

w'hich to act, and

it

is

on what might be called the opportunity structures of

political organizations are is

conceived of as offering opportunities with

that people will so act according to the observer’s

own

the actor’s motives are not rational according to our

owm

assumed

notions of strategic self-interest.

But Weber warns us that

commonsense

We

if

standards, then

we cannot be

content with merely observational explanation.

must, instead, get inside other people’s heads through the exercise of Verstehen, or

To

understanding.

be employed.

It

gain such empathic understanding, the method of interpretation must

was Dilthey (1976),

investigated the interpretative, or hermeneutical, atic

contemporary of Weber’s, who

of course, an older

method

in the

most extensive and system-

way. Dilthey insisted that the subjectivity of interpretation ensured

and that the inherent

relativity of

a circular quality

hermeneutics meant that a culturally sensitive social science

must be limited to normative as opposed to what I have called instrumental structures. Weber differed from this methodological version of German idealism by arguing that interpretation could, and must, be combined with observational explanation and the investigation of materially constraining structures it subsumed. Indeed, Weber defined sociology’ as a science that attempts the interpretative understanding of social action in order thereby to arrive at a causal explanation of

its

causes and effects. Just as in his

more substantive

writings, then, W’eber pointed to a multidimensional approach in his methodological ones.

In this respect he goes well beyond the celebration of subjectivity that continues to define the hermeneutic 3.

This

last

method

that

Gadamer

(1975) has laid out.

observation indicates, once again, the gulf that divides the empiricism of

Merton’s analysis of “structure perspectives in sociology'” from the postempiricism that

my

informs

argue for differ in

a

own. In many

more

how

integrative

this

respects,

my

framework

theoretical purpose

is

similar to his.

Both of us

that can incorporate divergent points of view.

can be obtained. Merton (see note

i,

We

above) argues for incorporating

different approaches as they are, on the grounds that each truly reflects the nature of a different kind of empirical

phenomenon

— hence Merton’s

concern with nonempirical commitments, by contrast, tive

I

theoretical “pluralism.”

Given

my

search for this integrative perspec-

by deconstructing the confrontation between incompatible fundamental assumptions.

Only after such a deconstruction, I believe, can empirical pluralism actually emerge, for what follows is an effort to produce a new general framework that can incorporate complementary empirical

Even

as

I

insights.

formulate the beginnings of

a

more

integrative framework, however,

1

am under

THE PROBLEM STATED

40

fundamentally defuse theoretical

illusion that this “progressive” theory will, 'in fact,

no

and fragmentation. Merton’s empiricist framework considers theoretical conflict and fragmentation to be pathological anomalies, whereas the postempiricist framework offered conflict

here takes them as normal expectancies. Thus, Merton (1981

:i)

speaks of “the notorious

tendency for theoretical pluralism to degenerate into theoretical fragmentation” and suggests (ibid., iv) that failure to

recognize pluralism results in

pepper the history of the sciences.” From

my

“mock controversies”

that “recurrently

point of view, however, there

is

no

initial

agreement from which degeneration can occur, and the controversies that ensue from par-

adigm divergence are not mockeries itself.

Blau (1981:9,

italics

common denominator

added), for his part, while insisting that “one can discern a

underneath

all

that “conceptions of social structure

ments.”

My

these different views of social structure,” acknowledges .

.

.

differ greatly

contention in this essay, by contrast,

emergent properties

we

of serious theorizing but the stuff of serious science

is

where theorizing about

is

and even contain contradictory

that

agreement about the existence of

social structure begins, not ends,

are to understand the stakes such theorizing involves

ele-

we must

and that

if

face as directly as possible

the conflicting presuppositional, ideological, and empirical implications that follow.

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American Journal of Sociology 8:45-76.

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Theory' of

.

44

THE PROBLEM STATED 1955. Family, Socialization,

Parsons, Talcott and Robert F. Bales, eds. Interaction Process.

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and

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Parsons, Talcott and Gerald

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SOCIAL STRUCTURAL ANALYSIS Weinstein, Fred and Gerald

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^5

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I

I

I

I

PART

II

Structure, Action, and Differentiation

4

TWO 9

Durkheim’s Problem and

Theory Today

Differentiation

Differentiation

comes

closer than any other

contemporary conception

to

identifying the overall contours of civilizational change, and the texture,

immanent dangers, and differentiation

is

real

fairly well

promises of modern understood, and

it

As

life.

is

this general outline that

provides the backdrop for making sense of everyday tions gradually

become more

ganization decreases.

a general process,

life

today. Institu-

specialized. Familial control over social or-

Political

processes

become

less

directed by the

obligations and rewards of patriarchy, and the division of labor

more according

ized

and

sex.

and

to

criteria

Community membership can

political criteria.

more

economic

organ-

than by reference simply to age

reach beyond ethnicity to territorial

more generalized and

Religion becomes

institutionally separated

is

from and

in tension

abstract,

with other spheres.

Eventually, cultural generalization breaks the bonds of religion altogether.

Natural laws are recognized

in the

moral and physical worlds, and in the

process, religion surrenders not only life

but also

its

institutional

its

hierarchical control over cultural

prominence.

In terms of these general contours of world history, and the intuitive representation of modernity they provide, the

immanent dangers and

promises of modernity can be understood. Thus, because of the need to develop flexible and independent control over social complexity, largescale

bureaucratic

and

impersonal

organizations

emerge

(Eisenstadt

Prepared for the second German-American Theory Conference, Theories of Social

Change and Modernity, Berkeley, tional Science at

Foundation.

acknowledge

my

August 26-28, 1986, sponsored by the Nacolleagues in the School of Social Sciences

Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, whose member essay was composed, and particularly the stimulation of Michael Walzer.

the Institute for

this

I

California,

I

was when

STRUCTURE, ACTION, DIFFERENTIATION

50

*

Such

1963).

centralization



X

political,

economic, informational

— provides

an ever present resource for the exercise of organized cruelty and domination. Yet precisely because it is impersonal and bureaucratic rather than primordial and diffuse

— because

it is

differentiated in

experienced, even in totalitarian societies,

Rarely

is it

typically,

this centralization

1983).

and public

life

These countercenters are not confined

Habermas (1984) presents

groups, or lifeworlds, which against colonization

nization but

new ways. reality: more

experienced as a development that challenges the existence

it is

al.

is

importantly

experienced as an all-powerful and archetypical

of deeply entrenched institutions of private

raine et



by

rational systems. It

is

Tour-

(e.g.,

to the

primary

as the last bastion

not one-dimensional colo-

uneven differentiation that characterizes the modern world.

Indeed, as Walzer (1983) has shown, the very existence of social and cultural differentiation to justice in

private

life

modern

— not colonization— allows demand

societies to

ever greater

autonomy and

social critics dedicated

for the spheres of public

self-control.

But knowing the outlines of differentiation and sibilities in

tion

is

down

general terms

trast, is differentiation

Merely

societies

all

stagnate. Often they

centrated and inflexible.

problems and pos-

not enough. If the perspective of differentia-

is

Obviously, not

Sometimes they

it

its

going to produce a theory of social change,

to earth.

and

Why

it

must be brought

and institutions

become

brittle

differentiate.

and reactionary, con-

do these responses happen? Why, by con-

sometimes able

to proceed?

to describe differentiation as a general process,

moreover, makes

appear to be automatic, an equilibrating mechanism that occurs when-

ever adjustments must be case.

The

made

social processes that

in specific, concrete terms.

tiation will

variation

When

Finally,

strain.

This

is

not the

they are, the contingency of differenits

responsiveness to historical

easily seen as well. Is a certain orienting ideology necessary

for differentiation to occur? If so,

requirements

and

produce differentiation must be described

be more clearly understood and

more

mations?

to conflict

in

what

likely to

what

is

Are particular kinds

societies

and

of interest

group

historical conjunctures are

for-

such

occur?

the relation between differentiation and the historical

formations that are the traditional objects of classical theories of social change? Do feudalism, fascism, capitalism, and socialism represent a con-

tinuum

of differentiation, or

do they represent amalgamations of

tutions that are differentiated in varying degrees?

Does thinking

of

insti-

change

durkheim’s problem and

as differentiation allow us to conceptualize the strains

these formations

more

5/

conflicts in

effectively than traditional theories do?

These questions mark the

frontier of differentiation theory.

They

arise

not just from scientifle curiosity but also out of theoretical competition

(Wagner and Berger 1984). They to theorists

theory

is

who

are the questions that other theories put

think they see differentiation in social change.

to be maintained,

If

the

must be improved, and these questions must

it

be answered. In this chapter

formulate what some answers might be.

I

by suggesting

part,

that in the theoretical

ready an upsurge of investigation (see 1985, and in Alexander and these ends.

In larger part,

I

community today

e.g., the essays in

do

this, in

there

is al-

Alexander, ed.

Colomy forthcoming) directed precisely to however, I provide some answers to these

produce

a

framework within which such an-

swers can be more readily conceived.

I

begin by suggesting that the ques-

questions myself or

tions

have

I

at least

enumerated

can

be

viewed

not

simply

parochial

as

preoccupations of recent neofunctionalist work but also as issues that go

back to the

classical

foundations of sociology

itself.

Indeed,

I

argue that,

properly understood, they are generic questions that must be faced by every effort to understand social change in a serious way.

I

show how

these questions define the achievements and limitations of Durkheim’s

theory of change. By examining Parsons’ later theorizing in these terms, I

argue,

alist

we

gain a

new handle

not only on the criticisms of the function-

theory of change but also on the efforts that have been

improve

it.

These considerations inform

conclusion, about what future efforts

my

at

made

to

suggestions, offered in the

understanding differentiation

might be.

''Durkhehn's Problem*’

Although the notion

that society changes

through

a process of institutional

modern theory of beginning with Durkheim.*

specialization can be traced back to ancient times, the social

change as differentiation may be seen

*This even though Spencer articulated as differentiation well before

influence on

Durkheim,

about differentiation significant for the

it

a

as

wide-ranging historical classification of history

Durkheim’s work appeared. Although Spencer had

was from Durkheim, not from Spencer,

in the social sciences has

problems and prospects

that

drawn. Moreover,

in

a significant

subsequent thinking

ways

that are very

of differentiation theory today (see not only the

STRUCTURE, ACTION, DIFFERENTIATION

52

In The Division of Labor in Society cer’s earlier theory in a

',

[1893]) put Spen-

Durkheim (1933

new form and began

a research

extends to the present day. Although Durkheim’s

first

program

great

work

that

has, of

become one of the classics of W estern social science, its association with this program has not usually been made. In the context of the present discussion, therefore. Division is of particular interest. Whereas each of course,

the problems

I

find in this classical

work have been noted before, they

have never been understood by reference to differentiation theory. Because they have not, their theoretical interrelation has been impossible to see.

Durkheim’s

first

great

work serves

theory in several different ways.

as

an exemplar of differentiation

can be considered the

It

one of the most powerful applications of the theory

itself.

first

It

and

still

can also be

seen as embodying some of this traditions’ most typical and debilitating

weaknesses. Durkheim’s early work presents in a nutshell, in other words, the achievements of differentiation theory and the difficulties

often

it

creates.

In book one of Division, entitled

“The Function

of the Division of

Labor,” Durkheim outlines a general portrait of social change as differentiation. Societies

were once mechanically organized. They had repres-

laws and were dominated by a particularistic and

sive

collective conscience. ity,

where laws are

Gradually they have

restitutive

moved toward

and collective morality

abstract. In terms of institutional references,

is

omnipresent

organic solidargeneralized and

Durkheim focuses here

pri-

marily on economic change, on the one hand, and on the separation of religion

from

political

and

legal functions

on the other. There

also a

is

brief but important discussion of cultural generalization as indicating the

increasingly person-centered character of the collective conscience.

This

initial

discussion

is,

however, of

While conferring power and scope, porate

any

real

discussion

of

this

a particularly

sweep makes

particulars



it

specific

sweeping kind.

difficult to incor-

historical

phases

through which differentiation proceeds, particular institutions and sectors

upon which

distinct periods of differentiation

depend, historically specific

problems that differentiation systematically might generate. Durkheim’s argument in book one is evolutionary rather than developmental social

discussion of

that immediately follows

war below), Spencer’s approach which Durkheim developed.

neglect of that

Durkheim

above but also

my

treatment of Parsons’

to differentiation contrasted in various

ways with

DURKHEIM’s problem sense that no phase-specific strains are outlined.

in the

the sense that there It is

no theory

is

how

of

particular structures are involved.

ideal-typical in the sense that there

change by which an episode of actual

functional in

It is

is

no account of the processes of

social differentiation actually oc-

curs.*

What

is

paradigmatic of differentiation theory as such, to

makes

fascinating about this work, however, and what

supply such particulars

“Causes and Conditions,”

Durkheim argues

books two and three.

in

is

a

is

so

Durkheim goes on Book two, entitled

his effort to supply a theory of social process.

that population

greater specialization

that

is

it

growth leads

to greater density

and that

quasi-Malthusian response to the need for more

adaptive and efficient distribution of resources. Durkheim’s third book,

“Abnormal Forms,” differentiation

an effort to discuss

is

and the problems

because industrial society labor

is

it

He

typically engenders.

phase of

suggests that

not yet fully differentiated, the division of

coercive and disruptive.

is

a particular historical

When

birth

further separated from

is

wealth, and political from economic organization, industrial relations will

be mature and society

The

less conflictual.

weakness of The Division of Labor

fatal

cannot be related to one another pressure

is

icant

from

asserts in

book two,

is

in itself

view

a theoretical point of

three books

its

way. That demographic

is

open

that this

More

to doubt.

signif-

emphasis seems

to di-

notion that differentiation involves cultural and

rectly contradict the political

that

the principal process through which differentiation proceeds,

Durkheim

as

in a systematic

is

phenomena, which Durkheim argued

in

book one. What either

demographics or systemic differentiation more generally understood have to

do with the forced division of labor

is

problematic as well. For

coercive in 1890, there

is

is

a

more

book three

is

anomic and

nothing in Durkheim’s general theory, or in his

phase-specific

social process alike.

in

indeed, the division of labor

if,

specific account of social process, to

essary

— Durkheim’s topic

supply an explanation. What

model

Only with such

stipulate criteria for predicting

of general differentiation a theory

would

it

is

nec-

and

of

be possible to

“normal” and “pathological” outcomes of

a particular social formation.

To

establish links

between the three parts

*In developing these distinctions,

I

am

of

Durkheim’s work,

reworking and extending some of

my

in other

earlier ideas

(Alexander, 1983:128-44, 259-72) about the different levels of change theory. In doing so, I

draw upon the important arguments by Gould (1985) and Colomy (1985).

STRUCTURE, ACTION, DIFFERENTIATION

5^

*

words, would require

^

account of structures and processes and

a detailed

general theory of differa systematic effort to link these theories to the entiation.

This

is

precisely the goal,

differentiation theory

must

I

argue, for which contemporary

strive.

Social Change Theory

and

Durkheirn's Problem In order to relate this agenda for a particular research program to issues

about social change more generally, one must recognize that “Durkheim’s

problem” was not simply

own. Through the lens of differentiation

his

theory he was groping with issues that are generic to the study of social

change

as such.

way

which

in

Each

of Division's three parts represents

change has been conceptualized

social

struction of general models, through the

one important

— through the con-

development of accounts

process, and through historically specific analyses of tensions

Durkheim’s problem,

in other

words,

come

every perspective on change must In these terms,

briefly

I

is

of social

and

strains.

an enduring one, one with which to grips.

examine the principal

classical theories of

change with which Durkheim’s must compete. Although Weber certainly defines a general theme, “rationalization,” he does not emphasize this level of his analysis in anything like a

produce

comparable way. His only

account of rationalization

a general

(Weber 1958 [1920]: 13-31) to religion, which was written only

more an afterthought than

is

effort to

the “Author’s Preface”

his collected essays in the sociology of at

the end of his career and

was much

the basis for his theoretical program.

The

minimalist character of the rationalization theme can also be seen from the fact that a debate nalization itself.*

I

is still

am

raging about the simple definition of ratio-

not suggesting that this general conception was

not important for guiding Weber’s thinking, for most certainly to conceptualize

and elaborate

it

it

was. But

was not something with which Weber

was centrally concerned. *Here

is

how one

most interesting recent contributions to this debate begins: “The unifying theme in Max Weber’s work ... an idee-maitresse empirical and methodological investigations with his political and moral re-

idea of rationality that links his

flections. [Yet]

is

of the

a great

Weber

.

.

.

frequently uses the term ‘rational’ without qualification or explanafewer than sixteen apparent meanings of ‘rational’ can be culled [from his writings]. The reader may well be perplexed by what appears to be a baffling multiplicity tion.

.

.

.

No

of denotations

and connotations” (Brubaker 1984:1-2).

D

The

heart of

the role in

involved.

it

W eber’s

work

of institutions

The

II

RKH E

I

M



S PR

OBLEM

55

his theorizing about processes of change,

is

and groups, and the

historically specific strains

Protestant ethic creates capitalism in the W'est, patrimo-

nialism overwhelms

autonomous urban centers

in the East,

charismatic

leadership becomes routinized and bureaucratic, priests and later legal

notables have an interest in producing formally rational law the middle-range propositions with which

why

W eber

is

concerned.

these are connected to historical rationalization

One

clearly spelled out.

result

that the relation

is

middle-range theories of change

is

— these are

is

How

and

implicit but never

between Weber’s various

never easy to see. Bendix (1961) de-

voted one very ambitious book to spelling out these connections, and

Schluchter (1981) has devoted another. But though presented as commentaries on oretical

W eber’s

theories, these

constructions that try to

works must actually be seen as thethis gap.

fill

disarticulation of Weber’s specific theories

general perspective

Another

result of this

from one another and from

his

that the relevance of these historical accounts for

is

explaining other episodes of change, and for thinking about the future

course of change,

is

far

Moreover, whereas

from

clear.

W eber’s historical explanations of traditional society

often involve phase-specific accounts of conflict and strain the patrimonialism-feudalism

regard



ment

of the capitalist

this genetic, or

between the strands

dilemma must be seen

developmental, quality disappears from his treat-

era, or wall

it

this disarticulation

Weber’s change theory leaves fundamental ques-

tions unanswered. Wdll bureaucratization

modern

his theory of

as a prototype in this

and modern periods. Again,

of



dominate party

politics in the

be continuously challenged by charismatic

politi-

cians? Wall formal law' reign indefinitely, or will there be challenges to

such formulations from different kinds of social groups, w’hose demands can be formulated

in a substantive

and

historically specific w'ay?

Does the

otherw'orldly character of Puritanism eventually lead to cultural univer-

salism or to secularism in a purely political sense? At the back of these

problems are Weber’s

Does its

late capitalism vitiate the

earlier creation?

deed, a this

historicist difficulties

new

What can

with the concept of capitalism.

processes that W'eber has identified with

distinctively define late capitalism,

if,

in-

postcapitalist historical phase will have to be introduced? Wdll

phase differ

at all

from the

socialist

form of industrial

society, w'hich

one point W’eber (1971 [1918]) suggested must be seen merely as capitalism in another form, or from communist industrialism, which at anat

STRUCTURE, ACTION, DIFFERENTIATION

56

Other point (Beetham 1974: 46ff

)

believed to differ fatefully from

Weber

capitalism not only in economic but also in political and moral terms? Once again, my point is not that Weber has nothing to say about these issues; obviously, he did.

My

point

rather, that the failure to articulate

is,

makes

the different levels, or forms, of his theorizing

To

these regards fragmentary and ad hoc.

his contributions in

suggest that there are paradoxes

created by the rationalization of culture (Schluchter 1979)

but does not go nearly far enough, nor political

is it

is

sufficient to translate

suggestive

Weberian

theory into a story of the production of citizenship (Bendix 1964),

though such an

effort

is

certainly valuable in

its

own

Weber’s theory

right.

remains the most perceptive theory of institutional change ever written,

and

it

continues to inspire the most searching writing on the processes of

change today

(e.g., Collins 1986a).

Even

for W’eberian theory,

however,

Durkheim’s problem remains. It

has been Marxists, of course,

who have

pointed most forcefully to

these weaknesses in Weber’s change theory, and

approach

change, by contrast,

to

when we

look at Marx’s

we cannot help but admire

its

beauty

and theoretical power. Marx coherently and compellingly united the ferent kinds of theorizing about social change. His general

movement

a dialectical



thesis, antithesis, synthesis

each historical period and over the course of



human

dif-

theme describes

that occurs within

history as a whole.

His institutional theorizing neatly translates this dialectic by defining thesis as class

domination

as the struggle

by

in the service of

classes

who

economic production, antithesis and synthesis

are exploited in production,

as the revolutionized social formation that ensues. Phase-specific strains

are handled in an equally elegant capitalist period.

and interconnected way,

at least for

the

Production processes rest on the forces of production;

classes are established

by property

rights,

which define

their relations to

production; as the relations of production begin to strangle the forces of production, class conflict begins; equilibrium can be restored only revolutionary transformation of property relationships It is,

at least in part,

Durkheim’s problem that

because his

Marx seems

It

it

achieved.

to provide the solution to

supplies a coherent interpretation

has also clearly identified

obvious features of contemporary social class conflict

the

change theory has had such wide appeal. In

times of great conflict and anxiety, of events.

is

if

cannot be denied.

It is

some life.

of the

most

That there

is

specific

and

capitalism and

also clear that the redistribution of

durkheim’s problem

57

property continues to preoccupy capitalist welfare states and that the twentieth century has been transformed by a series of communist revolutions. Despite

my

has, in

and is

still

intellectual

its

power, however, Marxist change theory

view, been refuted time and time again, perhaps, indeed,

Max Weber

most powerfully by

himself.

first

Only when domination

experienced as intensive and relatively monolithic do Marxist theories

become plausible. Insofar as social life returns to its more typically fragmented and pluralized shape, Marxism loses its attraction. We are living in

The

such a period today.

social convulsions of the 1960s

produced

renewal of Marxism, but in the contemporary period Marxism

The

tinctive decline.

economic

centrality to

institutions has

1980 and Evans

come

to

is

a

in dis-

change of relatively autonomous nonbe emphasized once again

(e.g.,

Sewell

1985), and against sweeping dialectical theories,

at al.

temporal and spatial specificity has been emphasized (Giddens 1981, 1986).

As

Marxism

this consideration of

opment

mode

indicates, there

is

more

to the devel-

change theories than Durkheim’s problem alone. In every

of social

commitments must be made, empirical pro-

of theorizing specific

cesses described, conflicts predicted, and moral possibilities prescribed.

Indeed, the more explicit

a

theory becomes

and the more

of theoretical work,

propose, the more contestable

its

mitments become. As an advocate not be surprising that sible,

even while

I

I

admire

Durkheim’s problem;

it

sonably in moral terms.

much

find

is

It

at

each of the different levels

tightly knit the interrelation

it

can

substantive empirical and moral comof

more

pluralistic theorizing,

it

should

Marxism’s substantive formulations implau-

its

theoretical scope.

quite another to solve

seems

to

me

that

closer to empirical reality than Marx’s.

ber implies, though flawed in

many

It is it

one thing to solve

empirically and rea-

Weber’s change theory

The moral

possibilities

is

We-

ways, are more liberal and emanci-

pating as well.

The

challenge

is

to solve

ber’s institutional work,

must be pushed

in a

Durkheim’s problem without giving up We-

which

Weberian

we

problem

insist,

at all.

to suggest that differentiation theory

direction.

us see the kinds of advances he

before

is

This was Parsons’ intention. Let

made over Durkheim’s

earlier theorizing

once again, that he did not really solve Durkheim’s

STRUCTURE, ACTION, DIFFERENTIATION

^8

Parsons' Change Theory

and

Durkheim's Problem by himself (Parsons 1967 [i960], 1971:74, 78) and others (Smith 1973), to have taken up differentiation theory where Durkheim left off, it is worth noting that Parsons

Whereas Parsons

saw himself While

well.

to

generally considered,

is

be carrying out Weber’s perspective on social change as

argue that Parsons’ theory

I

damental thrust, there

is

Durkheimian

is

a certan sense in

in its

most fun-

which Parsons’ self-perception

must be credited. The substantive formulations in Parsons’ evolutionary writings cannibalize Weber’s change theory in an extraordinary way. No one, indeed, has ever taken Weber’s institutional theorizing as seriously;

no one has pursued the implications as strenuously or tried as hard to

model within which they could be interrelated and explained. It is here that the paradox of Parsons’ differentiation theory lies. For whiles

find a

Parsons finds his

critical

evidence and illustrations in Weber’s institutional

work, he never theorizes from within the institutional and processual level itself.*

Weber’s work

tiation theory; It is

good

it

is

vides. In

grist, to

Durkheim

historical of his historical

be sure. Parsons’ account of change it

there

works

is

vastly superior

can be couched in the terms that

Weber

pro-

sketchy generalization, and even in the most

is

(e.g.,

Durkheim 1977

[1938]), shifts

from one

phase to another are described in schematic terms. In Parsons’

theory (1966, 1971), by contrast, differentiation actors, groups, institutions, social

As

improved differen-

never threatens to displace Durkheim’s approach as such.

Durkheim’s because

to

grist for the mill of Parsons’

a result. Parsons

is

movements,

able to provide a

is

mapped

civilizations,

much more

intuitively

traordinary distance that has been traveled from societies of the present day. In

doing

the meaningful foundations of

modern

*The indexes

terms of

and

so.

band

states.

compelling do.

He

— the

ex-

modern world than Durkheim was able to demonstrating what Durkheim merely suggested

reconstruction of the

can succeed in

in

societies to the

Parsons succeeds in legitimating

life.

major works that Parsons (1966, 1971) devoted to history as differmany more references to Weber than to Durkheim, and in the introduction to the second he emphasizes (1971 2 that it “is written in the spirit of Weber’s work.” Yet ) he immediately qualifies this in a telling way “one important difference in perspective has to the

entiation include

‘.



been dictated by the link between organic evolution and that of human society and culture.” Parsons refers here to the evolutionary theory of adaptation and differentiation he drew in the most immediate sense from Durkheimian work.

durkheim’s problem would be impossible here

It

to

communicate the nuance and complexity

some

of this Parsonian account, but

indication of the scope and coherence

scheme can be made. For Parsons,

of his generalized

59

historical evolution

involves what might be called the de-familialization of the world. In band

important

societies, kinship ties define

logical activity.

symbol

Totemism

of ethnic identity

a

is

An

good example.

and “religion,”

human

the natural world and with

animal or vegetable

fuses the band’s existence with

it

kinship as well.

cording to Parsons, that prohibitions

It is

tive

diffuse, particularistic, affective, and,

and ascribed.

alized, they

of social tically

become more

If societies are to

must make such “blood-related”

life.

no wonder,

ac-

taboo play such a

like the incest

and

socially decisive role, for the intermixing of kinship

makes behavior

and even psycho-

social, cultural,

social criteria

above

and individu-

flexible

qualities a

much

In order to do so, the significance of kinship

prescrip-

all,

smaller part

must be

dras-

reduced.

This fused situation changes when one of the two lineages that usually

form

a

band

exchange

is

improve

society seeks to

its

status.

The

equality of marriage

altered; restricted intralineage marriage emerges,

On

resources are controlled as well. cation and inequality arise.

On

the one hand,

the other, because

the basis for defining the extension of kinship of the possibility for

it

here that

is

power has

ties,

it

to

from

on the

this point

is

differ-

itself.

These economic and

developments, moreover, cannot be sustained for any length of

time without a religion that

is

kinship than totemism. This

new

lineages

strate-

institutional structure of politics

cannot be deduced from the nature of kinship political

be

States are developed to protect the surplus

wealth of the dominant lineage, but. Parsons emphasizes, this entiation too, for

become

of social direction

and control. Property comes into being, and kinship begins it.

itself

stratifi-

marks the beginning

more powerful and adaptive forms

gically subordinated to

and other

and must explain and

far

more elaborate and independent

religion

must

stretch over

justify social hierarchy

of

nonmarrying

and inequality.

It

does so not only by formulating a broader and more differentiated conception of the supernatural realm but also by developing a alized conception of “the people.” stratification is the

Another

emergence, for the

result of the initial creation of

first

time, of

conception of the societal community. There emerges for

human community

that strongly emphasizes

from lineage boundaries.

more gener-

some nonfamilial

a territorial referent

group

as distinguished

STRUCTURE, ACTION, DIFFERENTIATION

6o

These processes continue in archaic and historic societies. Religion becomes more formalized and abstract. Cults emerge, as do other groups with specifically religious ambitions. Eventually churches develop, institutions with highly specialized religious personnel. Politics continues to

becomes more impersonal and bureaucratic, both which involves placating gain control for the privileged class groups by developing primitive welfare functions and in or-

differentiate as well. It in

order to

lower class





der to ensure the safety of larger territories and the continuous productivity of economic life. Economic life becomes more functionally divided

and

stratification increases.

solidarity, tally, as

Within the now established range of “national”

heterogeneous groupings develop that are arranged in horizon-

well as in vertically, segmented ways. While these developments

ensure a more flexible and productive social organization, they also ensure

new

levels of hierarchy

and inequality. Aristocracies represent continued

new forms

linkage of function to kinship, and

of

domination emerge,

like

kingship and church, which fuse the control of various goods.

In the early

modern and modern

periods, primarily in the West, these

intermediate levels of social development are pushed

The Reformation moves

religion

tutionally fused position.

The emergence

toward

makes government more independent sition.

With

of parliaments

universal education

makes culture

regardless of particular group and origin. ditional connection or personal charisma,

The

organization

of

technical

and

common

spheres.

The advance

Competence, rather than

becomes the

professional

concreteness than

Durkheim

himself.

with

Even

much more

so,

power

derived from markets.

Because he has one hand resting on Weber’s shoulders. Parsons to describe the stages of differentiation

tra-

arbiter of author-

knowledge through

money power

of

accessible

authority provides a systematic counterbalance to the hierarchical

derived from bureaucracies and the

law

becomes more inde-

more generalized and

still

still.

groups and economic po-

of social

in various social

further

abstract and less insti-

citizenship, social solidarity eventually

pendent of actual position

ity.

more

a

much

is

able

precision and

Durkheim’s problem

re-

mains. Parsons has taken his general bearings from Durkheim, and primarily from The Division of Ixibor, book one. Like Durkheim’s before

him. Parsons’ general theory does not provide an account of occurs. fective

To and

suggest that, because a differentiated institution flexible,

it

by other spheres says

will eventually little

how change is

more

ef-

develop to cope with problems posed

about the actual processes by which that

new

1

durkheim’s problem

6

and more differentiated institution actually came about. Parsons acknowl-

He

edges the imbalance.

is

concerned with “the structural ordering of

social data,” he argues (1966:112),

not in the

instance with “the

first

and change.” He does not seem aware, however,

analysis of process

of

the intellectual difficulties that such a position presents. His insistence

(1966:111) that “structural analysis must take a certain priority over the analysis of process and change” recalls his troubling assertion in cial

System

change.

It

that the analysis of stability

was

in

must precede the

The So-

analysis of

response to the manifest inadequacy of that earlier claim

moved to the differentiation theory I have just described. The problem now seems to have reappeared in a new form. Even when that Parsons

he

committed

is

change, not

its

to a theory of social change,

dynamics, that must come

it

the

is

morphology

first.

But whatever Parsons’ personal inclinations,

this separation

is

impossible to make. Book one of Division w^as followed by book

though Durkheim could never connect them is

no second book

for Parsons, but there

theorizing about what

some

is,

in

in

mind.

He

tw’o,

even

an implicit strain of

in fact,

of the actual processes of

rather vulgar sense. Parsons himself has a

actually

an intelligible way. There

Unfortunately, the tone of this unwritten second book

Darwin

of

more

change might be. is

Darwinian

in a

sophisticated parallel to

suggests that, like Darwin, he

is

justified in setting

out a structural morphology of evolution without an explanation of just

how

evolution occurs.

Now

this

was certainly true

of

Darwin’s work.

Because he did not have access to Mendel’s theory of genetic mutation, he could only outline the macro constraints within which species changed.

But surely

this situation

does not apply to Parsons. Darwin could not set

out a theory of evolutionary process; the knowledge simply was not there.

When

Parsons

is

writing,

by contrast,

a great deal of

knowledge about the

processes of social evolution already exists. Parsons chooses not to discuss it.

The

real parallel

between Parsons and Darwin

is

a less

ennobling one.

In Parsons’ implicit theorizing about social change processes, he tries to

make do with Darwin’s theory

of

macro constraints alone. He takes over

Darwin’s theory of species competition and adaptation, wTich Spencer called the survival of the fittest.

Even while eschewing an

understanding of process, therefore, there are suggestions

institutional

in

Parsons of

how and why transitions from one form to another take place. This latent perspective, we will discover, allows Parsons to overlook knowledge about change processes that he prefers not

to see.

STRUCTURE, ACTION, DIFFERENTIATION

62

For Parsons the world

They may phases there is

an evolutionary

die out, but innovations

— eventually

occur.

nothing to fault

is

is

As

this.

— breakthroughs

The problem it

is

in

to

more

differentiated

theory of evolutionary change,

a general

a specific theory as well, that

Societies are species.

field.

is

that Parsons implies that

it

order to adapt to an environment

that breakthroughs in evolution actually occur. In presenting institutions

and

societies as

problem

solvers. Parsons’ implicit

dangerous turn. In the long run, adaptation institutional innovation, but

it is

rarely

its

may be

efficient

second book takes

a

the result of a given

cause (see Alexander

and Colomy 1985). Because Parsons incorporated so many of Weber’s specific and antiteleological explanations, this confusion could often be avoided. That adaptation and problem solving are everywhere at work,

however,

is

an implication of his work that cannot be denied

(cf.,

Smelser

1985)-

The

results for his

adaptation

is

change theory are often disastrous. Thinking that

both cause and result provides an ideological patina for

thinking about the moral implications of rationalizing change.

from Parsons’ understanding the sion to ignore real processes.

come

full theoretical

These

ideological

It also

hides

implications of his deci-

and theoretical

difficulties

together in Parsons’ sotto voce dialogue with war.

At several

critical

points in his evolutionary work. Parsons seems to

acknowledge that the transitions between phases of differentiation be carried out by war. In his discussion of early societies, earlier.

I

may

suggested

Parsons emphasizes that upper class lineages typically depended

on religious legitimation fact to explain the

to maintain their

domination, making use of this

beginnings of religious generalization.

He

acknowl-

edges, however (Parsons 1966:44), that an exception to this dependence

on legitimation

exists in cases “in

which

a

group subordinates another

group by military conquest.” He tries to mitigate this fact in a revealing way. Whereas domination through conquest may have “played an important part \n processes of social change,” he insists, military

conquest can-

not be considered ^^differentiation in the present sense” (italics added).

The conquerors segment

in

such situations are “a foreign group, not a structural

of the original society.”

when such operates in

Moreover,

it

is

“a rare, limiting case

group altogether eschews claims to religious legitimation and terms of its naked self-interest alone.” But Parsons’ efforts to

a

avoid the implications of his insight into the significance of war are beside the point. Of course, domination through conquest is not differentiation;

durkheim’s problem of course, these

conquerors are not part of domestic society but

a foreign

some point need

religious

group; of course, legitimation

this

None

itself.

transition toward a

What

will at

of this, however, denies the crucial fact that the

more complex

we knew

if

conquering group

society

is

often the result of war.

from band

that the transition

to stratified societies

would do

often involved political repression and ferocious violence? This

nothing to negate the

fact that as the result of this transition

entiation and flexibility occur. Nonetheless, this tainly

change our understanding

more

differ-

knowledge would

cer-

meaning and implications

of the

of

differentiation itself.

By underplaying process

in his

change theory. Parsons

the centrality (e.g., MacNeill 1982) of war in

conquest

is

not, of course, practiced only

human

able to

is

deny

history. Military

by conquering bands. Differ-

entiated societies have experienced dark ages and the massive destruction of their civilizations as well. its

survival

is

No

matter what the innovations of a group,

not assured. Even

entiated than those around a direction that

is,

it,

if

a society

is

more

significantly

differ-

may be developed in moment, much more strategically

one of

its

at that historical

neighbors

significant in military terms. Parsons cannot see this, because he confuses

When

differentiation with adaptive success. disasters,

he becomes whiggish

in a truly

he cannot avoid historical

He

embarrassing way.

(1966:130), for example, that “the Nazi movement, even with

its

writes

immense

mobilization of power, seems to have been an acute sociopolitical distur-

bance, but not a source of major future structural patterns.” But what

does “seems to have been” mean? the field of battle, this does not in

any short-run sense.

torians of the

emerged

If

If a

mean

repressive system

that

its

is

defeated on

features were less adaptive

certain contingencies

were

different,

some

his-

Second World War suggest, the Nazis could well have

victorious. Its vicious

certainly have established

and reactionary structures would, then,

dominant

social patterns

throughout Europe,

for an uncertain period of time. It is

because he has ignored processes

tiation theory

like

war

that Parsons’ differen-

cannot understand the fundamental role of backwardness

and structural fusion wiched between

in creating the history of the

modern world. Sand-

his elegiac accounts of the Renaissance

his laudatory analysis of the industrial

and demo-

on the other, one finds scarcely four pages

in Parsons’

on the one hand, and cratic revolutions,

and Reformation,

book (1971:50-54) about the Counter-Reformation and

its

enormous

re-

STRUCTURE, ACTION, DIFFERENTIATION

64

percussions for social and cultural

democratic revolution

life.

Indeed, after his analysis of the

France, Parsons moves directly to his analysis

in

high levels of social and cultural differentiation have stabilized our time. The clear impli* American and Western Kuropean nations of

how

m

cation

is

that steady progress

was made, that “problems”

like the

Counter-

Reformation came up and that were solved by cultural and institutional adaptation.

might well be argued, however, that quite the reverse is true. It took hundreds of years to destroy the effects of the Counter-Reformation, It

which was

itself a

response to differentiation in the early

modern

period.

Divisions were created throughout Europe, murderous and long-lived conflicts

broke out between nations, and basic patterns of cultural partic-

The massive wars

ularism and social authoritarianism emerged.

twentieth century must be seen in this context.

It

of the

was not adaptation

through differentiation that ended the authoritarian systems whose roots lay in the reaction to the less

Renaissance and Reformation;

it

was more or

continuous war and revolution (Maier 1975). In the twentieth cen-

tury, moreover,

war has created not

tems Parsons extols but

totalitarian

just the restabilized

and repressive

democratic sys-

states as well.

By ignoring process and war, however. Parsons did not simply commit the sin of sanguinity. He has also failed to generate a powerful and coherent theory of social change. In the conclusion to his societies,

he acknowledges (1971 140-41) that “there has, of course, been :

a great deal of conflict, ‘frontier’ primitivism,

parts of the system relative to the that “certainly the history of if

work on modern

not continual, warfare.”

and

lag in

more progressive

some

of the older

He

even allows

parts.”

modern systems has been one

The

conclusion that follows has about

stunning incongruity. “The striking point,” Parsons writes,

same system

of societies within

in

war but

(original italics). Indeed!

As

I

have spent

One

a

“is that the

high incidence of violence, including revolutions”

have just suggested, this striking point

a great deal of

Parsons’ change theory.

a

also internally,

exactly what Parsons’ history of the I

it

which the evolutionary process that we

have traced has occurred has been subject to

most conspicuously

of frequent,

modern world does not

is

explain.

time on the unwritten second book of

reason

is

that

it

spells out so clearly the

problems with Parsons’ unwritten third. In his own third book, Durkheim developed a compelling if theoretically contradictory account of the strains that threatened the social

and moral equipoise of his time. Because Par-

durkheim’s problem

65

sons emphasizes adaptation through differentiation, however, he himself

can do nothing of the kind.

It is

worth noting,

I

think, that this

was not

always the case. In the middle period of his work, which extended from the late 1930s to the late 1940s and resulted (Parsons 1954a) in a series of essays

on modern

sharply critical edge

society. Parsons’ writing about social (cf.,

Alexander 1981b, 1983:61-71).

about differentiation as such, but clearly differentiation that he

and

office, the

in

a

did not talk

work

was

it

mind. The tensions between home

discontinuous and sex-linked socialization processes that

this separation implied, the abstraction

ture, the discipline

and rationalization of modern

— these were

and market orientation of labor

developments, which Parsons would

tional

He

in the light of his later

had

change had

institu-

later call differentiation, that

They

he viewed as creating enormous problems for the modern world. led to the distortion of

gender identities and relationships,

and interpersonal aggression,

cul-

and

to harsh ethnic

to alienation

racial conflicts,

and,

indeed, also to war (see, e.g.. Parsons 1954b). In the midst of the period that extended

from the Great Depression

to

Fascism and world war.

Parsons saw differentiation as a cause of social problems and upheavals. In the period of postwar equipoise, by contrast, he saw differentiation as a problem-solving solution.

Because the tensions of the past are underplayed tiation theory, the strains of the present later account, the anxiety

century simply

fail

ognizes these problems but theory.

It is

cannot be displayed. In Parsons’

mark the twentieth Durkheim, Parsons rec-

and pathos that continue

to exist. It

is

not that, like

fails to

in Parsons’ differen-

to

integrate his account with his general

that Parsons cannot write

Durkheim’s third book

at all.

His

theory lacks a developmental notion of historically specific strains and conflicts.

Thus, while he plausibly argues against the feudalism-capital-

ism-socialism trichotomy of Marx, he does not distinguish coherent phases

own. References are made (Parsons 1971:141-43) to “coming phases” of modernization and to “major changes ... in process,” but,

of his

aside

from vague reminders about the dangers

impersonality. Parsons never

tells

of excessive rationality

and

us what these phases and changes might

be.

In regard to the contemporary period,

it

appears. Parsons

is

not as

interested in explaining changes as in changing explanations. In the clos-

ing pages of his studies on evolution, he attacks the “widespread pessi-

mism

over

the

survival

of

modern

societies

.

.

.

especially

among

STRUCTURE, ACTION, DIFFERENTIATION

66

and he suggests that the'goal of his work should be undervalidity of such stood in these terms “to establish sufficient doubt of the tabooed views.” Once again, there is a furtive backward glance at the of oversubject of war. Parsons acknowledges “the undeniable possibility intellectuals,”



whelming destruction.” But the possibility of war in the future be pursued any more than its reality was pursued in the past.

will not

Parsons sees the twentieth century as a period of opportunity and achievement, virtually ignoring the periods of massive destruction and the

phenomenon

of total war. In the last

phase of his

life

he has become the

can-do American pragmatist, the irrepressible evangelical who is utterly confident that the future will be shaped in a human way. “Our view is relatively optimistic,” Parsons concludes.

identify exactly the historical period he

The problem

is

is

that he cannot

optimistic about. His general

theory certainly established the meaningful validity of

“modern

society.”

His inability to explain institutional process and to engage in genetic explanation has ingful social

made

it

impossible, however, to

framework

will

know whether

this

mean-

be able to survive.

In the midst of the Great Depression, classical economists predicted that Say’s tain,

Law remained

valid. In the long run,

demand would come back

slumping

capitalist

the long run lifetimes,

we

are

they continued to main-

into equilibrium with

supply and the

economies would revive. Keynes responded that dead.

all

The problem

Keynes demonstrated, there

Say’s law does not everywhere apply.

is

is

the short run. In our

in

own

only partial equilibrium and

Without confronting pathologies

the short run, even the most meaningful civilizations

may

in

not survive.

Durkheim’s second and third books must be written, and they must be systematically integrated with the

first.

Theoretical Revision

and

Durkheim's Problem In the polarized political climate of the 1960s and early 1970s, Parsons’ version of differentiation theory

became increasingly hard to sustain. It was challenged in the name of more historically specific and processual theorizing (e.g., Nisbet 1969, Smith 1973). Theorists wanted to speak of French Revolution (Tilly 1967) and of precise variations in national outcomes (Moore 1966). They wanted to explain specific phases and uneven development, for example, the emergence of specific events, like the

DU RKH El m’s PROBLEM

()"]

modern Europe (Wallerstein 1974) capitalism (Baran and Sweezy 1966). They

the world capitalist system in early

and the monopoly phase

of

wanted

about

to

be able

to talk

how modernization

creates systemic con-

and strains (Gusheld 1963, Gouldner 1979). Interactionists and resource mobilization theorists (Turner 1964, Gamson 1968) made claims flicts

movements, and on

for the centrality of social

developed

this basis they

explanations about the scope of change that went far beyond anything in Parsons’ work. Conflict theorists (Collins 1975, Skoepol 1979) developed theories of state building and revolution that were specific

and comparatively

in ideological tone.

possibility that

insisted that

precise.

There was, moreover,

Theories became more

change would take

much more

critical

historically

a pervasive shift

and sober about the

a satisfactory course.

These challenges

Durkheim’s second and third books must be written. Even-

Marxism drew up many of these particular theories and challenged Parsons’ first book as well. As I suggested above, Marxism is remarkably

tually,

successful in interrelating general and specific theories of change. In that earlier period of turbulent

of Marxist theory

movements

for social liberation, the elegance

seemed empirically compelling

as well.

Empiricist philosophy of science, which continues to legitimate most social science today, holds that theories live

and die through

falsification.

As Kuhn (1969), Lakatos (1969), and other postpositivist philosophers and historians of science have shown, however, falsification cannot or, at least, in practice usually

— disprove

does not

the natural sciences. Lakatos

(cf.

the most plausible account of



a general theory,

even

in

Wagner and Berger 1984) has developed

how

the resistance to falsification occurs.

Theories differentiate between core notions, which are positions considered essential to the theory’s identity, and other commitments, which are

more

peripheral. Faced with studies that throw

commitments

some

of their important

into doubt, general theories can sustain their vivacity

by

They seek to incorporate new peripheral points. Of

discarding peripherals and defending their core. challenges by reworking and elaborating their course, this kind of vivacious defense

Whether an

effective shoring

up process

is

no more than

actually occurs

a

possibility.

depends on the

empirical actors and the social and intellectual conditions

at a particular

time.

When

differentiation theory

mode

first

encountered the challenges

seemed

as

would be made. Parsons himself was never able

to

dictions and

its

of explanation,

it

if

to its pre-

no successful defense

throw the weaker points

STRUCTURE, ACTION, DIFFERENTIATION

68

change theory overboard or to expand it in an ambitious changing it, many way. Faced with the choice of abandoning the theory or abandoned even if it functionalists simply left it behind. A theory can be of his general

is

development not refuted, and the effect on the course of scientific

much the same. Some of the most important

early

is

of Parsons’ students can be

works

have seen as attempts to set the theory right by elaborating what should been Parsons’ second book. Smelser (1959) and Eisenstadt (1963) discussed differentiation in terms of distinctive historical phases and elabo-

and Smelser (1963) spheres. However, while

rated specific processes of change; Bellah (1969)

tackled the problems of specific institutional

important examinations of change in their

own

right, as theoretical revi-

sions these studies did not go far enough. Eventually Smelser stadt separated the core

and Eisen-

of differentiation theory in a

from the periphery

way. Eisenstadt (1964) insisted that theorizing about general differentiation and specific social process was impossible to con-

much more

radical

ceive in isolation.

He showed

(cf.

Alexander and Colomy 1985 [chapter

7,

below] that there are particular carrier groups for particular kinds of differentiation

and that their

interest structures

and ideological visions

determine the actual course differentiation will take.

and comparative

historical

He

and gave

specificity of differentiation

lizational factors like culture a

insisted

on the to civi-

permanently arbitrating role (see Eisenstadt

1982, 1986). Smelser also initiated a fundamental critique

from within.

In his work on higher education in California, he insisted that differentiation

might be seen as

tances

to

a self-limiting process.

differentiation

and

outlined

relationship between differentiation

a

He

insisted

theory

and self-interested

of

on the

the

elites.

resis-

symbiotic Eventually,

he (Smelser 1985) attacked the very problem-solving framework of Parsons’ differentiation theory itself.

These at least,

By

revisions were intellectually powerful, but they did not, at first

have a significant impact on debate in the

field of social

change.

the late 1970s this situation began to change. Several factors were

involved: (i)

The glow began

to fade

from the more

institutional

and

phase-oriented theories that had initiated the response to Parsons’ work.

Neomarxist theories of the world

capitalist

system were challenged, for

example, by rising economic growth in some third-world nations and by the fact that the threat of imminent world economic crisis began to recede.

For their

part, conflict perspectives

appeared to have underestimated the

durkheim’s problem and democratic

resilience of capitalist

and

institutional process (2)

social strain

These developments created

and

more

its

A new

been involved

to

Weber’s approach

to

seem plausible once again.

between Marxism’s general theory

and explanations. Ideological events, only of Marxism’s more

political attractiveness not

sweeping conclusions but well. (3)

began

strain

specific predictions

moreover, lessened the

institutions.

6g

also of

phase-specific theory of strains as

its

who had

generation of theorists emerged

in the revolt against differentiation and,

not personally

more

generally,

modernization theory and did not, therefore, have a personal stake

in

continuing the controversy.*

By

the late 1970s and early 1980s the revision of differentiation theory,

which had been signaled by Smelser’s and Eisenstadt’s work, became both

more pronounced and more widespread. f This work emerged both

Germany

Luhmann

(Schluchter 1979;

in

1981, 1987; Miinch 1982, forth-

coming) and the United States (Rueschemeyer 1977, Robertson 1978, Alexander 1978). These revisions proceed from the common assumption that differentiation does, indeed, provide an intuitively meaningful frame-

work

for

understanding the nature of the modern world. But an effort to

interrelate this general

model

to institutions, processes,

strains preoccupies

most differentiation theorists

group of

efforts has

been particularly directed

conflicts

and

strains. Indeed,

Gould (1985)

and phase-specific

in the present day.|

One

to the issue of phase-specific first

formulated the distinc-

tiveness of this theoretical task in his prologemona to a theory of social

*It

is

revealing of the generic qualities shared by different approaches to change that

Marxism on

same grounds as I have criticized Parsons himself. Giddens (1986) argues, for example, that Marxism is too evolutionary in its history and that it ignores the centrality of war. Indeed, that Marx and even Weber (but see Alexander forthcoming a) ignored the centrality of war to social change indicates that the problem goes beyond difficulties with “Durkheim’s problem” to very deeply routed blinders of an ideological kind. For other parallels between the recent criticism important writers

of Marxist

in this

newer generation have

change theory and the critique

criticized

of Parsons’, see

my

the

discussion of Marx’s change

theory earlier in this chapter.

fColomy (forthcoming developments

in differentiation theory

|This does not seem

from Parsons

b) has provided the most extensive examination of these

to apply to

in the intensity

and

of the criticisms to

which they are

Luhmann’s program, however. Luhmann

in linking his general

used to

critically

it

is

examine

my

his

certainly differs

belief that the

work

as well.

life.

He

has not,

theory more firmly to institutional processes or

phase-specific strains. Although any detailed consideration of

cannot be given here,

a response.

with which he has elaborated the effects of differentiation in

various institutional spheres, e.g., in law, religion, family, and political

however, succeeded

new

Luhmann’s imposing corpus

framework suggested

in this

chapter can be

STRUCTURE, ACTION, DIFFERENTIATION

70

crisis,

and he has concretized

it

(Gould 1987)

study of the capitalist

^

forthand patrimonal origins of the English Revolution. Lechner (1985? coming) has used differentiation theory to find indicators for contempo-

movements and

fundamentalist

rary

Mayhew

modernity more generally.

structural

for

against

reactions

(1984, forthcoming) had developed

corresponding to the early modern

a notion of the differentiated public as

origins of capitalist society.

Other developments have been directed more

to

Durkheim

s

second

book, to linking differentiation to specific theories of institutional behavior and processes of change. Champaigne (1983, forthcoming) has formulated a

complex model

in particular

explained

for explaining the failure

American Indian

societies,

and success

of differentiation,

and Rhoades (forthcoming) has

the differentiation of higher education systems has been

why

blocked by the nationally specific organization of professional and gov-

ernmental spheres. Colomy (1982, 1985, forthcoming the most ambitious

program

in this regard.

has developed

a)

Elaborating a theory of “un-

even structural differentiation,” he has explained the actual paths differ-

by

entiation has taken in terms of the “institutional projects” developed strategic social groups. Explaining the forces that

form these projects

way, he distinguishes among institutional entrepreneurs, con-

a systematic

and accommodationists.

servatives,

Between

this

new wave

of differentiation theory

and

conflicts that characterize

still

remains too large

a gap.

change

in the

and the actual

contemporary world there

life.

life,

must be made.

connection anchors theorizing in the effervescence of everyday

and only

well as true.

Even

itself

But, especially in theoriz-

ing about social change, a clear and identifiable linkage this

strains

Obviously, social science must separate

from the direct preoccupation of everyday

Only

in

I

this value relevance

close with



its

illustrations of the linkages

differentiation

economic spheres



I

have

in

as

mind.

developed countries, the autonomy of the societal

in relatively

community

some

makes such theorizing compelling,

is

from

religious, primordial, political,

tentative. In liberal capitalist nations, for

and

example,

the media of mass communication (Alexander 1980 [chapter 4, below]) are often still partly fused with political, economic, and ethnic groupings.

Even when is

far

a certain

from the

autonomy

result.

is

achieved, moreover, short-term stability

Similarly, even in societal

communities that are

relatively differentiated, particularistically defined core to

groups continue

occupy privileged positions (Alexander 1981a [chapter

3,

below]). Be-

durkheim’s problem

7/

cause exclusion from this core on religious, ethnic, and social class

grounds remains, struggles

for inclusion are not

permanent and inescapable features

of

modern

bounded episodes but

life.

“modern”

possible to argue, in other words, that in contemporary

It is

societies differentiation

is

way

has a very long

to go.

Contemporary

every social sphere can be understood in this way.

actiyities in yirtually

Thus, while there

still

no doubt that kinship and blood have vastly receded

in civilizational terms, the significance of

gender

every area

in virtually

modern society demonstrates that much fusion remains. Feminist movements can be seen, in these terms, as efforts to differentiate kinship

of

and biology from evaluations bution of economic,

political,

of

competence and, hence, from the

and cultural goods

42). Current struggles for workers’ control in

much

same way. While

the

in

democratic societies public governments

and

criteria

— example the organizatiaon organizations — remains dominated by market government

economic tiated

for

(Walzer 1983:281-312).

life

Walzer 1983:227-

(cf.

and participation can be seen

have been separated from immediate economic private

distri-

How

power

of

in factories

criteria in corporate

sharply

remains to be seen, but an autonomous

and constraints,

it

political

can be differen-

and participatory

sphere can certainly be extended (Siriani 1981).

To

recognize that differentiation

movements

of social

a

is

process carried by contemporary

change suggests that differentiation theory needs to

elaborate a conception of social polarization. Differentiation

by coalitions

who

benefit

of elites

from

and masses, and

it

is

demanded

opposed by similar coalitions

less differentiated structural

Depending on the

is

and cultural arrangements.

historical setting, this polarization will issue in revo-

lution, reform, or reaction (Alexander 1981b); in the course of polariza-

emerge (Alexander 1984 [chapter 5, below]) whose resolution in determining which structural arrangement may result.

tion, crises is critical

This refusal

to identify differentiation

today, and the access to a this refusal

opens up,

attention

shifted

is

is

with the Western status quo

more systematic understanding

demonstrated

from the domestic

in the

of conflict that

most dramatic manner when

to the international plane.

As

I

have

intimated above, the emergence of more powerful and adaptive social

systems not only has been stimulated by war-making but also has basis for

much more

turn

Collins 1986b).

(cf.

laid the

continuous, widely diffused, and deadly warfare in

Not only the

the international social control of

intranational causes of

war can become an object

war but

also

of differen-

72

STRUCTURE, ACTION, DIFFERENTIATION

tiation theory.

The world system

nol only an economic order but also

is

a social one. Differentiation theory suggests that social

systems can control

through the creation of relatively autonomous regulatory mechanisms. From this perspective, the contemporary world system remains in a primitive and archaic form. Primordial solidarities are domi-

conflict only

nant and the possibilities for intrasystemic regulation are only regionally conceived. The relationship between this deficient regulatory system and

war constitutes theory.

War

but virtually unexplored topic for differentiation

a vital

will

be eliminated only to the degree that the world system

replicates the processes of differentiation

— incomplete

as they are



that

have transformed the framework of national societies.

Contemporary struggles and of the structural

in

terms

and cultural fusions that remain. The achievement of

differentiation does not

them

need not be conceived only

strains

do away with

problems but, rather,

social

Even when news media

to a different plane.

shifts

are independent, for

example, they are subject to dramatic fluctuations in their trustworthiness below]), and they can magnify and distort

(Alexander 1981a [chapter

4,

contemporary information

as a result.

The

competition that ensues be-

tween autonomous media and other powerful institutions, moreover, generates manifold possibilities for corruption.

relationship between

Once

autonomous

the university has

universities

become committed

(Alexander 1986 [chapter

6,

new and

and

to

their host societies.

defending the autonomy

about the university’s moral

of scientific or cognitive rationality, conflicts

obligations to society can take on

Similar strains affect the

extraordinarily vexing forms

below]).

In social science, general theories are never disproved. Rather, like the proverbial soldiers of old, they simply fade away. For quite a few years it

looked as

chapter

I

if

this

would be the

have argued that

fate of differentiation theory.

not.

it is

I

have suggested that the

In this

difficulties

faced by this approach are the same as those encountered by every bitious theory of social change,

and

work The Division of Labour in “Durkheim’s problem.” Parsons’

after

Society,

examining Durkheim’s I

have called these

revisions of

am-

classic

difficulties

Durkheim’s original contri-

bution went beyond the substance of Durkheim’s theorizing but did not

overcome Durkheim’s problem

in a

more generic

sense. Indeed, in critical

respects Parsons did not face this problem nearly as well.

have addressed this problem aspects at the

in

Weberian ideas

important ways, but they neglected other

same time. Marxism addresses Durkheim’s problem most

DURKHEIM’s problem successfully of

dermines culties,

its

and

all,

but

its

empirical implausibility,

more its

have suggested, un-

I

considerable theoretical power. In response to these to internally generated revisions as well,

differentiation theory has begun. effectively

is

certain.

That

W hether

it

it

7J

a

diffi-

new round

of

addresses Durkheim’s problem

can solve his problem and retain

verisimilitude remains to be seen.

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in

THREE Core Solidarity, Ethnic Outgroup,

and Social Differentiation

Theorists of Western development have been hard put to account for the

wave

ethnic and racial conflicts that have created the recent

and separatist movements

in industrial societies.

of nationalist

For developing nations,

such conflicts are to be expected; they are part of the “transition” period.

But

after industrial society

sions will

become

is

firmly established,

it

believed such divi-

is

residual, not systematic or indeed intensifying contra-

(Marx 1848 [1955]; Tonnies 1887 [1957]; Weber 1904 [1958]; Durkheim 1893 [1947]).

dictions.

This theoretical

difficulty

is

fundamental;

history of Western development

its

roots

lie

in the

complex

Theories of nation building are

itself.

products of Enlightenment thinking, generated by the twin revolutions of political nationalism

and industrialism. As the analytic translation of

these social developments, they have been rationalistic in the extreme,

sharing a utilitarian distaste for the nonrational and normative and the illusion that a truly

One

modern

society will soon dispense with such concerns.

antidote to this theoretical failing

myth and

cultural patterns,

is

increased sensitivity to secular

phenomena with which

theorists have

increasingly concerned (Geertz 1973a; Bellah 1970). But solidarity

more and

crucial theoretical

nationalist conflicts.

Given

I

its

The concept

of solidarity refers to the subjective

members

of their

critical

readings of a

number

of friends

and

col-

Seamus Thompson, Leo Kuper, Ivan Light, Dean R. Gerstein, have also received invaluable aid from Maria losue, who was my research

leagues: Jeffrey Prager, I

the

phenomenological character, solidarity problems

acknowledge the advice and helpful

and Ruth Bloch.

is

dimension for problems of emergent ethnicity

feelings of integration that individuals experience for social groups.

been

assistant for this project.

— CORE SOLIDARITY from those

clearly diverge

of

economics and

selves, respectively, with scarcity

79

which concern them-

politics,

and the self-conscious organization of

Yet solidarity also differs from problems of culture, which are

goals.

oriented toward meaningful patterns relatively abstracted from specific

time and space. Thus, although integrative exigencies are not generated

by purely instrumental considerations, they are more concrete than

“val-

ues.” In contrast to values, social solidarity refers to the structure of actual social groups.

Like religion,

politics,

human

an independent determinant of

cf.

societies

and

a

fundamental point

1975a; Parsons 1967a, 1971; Alexander

for sociological analysis (Shils

1978, 1983;

and economics, solidarity constitutes

Nakane 1970, Light 1972).

'Inclusion''

and

the

Paradigm

of Linear Evolution Solidarity all,

becomes

a

fundamental factor because every nation must, after

begin historically. Nations do not simply emerge out of thin

example, as universalistic, constitutional

entities.

They

are

air, for

founded by

groups whose members share certain qualitatively distinct characteristics, traits

around which they structure their

of future institutions this “core

eventual liberalism of

its

goup” and

social

solidarity.

No

establishes,

matter what kind

no matter what the

political order, residues of this core

solidarity remain. w'

From

the perspective of the integrative problem, national development

can be viewed as

outgroups

rationalization,

territorial

countered

(cf.

process of encountering and producing

Lipset and Rokkan 1967; Rokkan 1975).

(cf.

and economic

With

a

new

sects

and

new

solidary

ith religious

social classes are created.

expansion and immigration, new ethnic groups are en-

E.

Weber

1976). In response to these developments, pres-

sures develop to expand the solidarity that binds the core group. In this

way, nation building presents the problem of “inclusion” (Parsons 1967b, 1971). I

define inclusion as the process by which previously excluded groups

gain solidarity in the “terminal”

community

of a society.

Two

points are

crucial in this definition. First, inclusion refers to felt solidarity, not sim-

ply to behavioral participation. Pariah groups that like

Western Jews

in

the

fill

crucial social roles

Middle Ages or Indians

in

post-Colonial

STRUCTURE, ACTION, DIFFERENTIATION

8o

Uganda



%

are not “included.”* Second,

am

I

concerned here specifically

with a society’s terminal community (Geerts 1973b). of the

American

tradition of race relations

same

clubs,

make

same

the

dominant focus

and ethnicity studies has

cused almost exclusively on the primary group uals join the

A

level,

friends,

fo-

on whether individ-

and intermarry (Gordon

1964). While such questions are certainly significant, morally as well as intellectually, they

and comparative

analysis. In defining the terminal

group with which individuals

est solidary

am

cannot provide the only important focus for historical

is

narrow and limiting or

a range of particular

beyond family and

acknowledged “society.” Whether

create the boundaries of

groupings



is

as the wid-

feel significant integration,

referring to those feelings that, extending

community

community

I

friends,

this terminal

expansive enough to encompass

this question

is

an issue as

as ramifying

the level of economic or political development or the nature of religious belief. Inclusion, then, refers to a

change

that individuals are felt to be full

in solidary status.

members

To

of the terminal

the degree

community

they have to that degree been “included.” Inclusion can be measured by the degree to which the terminal

munity has become more to the given,

“civil”

seemingly natural

tory, kinship, language,

and

less

ties that

“primordial.”

The

structure solidarity



com-

latter refer

race, terri-

even religion (Geerts 1973b, Shils 1975b).

To

the degree that people share any one of these traits, they will feel direct,

emotional bonds. Primordial

where the “world” ended

at

ties are necessarily

few. In aboriginal society,

the farthest waterhole, sex, kinship, age, and

territory presented the principal axes for solidary identification.

on the other hand, are more mediated and less emotional, more abstract and self-consciously constructed. Instead of referring to Civil ties,

biological or geographic givens, they refer to ethical or

associated with “social” functions and institutions.

moral qualities

The emergence

of civil

can be seen as a process of differentiation, one that parallels the movements toward economic, political, and religious differentiation that

ties

have been the traditional the terminal

At

foci of

community must,

modernization theory. Membership in

in the first place,

be separated from

mem-

extreme, sueh purely behavioral participation by outgroups forms the basis of plural societies, in the terminology developed by Kuper and Smith (1969; Kuper, 1978). In their terms, I am dealing in this essay with the causes and consequences of different degrees of pluralization in the industrial West, a subject to which plural societies theory has not yet devoted significant attention. its

CORE SOLIDARITY

Si

bership in particular kinship groups and, more generally, from biological

This community solidarity must

criteria.

economic,

in the

The

from status

also be differentiated

and religious community.

political,

primordial-civil continuum, then, provides an independent crite-

rion for evaluating the inclusion process. This standard has usually, ever, been applied in an artificial, linear

way even by those

who

From Hegel and Tocqueville

have taken the integrative problem seriously. to Parsons, the transition

theorists

how-

from primordial

to civil solidarity has

been

envisioned as rigidly interlocked with political and economic transfor-

The

mation.

Banfield’s

ideal-typical point of origin

“backward society,”

scarcely extends class, or

munity

is

to the

town,

let

affiliation (Banfield 1959).

then transformed

heims organic

the narrow moral basis of

a self-contained village

beyond the family

even religious

is

in the

where

identification

alone to occupation,

This primordial com-

course of modernization into Durk-

solidarity. Parsons’ societal

mass democracy; given the expansive

community, or Tocqueville’s the latter societies, in-

civil ties in

(Durkheim 1893 [^933]

dividuals “rightly understand” their self-interest

Tocqueville 1835 [1945]; Parsons 1971). To a significant degree, such a universalizing transformation in

1

soli-

darity has, indeed, characterized the modernization process. In the West-

ern Middle Ages, the Christian Church provided the only overarching integration that

bound

distinct villages

and

estates. It was, after all, the

Papal bureaucracy that created the territorial jurisdictions of Gallia, Ger-

mania,

Italia,

and Anglia long before these abstract communities ever

became concrete groupings (Coulton 1935:28-29). It did so, fundamentallv, because Christian svmbolism envisioned a civil solidaritv that could transcend the primordial

ties of

blood (Weber 1904 [1958]). Similarly,

alongside the officers of the Church, the King’s

henchmen were

the only

medieval figures whose consciousness extended beyond village and clan.

To

the degree the

King and

his staff

succeeded

in establishing national

bureaucracies, they contributed enormously to the creation of a

civil ter-

minal community, despite the primordial qualities that remained powerfully

associated

with

this

core

national

International Affairs 1939:8-21;

cf.

group

(Royal

Eisenstadt 1963).

Institute

of

Economic devel-

opment also has been closely intertwined with the extension of civil ties, as Marx himself implicitly acknowledged when he praised capitalism for more and making “national one-sidedness and narrow-mindedness .

more impossible” (Marx 1848 [1955]:

13; cf.

.

.

Landes 1969:1-40).

STRUCTURE, ACTION, DIFFERENTIATION

82

^

Civil solidarity

is,

in fact,

...

.

fundamentally linked to differentiation

Only

these other structural dimensions.

religion

if

is

earthly realm and oriented toward a transcendent,

source can “individualism” emerge,

i.e.,

in

abstracted from the

impersonal divine

an accordance of status to the

individual person regardless of social position (Little 1969, Walzer 1965).

Only with

which

political constitutionalism,

is

closely related to such

developments (Friedrichs 1964), can groups respond to injustice, terms of reasserting primordial unity, but in terms of defending

religious

not in

wider community (Bendix 1964 [1977])* Only with the functional, impersonal form of industrial organization can

their rights as

positions be

members

of the

awarded on the basis

terms of

of efficiency rather than in

kinship, race, or geographical origins. Civil solidarity cannot, however,

simply be considered the reflection of these other differentiations. Not only does

it

constitute an independent, nonresidual dimension with

these institutional developments interact. particular, concrete

mechanisms

It

in

that,

which

occurs, in addition, through

responding to these develop-

ments, create wider solidarity: through more efficient transportation and

communication, increased geographical and cultural mobility, urbanization, secular education,

mass and

elite

occupational mobility and inter-

Weber and Young 1975

marriage, and increasingly consensual civic ritualization

1976;

Goode 1963:28-80; Lipset and Bendix i960;

Shils

(cf.

E.

[i956]:i35-52)-*

*Although few distinctive

problem

rarely given

mechanisms sufficiently relate them to the mechanism I have cited, civic ritualization, is

of the treatments of these of solidarity, the last

any attention

at all.

simplified occasions through

munity. Such consensual

By

which

civic ritual

I

refer to the affectively charged, rhetorically

a society affirms the solidary

bonds

of

its

terminal com-

microcosms of which are repeated in local milieu, include everything from the funeral ceremonies of powerful leaders to the televised dramas of national political crises (see

rituals,

my

national sport championships. is

discussion of Watergate in chapter

One

crucial symbolic element often invoked

directly relevant to the crucial historical position of

element of creation,

by these

rituals

any society’s core group, namely, the

national ancestors.” Every system of national

and these narrative

and the spectacles of

symbolism involves

a

myth

of

must be personified in terms of actual historical persons. These ancestors become an ascriptive “family” for the members of the terminal community, as, in America, George Washington is viewed as the “father” of the American nation. As stories

the personification of the founding core group, ethnic composition of these symbolic national ancestors is crucial, and the solidary history of a nation can be traced in terms of shifts in their purported ethnicity. In the United States, for example, there has been a struggle over

whether the black leader, Martin Luther King, status.

The

will

be accorded such symbolic founding

creation of a national holiday honoring his birthday the affirmative, but it is still too early for a definitive answer.

may have

resolved this in ^

CORE SOLIDARITY

Hj

But although these systemic linkages are certainly correct, there has

been

strong tendency to conHatc such abstract complementarity with

a

empirical history. Theorists of solidarity have themselves been infected

by Enlightenment rationalism. From the beginning in fact,

Athenian

polis,

Roman

tianity, the social contract, the

But

Western

society,

“progressive” thinking has confidently proclaimed purely civic

solidarity to be the “future” of the in the

of

human

whether

this future lay

law, the universal brotherhood of Chris-

General Will, or

in historical reality differentiation

occurs in different spheres

race,

is

not a

at different times,

communism.* homogeneous process. It

in classless

and these leads and

lags

have enormously complex repercussions on societal development (Smelser 1971, Vallier 1971, Eisenstadt 1973, E.

Weber

1976).

As an autonomous

dimension, solidarity varies independently of developments spheres.

As

a result, civic integration

the newly created,

more expansive

is

other

in

always unevenly attained. Indeed,

associations that result

entiation will often themselves become, at

some

from

differ-

later point in time, nar-

rowly focused solidarities that oppose any further development. This as true for the transcendent religions

promoted symbolic and classes,

political

is

and nationalist ideologies that have

differentiation

for

as

economic

the

the bourgeoisie and proletariat, which after a triumphant

like

expansion of cosmopolitanism have often become a source of conservative

antagonism

to the

wider whole.

Most fundamentally, however,

civil

integration

is

uneven because every

national society exhibits a historical core. While this founding group create a highly differentiated, national political framework,

necessarily establish, at the

same time, the preeminence

mordial qualities. t While members of noncore groups full legal rights

and may even achieve high

participation, their full

membership

it

may

will also

of certain pri-

may be extended

levels of actual institutional

in the solidarity of the national

com-

munity may never be complete (Lipset and Rokkan 1967; Rokkan 1975). This tension between core and civil solidarity must inform any theory of inclusion in industrial societies. *Even when anticivil developments are acknowledged, they tend to be treated as deviant eruptions from the purely civil mode, as in Nolte’s penetrating analysis of Fascism as an “anti-transcendant” ideology or in Mosse’s analysis of blood as the

German “Volk”

culture (Nolte 1965,

common denominator

of

Mosse 1964).

fThis general statement must be modified in applying this model to developing rather than to developed nations. Although every society does have a historical, solidary core, the artificiality of the creation of many postcolonial societies leaves several founding ethnic blocs in

primordial competition rather than a single founding group.

STRUCTURE, ACTION, DIFFERENTIATION

84



A

^

Multidimensional Model: The Internal

and

External Axes of Inclusion

My

focus here

on the problem

is

of ethnic, not class, inclusion.

I

define

ethnicity as the real or perceived primordial qualities that accrue to a race, religion, or national origin, including in

group by virtue of shared

the latter category linguistic and other cultural attributes associated with a

common

territorial ancestry (cf.

Schermerhorn 1970:12).

Inclusion of an ethnic outgroup depends on two factors: (i) the exter-

environmental, factor, which refers to the structure of society that

nal, or

(2) the internal, or volitional, factor,

surrounds the core group;

between the primordial qualities of core group

refers to the relationship

and outgroup. The external factor includes the economic, tegrative,

systems

and religious systems

are, the

of society; the

more inclusion becomes

more

political, in-

differentiated these

a legitimate possibility. In con-

trast to this external reference, the internal factor is

more

volitional: to

goup and

the degree that primordial complementarity exists between core

members

outgroup,

of the core

group

will

tend to regard inclusion as a

desirable possibility. Finally, although both internal

and external factors

can be measured behaviorally, their most significant impact

To

and phenomenological. tiated

and primordiality

is

complementary, the

While remaining systematic,

able,

felt

Each

this general

subjective

is

differen-

boundaries of the

ter-

civil.

model takes

into account a

factor can be treated as independently vari-

and by holding other factors constant, we can establish experimental

control. also

of factors.

is

the degree that the environment

minal community will become more expansive and

wide range

which

Of

course, such a general

model cannot simply be

tested;

be specified and elaborated. This can be accomplished by

it

must

at least

two

different strategies.

Taking

a purely analytic approach,

each factor in turn.

We

we may

trace the effects of varying

can demonstrate, for example, that in terms of

the external environment, differentiation in every social sphere ply changes in solidarity

itself

— has

— not sim-

consequences for the structure of

terminal integration. In South Africa, for example, while the divergence

among

primordial qualities remained fairly constant, more differentiated

economic development ramified interaction

order

(cf.

in

ways

that enlarged core

and outgroup

and increased the pressures on the rigidly ascribed

Kuper

political

1969). Similarly, while primordial anti-Semitism

t-g-

CORE SOLIDARITY

8^

niained unchanged and legal restrictions were unaltered, European mercantilism created

important opportunities for the exercise of Jewish

financial expertise,

whose recognition eventually had wide-ranging reper-

cussions. In nineteenth-century America, on the other hand, the black

outgroup was not drawn

first

into qualitatively

more

differentiated eco-

nomic production. While the primordial separation between black and

War

Caucasian Americans remained constant, the Civil in the legal systetti that differentiated

from ment,

racial qualities.

we can

As an example

some

(if

not

By

changes

individual rights

of variation in the political environ-

by the construction

refer to the processes often initiated

certain great empires.

all)

initiated

differentiating overarching bureaucracies

impersonal rules, conquerors

like

of

and

Alexander and Napoleon opened up

opportunities for excluded groups, like the Jews, in nations where the

primordial distinctions between core group and outgroup, and other structural characteristics as well,

Although the

had remained

unchanged.

relative differentiation of religion constitutes another vari-

able in the inclusion process, as this chapter

relatively

and

I

have indicated

in the first section of

will illustrate further below, the contrast

between Pro-

testantism and Catholicism, both relatively transcendent religions, structive

for

is

in-

the kinds of specifications that must be introduced in

applying this model to the complexity of a concrete historical case.

Whereas the greater symbolic abstraction and

institutional differentiation

of Protestantism, especially the Puritan variety,

is

generally

more con-

ducive to inclusion than Catholicism, in the exclusion produced by slavery the reverse has often been true, as the contrast between Anglo-Saxon and

Iberian slave conditions has demonstrated (Elkins 1969). Indeed, in the particular conditions of slavery,

two

of the

most

traditionalistic aspects of

Iberian Catholicism were particularly conducive to black inclusion: (i) Its relative paternalism generated a greater

concern for the well-being of out-

groups than the more individualistic voluntary principle of Protestant societies did;

(2)

The

Catholic fusion of church and state encouraged

religious interference in the political of in

Anglo-Saxon

These broad solidarity

and

legal

order to an extent unheard

societies.

structural changes in “external environment’’ have affected

through the kinds of specific integrating mechanisms

I

outlined

above: through increased interaction as effected through geographic and

economic mobility, increased economic and

political

participation, ex-

panded education and communication, and intermarriage. Significant

STRUCTURE, ACTION, DIFFERENTIATION

86

numbers

of

urban

status to emigrate to for

blacks, for example, later used their

American

economic and

areas,

where the

upgraded

legal

based qualifications

racially

could not be so easily enforced.

political participation

Small but influential segments of European Jewry (the Schutzjuden, or “Protected Jews”) used the limited political immunity generated by their to gain access to the secular,

economic prowess

homogenizing culture of

nineteenth-century Europe. By the same token,

South Africa’s differentiated economic

was participation

produced

that

life

it

in

for the non-

whites increased access to universalistic culture through education, and

economic and geographical mobility through,

expanding urban-

in part,

(Doxey 1961:85-109; Van der Horst 1965; Van den Berghe 1965:86, 279-80). In fact, it was precisely to inhibit and control these

ization

mechanisms



to protect core

etal differentiation

that Apartheid

was

first

may, on the

Blumer 1965). other hand, hold environmental factors constant and

trace the effects of variation in the internal factors. significant illustration of variation in primordial

relation to inclusion stratification (cf.

effects of soci-

introduced by the Akfrikaner

(Kuper i960; Van den Berghe 1965;

Nationalist elite

We



group domination from the

is

the widespread

Gergen 1968). In Mexico, where

bloods, are granted significantly

Probably the most

complementarity and

phenomenon

complexion has traditionally defined the

cf.

of finely

its

graded color

Spanish or

criollo

racial core, mestizos, or

mixed

light

more inclusion than the darker skinned

Indians. This continuum from the light to dark color has created a finely

graded series of “internal” opportunities for inclusion.

from black

color gradation, internal

environment

in

to “colored” to

members

kind of

white affects access to the

South Africa. The rule

the complementarity criterion:

The same

both cases

in

of a solidary

is

based on

outgroup have

ac-

cess to the degree their racial traits are conceived as closer to those of the

core group. Similar kinds of gradations could be established along the

dimensions of religion and national origins, as

I

illustrate in part 3. Vari-

ation in these internal factors facilitates inclusion of structural affect the

mechanisms

way

I

have cited above.

by affecting the kinds

And

the latter, of course,

the complementarity criterion manifests itself in turn.

Thus, while Peru exhibits the same grading

of color,

darker “mixed

blood

has gained significantly less inclusion there than in Mexico. This variation can be explained by the interaction of color with the greater differentiation of

Mexican

social structure,

produced by the contrast be-

CORE SOLIDARITY

Hy

tween Mexican and Peruvian colonial development and by the impact of the Mexican Revolution (Harris 1964:36-40).

Having outlined the major the following study.

I

analytic features of this inclusion model, in

seek to demonstrate

applicability via a specific case

its



The Model Applied: The Ufieveti Asians,

and Afticans

In discussing the U.S. case,

I

Iticlusion of

Eufopeans,

United States

in the

compare inclusion

European and non-

for

European immigrants and consider, within each category, the variation in

both internal and external factors.

The

social

system that confronted mass European immigration after

1820 presented, by the standards of ture. In large part, this

its

time, an unusually “civil” struc-

depended on America’s

historial past, or

the lack of one (Hartz 1955; Lipset 1965:1-233). Without an

perhaps

American

feudalism, there existed no aristocracy that could monopolize economic, political,

and

on

intellectual prerogatives

a primordial basis. Similarly,

without the legacy of Catholicism and an established Church, spiritual

domination and monopolization were

less

viable

possibilities

(Bellah

1970:168-89).

As

a result of this legacy,

institutional life in

open

to

applies

America was

becoming more

more

and other

so.

to the early

historically specific factors as well,

either unusually differentiated or, at least,

Schumpeter’s notion of an open

American nation than

to

class

system

Europe, for while

geographical and economic mobility did not eliminate the American class structure, they guaranteed that actual class

membership fluctuated

to a

(Thernstrom 1974). Although America had an unusuweak national bureaucracy, the political system was differentiated in

significant degree ally

other important ways.

and dearth of

The combination

of strong constitutional principles

traditional elites generated early party conflict

aged the allocation of administrative

offices

by

and encour-

political “spoils” rather

than according to the kind of implicit kinship criteria inherent in traditional status-based civil service.

Wide

a

more

distribution of property, plus

populist opposition to stringent electoral qualifications,

meant

significant

disperson of the franchise. Finally, the diversity and decentralized character of Protestant churches in

America encouraged the proliferation

of

STRUCTURE, ACTION, DIFFERENTIATION

88

and voluntary denominationalism rather than reestablishment (Miller 1956:16-98, 141-52; 1967:90-120, 150—62;

pietistic religious sects

ligious

Mead 1963:12-37 and ity of

chapter

2,

Anglo-American Protestantism

ularization of intellectual

and

The transcendent, abstract qualalso made it conducive to the sec-

above).

scientific discussion

and

to the

emergence

of public, nonreligious education.

This external situation must be balanced, however, against the internal one. Despite its relatively civil structure, this American nation had been

founded by

a strong, self-conscious primordial core.

Saxon and English-speaking identity, this

“WASP”

and ities

civil,

They

were,

the

Anglo-

core group sought to maintain a paradox that,

asserted that

at

in race,

in ethnicity, intensely Protestant in religious

though hypocritical, was rooted ican nation.

White

in the historical

American

experience of the Amer-

institutions, while differentiated

same time, permeated by certain primordial qual-

(Jordan 1968). And, indeed, although this was a basic factor in

American race

relations

from the outset,

until the 1820s

anomaly was not severely tested within the white

and 1830s

society.

this

During the

seventeenth century, European immigrants were almost entirely English,

and though the sources

of

immigration varied more in the eighteenth

century, the nation’s English and Protestant primordial core could

still

conceivably be identified with the institutional structure of the nation

(Hansen 1940; Handlin 1957:23-39). Between 1820 and 1920, America experienced massive immigration from a wide variety of European nations. As the core group tried to defend its

privileged position, this process produced

waves

of

xenophobic

senti-

ment and exclusionary movements (Higham 1969). Yet by the middle

of

the present century, these outgroups had achieved relatively successful inclusion (Glazer i975*3~3^)>

least

within the limits established by the

necessarily historical roots of national identity

Moynihan

(Gordon 1964; Glazer and

1963).

In terms of the internal, volitional factor in inclusion, the points of conflict

and accommodation

in the

immigration process must be assessed

terms of the congruence between primordial solidarities (Hansen 1940; cf. Schooler 1976). While the Caucasian homogeneity of outgroup and in

core group prevented racial conflict, significant polarization still occurred between the ASP core and non-English immigrants. The division was

W

most intense, however, between core and Northern European immigrants.

— CORE SOLIDARITY on one

and Southern European groups on the other (Handlin

side,

Higham

1957:75, 85; strikingly

Sg

1969). Southern Europeans, after

from the core

national conflict

in national culture

was partly

offset

all,

more

differed

and language. Although

this

by the Christianity that most immigrants

shared, antipathy between Catholic and Protestant

made

the religious

variable another significant point of ethnic cleavage.

In the actual empirical process of inclusion, these points of internal

cleavage and convergence were combined in a variety of ways (Parsons

1967b; Blauner 1972:56, 68).

The

Irish, for

bridging role, for while sharing certain

example, played an important

vital cultural

and

linguistic traits

with the English core, their Catholicism allowed them to interpenetrate

on the religious dimension with the olic

group, the Italians

(cf.

later,

more

intensely excluded Cath-

Handlin 1951 [1973]

though the Jews were disliked

:

1

16-24). Similarly,

religious reasons,

for specifically

al-

this

tension was partially offset by racial and national convergence, particularly in the cases of

Northern European Jews

like

the

Germans. Between the

Christian core group and Eastern European Jewish immigrants, in fact,

German Jews

often played a mediating role like that of the Irish Catholics

Southern Europeans (Howe 1976).

to the

After they had established

by

become naturalized

citizens,

and within the limitations

their primordial divergence, these

European immigrants

took advantage of the openings presented by differentiation in the external

environment

to contest the privileged position of America’s

WASP

core

(Handlin 1951 [1973]). According to their respective origins and special skills, groups took different institutional paths toward inclusion. Catholics used American disestablishment to gain religious inclusion and legitimacy,

and Catholicism gradually became transformed into one Christian denomination

among many (Ahlstrom 1972:546-54, 825-41).

In the big cities.

Catholics used America’s party structure and spoils system to build political

power. Jews, on the other hand, parlayed their urban-economic

background

into skills that

were needed

in the industrializing

economic

system (Blauner 1972:62-63). Later, the Jewish emphasis on literacy

which

in its similar

Old Testament emphasis on the “word” partly neu-

tralized the Protestant religious cleavage intellectual

The

and

internal

scientific

— helped Jews gain access

to the

products of America’s secular culture.

and external situation that confronted America’s non-Eu-

ropean immigrants

— those from

Africa and Asia

— was

strikingly differ-

STRUCTURE, ACTION, DIFFERENTIATION

90

divergence ent.* In terms of primordial qualiues, the

was much more

flammable cleavage, intense. Racial differences created an initial, highly sensitized (Elkins to which Protestant societies are particularly

one

Tannenbaum

1969', Bellah

more sharply commitment to

distinguished majority’s

Asians and Africans were also

1975 in the religious

Christianity.

dimension, for few shared the In fact,

non-Christians,

as

blacks were in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries as often the butt of religions slurs as they were of racial epithets. Superimposed on these

and

religious

racial

dimensions was the sharp divergence between non-

Europeans and the American core

in

viz., long-

terms of national origins,

and the

standing American fantasies about “darkest Africa

exotic Ori-

ent” (Light 1972; Blauner 1972:65).

Not only were also there existed

urban tradition 81).

The

WASP

national traditions

no

common

and

territory

more

disjunctive, but

linguistic reference or (for Africans at least)

gap (Blauner 1972:61; Handlin 1957:80core group, and indeed, the new European immigrants

to bridge the

themselves, reacted strongly against such primordial disparity: the history of

mob

violence against Chinese and blacks has no precedent in reactions

European immigrants.

against

Equally important in the fate of these immigrants, how^ever, was the nature of the external evironment they entered

(cf.

Blauner 1972). En-

tering as slaves in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, blacks

were

without legal rights. Because their participation in American institutional life

was

at

every point legally fused with the biological criteria of race,

they faced a closed, not an open and differentiated, social system. Al-

though the circumstances were much grants

who

entered

in

mass

in

less severe for the

the

1850s,

their

Chinese immi-

common

status

as

indentured labor sharply limited their mobility and competitiveness in the labor market (Bean 1968:163-65;

Lyman

1970:64-77). This external

hibition exacerbated primordial antagonism,

and the California

in-

state leg-

islature passed a series of restrictive pieces of legislation that further closed

various

aspects

of

institutional

life

(Lyman 1970:95-97).

Similarly,

whereas the Japanese did not face any initial external barriers, the primordial reaction against the agricultural success of immigrant Japanese *A complete

picture of the U.S. situation

would have to include also the core group conquest of the native North American Indian civilization and the incorporation of the Mexican population of the Southwestern United States. Although I believe that these more explicitly colonial situations can be analyzed within the

variations

must be introduced. See the section

framework presented here,

that follows in the text.

specific

CORE SOLIDARITY

9/

farmers produced California’s Alien Land Law, which fused farm ownership with naturalized citizenship, a status denied to first-generation immigrants (Bean

This law partly undermined

all

non-Caucasian,

1968:332-35; Modell 1970:106-10).

their agriculture production, forcing

masses

At one time or another,

of Japanese into the cities (Light 1972:73-74).

then, each non-European group faced a social environment that

was

“fused” to one degree or another. Simply in terms of external factors alone, therefore, their

numbers

non-European immigrants could not

into political power, their

economic

as easily transform

talents into skills

and

rewards, and their intellectual abilities into cultural accomplishments.

Uneven

institutional differentiation

and internal primordial divergence

together generated massive barriers to African and Asian inclusion that

protected not only the

WASP

European immigrants.

To

core group but also the partially included

the degree that

have moved toward inclusion,

it

is

American blacks and Asians

accommodation on both

the result of

these fronts. In terms of internal factors, widespread conversion not only

but also to “Americanism,” the adoption of the English

to Christianity

language, and the assumption of an urban

have had significant

life style

impact, as have the changing religious sensitivities of the Christian majority

On

and the continued secularization

of

American

culture.

the external side, institutional differentiation has opened

up

in dif-

ferent dimensions at different times.

With the

War, economic and cultural

(Lieberson 1980:159-69) began to

facilities

legal shift after the Civil

be available for some blacks, particularly for those

Northern

cities after the First

World War. Only

political

fully accessible, a political leverage that in turn has

and economic participation. In the Asian

islative

enactments were gradually overturned

free access to societal resources

Two

facts explain the

to

after further legal trans-

formation in the 1950s and 1960s, however, has

tural

who immigrated

power become

provided greater cul-

case, discriminatory leg-

in the courts

was restored by the end

of

and formally

World War

11

.

remarkably greater rate of Asian inclusion as com-

pared to black. First, their great “external” advantages allowed Chinese

and Japanese immigrants resilient cf.

to preserve, at least for several generations, the

extended-kinship network of traditional societies (Light 1972;

Eisenstadt 1954). Second, the core group’s primordial antipathy was,

in the end, less intense racial contrast

was

national origins

less

toward Asians (Lieberson 1980:366-67), whose dramatic, traditional religion

more urbanized and

more

generally accessible.

literate,

and

STRUCTURE, ACTION, DIFFERENTIATION

gz

%

A

Note on the Model's Application to the

Although

have developed this model specifically with reference to

modernized Western

atively its

I

Colonial Situation

societies,

I

would

like to

comment

rel-

briefly

on

relevance to the colonial situation, both because the notion of “internal

colonialism” has been recently applied to these Western societies (Blauner

1972; Hechter 1975; see note

i,

colonial societies have themselves

below) and because colonial and post-

been so

by the modern-

vitally affected

ization process.

As

a

form

of ethnic

domination that usually combines

a highly fused

external environment with vast primordial disparity, the prototypical co-

must be viewed

lonial situation

For

as the polar opposite of solidary inclusion.

and because colonization has involved the

this reason,

and often

initial

continual application of force, there has been a strong tendency to perceive colonialization in a theoretically undifferentiated way, as initiating a sys-

tem

of total

From

domination that can end only in secession and revolution.

the perspective developed here, this perception

colonial situation

is

same kind

subject to the

and internal variation

as

is

in error:

the

of analytic differentiation

any other relationship between core group and

subordinate outgroup. Indeed, every core group, whether in the West or in the third world, rests initially

Parisians

France,

colonized

much

cessfully, the

ence

is

the

as later

upon some form

territorial

Frenchmen

of colonialization. Early

communities that tried to incorporate,

North African Algerian community.

composed

later

much

less suc-

Simxilarly, the differ-

only one of degree between the aggressive nation building initially

undertaken with the island,

now

called England,

by the English core

group; the subsequent domination by the English nation over

its

neigh-

boring communities in the British Isles; and the later English colonization of the non-British empire.

Resolution of the colonial situation, then, varies according to the same analytic factors as the inclusion or exclusion of outgroups in societies does.

Although the

rigidity of later colonial situations has often

produced radicalized nationalist movements

for ethnic secession (see the

section following), there have been alternative developments.

Great Britain

is

The

case of

instructive in this regard (for background, see Beckett

1966, Bulpitt 1976,

man

Western

Hanham

1969, Hechter 1975, Mitchison 1970, Nor-

1968, Philip 1975, Rose 1970, 1971).

CORE SOLIDARITY

W ales,

Although tarily,

Scotland, and Ireland were

incorporated involun-

the nature of the external political factor by which this colonization

was accomplished was

crucial for later events'

nation of Ireland by the

still

much more committed

The

early military

domi-

highly traditional English state was far

W ales

harsher than the later incorporation of state

all

(jj

and Scotland by an English

to bureaucratic and, in the case of Scotland,

constitutional organization. This initial political variation created a crucial

context for the critical primordial relation of religion, helping to determine the relative success of England’s attempts to incorporate these colonies into

Reformation Protestantism. Scotland and W’ales were successfully

“reformed”; Ireland was not. In combination with the

territorial discon-

tinuity of Ireland, this internal factor created the basis for the

much more

passionate primordial antipathy that developed between Ireland and England.

It

also prevented the kind of elite intermingling that helped to

further mitigate primordial antagonism between England and the other colonies.

On

the basis of this primordial religious antagonism, the rela-

tively undifferentiated condition of English church-state relations

became

crucial to Irish development, producing the fusion of economic, political,

and religious position that was unknown

to

Wales and Scotland. This,

in

turn, set the stage for the harsh settlement communities that finally trans-

formed the Irish-English situation that this

is

relation into the kind of rigid

and exploitative

so close to the traditional “colonial” one. Finally, only in

multidimensional historical context can the divergent responses to

English industrialization be properly understood. ferentiation of the English

produced

economy

W hereas

the vast dif-

that occurred in the ninteenth century

WTlsh and Scots, the

significant leverage for the

Irish

were

unable to take advantage of this opportunity for inclusion to any comparable degree. Indeed, in Ireland, this industrialization actually helped to create the internal resources for national emancipation.

In such rigid colonial situations,

do not lead

if

to successful secessionist

economic and cultural mobilization

movements

trigger, instead, extraordinary efforts at core

Africa, Apartheid political,

was

(see below), they

may

group protection. In South

instituted only in 1948, after intensifying economic,

and cultural modernization threatened

spheres to African participation (Doxey 1961;

to

open up various

Van der Horst

1965). In

terms of the model proposed here. Apartheid represents an attempt to isolate the

“mechanisms”

of inclusion

— urbanization,

geographical and

economic mobility, education, communication, intermarriage

— from the

STRUCTURE, ACTION, DIFFERENTIATION

g4

X

underlying processes of differentiation that produced them. Using formechamally legitimate coercion. Apartheid tries to link each of these

nisms to the primordial dimension of race. for job training,

It

establishes racial

intermarriage,

urbanization, education,

course, spiritual action, public association, and

tracks

sexual inter-

communication (Kuper

i960). In this strategy of coping with increased differentiation through

government-induced and government-legitimated racialism, the Apartheid strategy resembles the Nazi one. Just as

Nazism went beyond the

merely conservative antidemocratic regimes of an earlier

Germany

be-

cause the latter could no longer manage the strains of a rapidly and un-

evenly differentiating society, so Apartheid

is

the kind of radical, violent

response to a challenge to core solidarity that occurs only in an industrial society undergoing rapid modernization. In both

South African Apartheid, ried out

ments

this

more

middle

change was

car-

Germany by

seg-

radical opposition to

by the more insecure older

of the lower

German Nazism and

social groups, in

South Africa by the Afrikaner (not

class, in

the British) Nationalist party. If

such different outcomes de-

traditional colonization could create

pending on the particular content of external and internal relationships, the fate of so-called “internal colonies” in contemporary industrial societies

must surely be considered

in

an equally differentiated way. Only

such a sensitivity to analytical variations, for example, can explain the kind of divergent experiences of the descendants of Mexicans, Africans, Indians, Japanese, and Chinese

onized groups



in the



all

of

whom

have been considered

col-

United States today.

The Process of Inclusion and Ideological Strategies Structural dislocations, of course, do not directly imply social mobilization.

However, with the

dary exclusion

single exception of diaspora

will, eventually,

outgroup position

communities,

soli-

provoke mobilization designed to equalize

vis-a-vis the core.

The

nature of these struggles and

the kind of ideological strategies the outgroups assume will be related closely to the structural bases of their exclusion.

egies

may be

distinguished.

Three

ideal-typical strat-

CORK SOLIDARITY Assimilative

95

Movements and “Fqual Opportunity A* Assimilation may be

detined as the effort to achieve

full

institutional participation

through

identification with the primordial qualities of the core group. Significant

movement

in this antiethnic direction will

certain conditions.

If

inclusion

is

reasonably to be viewed simply as a

matter of closing the “primordial gap,”

must

tunities

strategy.

It

exist.

is

fairly substantial external

case,

oppor-

not, of course, a rationally calculated

emerges rather from the experience

and from certain

American

Assimilation

be a viable strategy only under

of relative

commonality

levels of actual sociation in institutional life.

In the

both Christian and Jewish European immigrants have

followed this path,

as,

more

recently, have Asian Americans. In Britain,

though there have been strong assimilative tendencies within the Scots

and Welsh, these have been intertwined,

as

we

will see,

with more pri-

mordially sensitive strategies.

The conflicts within assimilative groups are between “traditionalists,” who wish to maintain strong ethnic identity and are usually regarded as politically conservative, and “modernists” who seek to adopt the dominant ethnic style and most often are viewed as politically progressive.

between assimilationists and the host

conflicts

As

for

society, assimilating soli-

dary outgroups produce significant independent social and political move-

ments only

in the first generation. After this initial

wave, however, they

often constitute important cultural forces and widely influential ethnic

spokesmen. The self-conscious ilative

spokesmen adopt

results.”

The

is

stratificational principle that

such assim-

“equal opportunity” rather than “equality of

assimilationists’ drive for equality

is

expressed in the desire

for “social rights” like public education.

Yet they simultaneously embrace

the ideal of individual liberty for every

member

their

demand

for limited egalitarianism

of the society, justifying

on the grounds that

it is

to sustain the principle of individual, meritocratic competition.

mitment

necessary

This com-

to liberty only reflects their structural experience: for assimilative

groups, constitutional, individualizing freedoms have been an effective

(Raab 1972, Glazer 1975). the limiting case of maximal external opportunity and internal

lever in the inclusion process

Even

in

complementarity, however, be completely closed.

The

it is

unlikely that the primordial gap will ever

failure to

do so cannot, moreover, be traced

only to the core group’s historical advantage. Highly assimilated out-

groups themselves often seek tion

—what

Weber

to maintain vestiges of primordial defini-

cynically labeled ersatz ethnicity and

what contem-

g6

STRUCTURE, ACTION, DIFFERENTIATION ^

porary Americans admiringly

“roots.” Ethnic solidarity, after

call

not have a pejorative connotation; of social identification as such. is

a limiting case.

it

need

can contribute to the construction

this reason, the

For

all,

concept of

civil society

Although an assimilating outgroup disproportionately

with a core group, the definition of core primordiality may itself be subtly changed by the very process of assimilation (cf. Glazer 1975). identifies

Movements and Ethnically Conscious

Nationalist

that experience stronger primordial divergence

In groups

Inclusion.

and face more

difficult

To

structural barriers, assimilative strategies will not predominate.

as efforts at inclusion continue

significant

remain,

will

it

and important strategy

in

and

to solidary exclusion,

one reaction

sure, assimilation will be

if

as long

only unconsciously, a

down

breaking

be

the barrier of pri-

mordial divergence. Yet where solidary groups face significantly fused external structures or possess certain primordial qualities

autonomous

territorial area



remain primordially sensitive

become mobilized, the



like race or

an

that cannot easily be mitigated, they will to a significant degree.

When

these groups

they advocate shifts from

stratificational principle

more group-oriented results becomes more

the “balanced” endorsement of equal opportunity to

demands

for preferential treatment.

As

significant, the individual rights of the less attention

equality of

dominant core receive increasingly

(Hentoff 1964, Prager 1978; Glazer 1975, ignores these

basic distinctions in his conflation of the

European and non-European

aspects of U.S. inclusion). This shift reflects, of course, the relative failure of differentiated constitutional principles

ing outgroup inclusion. “affirmative action”

demands by groups

Such an

demands like the

and

civil rights in effect-

ideological transition

is

reflected in the

of America’s racial minorities

Welsh and Catalanians

and

in the

for linguistic equality

in their public education.

Contrary

to the assimilationist

form independent litical

social

tendency, these nationalist groups do

movements. In terms

of struggles for actual po-

power, however, they usually express themselves through institu-

tionalized

party

structures

and

sporadically create vehicles that institutions.

economic

compete

While primordially

for

sensitive,

organizations

and

only

power with these dominant these

movements

still

seek

equal institutional access. Moreover, though self-consciously committed to maintaining ethnic distinctiveness, they continue to

undergo

a gradual

process of primordial homogenization. For example, while there

is sig-

CORE SOLI DARITY nificant support in

Wales

much

studies indicate

accents (Bourhis

et al.

1973)

— the

number

of

Welsh speakers has

would seem

to

have been the inev-

actual

meeting the other major Welsh nationalist demands, which

itable result of

have urged inclusion

in the

(Thompson

life

— social-psychological

higher rates of approval for Welsh over English

greatly declined in recent years. This

nomic

autonomy

for linguistic

97

English core institutions of culture and eco-

1978).

Such an unintended consequence

tinue to be a source of tension in nationalist

movements

will con-

as long as the

primordially sensitive group remains committed to inclusion rather than to secession.

Whether these movements continue, indeed,

to seek inclu-

sion depends on the relative flexibility of the institutional environment.

In the cases of American blacks, the British Scots and Welsh, and the

Spanish Catalans, these environments either have continued ciently flexible or have recently sionist

movements develop

become

so. Insofar as

to

be

suffi-

they are not, seces-

(Shils 1975a). In the case of

French-Canadian

Quebecois, the issue remains unresolved; their situation indicates the

dependent impact that

social mobilization has

upon

in-

basic structural dis-

location.

Natiofialist

Movements and Ethnic

Secession.

cally conscious inclusion are only rarely

organization, secessionist

movements

Whereas

committed

to

efforts at ethni-

independent party

create political organizations that

subordinate not only traditional political disagreements within the out-

group but

economic

also

Although the

line

divisions.

should not be drawn too sharply, two general factors

are crucial in facilitating this is

unusual

rigidity, in

environment. to be the

Among

most

movement toward

secession.

The most

terms either of internal primordiality or external primordial qualities, independent territory seems

significant factor, hence, the radical nationalism so often

associated with the ideal-typical colonial case. Shared territory trinsic,”

quasi-permanent factor around which

ness can ebb and flow.

furthermore,

nomic

basic

it

is

an “in-

shifts in ethnic conscious-

In points of high primordial consciousness,

allows ethnicity to be connected to the political and eco-

interests of every sector of the excluded group. Territory has clearly

been central,

for

example, in the most recent movement for Scottish

secession from England, where the shifting economic opportunities of

center and periphery have quickly nically conscious political strategy

become the focus of a new, more eth(Thompson 1978). Such factors must

g8

STRUCTURE, ACTION, DIFFERENTIATION •

^

example,

for interact, in turn, with external circumstances. In Ireland,

much

the secessionist drive developed

and more intensively be-

earlier

cause autonomous territory was combined with the kinds of highly rigid external factors described above.

The second

crucial factor in

moving

inclusive to secessionist strategies

a

is

ethnically conscious groups

more

from

idiosyncratic one: the inter-

national climate. If secessionist nationalism appears to be “the order of

the day” in the mid-twentieth century, and, countries,

it

more

recently, in industrial

establishes a normative reference that will inevitably affect

perceptions of the actual situation. This “demonstration effect” (Bendix 1976) or cultural diffusion (Smith 1978) is as significant for twentiethcentury nationalism as for nineteenth (Kohn 1962:61—126); the anti-

world

colonial nationalism of the postwar

the timing of the European secessionist as the

in Italian nationalism

upsurge

Rule” movement

in the 1860s.

The

is

as

important for explaining

movements

was

of the 1960s

for explaining the Irish

As the outcome

when an

is

mediated



in

an internal and external sense

any

in

outside

financial support to national insurgents.

analysis in this section begins to indicate, the relation

“structural” position

“Home

international context can also have

highly important material effects, not just moral ones,

power supplies arms or

and 1970s

historical situation

by

between

— and ideological

a series of

more

specific

intervening variables (see Smelser 1962). Thus, although the general relation obtains,

any single outgroup

actually experience

all

in the

three of these

course of

its

development

will

movements. American Judaism,

for

example, continues to have factions that advocate Zionist secession and ethnically conscious inclusion, as well as assimilation. Furthermore, the

movement toward

a “structurally appropriate” strategy

is

never chrono-

American black consciousness about primordiality, for example, actually began to increase during the civil rights drives of the logically linear.

when the assimilative standard nant and when the legal and political 1960s,

ferentiated

from

of “equal opportunity”

was domi-

orders were finally becoming dif-

biological, particularistic standards.

The

particular time

order of ideological strategies depends upon a series of such historically specific factors,

and on

this

more

specific level conflict itself

becomes an

independent variable. One also wants to consider the effects of the tinction litical

strata,

dis-

between leadership and mass. Since strong and independent po-

leadership so often emerges only from middle, highly educated certain initial advances toward inclusion

— no

matter

how

uki-

— CORE SOLIDARITY match’ ephemeral



will usually

(JCJ

occur before secessionist movements can

forcefully emerge.

A

similar issue concerns the actual motivation of solidary outgroups

when excluded groups do not few groups never want it. The degree to

themselves. Certainly, there are periods

and

actively desire inclusion,

a

which an outgroup experiences the desire the

same

for inclusion relates, in part, to

group receptivity

internal volitional factors that affect core

the excluded party;

it

depends upon the length

also

to

mutual

of time of

exposure and on the degree to which the external environment of the interaction

is

differentiated.

Where

the primordial gap

is

extreme, the

external environment rigid, and the period of mutual exposure relatively short, exclusion

Even

is

in this case,

demands

produce demands for solidarity inclusion.

less likely to

however, instrumental self-interest

for equal treatment,

if

will usually

produce

not solidarity, as a strategy to alleviate

unsatisfactory external conditions.

Coficlusiofi

Given

their rationalist bias, theories of nation building generally ignore

the role of solidarity in societal development.

Among

those theorists

who

have discussed the integration problem, moreover, an evolutionary bias

most

leads

to underestimate significantly the

permanent importance

of

primordial definitions of the national community. In contrast to these prevailing perspectives,

have argued that because most nations are

I

founded by solidary core groups, and because this

founding

societal

remain

at

the center of even the most “civil” nation-state.

Differences in national processes of ethnic inclusion

world

— are enormous.

systematicity,

I

To encompass

have proposed

axis, inclusion varies

tarity

after

highly uneven, strains toward narrow and exclusive na-

is

tional solidarity

trial

development

a

— even

in the indus-

the variation while retaining

multidimensional model.

On

the internal

according to the degree of primordial complemen-

between core group and solidary outgroup.

On

the external axis,

inclusion varies according to the degree of institutional differentiation in

the host society.

It is in

response to variations

in these structural

condi-

tions that ethnic outgroups develop different incorporative strategies

assimilation, ethnically conscious inclusion, w’ell as

and

nationalist secession

different stratificational principles to justify their

Applying

this general

model primarily



as

demands.

to special aspects of the inclusion

STRUCTURE, ACTION, DIFFERENTIATION

100



process in the United States, this effort

have elaborated

I

represents only a

still

^

first

it

in

important ways. Yet

approximation;

much

further

work

remains before the model could truly become a theory of the middle range.

For example,

it

would eventually have

be specified for different classes

Thus, within the general external and internal con-

of empirical events. straints

to

have established, inclusion seems to vary systematically accord-

I

modes

ing to the different

of

outgroup contact: indentured servitude

versus slavery, economic colonization versus military, colonization over

groups within contiguous

more

territories versus

territorially distinct oc-

cupation, and so forth.* This variation in turn affects the kind of external variable that

is

most

significant in

any given situation, whether the

the economy, religion, or law.f This factor weighting affected

by the kinds

encountered

lag. Finally, different

might

also be specified; for

group

will differ in predictable

hope

it

clear,

is

combinations”

institutional sec-

kinds of internal combinations

ways from the a

however,

WASP and a white

Catholic

Northern European one.

how such

further conceptualization can

draw upon the hypotheses already

fruitfully

which

also

example, a white-Anglo Saxon Catholic core

Southern European core from I

undoubtedly

of historically specific “differentiation

in particular national societies, i.e.,

and which

tors lead

is

state,

set forth.

At

a

minimum,

the

model proposed here demonstrates not only that fundamental cleavages in

developed societies can be nonutilitarian

in

scope and proceed along

nonlinear paths, but also that within a multidimensional framework such

complex

strains can be conceptualized in a systematic

comparative and

manner.

historical

NOTES In terms of contemporary sociological theory, then, the animus of this chapter directed in several directions. I.

While I

am

in

one sense further developing the functionalist approach

arguing for a

much more

uneven development, and neofunctionalist

is

to differentiation theory,

serious recognition of group interest, differential power,

social conflict

than has usually characterized this tradition.

My

argument begins,

for example, from the intersection between neo-Marxist and Shilsian center-periphery theory and one aspect of Parsons’ system theory, modifying

For

a discussion of

independent

political effects in the

South African

case, see

Kuper

1965:42-56.

fThese are the kinds ysis, virtually to

of variables that

Schermerhorn makes the central focus

the exclusion of the factors

I

have discussed above.

of his anal-

— 1

CORE SOLIDARITY

10

the former and energizing the latter.

1 also distance myself from the conflation of ideology, model, and empirical explanation that often characterizes Parsons’ work. On the other hand, by stressing the necessity for analytic differentiation and multidi-

mensional causality,

when

I

am

arguing against Marxist and' structuralist analyses, which even

they formally recognize the independence of ethnic

they rightly

insist

upon

—continually

try to root

phenomena

in “last instance”

it

— whose

inequality

arguments. Thus, even

Marxist analysis, John Rex (1970) never accepts religion or ethnicity as truly independent variables, nor, more fundamentally, does he view the problem in his sophisticated version of

of solidarity as an independent ities of

dimension of

social life.

labor and work, ethnic domination per se

Very much the same instrumental

Concentrating mainly on the activ-

becomes

for

Rex an

extrinsic variable.

theoretical bias reduces the value of Lieberson’s (1980)

impressive empirical study. In his effort to explain the relative lack of success of postslavery blacks as compared with white immigrants in the United States after 1880, Lieberson tries to conceive of the “heritage of slavery” simply as a structural barrier, i.e.,

one that

affects

only the external conditions of the competition between the two groups. In this way, despite his occasional recognition of their

importance

(e.g., p. 366), the subjective

differences experienced by the groups themselves

involved

am

I

— becomes

— and

perception of

by the other ethnic communities

a residual category.

suggesting a general process that occurs

and certainly competition

for jobs,

when

racial

and ethnic groups have an inherent

conflict

power, position, maintenance of different subcultural systems, and

Under the circumstances, there is a tendency for the competitors to focus on The observers (in this case the sociologists) may then assume that those differences are the sources of conflict. In point of fact, the rhetoric involving such differences may indeed inflame them, but we can be reasonably certain that the conflict would have occurred in their absence. the like are such conflicts.

differences between themselves.

.

.

.

Differences between blacks and whites [for example] enter into the rhetoric of race and ethnic

relations, but they are ultimately secondary to the conflict for society’s goodies.

onism toward blacks was based on Rather the

racial

racial features,

.

.

.

Much

of the antag-

but one should not interpret this as the ultimate cause.

emphasis resulted from the use of the most obvious feature(s) of the group to support

the intergroup conflict generated by a fear of blacks based on their threat as economic competitors, (pp. 382-83).

Without

a

multidimensional framew^ork that takes cultural patterns as constraining struc-

tures in their

Lieberson

is

own

right



see

my

discussion of “structural analysis” in chapter

i

,

above

necessarily forced to conceive of subjective “discrimination” as an individualistic

variable. Indeed, he links the use of discrimination not only to supposedly “psychological”

studies of attitude formation but also to analyses that find inherent racial qualities of the

victims themselves to be the cause for their oppression.

by stressing the strong possibility for social and cultural differentiation in Western and the distinction and relative autonomy of the external and internal axes of ethnic I argue against contemporary “internal colonialist” theory. This approach too often domination in an undifferentiated and diffuse way and, conversely, underemphas-

Finally, societies conflict,

refers to

oppressed groups by virtue of their

izes the variations that characterize the histories of

distinctive primordial relations to the core

group and

their different external

environments.

For the relation between the present argument and plural society theory remains relatively unsystematized



— which

still

see p. 8o/n, above.

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FOUR #

The Mass News Media in Systemic, Historical

and

Comparative Perspective

In

its

search for greater precision and causal specificity, contemporary

sociology has tended to neglect “society” as such, a point of reference

whose empirical

To

scurity.

significance

is

often

matched only by

its

theoretical ob-

speak of the whole invites generality and historical scope,

undermine the assurance

qualities that

cisely generality

and

of exact verification, yet

historical perspective that are necessary

ponents and boundaries of society are to be understood.

whole creates

if

If to

it

is

the

pre-

com-

ignore the

difficulty in every area of “special” sociological focus,

it

is

particularly dangerous in the attempt to understand those institutions

whose “function” mass media I

am

is

is

is

making

a theoretical

linking analysis of

•My that

I

locate the

at the

media

same time

in

terms

of,

a theory of the social system, and, second, a theory of social differ-

entiation that provides both historical

hope

statement about the mass news

both thoroughly general and abstract and

directly specifiable in empirical terms. first,

The

such an institution.

interested in

media that

actually to address society as a general unit.*

news media

and comparative perspective. By

to these

to enrich sociological thinking

broader theoretical traditions,

about the relation of the media to the

use of the concept “function” here and elsewhere in this chapter

makes

it

easier to situate the cultural

their causes, effects,

and

tionalist analysis

tionalism

is

For their

and “structural” aspects

institutional character

discussion demonstrates that there

when conducted

is



Donald N. Levine,

comments on

of the

in the social system.

I

is

in a certain

way. This

this paper,

I

is

a

shorthand form

mass news media

believe the following

nothing teleological, conservative, or

simply “good sociology” by another name earlier

I

static

about func-

not to say, however, that func-

Alexander 1985). thank Robert N. Bellah, Ruth H. Bloch, (cf.

Jeffrey Prager, and Neil J. Smelser.

STRUCTURE, ACTION, DIFFERENTIATION

Io8

>

*

social change, suboperation of other social institutions and to issues of of mass communication. jects usually underplayed by more micro studies I

hope

throw

also to

a different light

media

of

on broader implications

for granted. practices that are either interpreted narrowly or simply taken illuminate Finally, in the course of carrying out this analysis, I hope to

and

certain problematic moral

ideological debate about the role of

news media

The Mass News Media the Social System

The mass media produce symbolic of society

and differentiating

izing

itself,

This

system creates the bound-

a

now

concrete group contact, for the deed, as

in

more concrete and “real” one. In a modernsociety, the media are a functional substitute for

community on

aries of the

in social life.

patterns that create the invisible tissues

level just as the legal

on the cultural

have been the focus of

political issues that

impossible meeting-of-the-whole. In-

argue below, media emerge only with social differentiation

I

and the more “modern” dialectic

a society the

more important

media.

its

between media integration and differentiation forcibly

struck visitors to the early American nation. Tocqueville (1835 :pt.

newspapers as “the power which impels the circulation

ch. ii) described of political life

through

all

the districts of that vast [American] territory,”

and Thomas Hamilton (1833 :[2] :72-73), another

United

visitor to the

States in the early nineteenth century, testified that “the influence circulation of newspapers .

.

.

is

great

beyond anything ever known

In truth, nine-tenths of the population read nothing else.

almost every hamlet, has

village, nay,

to every crevice of the nation.” It

is

its

press.

mass media have

life.

Yet, such fragmentation hardly exhausts

trary, this effect its

is

a certain

.

.

Europe.

in .

and

.

.

Every

Newspapers penetrate

.

certainly true, as

that

exercise

i,

I

emphasize below,

atomizing effect on the perception of social its

function.

what allows the integrating power

To

of the

the con-

media

to

distinctive scope.

If cultural

patterns can be differentiated into cognitive, expressive, and

evaluative strands (Parsons, 1951:24-112; 1961), the

mass media can be

divided into cognitive and expressive components. In the category of expressive media,

on

television.

By

I

include the narrative stories found most frequently

the cognitive dimension of media,

I

refer to

news

stories

THE MASS NEWS MEDIA

IO(J

that occur in newspapers, as well as television

news programs. Because entertainment and news media have sharply dif-

of these different foci,

depend on very different kinds

ferent social functions; they

of social re-

sources and must be judged according to what are often contradictory criteria of success (Pass 1976).

I

limit

myself

in this effort to the

news

media and the cognitive dimension. But

a question

problem

immediately presents

itself that

touehes on a

critical

in the sociological literature: is cognitive in faet a sufficient des-

ignation for the orientation of news reporting? Cognitive patterns are typieally understood to eoncern objective definitions of social reality, def-

toward the object

initions that are directed

itself

subject’s feeling about that object (the latter,

rather than toward the

by contrast, defining the

expressive patterns) or toward the relation between subject and object (an orientation that defines moral or evaluative patterns).

news

The

perception of

as providing “information” indicates this cognitive status in both lay

and sociological parlance. However,

as recent, postpositivist discussion in

the philosophy and history of science has emphasized, even the most radically cognitive statements are

dimensions

that,

bound

to

have evaluative or moral

although seeondary, are significant nonetheless.

pirical perceptions of scientists are influenced

by

their

The em-

group commit-

ments, as well as by their more general moral, cultural, and metaphysical

concerns (Polanyi 1958,

Kuhn

1969, Holton 1973). Professional discipli-

nary self-scrutiny cannot eliminate the nonempirical aspect of scientific observation;

can only change the nature of noncognitive eonstraint

it

(Toulmin 1972).

It

follows logically that

news judgments,

trolled exereises in empirical observation, are also

evaluative

To

(cf.

bound

as less conto

be partly

Cans 1979:39-42, 201-2).

focus primarily on the impaet of overt political bias on news re-

porting or on the problem of journalistic ethics, as a vast literature on the

media has done

Noelle-Neumann 1978), obseures the fact the news media is aetually to produce “bias,” to

(e.g.,

major function of

that a

create

through the framework of cognitive statements eertain nonempirical evaluations.

The problems

of reportorial bias

the cognitive dimensions of news, but

production of moral bias (cf.

is

also a

if

and professional ethies concern

we

accept the notion that the

“good” and necessary

social function

Missika 1986, 1987), the empirical and theoretical focus of analysis

shifts.

The problem beeomes

to discover

what particular kinds

of evalu-

STRUCTURE, ACTION, DIFFERENTIATION

no

^



do judgments the news media produce, under what conditions they conditions for and, perhaps, to formulate the ideal and pathological

ative so,

the performance of this task.

two possible orientations of evaluative symbolic judgments, middle, inthe level of values and the level of norms. Norms occupy a termediate position between general value patterns and the raw data or

There

are

“plain facts” that are continually being produced in the course of human activity. If we do not accept the view of human life as thoroughly atomistic

and

discrete,

we must assume

any society

of self-explanation in

significant justifications

time

it

is

true that social

Bellah 1970:261).

(cf.

life is

More

general and

strictly consistent

of integration

is

at

the

same

too variegated, too fluid, too profane to

that provide the generalized integration that

form

major mode

be

and legitimations are necessary. Yet

be organized in a manner

flexibile

a

that “just doing it” cannot

with the broad sacred tenets

forms value patterns.

A more

provided by “normative” patterns, which

although sharing in the generality of the value dimension, are nonetheless

more

and contingent, more open

specific

to

continuous reformulation

in

relation to shifting social exigencies.

What

is

normative

most conspicuous about the news media level. Just as individuals

is

their focus

on

this

continually try to organize their ex-

perience in terms of formulating different normative explanations, news-

papers do this for the

—or

at least

“a”

— society

news commentaries can be understood

as a

at large.

News

and

stories

continuous processing of raw

information that makes the experience of a society comprehensible in

terms of more general categories. In the early nineteenth century, a writer for the

Boston Daily Advertiser made this link between the need for

dividual integration and interpretation institutional interpretation very clear.

and the functional necessity

“The

insatiable appetite for

he wrote in 1814 (quoted in Mott 1941:202, original rise to a

italics),

in-

for

news,”

“has given

general form of salutation on the meeting of friends and strangers:

What's the newsV'

A

news

story, in other

words,

is

a situationally specific,

extraordinarily flexible kind of nonempirical evaluation. It

has, of course,

been phenomenology that has conceptualized the

ordering of contingency from the standpoint of the individual. As Husserl ([^93^]

later,

1977)

Garfinkel (1967) suggested, individuals view

external events as documenting, or elaborating, prior perceptions.

news media,

I

am suggesting,

documentation

The

can be understood as linking such individual

to social events that

an individual never directly encoiln-

— THE MASS NEWS MEDIA They do

tcrs.

so

by reporting events

in

terms of more general categories.*

Reporters employ this “documentary” method in their

and the products

of events,

III

of their investigations

— the

own

perceptions

stories they

file

allow the categories they have chosen to “document events” for their

The

readers.

cognitive implication of “categories”

vides the social

component

and

of rational

is

intended.

News

pro-

judgments about the nature

of

uniquely standardizing way.f Law, by

everyday

life,

contrast,

provides the social, standardizing framework for judgments

it

does so

in a

about the morality of everyday

Because

life.

is

it

expressed in what are

apparently transparently cognitive terms, the normative element of news

judgments

News,

ones.

in other

words, camouflages

same way

aspect in the

The

not nearly as visible as the normative component of legal

is

categories that

nonempirical, interpretive

its

as science.

news

evoke emerge from previously articu-

stories

norms and from more general values about what

lated

social life.

Both the interpretative character and the nesting

patterns are manifest in any reporting that pretations and that therefore

March

contention. In

members

to expect

of the

Congress wrote

is

in

from

broader

subject to conflicting inter-

becomes an object

of at least covertly political

1978, for example, twenty-one of the thirty-seven

House a letter

International Relations

Committee

of the

U.S.

urging the President of the United States to

re-

consider his controversial arms package deal with Israel, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia. In an article reporting this event. The Washington Post linked to the actions of a

*In his

number

of pro-Israeli groups, describing

Goffman (1974:17) understood news media

later writings,

of

phenomenological way. Although he limits

his

of

human

seems

interest stories, they hold good,

it

remarks specifically

me,

to

for

news

it

it

as part of

in precisely this

kind

to the press’s reporting

as such:

Our understanding of the world precedes these stories, determining which ones reporters will select The design of these reported events is fully responsive and how the ones that are selected will be told. facts for typifications. Their telling demonstrates the power of demands which are not for but to our .

.

.



our conventional understandings to cope with the bizarre potentials of social experience.

What

appears, then, to be a threat to our

an ingeniously selected defense of

change or

to the

of

making sense

possibility that the

achievement of

phenomenological understanding, and

of the

system

— provides

judgments.

world turns out to be

I

rationality.

That

try to avoid

it

media might

is

— which he

also contribute to

the price of adopting a purely

below.

f Parsons (1961) provides a precise conceptual discussion of the

mative sphere of culture

the furthest reaches of

it.

This position ignores, of course, the social

way

life,

ways

in

which the nor-

also identifies with the integrative sphere in the social

regulation over cognitive, as well as expressive and explicitly ethical,

1

STRUCTURE, ACTION, DIFFERENTIATION

12

a

“determined campaign

package deal” {Near East Report,

Post had characterized these congressional represen-

The

1978, p. 46).

to block the

terms of their ascriptive

tatives as acting in

political bias rather

than as

responding

to their constitutional duties or to their individual consciences.

It is likely

that five years earlier

—when American sympathies

for Israel

were more firmly rooted— this “fact” would have emerged in an entirely different light, if indeed it would have been viewed as sufficiently inter-

news

esting to have been reported as

A

similarly revealing incident

Minister Ariel Sharon’s his

involvement

in the

at all.

was disclosed by former

Time magazine

libel suit against

two

Time had reported

that

interpretation were involved. .

.

report on

its

distinct levels of

Sharon had

“dis-

the need for revenge” with Lebanese leaders the day before

.

the massacre and that the discussion the special Israeli the libel

for

Defense

massacre of Lebanese civilians in September 1982

{Los Angeles Times 1/14/85 :part i). In this case

cussed

Israeli

trial,

was

Appendix B

cited in a secret

of

government commission’s report on the incident. In

Sharon’s attornies were able to force the Time Jerusalem

correspondent, David Halevy, to admit under oath that, while he had

been told about conversations between Sharon and Lebanese leaders, he

had never actually been told that the crucial meeting between them was detailed in

Appendix B. Rather, Halevy

said, he

had “inferred”

this after

hearing a description of what sort of material Appendix B contained.

Halevy could have made such an inference only because he was looking at

these Israeli events within a preexisting

with expectations unfavorable to Sharon. that

framework

The

trial

Halevy sympathized with anti-Sharon groups

though these connections were, per active reporter usually maintains.

him

se,

that supplied

him

did, in fact, reveal in

Israeli

politics,

no different from those that any

In Halevy’s case, such expectations

made to Appendix B as documenting his suspicions and as allowing him to make connections between “facts” that are the basis of a story. The broad story he perceived, moreover, meshed perfectly not only with his own expectations but also quite naturally led

to see the references

with the outrage of his audience. Americans had reacted forcefully against the Israeli invasion, and

swept along

in the

another,

quite

of

brought the

Time



its

outrush of public feeling. different

suit against

solidary

Time\

notwithstanding

earlier leanings It

was, after

community

his quite different

—Ariel

—was

member Sharon who

all,

a



normative expectations

THE MASo NEWS MEDIA allowed him to perceive a different way

IIJ

which the “facts” could have

in

been put together.

That suspicions

of

ticular interpretation

second

level of

Sharon and outrage

among

possible others

was revealed, the

it

is

made even more

documentation revealed by the

news magazines submit news case,

the massacre led to one par-

at

Jerusalem dispatches

“we understand

stories to editing

Tiffie

writer in

in distinctive

[that the

meeting

is

clear in a

newspapers and

suit. All

by the home desk. In

New York

had changed the

ways. Where the dispatch had read cited in

Appendix B],” the

New York

Where Halevy had

editor had changed that to '"Time has learned.”

ported that Sharon “gave them [the Lebanese leaders] the feeling that he understood their need to take revenge,” the it

to read that

their

need

Sharon “reportedly discussed with

.

.

home .

to take revenge.” In a purely factual sense,

of putting this information,

however, implies

may have wished,

interpretative leap. Since Tune's

.

not different from having learned that

did so. Both phrasings assume such a conversation occurred.

than Halevy

.

understanding that

it

tive objectivity

.

[Lebanese leaders]

conversation has taken place

ond way

re-

editor rewrote

a

is

this

New York

a

more

given his

editor

The

sec-

authorita-

own preceding

knew nothing about

the internal interpretation that had produced this earlier documentation of objective

phenomena, he had no more reason

active formulation than his

more readers would themselves. Much the same can

be said for the second rewriting

I

have noted.

to hesitate before a

How

could Sharon have

given the Lebanese such an impression without having discussed

them? The brute

“facts”

do not

differ,

but the frame that

them, and that they implicitly document, contrasts nificant

is

it

with

used to explain

in a subtle

but

sig-

way.

Another

typical

example of how “objective” news reporting actually

places raw data into a preexisting normative

framework

— and

of

how

this

commonsense Canada by Canadian

function rests upon the documentary method of journalists’ activities



is

revealed by a controversy generated in

reporting of a

the Premier of

hosted a

visit

by the French Prime Minister. In mid-February 1979 Quebec and ardent French nationalist, Rene Levesque,

visit

by French Prime Minister Raymond Barre. Canada’s En-

glish-language papers described Levesque’s behavior throughout the trip as an

embarrassment, reporting that he had frequently drunk too

and had engaged

in “erratic

behavior.”

The French-language

much

press viewed

STRUCTURE, ACTION, DIFFERENTIATION

II4

the visit far differently.

behavior,

at all,

was usually

and high

spirits.

Mail, a leading English-language paper, accused

and

Toronto Globe

when mentioned

of Levesque’s informality

good fun, evidence

treated as

The

The

the French-language press of a cover-up. Michel Roy, editor of Montreal s Le Devoir, argued, instead, that the reporting of the specific incident

revealed contrasting general orientations:

and travels of Margaret Trudeau have never had the place of honor the French-language press that they have had in the newspapers of our col-

The in

secrets

leagues.

.

.

.

What comes

out of the anecdote, out of private behavior, out of the

digressions of conduct of a public figure for an instant



— without being submitted

French press much

interests the

less

to censorship

[than the English]

{Los

Angeles Times 1979).

To

the French journalist and editors,

Roy

is

arguing, the “incidents” had

simply not been news: they had not violated their general expectations of personal behavior for public figures, especially

when

those figures were

own.

their

Although the newspaper and magazine reports from which

drawn

my

way

that reveals their typical features.

reporting

charge story

— be

its

all

author with bias.

Critics of a specific piece of

The

— usually

primordial fact that in producing a news

What

is

really

happening

in

such instances

is

This

— there

— nor

is it

is is,

that these

after

all,

“thick” versus “thin” interpretation (Geertz

in this essay

I

must be

however, that the ordering of disparate information

is

news reporting and

dis-

develop a theory of “biased” and “un-

biased” reporting that accepts interpretation as a primordial fact.

feature of

con-

not to say that one cannot differentiate good reporting

to say that the notion of journalistic bias

pensed with. Later

say,

is

arguing against a bias of which they do not approve, not against

bias per se.

1973)

have presented them in

they interested observers or academic analysts

veniently ignored.

from bad

I

atomized pieces of data must be normatively organized

critics are

have

information treated these controversies as deviant cases, as

departures from standard professional conduct, a

I

that, despite the

examples

is I

It is to

an inherent

have used,

it

not limited to international reporting or to specifically political issues.

Events must be reconstructed

day

in

in

an orderly and relatively coherent way,

and day out, even when such

Although the study conducted by

logicality

is

not actually there.

and Mclntire (1971) of city council news coverage in Durham, North Carolina, emphasizes the specifically political bias of news reporting, it can just as accurately Paletz, Reichert,

THE MASS NEWS MEDIA

//J

be viewed as documenting this more neutral function of news as normative organizer and interpreter in a “typical” domestic situation.

concludes that news reports on the council’s with

a “rationality, causality,

The study

activities invested the events

and temporal coherence” not inherent

in the

events themselves. Their conclusions are worth quoting directly: [Cjonventional journalism includ[es] condensing and summarizing; investing events with rationality and coherence (even though the events

may be confusing

and the reporter himself may not fully comprehend both what has occurred and its meaning); emphasizing the council’s decisions at the expense to the participants,

of other activities

.

.

and treating the council and

.

its

members with

respect

(1971:81).

The

news writing and

idiosyncratic aspects of

its

professional mores

can be viewed as geared to this intermediate level of normative produc-

For example, an examination of news leads indicates that they are

tion.*

not only cognitively oriented to the “five w’s,” that

is,

to the traditional

injunction to identify “who, what, when, where, and why.” iably is,

make

normative and moral point, and this

a strong

They

guished from bad.

The

seems

lead

significance of the data-event

would have expected

to

by

happen

to

be

device for

a

relating

it,

function

latter

indeed, the implicit criterion by which good lead writing

invar-

distin-

is

summing up

implicitly, to

in similar situations or to

the

what people

more general

value judgments what would normally be applicable.

The writing

clarifying, is

and by implication the interpretative, function

of

revealed by journalists’ self-imposed strictures about style.

news

The

*As the term normative production indicates, I am looking at the normative function of the media in terms of the theory of interchange that Parsons developed in his later work (Alexander i983b:73-i 18). According to this model of the social system, fundamentally economic life, political life, integrative and norm-setting activdifferent kinds of activities



ities,

value maintenance and socialization

—can

be conceived as subsystems that produce

important resources (outputs) upon which the others depend. Each subsystem receiving suitable inputs in turn. This model

dimensional analysis of social system

dependence

makes

because

life,

it

it

relies

possible to conduct a fully multi-

differentiates analytically the inter-

of various social system activities that in “real life” are interpenetrating

interacting simultaneously. this systemic analysis

The emphasis on

dynamic rather than

Parsons’ own, however, in

my

and

makes My use of interchange theory differs from is an abstract model rather than an actual

reciprocity and exchange, moreover,

static.

insistence that

on

it

description of social system processes. In opposition to Parsons’ “conflated” usage (Alex-

ander 1983b: 186-276; social

cf.

chapter

groups and their interested

2,

above),

I

focus here on concrete institutional processes,

activity, structural fusion (as resulting

from functional

interchange), the uneven development of different sectors, and the possibility that social strain

and even pathology are attendant on the differentiation process.

STRUCTURE, ACTION, DIFFERENTIATION

7/6

books used by major news organizations universally stress simplicity simplicity, of language in the service of communicability. To achieve such facts. of course, important details must be selected from a wide range of

Style

As Harold Evans (1972:25, italics added), former editor of the (London) Sunday Times, writes in Newsman^s English: “Sentences should assert. The newspaper reader above all does not want to be told what is not. He should be told what isT As Evans (ibid. 117, italics added) makes clear in the rules he lays

down

for

copy

editors, to be simple

same time

to identify facts that are significant to

The copy

editor,

must

on language which

insist

and precise

the

is at

an individual’s social

life.

he writes, is

specific,

emphatic, and concise. Every work must

be understood by the ordinary man, every sentence must be clear at one glance, and every story must say something about people, there must never be a doubt

about

The

its

relevance

to

close relation

our daily

life.

between the interpretative function of news and

peculiar linguistic style

is

also revealed in the following

Curtis

McDougall (1968:104,

nalism

at

italics

its

admonition by

added), professor emeritus of jour-

Northwestern University.

Vagueness and indefiniteness are avoided, and

clarity obtained,

by placing im-

portant ideas at the beginnings of sentences. Also by playing up the action, significance, result or feature of the indefinite

Of

paragraph or

words and eliminating superfluous

course, these latent functions of

details,

news

by avoiding vague and words, phrases, and clauses.

story,

style are contrary to the self-

conscious, manifest professional rationale, which views stylistic simplicity

simply as a means to more powerfully communicate neutral and objective truth.

Sometimes

this contradiction

Hohenberg (1978:100), author

of

is

revealed quite plainly, as

when

The Professional Journalist, argues, on

the one hand, that instead of using platitudes and jargon the writer should just provide “a clear,

simple story of what happened” and, on the other

(ibid.:44o), that the journalist rule of reason to the

In

fact,

news”

(cf.

must be an interpreter who “applies the Harris 1978).

the entire professional concentration on what

is

“newsworthy,”

“fresh” as opposed to “stale,” as well as the stratification of rewards around the ability to

make news

“discoveries,” can be viewed as flowing

from

this

normative function. For only by continually finding new, unfiltered, and unforeseen societal experience can the media perform their normative function effectively. This normative function also explains the occupa-

THE MASS NEWS MEDIA and psychology

tional character

“cynical” quality of the role

is

of the

news reporter

role.

I

ly

The “tough,”

usually taken as an indication that reporters

have become jaded by the inundation of social experience and are concerned, as a result, only with recording the “facts” on the most pragmatic

and empirical

level of analysis.

would suggest,

I

to the contrary, that

reporters remain committed to evaluative judgment and that their “tough-

minded” cynicism

is

demand

a professional role

kinds of judgments they must produce

requiring the particular

— particularized and

flexible nor-

mative evaluations rather than the more generalized, self-important, and

judgments that characterize spokesmen

“religious”

in institutions con-

cerned with broader cultural patterns. Cans (1979:184) observes that

American reporters seek

The news media to themselves.

.

.

.

to exclude “conscious values”

have studied seem to attract people

I

They have no

from

their work.

who keep

prior values about the topics

their values

which become

news, nor do they always develop them about topics on which they are working. .

.

.

They

Still,

did not

Cans

become

insists that

journalists to advocate values or to reform society.

“unconscious values” continue to underlay these

reporters’ judgments, no matter

how pragmatic

or situationally specific

they try “consciously” to be. Indeed, this continued occupational com-

mitment

to

normative evaluation

gullibility of the reportorial role,

that is

reflected in

which

is

what

shown,

is

for

actually an inherent

example, in the way

hoax” (Shaw 1975). It the continual strain toward journalistic “advocacy” and

newspapers are always open

also reflected in

is

to accepting “the

activism, even under the conditions of

media

differentiation.

Social institutions in every social sector can be associated with different

kinds of social control, can be understood as providing the society with certain kinds of resources with conflict.

The

system

legal

social control in the

is

which

respond

to

the institution

the media’s flexibility.

themseves

vis-a-vis

nomic and

in

at

the

By

same

response to developing strain

news media from the law, the

conflict. In distinguishing the is

social

associated with

more general values and

time allow society to change and evolve

cant point

commonly

and

normative sector. Laws present contingent formula-

tions that are both consistent with

and

to social strain

daily exposing

signifi-

and reformulating

changing values, group formations, and objective eco-

political conditions, the

media allow “public opinion”

to

be

By performing this function of information conduit and normative organizer, the news media provide the

organized responsively on

a

mass

basis.

STRUCTURE, ACTION, DIFFERENTIATION

Il8

normative dimension of society with the greatest social strains. In

flexibility in

this flexibility, the

exchange for

dealing with

news media must,

in

be exercised

effect,

social control to

in

attain the self-consciousness,

eschew certain attributes that allow other ways*, they cannot, for example,

legitimacy, and enforceability of the

norms

associated with the legal sys-

tem. Between the news media on one side, and the legal system on the other, there is a continuum of other institutions which make other kinds

The

normative contributions.

of

explicitly

political party,

normative than the news media and

at

for

example,

the

same time

more

is

signifi-

cantly less flexible in response to social events; in relation to the legal

system, the party produces norms that are more flexible and responsive

while being

less legitimate

and enforceable.

American news coverage distinctive characteristics:

of the

Vietnam war

strikingly illustrates these

the noncognitive dimension of

news judg-

ments, the particular character of normative versus value statements, and the flexibility this function provides in terms of the operation of social control. It can be argued that throughout the long in Asia,

American involvement

the “facts” of the war remained relatively constant.

With the

came to seem like a different war. If the empirical event had not changed, what had altered were the nonempirical inputs to the American news media, particularly the normative definitions of those solidary groups that came to oppose the war and the more general value orientations supplied by passage of time, however, the war was reported very differently and

the intellectual community. In a secondary but nonetheless significant

manner, the news media were

and

political strains created

intellectual

“news

also

responding to the domestic economic

by the war, which were

filtered

through the

and solidary groups. Because of these changing inputs the

facts” about the

Vietnam war

and reports on direct observations fashion, such

“new”

— the

headlines, leads, interviews,

— became more

hostile. In a

symbiotic

facts contributed to the restructuring of public opin-

ion concerning the “old” facts of the war.

Perhaps the most spectacular illustration of this shifting process of terpretation can be seen in the

1968 Tet offensive

American news media’s coverage

in-

of the

Vietnam. Baestrup (1978) has shown that American war reporters’ perceptions of the massive strength of the North Vietnamese

Army

after

which they official

in

Tet had much

filtered their

to

do with the changing framework through

experience of the war: their growing distrust for

U.S. military sources

in Saigon; their increasing alienation

from

THE MASS NEWS MEDIA U.S. governmental authority

in general;

pessimism about any successful outcome

ig

more firmly rooted the U.S. war effort. For these

and of

I

their ever

reasons, U.S. reporters’ descriptions of the T-et offensive emphasized the

“psychological defeat” suffered by the United States and South Vietnam instead of focusing on the

more purely

military side of the U.S. response.

In terms of the latter, Tet could, in fact, have been interpreted as a standoff or even as a limited U.S. victory given the military objectives of

The domestic impact

the North Vietnamese. course, tremendous. cision of

It

was undoubtedly

Uyndon Johnson

of

Tet “news” was,

of

in part responsible for the de-

not to seek a second term in office and indirectly

contributed, therefore, to the election of Richard Nixon.

This incident demonstrates the potential autonomy that news interpretation possesses vis-a-vis other institutions

these

Still,

and other normative pressures.

war correspondents’ judgments were themselves highly

re-

sponsive to the changing positions of other institutions and other authoritative

interpreters of pubic events.

between the reporting the contents of

is

and dissident)

“little

symbiotic relationship

a

of news, the discovery of

of intellectuals (both elite nals,

There

new

facts, the

opinions

as expressed in intellectual jour-

magazines,” and the stories in mass news

magazines. In one sense, the intellectual journals and

little

magazines

may

be seen as the creators of new orientations and the mass weeklys and daily

news mediums

as distributors (cf.

Hirsch 1978).

On

the other hand, these

sources of opinion are interdependent, closely linked through personal

networks, as well as through channels of information to institutions in other sectors of the social system

Another striking overt is

(cf.

Kadushin 1975).

illustration of the theoretical position taken here

the American reporting of the Watergate scandal.

tergate period,

battle raged

between different

Throughout the Wa-

social

groups over the

proper normative framework for interpreting the break-in and electoral violations,

tion



ranging from the Republican administration’s characteriza-

a third-rate burglary

fascist plot.



to the Left’s portrayal

Because of the balance of

social



a reactionary neo-

groups and normative

nitions before the 1972 presidential election, a situation this essay in a different context (see also essay 5,

I

defi-

discuss later in

below) the “facts” that

appeared as W’atergate news before the election supported the former,

moderate “observations.” Only afterward, when events had changed and

more

universalistic national definitions

could the version of Watergate

now

had begun

to reassert themselves,

accepted as real be reported as news.

STRUCTURE, ACTION, DIFFERENTIATION

120

In retrospect,

it is

Watergate are not facts

clear that the facts about

at all

imwithout the framework provided by notions of “constitutionalism, personal higher authority,” and other similar kinds of generalized value

commitments. Only the combination

of these

more

the raw data of changing events allowed the clusions to be

drawn

form

in the

In concluding this section,

approach that appears

to

be

I

its

emergent definitions with critical

of “fast-breaking”

new

normative conreports.

presented here to an

relate the theory

diametrical opposite, the understanding

news media presented by mass society theory and, more recently, by “critical” theory (Mills 1956:298-324; Benjamin 1973:112-13; Hall and of

Whannel 1964:364-86; Mueller 1973:86-126; Dahlgren 1978; Golding 1978). According to this perspective, rather than perform an integrative function, the

than

erage

While the sense

is

an undeniable

produce atomism and inhibit rather

actually

independent, rational, and principled social

facilitate the exercise of

action.

seem

news media

fact,

two responses

mass society critique

to this

news informations

in order. First, the diverse pieces of

fact, as

produced by mass news cov-

of atomization often

are not, in

disorganized as they appear, for as normative evaluations they are

always informed by more general patterns of value orientation. Second, the lack of overall coherence

among

these pieces faithfully represents the

From

actual conditions of a differentiated society.

the perspective

outlined, atomization should be seen as the result of the

the a

news media

manner

to organize information at a

as possible.

directly to

To

maintain

normative

flexibility, these

any particular sacred value or

have

I

commitment

of

level in as flexible

norms cannot be

tied

any particular organizational

to

form, even though either of these connections would contribute to a greater sense of overall coherence.

I

am

arguing, in other words, that the

sense of disorder created by the front page of a newspaper or by the half-

hour of network news

is

actually

composed

of a series of

normative

state-

ments, each of which provides integration

at a situationally specific level.

The

if

sense of overall disorder

is

necessary

the mass

news media

are to

perform effectively their function of “covering” with a normative net the wide range of national societal experience. Moreover, we shall see that far from creating passivity and resignation, as the mass society critics and critical theorists

assume, this

for effective, voluntary action

mode and

of integration creates the possibility

for the assertion of individual rights.

This recent emphasis by mass society and

mous power

of the

media

critical

to suppress reflexivity

and

theory on the enorto enforce passivity

— THE MASS NEWS MEDIA upon

rests

theoretical

a

logic

must be strongly

that

theories imply that individuals can create their

own

1

21

These

rejected.

interpretations of the

external world without reference to social norms. Thus, the very fact that

consumers of modern mass media make

political interpretations linked to

supraindividual “social facts” (in Durkheim’s sense)

media in a

effects.

I

assume, to the contrary, that

all

crit-

individual decisions occur

normatively defined environment. For this reason, the decisive issue

becomes, not whether, but how and what; that this

normative institution and how does

a historical

autonomy

it

what

is,

affect action?

and comparative perspective on the question

that

is

is

the nature of

This introduces of reflexivity

and

absent from most of the recent media literature informed

critical theory.

Whereas of

considered by

theory to be prima facie evidence of the repressive character of mass

ical

by

is

media

this recent “strong

vis-a-vis individuals

media” approach overemphasizes the power

— and, correspondingly, —

the reality of secondary institutional like the

life

virtually eliminates

media studies

earlier classical

two-step flow model of communication (Katz and Lazarsfeld

1955) created a “weak media” model that was unrealistic in the other

extreme. These studies focused on whether or not the media could influ-

ence short-run political events isolated

from

social context

— and

on whether media

— rather than on

can be

effects

impact

their specific cultural

on normative perception. Certainly, the media are impotent

if

they depart

too radically from the socialized values of their audience and their primary

groups

(cf.

and Janowitz [1948] 1975). Their critical sociological precisely to relate these background values to the vast array

Shils

contribution

is

of particular incidents that unfold in the daily life of a

The

relevant theoretical question at this stage of

that of primary groups versus

performed by mass media tions,

and ongoing

The

is

model whereby the media (for

institu-

the

mass media research

more orthodox Marxist,

I

polemically

or ruling class,

are viewed as instruments for the

control information for their

own

dominant

instrumental interest

an attempt to make this argument for the Canadian case, see Clement

1973 izyoff.). that

not

social events.

address in this chapter

elite to

is

specific function

primary groups, secondary

third theoretical tradition of

economic

society.

media research

mass media but rather the

vis-a-vis

modern

it

The fundamental

theoretical

weakness of

this perspective

is

overlooks the pivotal role of voluntary action in the media process

that the

judgments expressed

in

news

stories are

much more

the result of

122

STRUCTURE, ACTION, DIFFERENTIATION

control the socialized value orientations of reporters than the instrumental below, the general of media owners. In historical terms, as I demonstrate

Western media has been relationships with social groups

movement client

of

to separate (for the

themselves from direct

Canadian

case, see Bald-

win’s [1977] argument against Clement). The ruling-class model argues, linkage to the contrary, not only that the media have retained their tight to social interests but also that

any historical analysis of media position

Golding 1974:23-29). I insist, by contrast, on a multidimensional analysis: the media have a variable, and potentially independent, relation to every major institutional should focus principally on social classes

(cf.

subsystem. This leads to the historical and comparative discussion that follows.

The Mass News Media

in Historical

and

Comparative Perspective Although

I

have thus

far described the

mass news media

temic terms, the exercise of this function

news function can be explained

The

historical conditions. tion, for

dependent on certain unique

and the comparative variation

historical conditions,

of the

is

in purely sys-

in the

performance

in reference to the variation in these

very possibility of flexible normative produc-

example, as distinguished from normative production per

se, is

dependent on the autonomy of news media from control by groups and institutions in other social subsystems. If the ical authorities

events because

it it

be

will will

much more

news

is

controlled by polit-

rigid in its interpretation of political

be unable to incorporate other political and nor-

mative perspectives. In addition to political differentiation, of course, the

news media may

also be independent, in a relative sense, of

value-producing institutions nally, there

may be

like

more general

the church, university and party. Fi-

differentiation

from structures

in the

economic

di-

mension, particularly from social classes.

Fusion and Autonomy: the mass

news media

A is

Developmental Model. This differentiation of a

developmental process parallel to the classic

cases of differentiation that have traditionally been the focus of attention,

the emergence of the

autonomous economic market, independent state, and independent religious and cultural activities (cf. Parsons and White 1969 and Alexander 1978). It should be viewed not as an event but as a

THE MASS NEWS MEDIA

1

2J

news media begins with the creation of the or collectivity, where there had previously been

process. Differentiation of the first

news

institution,

only the circulation of rumors or improvised publication by broadside.

The emergence and

circulation of

of medieval France, illustrates

event

political

“La Chanson de Roland,” the

how

public opinion

— Charlemagne’s campaigns

in a.d.

is

epic

poem

organized about a

778-779

— where public

discussion has not yet taken a differentiated institutional form as “news.”

The

relationship of such epics, and

later

media

is

the

same

rumor and broadsides

as the relation of court cliques to political parties

in political life, trading fairs to

markets

in the

economic sphere, and early

monotheistic religions to transcendental religion

The

in the cultural

mass news may be traced

earliest institutions of

fifteenth-

as well, to the

and sixteenth-century France

proto-news sheets combined

world.

to the “canards” in

Seguin 1961, 1964). These

(see

a religious-magical

world view with standards

about “objective” reporting that typify a more modern, differentiated media.

On

the one hand, canards regularly reported fantastic events like

miracles, visions, and various manifestations of the divine will on earth; at

the

same time, they

tried to “verify”

by providing impressive sion

would be presented

lists

them,

of eyewitnesses



good reportorial

in

for

whom

— and by providing legitimating

style,

age and profestexts

from

reli-

gious and secular authorities.

Even

after the actual institution of a

newspaper

differentiation in anything other than the

first

emerged, however,

most minimal, concrete sense

did not yet exist. Despite this concrete structural differentiation, these first

newspapers were

emerged class

tied



in response to

rather

directly

to



in

efforts to realize specific

demands, party commitments, or

group aims such as

religious values.

was there movement toward more substantive autonomy, stitutional structures but also the goals themselves (for this distinction, see Eisenstadt 1969:13-32). is

they usually

fact,

Only gradually as not only in-

became

One

differentiated

step in this process

the creation of a free press in the legal sense, but differentiation involves

freedom from more informal but equally powerful forces solidary, economic,

and

political

Because of differences dia of different

ferent

kinds

subsystems.

in specific historical

development, the mass me-

Western nations were attached

of

groups

proceeded, therefore,

at

and

institutions.

enormously different

ing results. In France, the

in the religious,

first real

to,

and promoted by,

Media rates

differentiation

dif-

has

and with widely vary-

newspapers were organs of the ab-

124

STRUCTURE, ACTION, DIFFERENTIATION

which the Church soon responded with papers of its own (Albert and Terrou 1970). In the United States, on the contrary, the differentiated state as such never had its own media, and the most im-

solutist State, to

portant early papers were promoted by independent bourgeois like the

The

Franklin brothers and later by political parties (Mott 1941). tionship between institutional independence and legal freedom

uneven. Whereas

any

in the

legal

freedom

of the press

similarly

preceded

independence, the institutional autonomy of certain

real institutional

newspapers

United States

is

rela-

in nineteenth-century

France



the ability of news-

at least

papers to disagree with one another and the government, to present, that is,

divergent interpretations of unfolding events

dom

that arrived only with the

— preceded the

legal free-

Third Republic.

more independent news media can be interpreted as the creation of an “autonomous regulatory mechanism” for the integrative dimension of society in the same manner that the emergence of represen-

The emergence

of

tation, party formation,

of regulatory

and constitutionalism indicates the development

mechanisms

in the political sphere.

“generalization” of political stantive

power

And

just as the resulting

basic for the achievement of sub-

is

freedom and reformist types of

social control (Eisenstadt 1969;

Alexander 1978), so can the differentiation of mass news media be regarded as the generalization of normative resources. Such generalization provides society with an enormously increased flexibility in responding to

changing events and contributes of increased

freedom

in a

fundamental way

in the society at large.

differentiation, the legitimation of political ditional

Weber

With

to the

political

attainment

and cultural

power moves from the uncon-

forms of traditional support to the conditional forms of what called,

somewhat misleadingly,

“rational-legal” legitimation.

As

the result of this development, the response of other social sectors to the activities of national

government becomes increasingly

maintenance of that power.

mass news media

is

It

as well as

government action according

commitments produced by

by the

activities of political,

outside of the government cieties the

should be clear that the differentiation of

basic to such nontraditional legitimation, for

the continuous “regulation” of

general value

significant for the

media are

itself.

It is

intellectual

allows

to the

more

and cultural groups,

economic, and solidary groups

no wonder that

in constant struggle

it

in

democratic so-

with the state: they confront the

state as the populist counterpart to constitutional legal controls.

In rational-legal societies, this struggle between state and media wilUbe

THE MASS NEWS MEDIA a fight for position

freedom

of

and

societies

ditional nor fully rational-legal,

interventionist and impinge

where regimes are neither

on the other hand, the

fully tra-

state will

become

on the internal functioning of the press

such societies

in

25

relative strength with each side retaining its relative

movement. In

The governments

/

will

confront the media

itself.

in different

ways, depending on the nature of the particular resources they possess. In various forms of political dictatorship, the governments of nineteenth-

century France relied on direct political force of one kind or another.

Napoleon established the

left-wing control of media with his “Decret

first

du 27 Nivose” on January 17, 1808, which tried to institutionalize general ideological values from which newspapers could not deviate. It forbade journals to publish articles “contrary to the social compact, to the sover-

eignty of the people and the glory of the armies” (Albert and Terrou

The purpose

1970:30).

differentiation

was

of this tactic

to control the effects of social

by preventing any independent interpretative intercession

between the government and newly emerging

was

articulated very precisely

by Napoleon

social groups.

in his

This rationale

memoirs written

at

Saint

Helena. As he wrote about his government-controlled newspaper, Le

Moniteur

(see Albert

my

du Moniteur Tame

de

.

partisans of

“J’ai fait

mon gouvernement ansi que mon intermedaire avec I’opinion C’etait le mot d’ordre pour les du dedans comme du dehors.

et la force

public

and Terrou 1970:31):

du gouvernement”

government

made

(I

as well as

my

and outside the country. ...

.

.

the Moniteur the soul and the

power

intermediary with public opinion inside

It laid

down

the “word of order” for the

supporters of the government). Later,

when

the French government of the Second

Empire could not

control the increase in newspapers in the face of rapid and widespread social differentiation

achieve was

still

and

its

own weakened

control, the regulation

established through political means:

first,

it

did

by establishing

“authorization” for opposition media, demanding the rights to prepublication readings (prealables), and by sponsoring

its

own

official

media

in

Havin’s Le Siecle, the “monitor of the opposition.” Despite these precautions,

the existence of the “authorized” opposition papers contributed

massively to the

By

fall

of the regime in the late 1860s

contrast, in a liberal

if

and early 1870s.

not fully democratic regime, like that in late

eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century England, the government seeks to control opposition

and 1855

Britain’s

media

in

more voluntary ways. Thus, between 1815

government imposed high taxes

that

made

British pa-

STRUCTURE, ACTION, DIFFERENTIATION

126

pers the most expensive in Europe, th'ree times as expensive as the French. The effect of this indirect economic control was, nonetheless, much the

same

as with direct political control:

it

cut off the ability of competing

enforced a more

thereby,

leadership from reaching the masses and,

community (Albert and Terrou 1970:50). produce and inhibit differentiation of the news

strongly stratified political

The

social forces that

media are the same that create differentiation in other spheres. On the structural level, media differentiation is produced by the demands for

more

universalistic information that oppressed

demands for demands for the end

of their

for example, in the

“anti-workingman” reporting

in late nineteenth-

demand by

“community” cov-

century America or the

and support

black groups for

erage in American society in the 1960s and 1970s.

does not become absolute state





As long

as state control

Communist by) new social

as in the ideal-typical Fascist or

social differentiation will

groups whose position

in the course



societal inclusion

of

groups make

produce (and be created

vis-a-vis other

groups and unfolding events must

be articulated and whose demands must be internally integrated and standardized. These tasks can be achieved only

medium. For

the group has

if

its

own news

this reason, in nineteenth-century France, despite the

free status of the press, the

number and

varieties of

un-

newspapers increased

which grew from 150,000

dramatically, as did the total circulation,

to

1,000,000 between 1852 and 1870, a period entirely within authoritarian

government 1

control.

Every new rupture

860s, even between the

new

government and

in

French society during the

its

natural supporters like the

By 1870, even the “Normaliens” had own organ, Le Courier du Dimanche (Bellet 1967). Catholics, created

Another structural of professional itself,

papers.

factor

norms and

producing media differentiation

lustrates

how

role

to

demands

for increased prestige

The growth of a journalistic differentiation must accompany

in journalistic

work.

differentiation. In eighteenth-century

America, the

first

had other usually a

newspaper on publisher of books and pamphlets

times a magistrate, in .

.

.

profession

many

his hands. .

.

.

cases public printer

He was

often the local .

.

.

il-

institutional

who performed a number communities. The typical editor

affairs besides his

and au-

newspapers were

established and written by printers, tasks in their local

the growth

self-regulation within the journalistic profession

developments that lead

tonomy

is

their

of different

and postmaster, somea job-printer

frequently kept a bookstore

occasionally branched out into general merchandise lines. (Mott 1941 :47)

THE MASS NEWS MEDIA There seem history of all

have been three phases of role differentiation

to

American media. In the

first,

I

in the

printers themselves performed

the principal tasks involved. In the second phase, which extended from

the

first

days of the nation into the

late

nineteenth century, the printers

were, on the one hand, differentiated from general editors, editorial policy

all

and were usually

from writers on the other. Writers

also the in this

owners

who

directed

of the paper,

period were usually highly

educated intellectuals. In the third phase, owners and editors were ferentiated

from each other, and correspondingly, the

became more

specialized and professional, relatively

the personal intervention of the

in the

changes

the editorial changes that often

journalist’s role

more

insulated from

number

of different

in policies for hiring reporters, or in

accompany generational

paper ownership within the same family.

One

shifts in

news-

can also observe that there

has been a significant differentiation of content along with role and tution.

The

dif-

owner (Schudson 1978:61-87). These

differentiating processes manifest themselves in a

ways, for example,

and

insti-

contents of newspapers themselves became increasingly dif-

ferentiated as they sought to integrate and

interpret the events

institutions of an increasingly differentiated society.

From

and

the late nine-

teenth century, the sections of the newspapers throughout Western nations have

become

sections; religion

and

increasingly specialized into sports sections;

and book review supplements; and business,

travel sections. Editorial coverage has

lesiure,

been differentiated into na-

and foreign news.

tional, local,

On

home

the cultural level, the crucial variable in producing media differ-

entiation

is

the degree of universalism in national civic cultures, which

depends on

a range of factors

from national

religion to the structure of

the educational system. In England, for example, the universalistic

reli-

gious categories of Puritanism gave a tremendous push to the development

news pamphlets (Walzer 1965:255). The transcendent and impersonal orientation of the Puritans made them distrust traditional, of early English

personal sources of information, particularly as they related to outside

events like foreign wars and the progress of the international Protestant

movement. To remedy objective

this situation, the Puritans issued their

news pamphlets. This

early

development

in the

dia also served to define the self-consciousness of a newly

own, more

mass news meemerging

social

group, the English gentry.

This kind

of multidimensional analysis of sources of differentiation

STRUCTURE, ACTION, DIFFERENTIATION

128

makes

it

possible to understand a fact that

in the literature

competition

commonly misinterpreted

is

on media, namely, the impact of decreasing economic

among newspapers and

television stations.

The

fact that this

development has been accompanied by a perception of increased news objectivity indicates that although economic competition is certainly a facilitating factor, it is only one economic factor among several others historical

media independence. Indeed, economic competition is important as the differentiation of media institutions from

in contributing to

not nearlv as

other strategic elites and from institutions in other societal sectors. Directed by a strategic elite oriented toward a unique function, the

media need enormous from other sectors

financial resources to

in the society,

news

support their independence

even from the industrial-corporate one.

Thus, the paradox: In the period of

late capitalism the

media became

corporatized and their markets oligopolistic; these developments, however, allowed

media

by certain forms

The French

of

institutions to save themselves

economic power and from

case

is

a

from being dominated

dominant economic

interesting in this regard, for

it

class.'

can be argued that

one of the primary reasons for the historical lack of independence of the

French press from various

social

groups and classes was

its

inability to

produce advertising. British and U.S. (see Schudson 1978:14-31) papers relied heavily

on advertising

to

expand circulation and news coverage and

to generate capital internally; in this

of personal wealth

way, they became more independent

and direct control. In France, however, the strong

cultural bias against “bourgeois commercialization” for a long time it

made

impossible for newspapers to both publish advertisements and be ac-

cepted as objective media (Albert and Terrou, 1970).

between

this

striking. In

felt

differences

French situation and the American one could not be more

America, the early papers were often started precisely for the

purpose of advertising, the “news” representing

The

The

a later editorial addition.

antinomy between advertising and objectivity was virtually non-

existent in America.

A

vast

number

of

newspapers

century were in fact called “advertisers” even

devoted to news reporting and to Advertiser).

The “penny

press,”

in the early

nineteenth

when they were

principally

political affairs (e.g., the

which appeared

Boston Daily

in the 1830s,

was even

more openly dependent on mass advertising; yet this penny press virtually invented the modern concept of “news” as a detached and relatively independent medium (Schudson 1978:22). This perceived complementarity between news and advertising is evidenced by the announcement of in-

THE MASS NEWS MEDIA Sun

tention in the Baltimore price within the

same time

means

of 1837 “to lay out before the public, at a

of everyone,

afford an advantageous

Schudson 1978:21). By contrast to the

1 2C)

news

the

all

medium

of the day,

and

at

the

for advertising” (quoted in

aristocratic distrust of commercialization ingrained

French culture, individualism informs the positive American attitude toward media advertising. As the Boston Daily Times replied to its critics in

in

1837:

Some

of our readers

in this paper. .

.

.

is

us, to .

.

.

.

.

.

complain of the great number of patent medicines advertised

[\V]hether the articles advertised are what they purport to be

who

an inquiry for the reader

make.

It is

One man

sufficient for

feels interested in the matter,

and not

our purpose that the advertisements are paid

for for.

has as good a right as another to have his wares, his goods, his

panaceas, his profession published to the world in a newspaper, provided he pays for

it.

(quoted in Mott 1941:301)

At the

risk of a certain simplification, this abstract general

can be stated succinctly in the following way. entiation of the

news media

is

The problem

of the differ-

the problem of the realization of a

cratic social order or, to use a

term

I

have developed

(Alexander 1978, 1983a), substantive freedom.

news media

argument

To

demo-

in other contexts

the degree that the

are tied to religious, ideological, political, or class grouping,

they are not free to form and reform public events in a flexible way.

Without it

will

this flexibility, public opinion

becomes

“artificial”

and “biased”:

be keyed to a part over the whole.

Fusion and Autonofny: Comparative Perspectives.

We

are

now

in a po-

sition to return to the general perspective stated at the outset of this

chapter and to place

it

in a

more comparative

“news bias” must not be viewed is

true,

as the failure of a reporter to report

to indulge in the provision of

cognitive information.

an activity that has

a

It

should, rather, be understood as the failure of

normative and evaluative character to achieve suf-

produced by such fusion, de-

and the consequent perception

various degrees, in

what

moral judgment as opposed to

ficiently differentiated social status. Strains

differentiation,

perspective. Charges of

all

modern

of “bias” are

societies. If the

endemic,

in

mass media are “super-

imposed” upon (Dahrendorf 1959:206-40), rather than differentiated from, specific religious,

class, political,

economic, or regional groupings,

they will continuously recreate these particularistic formations instead of

STRUCTURE, ACTION, DIFFERENTIATION

IJO

The

“society'* itself.

Rnd

informatioriRl inputs to the nnediR will be p^rtuil

pershielded, and the normative outputs will be rooted in particularistic spectives. Because flexibility in creating evaluative

the social control function of the media

ished,

is

judgment

is

dimin-

Because

rigidified.

opinion will be formed on the basis of partial information, efforts at reform will be less successful, strain will be increasingly unresolved, and social polarization will

be exacerbated.

In such less differentiated situations, the normative definitions pro-

duced by the mass media

—the

news

that they report as fact

— are

no

longer perceived as objective fact, as “news,” by the society as a whole.

Only the members

medium

ticular

biased by

all

communities directly associated with the par-

consider the reporting to be accurate;

other groups, which in turn have their

facts supplied

We

of those

by

their

own

own

regarded as

is

version of the

“client” media.

can view this problem in

media and

it

static

terms, comparing different Western

relating degrees of differentiation to degrees of national accep-

tance of news as fact or fiction. In the United States, one newspaper, the

New

York Times,

social opinion,

there

less

is

in direct

accepted as factual arbiter by a wide spectrum of

is

with certain exceptions to be discussed below. In England,

unanimity, and the London Times reports facts that are often

contention with those reported by the more Labor- or Social

Democratic-oriented Guardian and Observer. In continental countries, dedifferentiation

is

often

in Italian television,

more pronounced. Both national news channels

according to Hallin and Mancini (1984:830), “have

partisan and ideological attachments” that are religious and political. is

One

pro-Catholic, “employing managers and journalists close to the Chris-

tian

Democratic party; the other

The more

is

secular,

non-communist

left.”

between

and American media

Many

Italian

of the print

media

and close

to the parties of the

general comparison these observers is

draw

particularly to the point.

in Italy are oriented

toward providing

political

com-

mentary, a function that they share with the other institutions of political debate.

And

if

print journalism in Italy shares the functions of the political parties, tele-

vision journalism serves them.

and

in

The

Italian television journalist

terms of actual power relations,

a party functionary.

is,

both

The

trained in the party apparatus, and can be transferred by the party

work displeases

in training

journalist if

is

his or her

American journalism, by contrast, has developed into a separate political institution, with a set of functions and an ideology that are more or less its own. American journalists are not only free of direct political its

leadership.

THE MASS NEWS MEDIA control, their political loyalty

is

primarily to journalism

itself

IJI

rather than to any

distinct political tendencies, (ibid. 1842)

Only

after the First

World War did the papers

of France

move from and

direct “party” affiliations to the representation of “tendencies” (Albert

Terrou 1970:94), and the political orientation

particularistic association

between medium and

remains strikingly apparent. In the typical cov-

still

erage of a single event in the Parisian press, one often sees very

overlap in “facts”

trum from

among

little

the several papers, which span the political spec-

For example, on Sunday, July 30, 1978, most papers reported that the French government planned to support Spain’s right to left.

entry into the European

Common

Market.

The

ran the news as a major front-page story, but it

it

conservative Le Figaro

focused entirely on what

described as the dishonest, unscrupulous manner in which Socialist

leaders had opposed the government’s decision under the banner of sup-

port for southern French agricultural workers.

UHumariite, played the story

in

The Communist

an equally big way, but

its

paper,

“news”

fo-

cused on the “intolerable” and irresponsible aspect of the government’s decision, purportedly taken without “rational” consultation with the agricultural

the

groups affected. Equally important

announcement by Communist groups

against Spanish entry to be held

to its front-page story

was

of the elaborate demonstrations

by the agricultural workers

southern

in

France. Le Matin, then the moderate Socialist daily, referred to the gov-

ernment’s decision hardly

at all,

page news coverage on the new

focusing almost completely in political conflict

between the

its

front-

Socialists

and Communists the decision had triggered. Le Monde placed the story on page

20, re-presenting without elaboration the press releases of the

government.

Socialists,

and Communists. As

this brief

to indicate, the fact that interpretation occurs in

fused context makes

it

France

difficult to get a sense of the

recounting begins in a

still

relatively

nature of the actual

event without reading the report in every paper. In the weekend edition of

Le Figaro, July 29-30, 1978,

basically editorial commentaries. ket story referred to above, the

five

out of six front-page stories were

With the exception first

of the

news reports appeared on page

Left-wing totalitarian governments present, of course, different

Common

Mar3.

a systematically

and much more primitive kind of media fusion. There, the lack

of differentiation

between

state

and society has pushed the media

the role of party newspaper than party-state ideological organ.

less into

There

is.



:

STRUCTURE, ACTION, DIFFERENTIATION

/J2

however,

between such

a direct link

a

media position and the dominance

began, of party papers in the prerevolutionary periods. Bolshevik papers for

example, as the instruments of a struggling party, organs which, cor-

viewed bourgeois papers as similarly particularistic and ideological orientation. The Russian Revolution, then, simply substituted one

rectly,

in

dominant

As Lenin wrote

class bias for another.

in 1921

Capitalism has transformed journals into capitalist enterprises, into instruments of gain for informing and amusing the rich, and as a means of duping and un-

dermining the mass of workers.

.

.

We

.

have begun to make the journals an

instrument for instructing the masses, to teach them to

economy without italics

the financial interests and the capitalists.

and (Quoted

to build their

live

Conte 1973,

in

added)

This perspective

is

firmly in place today.

As

leading journalist,

a

V. Kudraiavtsev, wrote in Izvestiia on August 25, 1968: “Even the very

term

‘truth’

has a class content”

(quoted in Conte 1973).

In

1969,

77 percent of the more than 11,000 students entering Soviet journalism schools were party members. As I have indicated by calling them ideological

organs rather than party newspapers, the Soviet press actually

performs more of a generalized value function than a specific normative one.

They

are

more

interested in the underlying

“meaning”

in putting the events directly into the general ideological

Marxism-Leninism and Russian national culture

— than

of events

context of Soviet in the

nature of

the unfolding events themselves and in their immediate relation to other

events in the society.

It

seems possible that the more detailed and concrete

function of day-to-day integration and interpretation

performed by

is

other Soviet institutions, for example, by the elaborate and profuse “letters-to-the-editor” sections contained in

many newspapers.

Fusion and Autonomy: Specific Historical Paths.

problem

of “biased,” client-like relationships

ular social groups

and institutions

We

can also view this

between media and

The

in historical terms.

partic-

different paths

toward development and the uneven, discontinuous advances toward ferentiation taken

by

different

dif-

Western mass media must be seen against

the background of divergent national social structures and cultures.

From

the early 1600s to the Revolution, the French ancien regime

established strong censorship and a directly political tradition of reporting. (In this discussion of the

Manevy

French

case,

I

news

am drawing upon

1955; Deniel 1965; Boussel i960; Bellanger et

al.

1969—1976;

THK MASS NP:WS MEDIA Bellct 1967; Albert

and Tcrrou 1970.) Thus,

period of the

in the first

formally free press, 1789-1792, the perspective of the revolutionaries was that

As

newspapers were not

to

be unattached but were, rather, to instruct.

Brissot wrote of the press: “It

a large nation little

accustomed

and bondage behind” (quoted

the unique

is

to read

in

means

and wanting

of instruction for

to leave ignorance

Albert and Terrou 1970:26-27).

New

journals formed around individual radical political leaders, expressing their personal points of

and

societies.

view and closely connected to revolutionary clubs

Equally personal counterrevolutionary news organs soon

established themselves. After the end of Napoleon’s rigid governmental control, the regulation

became

but Restoration papers con-

less intense,

tinued to view themselves mainly as adjuncts to parties, classes, regions,

and religious groups, and they reported news from editorial outlook.

The

a similarly personal

Catholic Right, for example, had

journals and daily papers that regulated and interpreted

government,

to the republicans,

and

to the

Church

its

its

own weekly

relation to the

itself vis-a-vis

unfold-

ing daily events. These interpretations occurred against the background of certain general value texts as they

commitments, supplied particularly by Paulian

were articulated by Bonald, Maistre, and Lamenais. Thus,

the reporting by the Catholic press of such

mundane and themes

as parliamentary debates reflected the general

thority, the organic unity of the state,

and the need

specific events

of hierarchical au-

for religion in public

life.

The

revolutionary period of 1848 simply repeated this pattern of per-

sonal political journalism, this time shifting toward the Left:

Sand, Raspail, Lamartine, Hugo, and Proudhon organs.

And

all

had

their

George

own news

despite the broadening mass audience in the later nineteenth

century, political and social conditions ensured the continuation of this sectarian style. In the

often start their election,

Third Republic, serious senatorial candidates would

own newspaper

and even

in this

as a

means

of bolstering their chances for

democratic period government authority con-

tinued to interfere directly with the media’s autonomy.

The

Republic’s

press law of 1881 continued to outlaw “offenses against the President of the Republic, defamations against the

army and

the regime, and calls to dissolve the laws” 1890s, this law

was used

its

leaders, attacks against

(Manevy 1955:69). In the

freely against Socialist

and Anarchist papers. In

the Dreyfus case, newspapers were highly politicized. Zola, after initiated the affair with his

famous “J’accuse”

in

UAjuore

in

all,

had

1898, for

STRUCTURE, ACTION, DIFFERENTIATION

IJ4

which he spent one month

During each day

in prison.

news-

of the trial,

papers of different political persuasions devoted their pages to the task of exposing the errors and contradictions of the opposing side. At the time of the outbreak of the First

World War,

major

fully forty of the fifty

French newspapers were frankly and openly propagandistic for different political factions. Although partisanship subsided to some degree between

was revived during the early postwar years primarily because of the effects of the Resistance, during which highly personalized and political journals flourished around individual leaders. The American media experience differed drastically from the French

the wars,

for a

it

number

of reasons, (i)

revolutionary France were

democratic

states, the

Although both colonial America and pre-

enmeshed

in patrimonial

American experience

systems with non-

in this regard

was

significantly

more conducive to media autonomy. America’s colonial separation made it much more difficult for England to enforce its royal restrictions than for the

French king

ancien regime. Equally

to enforce the writs of the

important, the English form of patrimonial rule was significantly differentiated

and controlled than the French;

centralized, independent estates

and

it

left

for dissent. (2)

more room

more

for de-

The subsequent

olutionary experiences of the two nations were also far different.

rev-

In

France, the highly personalized attacks of the dissenting newspapers on

were strongly linked

traditional authority

to particular ideological posi-

tions; this particularism set the stage for a vicious circle of personalized

journalism to continue unabated into the postrevolutionary phases. In the

United States, the equally personalized attacks on authority were carried out in the

name

of

“freedom of the press,” since the colonial rebellion

was one that united the whole nation and was conducted the ideology of neutral “due process.” fore, set the stage for a future

under the

that, while

highly

France remained significantly traditional and highly

dially defined religious,

economic, and

The United

States,

political

more

or less primor-

groups vying for control

by contrast, despite continuing

zation and the early history of confrontation between

maintained a rational-legal state throughout

had

still

legal auspices of a free press.

polarized through the early twentieth century, with

of the state.

under

revolutionary victory, there-

American journalism

personalistic, could be carried out (3) Postrevolutionary

The

in part

its

polari-

North and South,

subsequent history and

a certain level of diffuse civil consensus.

Just as the ideal-typical

model

I

have articulated for media development

THE MASS NEWS MEDIA was specified

in a particular

the American case

ified for

and Schudson 1978). The first newspaper

/

way in P^rance, therefore, so it must be mod(I draw here on Mott 1941, Commager 1950,

in the

U.S. colonies was published

1689

in

in

Massachusetts as the spokesman for the religious-political leadership of the colony; the

first

opposition paper, published in the early eighteenth

century by the older Franklin brother, can be seen as representing the protests of the newly independent artisan group against elite control.

famous Zenger case

in

The

1735 set the crucial course for public attitudes

toward newspapers throughout the colonial struggle for independence: prosecuted by the colonial governor for printing anti-English material,

Zenger published pro-American news from

his

nine months of his pretrial incarceration,

in the

all

throughout the

cell

jail

name

“freedom

of

of

the press.” At the end of this time he was freed because the local grand jury

would not convict him

two of the factors

that

for his patriotic action.

This case combined

made American media development

relatively legal-rational English

system

(trial

by

jury,

distinct: the

due process) and

the independence provided by America’s colonial status (the local grand jury).

During the Revolutionary period,

In the

name

“freedom

of

this

of the press,”

same pattern was reinforced.

American

colonialists engaged,

and personalized

relatively freely, in the very kind of extremely partisan

journalism that in the French situation

German

— and,

we

as

shall see,

—w'ould have been suppressed immediately and

reinforced ideological, the lead of the

March

more personalized notions 12,

in

the

would have

that

of journalism.

Thus,

1770, Boston Gazette's story on the Boston

“massacre” was the following: “The

Town

of

Boston affords

a recent

and

melancholy Demonstration of the destructive Consequences of quartering

Troops among Citizens

in a

Time

column

of such editorializing did

stantial

Account

Mott 1941

The

it

of Peace.”

Only

actually begin

of the tragical Affair

after two-thirds of a

its

news: the “circum-

on Monday Night

last”

(quoted in

:i02).

first

daily

newspapers appeared

in the postrevolutionary

period in

response to two kind of pressures: (i) the need of the mercantile class for

up-to-the-minute and wide-ranging information on sailing vessels and import offerings; (2) the need of newly emerging political parties to interpret

events to their respective audiences. Freneau’s

ample, was initiated by

Thomas

AV2//o;/fl/

Gazette, for ex-

Jefferson and significantly widened the

breach between Federalists and their Republican opposition

in the 1790s.

STRUCTURE, ACTION, DIFFERENTIATION

Ij6

In 1798, the “Alien and Sedition Act,^’ passed under the Federalist administration, sought among other things to directly link the media with state control,

under the umbrella

though the law

news

number

failed for a

news reporting had

control

of conservative political ideology. Alof reasons, its inability specifically to

a revealing sidelight.

In order to suppress a

report, the law stipulated that malicious intent

thereby acknowledging the existence atively institutionalized

— even

had

to

be proven,

in the early period



of a rel-

normative standard of universalistic truth against

which any partisan statement could be judged. This acknowledgment simply was never made in relationship to the French media, not even by the Third Republic.

The “penny Americans,

appeared

first

in the pre-Civil

emergence of mass middle and working this press

most

press,” an inexpensive paper well within the reach of

War

years.

classes

Responding

to the

on the American scene,

was sharply opposed by economic and party papers, which

monopoly on information. Significantly, the penny press first pursued the “plain old news” of everyday life, and it could do so only because it was the first news medium to conceive of itself

wanted

to maintain their

as in a relatively differentiated position.

the Baltimore

Sun

This ambition was trumpeted by

in a particularly lofty

manner.

We shall give no place to religious controversy nor to political partisan character. of

honor

of the

On

political principles,

whole country,

common

will

be the

and

for this object

it

will

be

discussions of merely

and questions involving the interests free, firm,

and temperate. Our object

good, without regard to that of sects, factions, or parties;

we

shall labor

without fear or partiality. (Quoted in Schudson

1978:22)

Despite the emergence of this relative independence, however, the vast majority of papers in this period continued to link their “news” to eco-

nomic-merchant and political-personal Democratic Party press wrote has

its

organ.

.

.

.

Each

in 1852,

interests.

As

a

spokesman

for the

“every shade of political persuasion

of these organs

is

a

propagandist after

its

own

fashion” (quoted in Mott 1941:253). In the 1850 census, only 5 percent of the country’s papers were listed as neutral or independent. Although the Civil

War

experience continued to support the legal freedom and

differentiation of the press, the particularistic style of party papers re-

mained

in full force after the war. It

was an informal association

of news-

paper editors that placed Andrew Greely, the famous editor of xht Herald Tribune, into the Democratic nomination for President in 1872, and

when

THE MASS NEWS MEDIA Ochs bought antisilver

By the

the Xeiv York Times in

1896 he tied

it

7^7

publicly to the

campaign. last

decades of the century news media were becoming more

differentiated, not just in terms of institutionally as well.

how

they viewed their product but

What contemporaries

“new

of the period called the

journalism” was intricately tied up with sensationalism and the attempt

growing industrial classes an

to create for the sell.

More

apolitical

paper that would

general factors were involved than the “capitalist” factor of the

potentially wider market, as any comparative reference reveals.

Although

native-language ethnic papers often served as protosocialist organs for first-generation

were

a

immigrant groups and partisanly worker-oriented papers

constant feature of nineteenth-century social history,

were no “labor” papers attached

significant that there

parties that

emerged on

a

mass

scale in the

it is

extremely

to working-class

United States. By 1880, one-

quarter of American papers were independent or neutral, and by 1890 one-third. Papers developed ''humafi interest” stories, and for the

They

time defined the reporter’s role as actively seeking out “news.”

name of the “public interest” against corrupt New York’s Tweed ring. This transition in content coincided

launched “crusades”

groups

like

first

in the

with the birth of journalistic professionalization and the emergence of

newspapers

as big business.

By

the turn of the twentieth century, the

notion of the news media as a public institution was, then, beginning to

be institutionalized. of the

news media

The major

exception to this tendency was the relation

to racial groups.

linked to the white core group of

American media remained

American society

tightly

until at least the

mid-

twentieth century.

Although of

I

have developed this contrast

media development

nineteenth-century

in

in the historical specification

terms of French versus American media history,

Germany

presents a case where newspapers were even

more sharply polarized around class and party than the French were. As a result of its more rigid patrimonial structure and the lateness of its industrialization,

Germany produced

a

confrontation between proletarian

and middle-class papers unmatched anywhere

in

Europe, one that con-

tributed to the increasing social rigidity that led to that nation’s fateful

(Roth 1963:243-48). In 1873, for example, the German Social Democratic newspaper reported that the typhoid epidemic then

social conflict

sweeping Germany was actually

working

a

bourgeois conspiratorial tool against the

class! In their turn, middle-class

papers so distorted the activities

STRUCTURE, ACTION, DIFFERENTIATION

Ij8

of working-class

groups that their readers could learn virtually nothing of

the positive sides and real political justifications for the Socialist

move-

The Social Democrats responded to this situation in a revealing way. They decided to start party papers only in areas where middle-class ment.

papers already existed; only in this way, they reasoned, could middleclass readers

compare news reports

of the

same event. But while the

sectarian nature of Socialist papers certainly served the vital intraparty

function of bolstering members’ self-images in the face of often degrading

and offensive characterizations

in the middle-class press,

such papers ob-

viously presented a significant barrier to expanding the Social Democratic following.

Even though more space was given

“news” and

to

less to

party

affairs after the

expansion of membership in the 1890s, these papers never

moved beyond

a highly sectarian orientation that alienated

and particularly

a large

number

of workers’ wives,

many

who remained

workers, relatively

integrated with the dominant culture (particularly the religion) of the

Reich. Fully 80 percent of the editors of Social Democratic papers were

from the working working

classes,

and the party prohibited

its

members from

for the bourgeois press.

Fusion and Autonomy:

A Dynamic Process.

Finally, the

problem

of

media

“bias” can be seen not only in comparative or historical terms but also as a

dynamic process

duced by the

that ebbs

and flows with the episodic polarization pro-

strains that inevitably occur within the

of every nation,

no matter how differentiated

modernizing process

media are

its

in

comparative

or historical terms. For example, in the United States in the late 1960s

and early 1970s, spokespersons

for the national

government acceptably

portrayed the “Eastern establishment” press as presenting a biased and distorted picture of ization

was

social life.

The

success of this character-

tied to the polarization of the national

into sharply

lows).

American

From

opposed

particularistic

this perspective

it is

normative community

groupings (see the chapter that

why,

clear

as

Woodward and

fol-

Bernstein

reported (1974), the Nixon administration was not worried about the

Watergate problem before the 1972 presidential election. They believed, quite correctly, that a sufficiently large

number

of

Americans would not

accept the news reported by the Washington Post as “factual.”

group of Americans perceived thePo^?

as biased because, in the

years of social turmoil, that newspaper had

man

of a liberal

community no longer

in

A

large

preceding

become the normative spokesthe national majority. During

thp: this period of social conflict

most

the defeat of

Only

McGovern and

ciety did the national

ijg

news media were not from the positions and perspectives

of the national

perceived as strongly differentiated of particular social groups.

mass news media

after the

1972 presidential election with

the ensuing depolarization of

media once again begin

based inputs of support that allowed

it

to receive the

American

so-

more broadly

produce news about Watergate

to

that could be judged as fact rather than opinion.

Although the between there of that the

a later

more

parallel

is

not exact, a similar relationship can be seen

period of intense polarization in France and the emergence

September 1977, when it appeared would come to power in the March 1979

particularistic media. In

French Left coalition

national elections, a potentially powerful

on the national scene. Published by

a

new

paper, J'infonue, appeared

former cabinet minister close to

President Giscard-D’Estaing and financed by a

number

of large industrial

paper immediately assumed the role of spokesperson and

interests, the

interpreter for the government’s center-Right coalition (with an initial circulation of 150,000).

short-run purpose was to

Although

contribute to the government’s reelection,

its

long-range goal was to pro-

vide a forum for Giscard’s party and, presumably, for the social interests

attached to

it,

after the Left took control.

Once

the Left coalition split

apart in late 1977, and the prospect of a left-wing government receded,

the need for the

On December

new and

self-consciously propagandistic paper

ceased publication;

18,

its

was gone.

financial backers

had withdrawn the necessary support {Sew York Times, December

18,

1977)I

would conclude by noting

that

whereas

social scientists

have studied

“cleavage” problems extensively in regard to the economic, political, and cultural subsystems of society, they have rarely investigated the impact of cleavage

This lack

on the integrative dimension and the production of norms.

of attention

is

largely the result of the fact that, in contrast to

these other sectors, processes in the normative dimension have rarely been theoretically articulated (cf. Alexander 1978). In this section,

I

have

in-

dicated that sharp cleavage situations are explosive not only because they

produce broadly defined economic, also because,

and cultural

conflicts,

but

through their impact on the news media, they produce

less

political,

cognitive agreement about the “factual” nature of the social world

The more strains

that this kind of disagreement occurs, the

become exacerbated and prove immutable

more

itself.

will social

to social reform.

STRUCTURE, ACTION, DIFFERENTIATION

7^0

Stmctured

'Strain

in Differentiated Societies

have argued that the news media’s success in performing their normative “function” is dependent on certain distinctive kinds of historical condiI

tions. In the

modern

tified: (i) a single

state ideology; (2)

tives of relatively

period, three ideal-typical situations

newspaper or news network that

may be

iden-

the voice of official

is

institutions representing specific social perspec-

news

autonomous groups; and

turally free of directly inhibiting

economic,

(3)

news media

that are struc-

political, solidary,

and cultural

entanglements.* Only in the third situation does the national public per-

news media

ceive the

as providing “facts,”

and only

the media’s normative function be performed in a

in this situation

manner

that

can

maximizes

the public’s flexibility.

Yet even though such ideal,

a differentiated situation

produces certain distinctive social conflicts and

it

ideological criticisms.

dictions,”

I

its social

in the relation

On

have

in

open

between

to certain

a differentiated

system environment. Although

of such strains cannot be exhaustive, I

is

describe these as “structured strains” or “contra-

which are inherent

news medium and ships

in a certain sense

is

I

my

treatment

elaborate the problematic relation-

mind.

the microlevel of role conflict, the existence of differentiation

*I stress that these are ideal types.

The

is

state

must

concrete arrangements in each national case are

idiosyncratic and blur these analytic distinctions in various ways. this blurring

mass

One important

ownership of national news organizations. In

source of

a vulgar sense, all

such

would have to represent the “state.” In democratic societies, however, there is a distinction between the solidary community of citizens, which is constitutionally endowed with a range of power-enhancing public skills, and the actual state apparatus. The democratic institutions

autonomous news organization within a state-owned system usually called “public ownership” but it does not necessitate it. Thus, the English BBC has been relatively independent of particular governments, whereas the French national news has not. In Italy, there is a different situation still, with state ownership being comsituation creates the possibility for an



bined with



at least

two competing

party-affiliated organizations.

Because the present chapter

has been so historical in scope, televised news has not been a primary focus. Insofar as

becomes so state

— despite the recent trends toward deregulation and privatization— the

ownership becomes important,

in situationally specific

for

it

it

factor of

mediates the phenomena of fusion and autonomy

ways, for example, contrasting cultural milieux make legal control

by government different

in

every case. For an analysis of privately

owned

television

news

model suggested here, see Cans’ (1979) extended research on the relationship between values and objectivity in American television news and on the often tense relationship between American news organizations and their surrounding that correlates fairly closely with the

environments.

THE MASS NEWS MEDIA by

its

I41

very nature continually raise the problem of collusion between a

news reporter and the

reporter’s sources. In order to function as a nor-

mative organizer, news reporters must stretch their reach into the “socially

unknown,” which means establishing intimate and trustworthv contacts through which to gain information that otherwise would remain private and “unregulated.” Yet draw, and only

if

if

to discover

is

to engage, to evaluate

is

to with-

the latter occurs can the information garnered bv the

reporter be processed and judged according to independent norms. This

problem must be regarded

as a

dilemma inherent

the differentiated system. “Selling out” ferentiation has

first

is

in the

a possibility

verv structure of only because dif-

established the partners for the transaction.

On

the

other side of this conflict, the differentiated and legallv protected status

narrow

of the journalist’s role raises the possibility that the

interest in

finding “what’s news” enters into conflict with important public interests, as

when

This kind of

journalists protect the identity of illegal sources.

strain has manifested itself in the increasingly

tween courts and media that

is

acrimonious conflict be-

occurring in most Western nations.

Another, more general, structural problem for even the most ideally differentiated

media

is

the antagonism between government and

agencies that generates efforts

at

news

government and occasional episodes

ernment by the media

distortion

engaged

political goals

in turn. If, as

Neustadt, for example, has main-

in persuasion, as well as in

become

and manipulation by the

of irresponsible criticism of the gov-

tained (1960:42-63), the American president figure

news

is

himself a “normative”

command,

the government’s

directly competitive with the goals of the

mass

media, for each seeks to place public events within a more general evaluative framework.

The

president and the media are in continual battle

over the normative definitions of events. to impose,

The norms

the president seeks

however, are those of a particular segment of the national

community. In other words, precisely because the power thoroughly differentiated from the news media, the

of the state

latter

become

is

vul-

nerable to an enormously potent political force whose aim, paradoxically, is

to dedifferentiate, or fuse, the relationship.

battle

and

to

is

Although the prize

influence rather than power, the struggle

minimize the stakes

governments and inevitably do



is

free press

in the conflict



is

in

in this

deadly earnest,

between democratically elected

as critical theorists of the “bourgeois” press

a serious mistake.

In periods of political polarization, of course, this conflict

is

particularly

STRUCTURE, ACTION, DIFFERENTIATION

142

acute. In his

and

legal

four years in

first

illegal

office,'

Richard Nixon devoted strenuous

efforts to restrict the

autonomous judgments

of

news

reporters (Porter 1976). But even in relatively tranquil times, the

When Ronald Reagan

continues.

began his second term

war

in office, in Jan-

uary 1985, he announced that the White House would launch its own news service to distribute presidential speeches and announcements.

While

liberal

opponents of the conservative president’s

viewed Reagan as having successfully tamed a press corps, this was not Reagan’s own view

now

docile

at all.

term had

first

White House

According

to the

Associated Press report on the rationale for the news service {Los Angeles Times, January

7,

1985),

misinterpret his words and distort his views.” explained, the president would be filtered”

tion

carried out

is

news

by

a

body with

to the

it

As one White House

effective

his views

if

effort, quite clearly,

interpretation,

power. In the American case,

back

more

by the independent media. The

the primordial fact of

to reporters that they

“Reagan has complained

which

a structured

in the

official

were “un-

was

to avoid

American

antagonism

situa-

to central

should be mentioned, this strain goes

founding of the nation

itself.

In 1789, the U.S. Congress

sharply restricted journalists’ access to the Senate because of what they

regarded as the

(quoted

in

latter’s

“misrepresentations” of recent senatorial debates

Mott 1941:143).

The controversy that developed in the early 1970s in France between Le Monde and its veteran economic reporter, Philippe Simmonet, offers an example of such structured conflict

in a different national

media en-

vironment. Claiming that Simmonet had discovered and intended to print information embarrassing to the government’s relation to the international oil

companies, the French government brought suit to prevent publica-

tion. Its strength in this situation is revealed

editors easily surrendered to

by the

fact that

government pressure. In

fact,

Le Monde's they joined

Simmonet to reveal his sources, and when he would not do so, they fired him without a hearing. The firing, of course, immediately became politicized. Socialist and Commuthe government’s campaign to pressure

nist trade

and the story was interpreted

sition,

that the

1977)

union representatives joined Simmonet’s

is

society sistent,

suit to regain his po-

in particularistic

ways.

It is

revealing

message Simmonet took away from his experience (Simmonet that the idea of a “liberal,”

is

independent journal

in a capitalist

hypocritical and that newspapers should seek to develop con-

all-encompassing political perspectives on everyday events.

To

THE MASS NEWS MEDIA

/^J

the degree this does occur, however, governments simply seek to control

news media

how

trates

more

in a

manner. Simmonet’s reaction clearly

direct

illus-

the structured strain in a differentiated situation can lead, 0

under certain conditions,

to

powerful arguments for undermining media

differentiation itself.

The

manner

the

and most general kind of contradiction

third

which the differentiated position

in

I

of the

mention concerns

media makes them

vulnerable to pressures for the “inflation” (Parsons 1967) of

system

role.

I

describe this strain in relation to several of

its

social

its

specific

Marx and Weber have emphasized

that the

manifestations.

Theorists from Aristotle to

achievement of intellectual insight proceeds most effectively along lectical path,

by

a dia-

through the head-on dialogue of opposing perspectives. Yet,

a logic that

would be contradictory

preceding argument,

it

to the entire implication of the

appears that the conditions for such dialogue occur less rather

than more

differentiated, for onlv in relativelv undifferentiated situations

do the me-

only in those societies in which the news media are

dia produce sharply divergent perspectives of public events.

apparently fortified by the charges

American

who

press,

describe

it

made by

as bland

and simplistic, who

used

earlier, the

Of course,

to

is

to the political

assert that

and moral

continue the science analogy

knowledge created by such polarized media would be

subject to a high degree of paradigm conflict.

appears,

logic

intellectuals critical of the

by not “facing the issues” the press contributes stagnation of American society.

This

paradoxically,

inversely

related

to

Still,

media differentiation

the

sharpness of public

thought and the quality of intellectual insight available to the society

at

large.

But

this

connection between the relative impoverishment of public

alogue and media differentiation tists

drawing such

a

is,

di-

indeed, only apparent. Social scien-

connection misunderstand the media’s social function,

and when the same error

is

committed by the public

at large

the media

become vulnerable to serious damage. The news medium’s peculiar social position means that it “reflects” the conditions of the society around it, and in this respect it is, as conventional wisdom would have it, “a slave to the facts,” its

if

that phrase

is

taken in a noncognitive sense. Because of

very flexibility and integrative power

a differentiated

cannot be an explicit “organizer” of norms other dimensions often are:

it

in the

way

news medium

that institutions in

cannot formulate basic goals, which

is

a

STRUCTURE, ACTION, DIFFERENTIATION

144

political responsibility, or basic values,

which

is

a cultural one.

view, the lack of sharp political focus and perspective in

news

American

my

In

political

not a dire commentary on the impact of differentiation on the

is

news media but rather by the American

a reflection of the

political

inadequate autonomy achieved

system, as manifest by such structural weak-

nesses as the atomization of executive and legislative functions and particularly

the

distinctive

inability

political

of

parties

political

positions

articulate

to

Huntington

(cf.

and maintain

1968:93-139;

Hardin

1974)-

This

problem provides an opportunity

specific

tradiction

we

for formulating the con-

more general terms. To the degree

are concerned with in

the mass media sustain a differentiated position, they will absorb the

weaknesses and

development

reflect the distortions created

in other social sectors.

“uneven and combined” process tain sectors “lead”

ser

1970:7).

differentiated

where

The

news media and

intellectual institutions

Social differentiation

American

less

always an

is

development, and in one society cer-

of

in other societies these

peculiarly

by inadequate structural

same

sectors “lag” (Smel-

combination

of

a

highly

thoroughly differentiated political and

produces certain distinctive problems. In this

uation, precisely because the

media have been such

sit-

normative

effective

organizers, they will be “blamed” for the weaknesses of these other sectors.

Such

a

double-bind situation creates strong centrifugal pressure for the

inflation of the media’s social function,

equally radical deflation.

The media

which can

will

lead, ultimately, to

be asked

to

perform, and

an

may

well accept, a political or cultural role, and because they do not actually

possess the functional resources for performing such tasks, they are to

bound

fail.

Illustrations of this inflationary-deflationary spiral

history of the

1960s,

when

news media

America. In social

the weaknesses of the

erbated, pressure

engage

in

mounts

for the

American media

in critical or radical political

to

abound

in the recent

crises, for

example the

political

expand

judgment,

system are exac-

their functions, to

to investigate

and “clean

up” the government and the society as a whole. But because the government has itself been unable to accomplishh this task, in responding to these demands, the media open themselves to devastating political criticism about their lack of objectivity.

“Media

politics” presents another

example

of the

manner

in

which

ef-

I’HE

fective

MASS NEWS MEDIA

media performance can be undercut by weaknesses

By media politics, nomena: the generation of

sector.

in the political

refer to a range of politically degenerate phe-

I

political

support pn the basis of presentation

of self rather than the articulation of public issues; presidential use of

television to create the charismatic, Caesarist

position; the volatility of public opinion,

domination of

political

op-

which encourages the mercurial

ascension of untried, inexperienced, and often incompetent political leadership. Yet, once again, these problems relate to the deficiencies of the

American

system interacting with the peculiar functional position

political

of the media, not to the

problems

of differentiation in the

Although the differentiation

selves.

of

news media does introduce

degree of fluidity into political communication,

dominate other forms States.

The

real

of political influence, as

problem

in the

media them-

U.S. case

is

it

it

high

a

need not necessarily

tends to do in the United

not the differentiation of the

integrative dimension but the lack of differentiation of the political sys-

tem. Because the institutions that should produce self-conscious political

norms cannot do

so

— cannot,

in

terms of systemic

kinds of competing inputs to the media larity



logic,

provide certain

political candidates gain

popu-

without articulating explicit positions. In the same manner,

though “presidential

politics”

is

facilitated

by

a differentiated

al-

media, the

failure of organizational opposition prevents the creation of alternative,

competing

political symbolization.

criticism of

what

And, once

again, the pervasive public

are mistakenly regarded as instances of an inflation of

the media’s political role can result in the deflation of what

is,

in itself, a

relatively “healthy” social institution.

This inflationary-deflationary dilemma can occur tural, as well as the political,

social strain, the

in regard to the cul-

dimension. In certain situations of extreme

news media’s normative orientation becomes legitimately

transformed into a “value” function, although even this more generalized role

is

performed

in a flexible

and differentiated way. Such

tion of function characterized television

tergate

period,

news

at crucial

Wawhen

points in the

during the congressional

particularly

a generaliza-

hearings

television served a key function in the ritualistic invocation of the civic

culture that was one of the fundamental responses to the strain of that time. After such episodes

(cf.

low), however, the danger

assume the permanent arbiter rather than

is

role of,

norm

Lang and Lang 1968; and chapter 5, bethat the news media will be expected to and

will accept the responsibility for, value

organizer. But this inflation can occur only to

STRUCTURE, ACTION, DIFFERENTIATION

1^6

the degree that deficiencies exist in the'ciiltural dimension

itself, if

moral

leadership cannot generate sufficient clarity and relevance to provide the

news media with the value inputs they would normally normative manner.

in a

makes the

of this inflated function

The performance

and opens the door for the destructive

particularly vulnerable

news media

“register

deflation of their normative scope, for example, in the public support for

presidential legislation restricting the media’s flexibility. Finally,

our system reference

if

from the national

shifts

to the inter-

national level,

the most differentiated

national

particularistic, national

we can see quite clearly that even medium will usually be closely linked to terms of

loyalties in

its

comparing the international and national communities

which

their

normative structures

universalistic. ality

link

On

One way

relationship to extranational events.

are, first,

in the

is

of

degree to

widely shared, and second,

the international level there

is

radically less

common-

and radically more particularism. Consequently, whereas the direct

between newspapers and

possibility

on the national

a particular social

a distinct

the dedifferentiated identification of

level,

newspapers with the interests of

group remains

a particular national

community

dard practice on the level of international social relations. Although a national

newspaper may succeed

government’s

“line’’

in differentiating itself

from

many

a particular

on the interpretation of an international event,

rarely succeed in differentiating itself

stan-

is

from the norms and values

will

it

of the

nation as a normative community. Events in the international arena are, as a result, almost always interpreted of the nation within

Havas

to establish wire services in the

— the Wolffe Agency

in

particularistic perspective

which the news medium operates. Thus, when the

Western powers moved century

from the

in

Germany, Reuters

in

mid-nineteenth

England, L’Agence

France, and the Associated Press in the United States

precisely in order to gain control over the information

conveyed

respective citizenries about the rapidly developing international

and

political relations of the

International particularism lies

day is

(for the

French

war (Knightley 1978). But it extends to the mundane as the first American landed on the moon, the event was covered ways by French,

to their

economic

way by

and unwittingly, by reporters

of

different

Italian,

was

it

case, see Frederix 1959).

revealed in a particularly acute

that are so often told, wittingly



well.

in

the

time

When

in strikingly

and Russian newspapers (Tudesq

1973)-

The

fusion of national

community and

national

media

in

terms of

in-

4

THE MASS NEWS MEDIA news means

ternational this area

is

that

little

^

“regulation” over government policy in

exercised by democratic media.

The

bias

is

not simply the

such factors as reportorial ethics or an overreliance on govern-

result of

ment sources.

constitutes a major independent factor in the creation

It

and exacerbation of international tional

1

media particularism

other strains

Although the problem

of na-

not created by media differentiation

is

have mentioned are

I

conflict.



it is

— the

certainly a structured strain that

such differentiation does nothing to resolve.

In this chapter

have presented the outlines of

I

mass news media nitions,

in society.

and the “success”

a general

The media produce

of this production

certain normative defi-

depends on the degree

which they have achieved autonomy from other groups. Dependent media relatively fused society social polarization ibility

and

— the

— can

products of an unevenly differentiated,

themselves become

is

to

and

social institutions

such that even

source of

a significant

rigidification of social control.

news media

of the

theory of the

in

Moreover, the

flex-

highly differentiated

a

condition they can become a focal point of great social strain, for their

very transparency makes them a highly visible conduit for the weaknesses

Although

of their external social environment.

abstract and condensed,

it

provides,

for future empirical elaboration

my

argument has been

hope, a relatively specific model

I

and debate.

NOTES I.

This

not to say, of course, that the pressure to

is

supportive of the media’s interpretative function. capitalist pressures

their distorting

is

I

am

as

modern

ownership

has taken up

as a phase of role differentiation that allowed

be increasingly autonomous

to

who

history of

news reporting as

terms of

communication” (Williams 1962), fundamentally antidemocratic. Whereas I have described the separation in the

from

it

in

Describing corporatization of the mass media

criticizing here.

of editorial control

describes

always

however, that the results of

perhaps the most influential analyst of the media

one of the “two major factors it

say,

is

and their dominative tendencies.

the neo-Marxist position

he condemns

It is to

papers (or media time)

on the media have usually been greatly exaggerated, both

Raymond Williams as

sell

financial

vis-^-vis particularistic opinion,

having allowed “the methods and attitudes of

Williams

capitalist business to

have

established themselves at the centre of public communications” (ibid.). Corporatization,

according to Williams, means the reliance on advertising sales to finance papers,

economic bottom

line.

i.e., a

newly

Relying on Marx’s commodification theory, W’illiams (1962:25) sug-

STRUCTURE, ACTION, DIFFERENTIATION

1^8

a

development tantamount

for “use,” but for

communications are produced, not

gests that in these conditions

in his

view

to

exchange,

eroding the capacity for truth.

Williams overlooks here the multidimensional context of media development, which necessitates looking at not only the media’s economic links but also at political, cultural, and solidary links. This change in ownership, for example, occurred

more

with another central phenomenon, namely, professionalization.

The

the purported period of commodification, the tion

— the reporting

of

news

—was pushed

work

result

was

during

that,

producer of communica-

toward greater concern with use. Increasingly,

work became subject to a wide range creating more “rational” and “truthful” news. the reporter’s

More

of the actual

or less simultaneously

of normative controls that centered

on

generally, Williams has not developed a viable sociological understanding of the

conditions for “media truth.” In the

first

place,

autonomy from

major forms of differentiation that must be accomplished,

between media and indicate. Second,

religious groups, intellectuals, ethnic

it is

as

capital

my

is

only one of several

discussions of the relations

communities, and

political parties

not the autonomy from capital per se that has been crucial historically

but autonomy of one institutional source of capital from the capital of others. out the reasons for this above. In the text that follows,

I

I

have

suggest, indeed, that wide reliance

on advertising actually helped American newspapers to become more democratic

more responsive ongoing events for advertising

to

wide segments of the reading public, more

— than the

laid



e.g.,

flexible in its evaluations of

privately controlled newspapers in France,

where the

possibilities

were quite limited.

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FIVE

Three Models

of Culture

and Society Relations:

Toward an

The problem flict

Analysis of Watergate

of the relationship

between systems theory and

social con-

remains unresolved. Within conflict theory, the problem has unfor-

tunately been linked to the emphasis of systems theory on the relative

autonomy

of ideas, that

is,

to its

emphasis on the value segment

in social

systems. In part, the systems theorists themselves are to blame for this false link

between an emphasis on equilibrium and

social values. Theorists

Parsons (1971) and Shils (1975) tended to illustrate the analytical differentiation of their systems theory by referring to societies like the like

United States, where there

is

both an empirical differentiation of

insti-

tutions concerned with social values and relative consensus about the

values themselves. Parsons (1969), moreover, often conflated the analytical issue of

the relative

autonomy

of the cultural vis-a-vis the social

with the empirical question of whether there

is

system

value consensus in a par-

ticular social system.

On

the one hand. Parsons employed the term specification in a very

clear analytical

way

to argue that

any

social

system configuration involved

the application or the utilization of cultural patterns that were necessarily

more general than any particular institutional form of concrete behavior. The way in which concrete behavior used general forms inevitably involved a process of “specification.” Social system behavior, in other

words, always involves some cultural reference. Yet Parsons also applied the notion of specification to the actual empirical instance of a historical

I

thank Jeffrey Broadbent, Randall Collins, and the anonymous referees of Sociological

Theory for their instructive readings of

earlier drafts of this paper.

1^4

STRUCTURE, ACTION, DIFFERENTIATION He would

nation. in the

system as specifications of a

Although

same term, is

portray the values of the political actors and social actors

may

this

common

value system.

indeed have been the historical

specification, to cover

an illegitimate conflation of

alytical point.*

For even

systems and no

common

use of the

both analytical and empirical instances with the general an-

a particular situation

a society contained

if

fact, the

competing general value

overarching value system

at all,

it

would none-

theless be correct in an analytical sense to say that each of the political or social

subgroups

with one another derived

in conflict

its

own

specific

form

by specifying the more general values of a cultural system. These more general values would, nonetheless, be antagonistic to other systems of values

of values

on the cultural

alytical specification

level.

Thus,

in this

kind of empirical case, an-

and empirical polarization and

reconcilable. In this respect, conflict theory

is

conflict are perfectly

wrong: systems theory can

both allow the autonomy of values and illuminate the instability of social systems.

Once we have understood

the fundamental dangers and fallacies of this

work we can develop

conflationary strand in Parsonian

approach to the analysis of values demonstrate

remainder of

in the

a

more

satisfactory

in empirical social systems. f

this essay that the

I

try to

seminal theoretical

advances of functionalist theory in analyzing the relationship between cultural

and

systems can,

social

in fact,

help us to develop a theory of

conflict in empirical historical systems.

Three Models of Culture ! Society Interrelation I

first

introduce an ideal-typical schema for analyzing the relationship

between values and lationship

between

*“Conflation”

is

a



conflict

concept

to eliminate the relative

Three models can describe the reand consensus in advanced societies models

social structure.

I

developed (Alexander 1982) to explain the

autonomy

common

of different levels of sociological theory.

here takes off from a general criticism

I

made

of Parsons

to the effect that he often cross-cut his differentiated

The

tendency

discussion

(Alexander 1983: esp. chs.

understanding of order with

a

6, 7)

more

reductionist and conflated one. In the conflationary dimension of his work, three relatively

autonomous aspects of

of order are

viewed as synonymous: presuppositional order

nonrandomness), model order

(in the sense of systematicity in functionalist terms),

empirical order (in the sense of cooperation and harmony). In Culture

(forthcoming) makes extensive use of the conflation concept

pendently of

my own work

t Archer (1985) has



made

and

and Agency, Archer

—which she

developed inde-

defend the viability of a cultural sociology against its critics. remarkably similar argument in her recent reconsideration of

to

a

(in the sense

the concept of cultural integration.

THREE MODELS OF CULTURE that refer to different relationships

The

tems.

cultural

social

and cultural

sys-

model assumes harmony and consistency on both the

first

and the

between the

755

social levels. Particular functions

and groups

in the social

0

system do specify cultural patterns

in concretely different

ways, but these

diverse value groupings are not in conflict with one another in any sense

beyond the immediate one

of a division of labor.

I

call this

model “cultural

specification.”

The second model assumes on the

social

system

but

level

more fundamental

that there are still

conflicts

sees the cultural system as fairly inte-

grated. In this model, conflicting social groupings and functions can and

do develop antagonistic subcultures, not

complementary cultural

just

draw upon an intethere remains between these

“specifications,” but because these subcultures

grated value system

at

subcultures substantial this the

model

yses of

harmony and

Why ests

the cultural level,

still

unacknowledged commonality.

if

We

might

call

of “cultural refraction,” following Evans-Pritchard’s analconflict

refraction? Because

among

we can

the

Nuer (Evans-Pritchard

say that in this situation different inter-

have been refracted through the same cultural

Finally, the third

model

I

1953).

lens.

introduce describes fundamental antagonism

both social and cultural systems. Thus, rather than simply subcultural

in

conflicts,

genuinely antagonistic cultures emerge in

groupings that have no significant

common

beliefs.

a society,

interest

One might

call this

“cultural columnization” because interest groupings occur in hermetically

sealed cultural columns, vertical spaces between

which there

is

no hori-

zontal integration.* *It can be argued,

which

social

if

only on logical grounds, that there

system integration

is

indeed, seems to be implicit in

maintained despite cultural

much

impotent, for

it

assumes that

condition of the cultural system. conflict

makes

a fourth ideal type, conflict.

of the sociological literature

Although formally acknowledging the cultural level

is

social life

Among

level,

one

This combination,

on modern

societies.

such an approach actually makes

can proceed

its

in

this

merry way no matter what the

the classical theorists, Simmel’s theorizing about

and the network of plural associations appears

to support this view.

residual reference to culturally integrative “forms”

and “concepts”

Yet even Simmel



for

example, the

game,” whose presence distinguishes competition from more brutal conflict. In contemporary discussions, the “politics of accommodation” evinced by Dutch society (Lijphart 1974) would seem to be another such case. I believe, however, that this fourth possibility is a logical illusion, sociologically unfounded. If social system processes bring

“rules of the

people together in cooperative ways, they either draw on earlier cultural commonality or will

soon produce some.

The

literature

on the Dutch,

for

example, contains frequent

ref-

erences to Dutch nationalism, shared material values and a democratic ethos (Coleman

Whether this process issues in refraction or columnization remains an empirical question. Even columnized societies can be stable if there is a temporary balance of forces, 1978).

as

Rex (1961) demonstrates

in his

theory of the “truce” situation.

STRUCTURE, ACTION, DIFFERENTIATION

1^6

cultural specificaIn sociological literature the prototypical account of American University of tion is Parsons’ and Platt’s (1973) analysis in The Parsons the relation of the cultural value of rationality to social systems.

and

Platt argue that rationality

and that

is

a

dominant theme

in

American society

this value operates at a very general, cultural level.

further, that there are

more

They

suggest,

specific, institutionalized versions of the ra-

tionality orientation in each of the four

subsystems of society, economic

rationality in the adaptive sector, political rationality in the polity, citi-

zenship or solidary rationality in the integrative system, and value rationality in the pattern

maintenance system.

and theorists who emphasize the disintegrative

Pluralist theorists,

pects of

modern

as-

such as those in the Frankfurt school, would portray

life,

these concrete institutionalizations of rationality as in fundamental conflict

with one another, arguing, for example, that the economic rationality that

emphasizes efficiency

in the business

world

antithetical to the cognitive

is

rationality that inspires scientific truth in the

Parsons and of

Platt,

world

of the university.

by contrast, argue that although the systemic exigencies

such concrete institutions are certainly different, the cultural rationality

that guides

them

culture at large.

is

derived from a

common

They assume, moreover,

“rationality”

theme

in the

that these social system level

functions are not particularly antithetical

— indeed,

port one another through a process of

complementary exchange. With

that they usually sup-

neither functional nor cultural antipathies, then, the patterns of behavior

motivated by economic rationality and political rationality are basically cooperative: there

is

no long-term basis for division or

model need not examine the detailed structure for each

more

specific tradition

structures of a single therefore, for Parsons

When

is

and

is

surprisingly,

lead to an emphasis

is

as they are in

given rather short

some

shrift, for

detail,

such an

on cultural refraction. Disequilibrium

analyzed, rather, in terms of inadequacies in the generalized value pat-

tern

itself,

Western

in this case the overly

instrumental aspects of contemporary

rationality.

This analysis of The American University

model should not be taken to

Not

Platt, rationality itself is the object of analysis.

the issue of intersystemic conflicts

would

from the roots and

cultural theme.

problems of disequilibrium are analyzed,

analysis

a

of subcultural traditions,

principally derived

more generalized

Such

conflict.

me

that in the case of

in

as purely pejorative.

American

terms of the specification

To

the contrary,

it

culture, instrumental rationality

seems is,

in

THREE MODELS fact, a

()

CULTURE

E

757

widely shared value, one that different institutions often merely

ways without substantially challenging or

specify in different

In part this occurs because American society tionally well integrated.

in relative terms, func-

is,

This specification pattern

particular value, rationality,

is

also occurs because this

widely shared

in fact

refracting.

in

American

life.

Despite this empirical plausibility, however, one wonders whether Par-

may

sons and Platt

nomic and

not have underemphasized the possibility that eco-

political rationality

similarly, have

may

underplayed the

represent competing subcultures, or,

conflict

instrumental political expediency that

between

Weber

and

ethical rationality

so profoundly articulated as

the tension between the ethic of responsibility and the ethics of expediency

and

faith.*

The difficulties of such a pure specification perspective are apparent when it is more directly applied to political mobilization and group conflict. The functionalist tradition has emphasized the significance of the cultural generalization that occurs in periods of intense political

when

conflict,

concerns

to focus

analytical theory of generalization

bution, but insofar as of an insistence

and

partial

eralization

is

it

The

flaw

assumed

cultural

patterns is

a

themes from which the have

been

so-

This

derived.

fundamentally important contri-

has been applied empirically only in the context

on cultural

way.

on the most fundamental and simpli-

— on the general

institutionalized

specific

ciety’s

social

the anxiety produced by disequilibrium pushes significant

elements of the population fied value

and

specification, is

it

has been treated in a flawed

apparent in the ease with which such gen-

to proceed, and, hence, the ease

ticular social crises are seen to

with which par-

be resolved. In Parsons’ and Smelser’s

(1956) account of the Progressive period in the United States of the nineteenth century, for example,

movements

to

at

the end

reform the business

structure are presented without sufficient attention to the fundamental social

and cultural polarizations

of the day. In Smelser’s

own

first

book

*Schluchter (1979), for example, writes about these as the “paradoxes” of the social rationalization produced by differentiation, rather than as specifications. His Weberianization of Parsons’ theory adds another dimension to not, in

my

it.

Still,

the notion of paradox should

view, entirely replace the notion of empirical specification; this would

make

it

impossible to understand one of the most powerful forms of social integration in a differentiated society



viz.

my

“rationality.” Specification its

empirical application

ifications.

is

earlier

comments on

must be retained

functionalist versus

as an analytical concept,

neo-Marxian views of moreover, even while

delimited. In an analytical sense, even value paradoxes are spec-

1^8

STRUCTURE, ACTION, DIFFERENTIATION

(1959), the problem

Smelser rightly

is

insists,

much the.^ame. The

issue

an activist Protestant culture

whether the competing economic groups

not whether, as

is

is

widely shared, but

in the early industrial

common

developed sharply divergent subcultures to express this such subcultural development took place, and

If

believe

I

it

period value.

did, then the

process of cultural generalization that Smelser describes could have oc-

curred only under conditions that would have allowed the end of subcul-

some kind

tural conflict: either

genuine reintegration

of

example, by the decline of group conflict or by

dominance

I

suspect, there were elements of both.

At the opposite end what

is

I

continuum from such cultural

of the

on the

as building

system

social

my

but also this conflict

upon fundamentally divergent themes

been subject indeed,

The situation portrayed here is a much more fundamental

level portrayed,

Such columnization brings

culture.

speciflcation

have called cultural columnization.

could not be more different, for not only conflict

for

one subcultural position over another. In the particular

of

English case,

ritual

— produced, renewal — or the

to revolutionary

societies that

upheaval from either the

theory of columnization

in part,

is,

seen

in the general national

mind, of course,

to

is

left

have

or the right;

an attempt to help

illu-

minate such process. In \\\?>Ancien Regime Tocqueville portrayed France as radically divided

on the cultural

rationality, carried

by the bourgeoisie and

as

These

between

a

new

cultural groupings

intellectuals,

were presented

specified

and

a culture of

They were, moreover, viewed

by fundamentally conflicting

whose economic and

political positions

like

in

antagonism. In this situation of columnization,

feudalism and

as cultures that

interests

institutional

were

aris-

as radically heterodox,

emerging from antagonistic cultural developments

the Enlightenment.

tradition of critical

and hierarchy carried by the Church and the

tradition, deference,

tocracy.

level



were

estates

fundamental functional it

is

clear,

no

common

ground could be found. Raymond Aron’s (i960) theory that modern functional elites are segmental

and fragmented can be seen

as the

rary French analogue to that earlier columnization theory.

completely ignores the cultures of his theory

is

drawn from

beliefs play

a

elites

contempo-

That Aron

merely demonstrates that his

sample of groups that are so columnized that their

no integrative role.*

good contrast between columnization and specification theory, one might compare Aron’s analysis with the cultural emphasis of Suzanne Keller’s (1963) theory of functional elites, which argues that they carry out complementary functions of the same general culture. *For

a

THREE MODELS OE CULTURE The extreme where

/ 5-9

polarization of columnization tends to occur in societies

and modernizing cultures are carried by vigorous and

traditional

contentious social groups. In Italy, for example, Bellah (1980) has found five “civil religions,”

suggesting that the Italian cultural system contains

sharply divergent traditions that extend

the

all

way from

itive

naturalism to an ultrarationalistic Marxism.

War

II

The

a

form

of prim-

case of pre-World

Germany

has been more extensively documented. Roth (1963) has written about the “negative integration” of the German working class. It

seems indisputable that

in

Germany

became organized around

ings

cally antagonistic.

working

class

The

sharply antagonistic class group-

were experienced as

traditions that

radi-

small radical intelligentsia and the large socialist

adhered to

rationalistic

and modernizing Marxism, while

the middle classes, state-supported academics, and aristocracy followed a

strong antimodern traditionalism fundamentally influenced by Luther-

anism. Nolte (1966) has described the conservative side of this polarization

portrays It is

“anti-transcendent,”

culturally

as

its

radical antipathy to the

no wonder that

eralization” that

in

description

a

that

effectively

Enlightenment tradition.

such columnized situations the unifying “gen-

so necessary for the cultural and social reintegration

is

of a crisis situation can rarely occur.

It

not simply that functional

is

interests diverge but also that the anxiety that leads to value ritualization

and

to the urge for renewal occurs within the

cultural groupings rather than within

“column”

of divergent

some more general and widely

shared cultural belief. Cultural celebrations

1848 revolutionary France

in

did occur, but they engaged a cultural heritage fundamentally at odds

with the commitments of a significant,

ment

of the

French nation. Four years

if

not at that time dominant, seg-

later,

the ascension of Louis Bo-

naparte allowed generalization to occur in another cultural “column,” that of tradition or at least of

modernity very traditionally defined. The “two

cultures” in a columnized society, then, provide ritual experiences that serve merely to reinforce the different faiths and interest of already polarized groups.*

*By for he

the time of his second book, Smelser (1963) had already realized this important fact,

acknowledges that

a significant

element of revolutionary movements

tion of widely divergent value patterns.

primarily to structural rigidity,

it

Although Smelser ascribes

should,

I

is

their

this value

produc-

divergence

believe, be linked to cultural, as well as “struc-

tural,” arrangements. Traugott (1985), for example, has

shown

that

symbolism,

ritual,

and

generalized responses to political crisis were, in a brief five-month period, crucial to the

formation of the opposing armies

in the

June 1848

civil

war

in

France. These cultural

processes, in other words, played an independent role in columnizing France.

— STRUCTURE, ACTION, DIFFERENTIATION

/6o

For the middle case of cultural refraction, divergent social tasks and interests are portrayed as drawing upon fundamentally similar cultural themes. It should not be surprising that the United States has been considered a prime example within which such refraction occurs.

dichotomy

theme

American culture between “equality

in

that emphasizes equality in an individualistic

of results,” a

theme

cerns, exemplifies the cultural eral

commitment

phenomenon to equality

groupings are described

as refracting this

that sharp conflicts

do

way, and



is

for

collectivist con-

common

accepted, while conservative and

lib-

example, in the work of Lipset (1965) the

economic and in fact

a

equality

of refraction. In this case the

commitment through

tivist interests of different is

of opportunity,

combines equality with more

that

The famous

more

political

individualistic or collec-

groups.

The

implication

occur in American society but that even

such polarized groupings as conservative businesspersons and liberal trade

commitment to the value of equality, a shared commitallows for some ultimate consensus and cooperation. Hartz

unionists share a

ment

that

(1955) applied something like this refraction analysis to the value of individualism rather than equality. Arguing that the bedrock of all American ideology

is

the

commitment

to a

Lockean version

of liberty

and

rights,

he suggests that conflict groups in the United States offer what really are

simply interest-bound refractions of individualism rather than radically antagonistic ideologies.* Similar arguments have, of course, been for the conflict

groupings of countries other than the United States. Pitts

(1964), for example, has suggested that the in

made

French society can be traced back

much more

radical conflicts

to internally contradictory

themes

within Catholicism. It

should be clear that

when

cultural refraction

is

the

model employed

for an empirical case, the opportunity for reintegration of cultural social conflicts

is

in the case of the

presented in a more complex and open-ended

two other

exist, generalization to a

ideal types.

shared

and

way than

Because sharp subcultural conflicts

common

culture

is

by no means auto-

matic; powerful general themes underpin the subcultures, and these subcultural

themes

may become

the

generalization. Reintegration certainly

object is

of

a possibility,

refraction, in contrast to columnization, strong

*P'or an acute discussion of

alism, see

Nakano

(1981).

polarizing

ritual

however, for with

common themes do

American conservative ideology

and

as a variation

exist.

on individu-

TflREE

Whether generalization

will

shared general cultural themes

actually is

a

lead

MODELS OE CULTURE to

l6 1

convergence upon these

matter for particular analysis of specific

empirical circumstances. While close attention must be paid to divergent interests

and

to subcultural values,

common commitments

cannot be

ig-

nored.

Figure 5.1

is

a

schematic presentation of

tualize successive periods of

and either

social

normal

breakdown or

how

the three models concep-

political conflict, early political crisis,

reintegration.

Figure 5 ./. The Three Models in Social Process

i

structure, action, differentiation

62

Watergate: A^Case Study in Refraction

and Reintegration

Although every advanced industrial society experiences elements of specification, refraction, and columnization, the structural and cultural characteristics of

each national society incline

it

in

one direction or another.

For the United States, with the possible exception of

racial conflicts

today

definite exception of sectional conflicts before 1865, the refraction

and the

model seems most appropriate. American

conflicts

have been serious, but

they have rarely produced ideologies that have seriously violated the consensual framework

The Watergate America

in

America

tem

to recognize its

crisis

in the

must be placed

1960s.*

in that time,

conflict

In

composed by America’s principal

we must

is

to

understand the situation

perception.

That

is,

what we have

the refracted nature of conflict in that era.

broad outlines, the decade of the 1960s was a period of intense,

modernizing

was

social change. It

a period of rationalization

entiation in every institutional sphere, in politics

law, religion, civic solidarity, and in these spheres revolved ization.

in

recognize both the intensity of social sys-

common

and the areas of

into the context of social conflict

we want

If

cultural themes.

economic

life.

differ-

and education, family,

The reforms introduced

around issues that might be called

They demanded and

and

modern-

late

involved more equality, more participation,

the expansion of the notion of the individual, and the rationalization and

sum, they revolved around

secularization of values. In

salism that created and unleashed pervasive criticism of

authority and that

The groups ernists

demanded continual change

that initiated these changes

— middle-class,

minorities,

all

and

traditions

and

institutions.

might be called vanguard mod-

highly educated reformers, both whites and racial

government planners,

men and women, and

church

of self

a radical univer-

intellectuals

and students,

liberal

selected professionals, for example, activist

lawyers and teachers. These groups sometimes draped themselves in anti-

modernist garb, harking back to the “lost” communal world, to the need for

renewed and broadened

*The

affectivity.

Although these

traditionalistic

following very schematic discussion draws from a research project

conducting on Watergate for the

last several years.

analysis of the crisis can be found



forthcoming. Rather than present

a full

merely to

illustrate,

the theoretical model

more thorough but

still

in a slightly different theoretical cast

through references I

A

have presented.

empirical study,

my

to this empirical case,

purpose

some



have been

I

very partial

in

Alexander

in the following is

of the possibilities of

THREE MODELS OF CULTURE strands were not irrelevant,

I

/6

J

think that, eonsidered as a whole, the sub-

eultural orientation of these groups presented a radicalized left-wing ver-

sion of mainstream

an unusually

American

moted the promoted

emerged

critical rationality there

from the dominant American

of a departure

although in no sense was

it

a

a reaction that

civic tradition,

complete repudiation. This “backlash” pro-

drastic reduction of universalism

and transformative values.

It

particularistic evaluations like loyalty to family, race, ethnicity,

and nation and loyalty

to the authorities that represented

of these diffuse collectivities.

was

It

anti-intellectual

and fundamentally, or rather fundamentalistically, backlash

universalism with

'

activist twist.

Against this culture of

was more

political culture, critical

and often

religious.

movement promoted deference and obedience;

“silent majority” to contrast its

emphasized critique and

manners wdth those

dissent. It

emphasized

and ruled each

it

This reactive

was

of the

stability

explicitly

called the

group that

and order, not

change.

Yet

this

ties that

broad outline of

remained

social division conceals

even

salient sociologically

salient to citizens of the day.

The

social

if

common

cross-cutting

they were not experientially

changes that seemed so spectac-

ular in the 1960s actually can be traced back to changes inititated in the late

1

950s, in the later years of the Eisenhower administration.

The

es-

tablishment of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission, vigorous educational

expansion and upgrading, religious ecumenicism, economic expansion

and

rationalization



these initiatives

all

commanded an extremely wide

consensus. This social cohesion continued in the early 1960s, during

which time the

radical left

and right continued

the course of the 1960s, this consensus broke

to

be marginal groups. In

down

only gradually and in

complicated ways.

The

intensification of

tion into right

and

left.

fairly straightforward, ical

change

The

in the

first

phases of this division proceeded in a

Hegelian way, with reformers grouped under

universalism and reactors devoted

ticularism. Liberals

moved

and remaining united tional,

1960s created increasing polariza-

to

more

conservative, backlash par-

leftward, renewing their emphasis

in their

support of

crit-

political,

on equality

integrative, educa-

and religious change. Conservatives united around the backlash

libertarianism of the Goldwater campaign. Modernizing groups

pioned equality and tied their vative groups

championed

critical position to

liberty

and

cham-

universalism; conser-

tied their defensive position to

STRUCTURE, ACTION, DIFFERENTIATION

164

particularism. Both groups,

common

certain

more general level the 1960s show that support

embraced

the saipe,

notions. Opinion polls of

and economic democracy increased

for inclusion

For the emerging

ciety.

all

left,

at a

every segment of so-

in

indeed, equality did not seem to deny liberty;

championed equality in the name of greater individual freedom. For the right, liberty was often seen merely as emphasizing a particular kind of equality, the equal rights of individuals to buy and in fact, the left often

sell

and

to

be protected from government intrusion.

commitments produced within both backlash and invisible yet real

tension these

frontlash moralities are

had not yet surfaced.

clear in retrospect, but at that time they

This

The

common ground became

explicit

and played

a

less passive role in the later

phases of 1960s polarization. During the

period from

various forms of left-wing particularism

1966 to

1969,

emerged within the modernizing movement, producing uncomfortable combinations of modernity and primordialism within the critical move-

ment the

itself.

name

Racial separatism and color-consciousness were

promoted

in

and

of universal inclusion; the revolutionary culture of violence

confrontation encouraged Leninist versions of authoritarianism in the service of critical rationality; the diffuse affectivity of the counterculture

tended to counteract the demand for impersonal, universalistic standards

upon which other strands

None ical

modernizing movement were based.

of these developments, however, completely

activism, inclusiveness, and universalism

earlier liberal-left still

of the

hood and championed the pure autonomy the lines of polarization had

Still,

same period

ment

of the individual.

become

reform and partly

changes that had actually initiated of the liberal

it,

significantly blurred. In the

and

move-

in further

reponse to the structural

a distinctly

more moderate segment

movement emerged. This more

liberals

move-

envisioned universal brother-

of 1966-69, partly in response to this further leftward

in the party of

mentary

so

rights; the militant student left mobilized

in the cause of critique; the hippies

crit-

much of the power movement

upon which

movement had depended. The black

demanded equal

ments

undermined the

conservative group of

Com-

Moynihan vacillated phase and moving toward

centrist politicians like Daniel

between upholding the liberalism

of the earlier

an accommodation with backlash values.

This to

splitting of the left

— equally

significant

was mirrored

changes

— indeed was

in the right. In the

directly connected

wake

of Goldwater’s

THREE MODELS defeat and increased activism on the

sured into more and

less radical

O

CULTURE

E

the conservative

left,

if)^

movement

fis-

forms of backlash antimodernism. In the

an explicitly reactionary strand emerged under the banner of

later 1960s,

nationalism and a passifying civility (Walzer 1980) calling for social order

even

at

the cost of abandoning constitutional rights. Other rightists feared

not only to

modernism but

maintain

also the loss of liberty

.

This

connection to the “center,” forcing

its

the mainstream. This moderation allowed

it

to

latter

group sought

backlash views into

its

make growing

alliances

with the rightward-moving segment of liberal reformers, and the neoconservative

movement was

born.

This refracted character of the 1960s polarization

crucial for under-

is

standing the orientations out of which Watergate arose and the resources that eventually allowed

it

to

On

be resolved.

fact of intensely polarized social

the one hand, there

was the

groupings, the antagonism between par-

backlash and vanguard modernist frontlash. Little conscious

ticularistic

sense of commonality existed in the America of that day, and this climate of confrontation

mands

produced exclusionary and conspiratorial

for total political control

efforts to silence the opposition.

the day, the

and about a

common

to give

As

became the order

sectarian politics

way.

On

the other hand, this polarization camouflaged to

“modernist” culture, to forms of

were accepted regardless of the particular po-

stands of any conflict group. see the relationship

Watergate,

we have

between

this political-cultural refraction

ways conceived grass roots

of himself as a victim of social

movements

against

forward-looking leader

and

Richard Nixon and the presidency. Nixon

to turn to

brought both strands of the backlash movement to power.

a

of

normative rules of the game often seemed threatened

universalistic activism that

To

De-

were encouraged, with each side making

widespread American commitment

litical

politics.

change and

At the same time, he

it.

—cosmopolitan,

a

felt

He had

al-

champion

of

himself to be

enlightened

educated,

— who

could be trusted to control the lunatic fringe of the right wing, as well as the

left.

Only

this

ambiguity

in

Nixon’s position can explain the appeal

of his promise, in 1968, to build a istration

“new American majority.” His admin-

coopted and even sponsored certain issues of the

environmentalism, women’s rights, and even proposal) economic equality;

nam; while

it

(as in its

left,

such as

minimum income

brought home American troops from Viet-

calling for quiet in the streets,

it

claimed

a

renewed dedication

STRUCTURE, ACTION, DIFFERENTIATION

l66

forms of American actiyism like educational and civic reneoconform. This was the Nixon who gained support from the growing servativc movement and who put Moymhan into his cabinet.

to traditional

nonetheless, that

It is true,

Nixon was

He

tional leader of the backlash culture.

nation, in the

appealed to patriotism over dis-

modernity; he invoked paternalistic authority and

sent, tradition over

attempted to weld

also elected in 1968 as the fac-

against the forces of change, in the

it

name

and

of the family,

in the

name

name

of the

of “the people.”

Drawing on the authoritarian resources of the American presidency, Nixon sought to push his “new American majority” in a backlash direc-

He emphasized

tion.

the

pomp and

circumstance of the

He

office.

re-

mained remote, inaccessible and mysterious. He used the extraordinary instrumental powers of executive secrecy and the powers of coercive con-

command.

trol at his

Nixon wanted

to set in

motion

a

sweeping movement of “counter-

change” against the agencies, leaders, and ideas of vanguard liberalism. Spiro Agnew, his Vice President, took the role of spear carrier, rallying “the folks” against “the elites.” Together,

more

politics

Nixon and Agnew

sectarian than the presidency

initiated a

had ever seen. Indeed, they

connected the powerful and factious behavior of the backlash movement to the personalistic, quasi-patrimonial

The

result

was

a

form of presidential authority

presidency that often showed

and generalized rules model, govern conflict

of the in

that this combination of

little

itself.

regard for the abstract

game, which, according

to a consensual

modern political systems. It is not surprising power and will led to a series of illegal and

potentially dangerous abuses of power.

The moderate and extreme dimensions

of the

Nixon presidency were

by no means sharply demarcated. This was precisely While the combination sometimes allowed right-wing, to be

its

anticivil

pushed toward cooperation and reform, the support

tional

and

centrist

great danger.

of

elements

more

tradi-

conservatism often legitimated the most anticivil

trends.

With

their

assumption of

office in 1969,

exert control over cosmopolitan their actions

concealed

— some

of

that they

the boundaries of civil society.

his staff

and dissident enemies. They

which were public and

— on the grounds

and extensive bugging

Nixon and

began

to

justified

visible, others private

and

were dealing with enemies outside

These actions ranged from

of subversives, to spying

illegal arrests

and provocation,

to the

THREE MODELS OF CULTURE infiltration

even of their own eastern-educated

maneuvers

tensive institutional elites



such

illegal tactics

for

and, finally, to ex-

staffs,

and

to restrain liberal institutions

example, the news media.

It is

767

their

important to understand that

received at least passive consent from the silent majority

they helped to shape. There existed a general moral code to justify these actions; they could be justified in terms of the reactionary subculture.

The

refraction of political morality

“other” with

whom, Nixon’s

made

liberals

and radicals into an

supporters believed, they had

com-

little in

mon.

The break-in at the Democratic headquarters in the Watergate Hotel in the summer of 1972 was simply one part of this overall activity. George McGovern was the symbol of aggressive modernization and radical change, not only for Nixon but also for the silent majority

was McGovern and

his potential supporters

Watergate break-in. In

this

who were

itself,

and

it

the object of the

way, the refracted atmosphere of the time

legitimated the break-in. Because of this legitimation, Watergate received

and generated no widespread sense

relatively little attention

of outrage at

the time. There were no cries of outraged justice. There was the accep-

tance of Nixon’s rationalizations, respect for his authority, and the belief that his version of the facts

contrary.

was correct despite strong evidence

to the

With important exceptions, the media did not even pick up the

story, not because they

because they subjectively

were coercively prevented from doing felt it to

election, 80 percent of the

believe; 75 percent felt

it

was

so,

but

be unimportant. Even after a long, hot

American people found Watergate hard just plain politics;

to

84 percent said that what

they had heard had not influenced them.

Two

years later,

it

was generally agreed,

this

same

incident,

“Watergate,” had initiated the most serious institutional history.

It

had become

a riveting

American

first

time in American history.

how this crucial shift in public perception occurred, we the phenomenon of “generalization” I introduced earlier

understand

must return in this essay.

fact

crisis in

called

moral symbol that was responsible for

the resignation of a president for the

To

still

to

There

are different levels of generality at

which every

social

can be told. These levels are linked to different social resources.

public attention remains specific, Insofar as generalization occurs,

it

If

focuses on the goals of public actors.

norms and ultimate values come

into

play.

Only with such

generalization, of course, can a societal sense of

crisis

emerge. Routine

politics

means

that interests

do not seem

to violate

STRUCTURE, ACTION, DIFFERENTIATION

l68

more general values and norms. Nojiroutine, or

when

tension

crisis,

politics

occurs

experienced between these levels, either because of a shift

is

commitments

in the nature of political activity or a shift in the general

held to regulate them. In the period surrounding the

Nixon-McGovern

contest, Watergate

was

perceived in terms of goals, as “just politics” by 75 percent of Americans. Generalization did not occur, because no conflict seemed to exist between these specific activities and

norms

or values.

Why

not? Because each side

Watergate dispute could legitimately frame

in the initial

within the confines of their respective subcultures. felt

that the break-in

American”

activities

was

was one

civil rights, secret

illegal, let

of the political

being reelected. For the

own views about was another conduct

left

their “anti-

Democrats had abro-

actions to curtail their activities

alone immoral. Indeed, to limit their activity

mandates left, in

for

which Nixon was

in the process of

turn, the break-in merely confirmed their

the purely political character of

Nixon and the

right. It

long series of political activities that demonstrated, to

in a

mind, that

their

the other

responses

silent majority

by the times. Since by

McGovern and

gated the protection of

could hardly be

justified

The

its

legal



failed to exist.

let

alone moral

For both

— regulation

of the

most active

of

American

political

political

groupings of

the time, therefore, the early events surrounding the Watergate crisis

remained “simply

more

polarized,

political”

refracted

because they were compared only with the expectations of subcultures,

broader universalism and constitutionalism of the

The

latter,

From

much more

itself.

alarmed, and alarming, way.

years after the break-in, public opinion had sharply changed.

purely political goals Watergate was, indeed,

issue that violated

Two

now regarded

as an

fundamental American customs and morals. By the

end, almost half of those

minds.

culture

the

temporarily eclipsed by refraction, would have forced Water-

gate to be viewed in a

Two

common

not with

thirds of

all

who had

voted for Nixon had changed their

voters thought the issues had

now gone

far

What had occurred was a radical generalization of opinion. It was not so much the facts that were different but the context in which they had come to be viewed. That American political culture was beyond

politics.

refracted rather than columnized had allowed the crisis to

two years of national

produce reintegration and renewal rather than fragmentation and

further polarization.

There were,

of course, critical factors other than the cultural

one that

THREE MODELS were involved

There had

and resolution of

in the creation

to be the mobilization

()

E

nationwide

this

and struggle by

CULTURE

elites

l6(J

crisis.

and other organ-

by the enemies of these

ized social groups, struggles often perceived,

groups and often by the groups themselves, as self-interested

in the in-

strumental sense. There also had to be the continual intervention of social control forces, which often threatened coercion and sometimes carried

it

out.

But

such “structural” factors were going to be successful

if

and helping

to resolve a full-scale national crisis

creating a political vendetta

be involved. In the

first

— much some

place,

consensus

had

still

to

mere fragment

a

Once

aroused.

if

Only on common

them

Of

cultural

to carry out

it

of the population

were

to

not all-encompassing, a

broad swath of

and “society”

emerge

ground could polluting

and purifying

rituals

itself

be

that could resolve

rituals frighten cit-

provide symbolic resources

such action.

more

integrative capabilities than col-

much more fragmenting and

is

tion. In the early

and the

If

this labeling stuck could the event disturb

course, while refraction has

umnization,

to

significant degree of evaluative con-

ritual processes

izens into dramatic action for

in

the crisis was underway, moreover, broader cultural agree-

ment was necessary it.

if

had

cultural forces

be powerful enough to label

“Watergate” as deviant. Only

more than

— rather than simply

more general

sensus had to emerge in the American public. this

in triggering

months

of the

conflictual than specifica-

Watergate period, between the break-in

election, the consensus necessary for

common

perception could

not occur. This continued to be a time of intense polarization politically,

though the

social

conflicts of the

1960s had actually begun to cool.

McGovern’s presence allowed Nixon was the key

to

to

promote backlash

politics,

which

keeping his moderate reactionary coalition together.

The

refracted political culture meant, therefore, that societal generalization

could not take place. There could be no

movement upward toward shared

general values, and because there was no generalization, there could be

no

societal sense of crisis.

Yet

in the six

reversed.

months following

The end

the election, the situation began to be

of an intensely divided election period allowed the

subtle left/right realignment, which

1960s, to continue.

I

Once McGovern

described as beginning in the left

the scene, the

more

late

centrist

elements in Nixon’s coalition were not nearly so eager to align themselves with the tactics of the extreme right. This development fed into another.

STRUCTURE, ACTION, DIFFERENTIATION

lyo

equally important

phenomenon

that had, in fact, barely

begun

political actors of the time.

on the consciousness of the

to

impinge

For some time

before the break-in, the social struggles of the 1960s had been petering out. By 1972, left-wing groups had virtually disappeared from public view. Because more fundamental processes of social change had deceler-

movements now had

ated as well, purely reactive base.

For

all

less of

an immediate

these reasons, in the post- 1972 period, critical universalism

could be readopted by more centrist forces without specific ideological

themes or goals of the

sensus, the refraction of cultures began

to

common

With

left.

being linked to the this

emerging con-

politics into abrasive, distinctive sub-

The

dissipate.

its

for

possibility

normative violation emerged, and with

common

feelings of

began the movement toward

it

generalization vis-a-vis Watergate events. This development provided a

more congenial atmosphere

for the struggle of interested elites

and the

operation of social controls, which in turn legitimated the growing public feeling that Watergate was, in fact, a serious crime.

The most important

event of the Watergate crisis

ritual

Select Committee’s televised hearings in strated a

how important

common

it

is

for a social

May

system



forcefully

in crisis to

Senate

demon-

have access to

general culture. This event had tremendous repercussions on

the symbolic patterning of the entire affair. that

1973

— the

It

responded

to the anxiety

had been building within large segments of the population and func-

tioned to canalize this anxiety in a consensual and democratic way.

The

hearings constituted a civic ritual that revivified very general but nonetheless very crucial currents of critical universalism in the litical

culture.

The

who were the “stars” of the Watergate hearings managed and condemn the subculture of backlash values that had moti-

senators

to isolate

vated and initially legitimated

it.

refracted subcultures of both

left

engaged

in a ringing,

which both

political

universalistic

Through

myth

On

the one hand, they bracketed the

and

unabashed affirmation

movements had been that

is

their questions,

On the other hand, they of the common ideals through

right.

initially refracted,

the backbone of the

American

or old, conservative or radical

and individualism

invoking the

civic religion.

statements, references, gestures, and meta-

phors, the senators maintained that every American

ity

American po-



acts virtuously in

of the civic

— high or low, young

terms of the pure equal-

Republican tradition. Individualism

never degenerates into selfishness, equality never leads to inhumanity.

No

THREE MODELS OF CULTURE American

Team

concerned with money or power

is

loyalty

tralizes the

never so strong that

is

commitment

it

at

ly

I

the expense of fair play.

vitiates the

common good

or neu-

to liberty that sustains the critical attitude

toward

authority so essential to a democratic society.

The

senators’ questioning of administration witnesses focused

on three

principal themes, each fundamental to the moral anchoring of a civic

democratic society. First, they emphasized the absolute priority of office obligations over personal ones.

The

frequently invoked claim, “This

is

a

nation of laws, not men,” emerged as a virtual slogan for the hearings.

Second, the senators emphasized the embeddedness of such

office obli-

Sam

gations in a higher transcendent authority; as committee chairman

Ervin insisted, “the laws of

To

men” must

give

way

God.”

to the “laws of

quote from Ervin’s famous colloquy with the treasurer of Nixon’s

reelection committee,

Maurice Stans, “which

more important, Mr.

is

Stans, not violating laws or not violating ethics?” Finally the senators insisted that the

common

contested social fact.

culture underlying political conflict was an un-

They

claimed, indeed, that in America there was a

transcendental anchoring of interest conflict that allowed the ciety to

be

a true Gemeinschaft,

As Senator Lowell Weicker,

what Hegel

modern

so-

called a concrete universal.

the liberal Republican from Connecticut,

proclaimed: “Republicans do not cover up. Republicans do not go ahead

and threaten

Americans

as

.

.

.

and God knows Republicans don’t view

enemies

to

be harassed [but

as]

human

their fellow

being[s] to be loved

and won.”

The

hearings ended without laws or specific judgments of evidence,

but they had, nevertheless, profound effects.

framework complished

that this

They

would henceforth give Watergate by organizing the actual

established the moral

its

meaning. They

political events

and figures

ac-

of

the Watergate episode in terms of the higher antitheses between the sacred

and profane elements of the more general American

The

civic religion.

hearings re-sacralized the liberties of the Constitution, unwritten mores of fair

and egalitarian treatment, and sentiments

profaned authoritarianism,

of social solidarity.

self-interest, particularism,

They

and with these pol-

luted elements they aligned Richard Nixon, his staff, and backlash values in general.

became it

The

presidential party

antithetical to

and the elements of

civic sacredness

one another. Over time, the American public found

impossible to bring them back together.

That “Watergate” did not prevent conservatism from continuing



after

STRUCTURE, ACTION, DIFFERENTIATION

1^2

*

ambiguous

Carter’s four years of

^

respite



its

relentless assault

on

liberal

reform misses the most important implication of that fateful crisis. No society can avoid oscillations between reforms and reaction, change and

and

stasis, left

The

right.

decisive sociological question

but how. Will the polarization produced by social change be

this occurs

so severely divisive that intense social conflict

democratic

civil

Why

a cause for study.

That the

first

One

most modern and

fate of

has not yet been so for the United States

it

place to begin,

I

have suggested,

felt

Yet neither can

it

drawn

be denied that very strong barriers were set against

men and women. They

of

in social “structures”

represent

common and

that in the midst of social crises are reproduced, extended,

ized in turn.

Ronald

extremism should not be de-

to anticivil

such inclinations. Such limits reside not only

minds

is

Watergate.

is

elected conservative president to succeed Nixon,

Reagan, sometimes

also in the

transformed into anti-

is

war? This has, indeed, been the

modernizing nations.

nied.

not whether

is

That Reaganism was democratically controlled

with unbridled conservatism

is,

at least in part,

thanks to

as

but

values

internal-

compared

how

the

Wa-

tergate crisis turned out.*

This essay began with

a rather esoteric theoretical

cluded with a detailed case study of

My

point has been,

first,

of I

felt social

between such values and

understood.

I

political scandal.

values, and, second, that the rela-

social integration

can by no means be easily

have offered three ideal-typical models of this relation, each

which presents

different possibilities for reintegration in social crisis.

have indicated, with

some

gaudy and famous

that social system conflict cannot be analyzed

without reference to deeply tion

a

problem and con-

this

concluding analysis of Watergate, not only

of the empirical details that such

upon which

specific social processes

models imply but

more

also the

the institutionalization of

what

I

have

and columnization depend.

called specification, refraction,

REFERENCES Alexander, Jeffrey C. 1982. Positivism, Presuppositions, sies, vol.

I

of Theoretical Logic in Sociology. Berkeley

and Current Controverand Los Angeles: Uni-

versity of California Press, 1983.

*The Iran-Contra

which has emerged since the completion of this essay, demonthe Reagan administration’s continuing attraction to anti-civil strates both of these points extremism and the strong barriers that American society continues to erect against it. Withaffair,



out the

“memory

actions

would have so

of justice” provided easily

by Watergate,

it is

doubtful that the administration’s

and quickly been transformed into an

“affair.”

THREE MODELS OF CULTURE 1983. The

Modem

IJJ

Reconstmction of Classical Thought: Talcott Parsons,

4 of Theoretical lx)gic in Sociology. forthcoming. “Culture and Political Crisis:

Watergate’ and Durkheimian

New

York: Cambridge University

vol.

Sociology.”

In

Durkheimian

Sociology.

Press.

“The Myth

Archer, Margaret. 1985.

of Cultural Integration.” British jfoi4mal of

Sociology'

36:333-53. forthcoming Culture

and Agency. London: Cambridge University

Aron, Raymond, i960. “Social Class,

Political Class,

Journal of Sociology' i :26a-8i. Bellah, Robert N. 1980. “The Five Religions

Hammond,

Ruling Class.” European

of Italy.” In Bellah

Varieties of Civil Religion, pp. 86-118.

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New

and

Phillip E.

York: Harper and

Row. Coleman, John A. 1978. The Evolution of Dutch Catholicism igyS-igj^. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press. Evans-Pritchard, E. E. 1953. “The Nuer Concept of the Spirit in Its Relation to the Social Order.” Affierican Anthropologist 55:201-41.

Hartz, Louis.

1955. The Liberal Tradition in America.

New

York: Harcourt

Brace.

Beyond

Keller, Suzanne. 1963.

the Ruling Class.

New

York:

Random House.

Lijphart, Arend. 1974. The Politics of Accommodation. Berkeley and

Los Angeles:

University of California Press. Lipset,

Seymour Martin.

1956. The First Sevc

Nakano, Hideichiro. 1981. “Conservatism

Sat ion. New York: Doubleday.

as a Political

Ideology in Contemporary

America.” Kvcansei Gakuin University Annual Bulletin 30:95-108. Nolte, Ernst. 1966. The Three Faces of Fascism. New York: Holt, Rinehart. Parsons, Talcott. 1969. Politics

and

“On

the Concept of

Value-Commitments.” In Parsons,

New York: Free Press. of Modem Societies. Englewood

Social Structure.

1971- The System

Cliffs,

N.J.: Prentice-

Hall.

Parsons, Talcott and Neil

J.

Smelser. 1956.

Economy and

Society.

New

York:

Free Press. Parsons, Talcott and G.

M.

Platt.

1973. The

American University. Cambridge,

Mass.: Harvard University Press. Pitts,

Jesse.

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1964. “Continuity and ed.. In

Change

in

Bourgeois France.” In Stanley

Search of France. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University

Press.

Rex, John. 1961. Key Problems in Sociological Theory. London: Routledge and

Kegan

Paul.

Roth, Guenther. 1963. The Social Democrats in Imperial Germany.

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York:

Bedminster Press. Schluchter, Wolfgang. 1979.

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“The Paradoxes

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Schuchter

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Chicago: Uni-

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New

York: Basic Books.

S

I

X $

The

University and

Morality

The problem in the

and morality” has been

of the “university

a recurrent

Western world ever since the university stopped being an one

of clerical dispensation. It will continue to be

do not become ideological handmaidens

of the state. itself.

becomes

it

church and

its

cultural aims, once

institution

as long as universities

created by the process of social differentiation specialized in

one

The problem

Once

is

the university

loses the legitimation of

question inevitably arises: what should the morality

state, the

of the university be?

The

search for an answer to this question

is

unending.

It is

only a.'ked,

indeed, insofar as the university has given up claims to justification by a clear-cut particular moral creed, that all

answer

when

is,

however, when

at least a

given. In these times, the question, “what sity?”

is

provisional answer

The

raised,

1960s was the

mainly by the

which the question

is

New

Left.

must be

the morality of the univer-

becomes more urgently asked, and the responses

forthcoming.

once-and-for-

be made. There are certain

to the question cannot, in fact,

historical periods,

a reassuring,

are stridently

last

such period when the question was

We

have

now

entered another period in

being raised, this time particularly by opponents of

South African apartheid. In

this essay

question of university and morality.

I

develop an

initial

answer

to the

provides a revised framework for

It

thinking about contemporary issues and also indicates a

way

of thinking

about the long-term processes involved. This essay was

initially

prepared as

a

contribution to mark the

California State University at Northridge

members

of the

CSUN

faculty

the helpful criticisms of an

(CSUN).

and administration

anonymous reviewer

I

anniversary of the

thank Reba Soffer and the other

comments. I also acknowledge ihe Joumal of Higher Education.

for their

for

fiftieth

STRUCTURE, ACTION, DIFFERENTIATION

I’j6

In the argument about the university and morality two main positions have been advanced. Proponents of the first position argue that because the university

the only

way

moral creed.

ment if

is

scientifically specialized,

moral

to be

To

The

the university

to

is

and

not a moral institution, for

be committed to a clear-cut, particular

be morally committed

in political conflicts.

particular creed

to

is

it is

in this

way

leads to direct involve-

logical conclusion of this

become moral,

it

must

argument

that,

is

align itself directly with a

a political cause. Historically, this

argument has been

made by conservatives and radicals. I will call it the “critical position.” Those who have advanced the second position agree that the university is

not “moral” in the sense of being committed to any particular moral

They

creed. cially

argue, however, that because technical specialization

productive in

many

logical conclusion of this

different ways,

argument

gaged from moral creeds and

argument has been made by tion.”

Max Weber

is

is

morally justifiable.

that the university

political

liberals.

it

I

commitments. will call

is

it

so-

The

must be disen-

Historically, this

the “established posi-

(1973) advanced a strong case for

it

in the turn-of-the-

century period, and Talcott Parsons (Parsons and Platt 1973) elaborated this position in the postwar climate. Derek Bok (1982) has formulated the established position in the context of the renewal of controversy in the present day.

This

conflict

between

critical

and established positions

raises the fol-

lowing questions. Does the university have an obligation to take explicit ethical or political positions vis-a-vis the society at large? If the university

chooses to remain disengaged,

might

a morality of

position in society a moral one?

is its

disengagement be

ditions to a disengagement position? of justice

and

abstract way.

political obligation,

To

justified?

Are there

How

limits or con-

Although these questions

raise issues

they cannot be answered in a purely

achieve what Rawls (1971) has called “reflective equi-

librium,” every theory of justice must be tempered by an empirical as-

sessment of actual possibilities and by a sensibility that respects the

commitments

To

particular to each social sphere (see

answer these questions

in a

Walzer 1983). responsible manner we must begin with

the internal structure and values of the university. Everything that

is

said

about the university and society comes back to questions about the university itself, about the desirability of maintaining the integrity of

internal processes,

and about whether

society are entailed.

in

its

doing so special obligations to

THE UNIVERSITY AND MORALITY I

777

begin by affirming the contention of the established position that the

technical specialization of the university

moral

from the

justification derives

specialization

— the

upon

self rests

a

good

greatest

consequences of

utilitarian

for the greatest

number



this utility

it-

in science

rationality (Parsons

and

Platt

will suggest later, indeed, that this cognitive specialization is

combined with

itself

deceptive and that in practice

more

evaluative, value-specific kind. At this point, however,

is

it

nature and utility of cognitive rationality

The

scientific

practitioners allow themselves to be regulated

if its

by the impersonal morality of cognitive I

Although the

justified.

normative base: the technical specialization

can be achieved only

1973).

morally

is

notion that academic

life

rationality of a I

explore the

itself.

governed by cognitive rationality

is

is

upheld by sophisticated proponents of the established position and by ideologists of the university alike.

power

to

what

agreed

is

pirical truth. Insofar as society

cognitively rational of organization

becomes

is

based upon expert

This

gument

is

is

is

to

any particular point secular, bureaucratic,

to

be em-

and

egal-

To

be

The bureaucratic form knowledge. The expertise of officials

to possess expert

is

direct bureaucracies

nality.

at

such impersonal standards become increasingly central.

itarian,

who

cognitive rationality

judgment and evaluation, standards that

create impersonal standards of

give decisive

To uphold

knowledge.

legitimated by the value of cognitive ratio-

the argument from efficiency, but there

as well. Cognitive rationality

is

a

norm

to

which

is

a fairness ar-

all

have access;

abstraction promotes inclusion and allows the truth to be contested by

its all.

Although cognitive plines, in each

one

it

rationality takes different

maintains

and natural sciences there rules about verification

its

forms

universalistic form. In the humanities

are rules of evidence that

and

in different disci-

falsification

and standards

everywhere apply, of

what constitutes

legitimate explanations and interpretations. In the ideal-type case, these

member of the university community, to They govern the allocation of prestige, money,

rationality rules apply to every

students and faculty alike.

and power within the university and, thing that It is a

is

in principle, the allocation of every-

relevant to the academic occupational sphere.

tremendous

historical

achievement to have institutionalized such

an elusive and impersonal norm, one that so often violates tradition, challenges authority, and constrains personal impulse while abnegating any particular moral creed or political belief.

Of course,

this

norm has never

STRUCTURE, ACTION, DIFFERENTIATION

iy8

been

fully accepted or

continuously applied.

The

university exists in real

and the organizational and personal exigencies of

life,

real life

make

par-

ticularism impossible to stamp out. Still,

cognitive rationality

of the university. place,

Whether

on whether

it

not only the formal but the practical

is

norm

scope can be expanded depends, in the

its

first

can be maintained. Cognitive rationality can be main-

tained only by the collegial, self-governing structure of faculty control.

The

special integrative

and

allocative processes of

protected from other standards

dent body, or in

a

way

more representative

— the

delicate

nitive rationality can easily break

nality

is

for the university to

and value

mechanisms

life

community,

stu-

— no matter

for sustaining cog-

to protect these standards of ratio-

remain completely agnostic regarding power

conflicts in the “outside” world.

What

follows from this

Autonomy,

strong argument for university autonomy.

it

is

What academics do

— the

is

the

argued, must

be absolute because the rationality that governs the university cognitive.

must be

down.

seems obvious that the best way

It

of

other group interests intervene

state. If these

how well-meaning

academic

is

purely

kind of rationality they pursue



is

completely different from what people do in the outside world. Therefore, us not bother them and they will not bother us. This liberal position,

let

formulated by Weber and Parsons and forcefully argued by Harvard’s Bok, has provided the justification for university inaction in the present period.

This in

is

a serious position, for

important respects.

autonomy defense

fails

I

which much can be

why,

the

after

autonomy all,

community, truth. left

There

a

and

I

suspect, however, that in this strong

because, ironically,

it is

derestimates the forces with which university

When

said,

position

is

community concerned only with

and right who do oppose

and

It

un-

autonomy must contend.

to intervene in

are, of course, religious

it

form the

too easy to make.

stated, the question

anybody would want

accept

immediately arises

such a purely cognitive

the pursuit of empirical

political

fundamentalists of the

scientific rationality.

But the influence of

these groups has shrunk significantly in the twentieth century, and even

now, despite the right-wing actors in ideological debate.

revival, fundamentalists are not the principal

The same

kind of question, moreover, can

be asked of those inside the university as of those without.

Why

should

members of such a purely cognitively rational university want to make any social commitments anyway? If they are concerned only with empirthe

THE UNIVERSITY AND MORALITY ical truth,

what

is all

the fuss about? After

all,

they are

still

Ijg

and

citizens,

they have ample opportunity to pursue political commitments outside the university context. I

I

argue that this strong version of autonomy cannot be maintained, and

much

support university autonomy on very different grounds and in a

more

The

qualified way.

areas and occasions

grounds lead

different

to the consideration of

where autonomy cannot hold.

autonomy” position by introducing three problems

my

I

outline

I

have with the estab-

“revised

lished position described above.

The

first

Although

problem concerns the notion

of purely cognitive rationality.

this notion certainly characterizes

dimension of the university,

one special and distinctive

does not describe academic

it

enough way. What the members

an ample

of the university really pursue

empirical but value rationality. Here

is

not

take over Weber’s term but use

I

in a slightly different sense. Scientific rationality

committed.

life in

is

it

not neutral but also

not only concerned with truth in a cognitive sense but

It is

with truth in the moral sense.

The

faculty accept the discipline of cog-

nitive rationality, of being true to the nature of the empirical world.

Within the confines of

however, academics pursue sub-

this discipline,

stantive, a priori, political

and cultural values. Because of their simulta-

neously evaluative and cognitive thrust, the term value rationality holds. Despite their commitment to cognitive rationality, then, the university faculty produce

aim

enormously value-laden,

— and the ambiguity

is

intended



is

particularistic

arguments. Their

to rationalize their values.

Aca-

demics support constitutionalism; they do not only explain constitutions.

They oppose

or seek to contribute to revolutions; they do not simply

analyze their course.

They support

not merely analyze the costs

it

or

entails.

condemn urban renewal; they do They champion secularism; they

do not simply explain evolution.

The

nonempirical commitments that inevitably form and inform

nal scholarly debate, then, go

which recent

beyond the explanatory presuppositions

postpositivist philosophers

only a place for cognitive science;

ideological debate.

Academic books and

for political conflict in the

of the university

it

articles

is

The

form the

intellectual basis

are outside the walls

Buckleys, the George Wills

ular but not intellectual ideologues.

univer-

also a central place for

modern world. Those who

— the William F.

to

and historians of science have

pointed; they extend to ideological evaluations of the world. sity is not

ratio-

Although the university

— are pop-

is

certainly

STRUCTURE, ACTION, DIFFERENTIATION

l8o

the primary source of objective expertise in is

modern

life,

knowledge

this

not as abstracted and cognitive as both the critical and established

positions assume. Particularly in the humanities and the social sciences,

but in subtle ways often in the natural sciences as well, scientific knowl-

edge

connected to the expression of particular

is

political

and cultural

values. see the extent of the moral

Only now can we university faces, for

what

problem that the modern

taken to be the epistemology of academic

is

work, becomes, inevitably, the basis for judgments of what stance should be.

It is

argument when we

its political

not nearly so easy to maintain the strong

autonomy

realize that activities of the university are to

an im-

portant extent ideological and, indirectly, political. In this sense Parsons

(Parsons and Platt 1973) was wrong. The university does not simply lend its rationality to an institutionally separated value realm, informing the

work

of intellectuals (a

few of

whom are academics) who

define themselves

an explicitly ideological way. Weber (1949) errs in much the same way. He defends the independent vocation of the university by limiting sci-

in

knowledge that defines means but not ends,

entific rationality to technical

Because Weber limits value

to purposive rationality, or Zweckrationalitdt.

rationality, or Wertrationalitdt, to actions that are

morally absolutist and

of cognitive rationality, he

do not accept the discipline

cannot conceive

describes university

modern university. Bok’s case for too easily made for the same reason. He (1982:20) activity simply as “the search for knowledge and new

discovery,”

i.e.,

concerned only with objective, cognitively rational

knowledge.

I

the actual intermixing that defines the

strong autonomy

dangerously

But

if

we

is

as

would suggest,

My

first

I

is

not and should not be autonomous?

introduce

my

said that the university



two

like the

the corporate institution

state or to a private its

group

it

try to be.

The

is.

It is

simplistic to speak of “the

universities; or at least

medieval kings of old

— the

legal

is

it

should be

— has two bodies.

body, which answers to the

— and the collegium

value rationality, the faculty body

should

believe

departure concerned what the university does; the sec-

university,” for there are really

is

I

second departure from the established

ond one concerns what the university

There

a

accept the value basis of academic activity, does the argument

does not. Here

position.

is

political place.

follow that the university it

to the contrary, that the real university

of the faculty.

Because of

never insulated from society, nor

corporate body of the university must, however.

THE UNIVERSITY AND M ORAL IF Y behave

manner from

in a quite different

university should seek to insulate social

commitment. In order

to

corporate

thoroughly as possible from any

itself as

do

The

the collegium.

iHl

so, its

spokespersons usually employ

an ideological ruse, presenting the university as concerned only with cog-

Although these spokespersons may be perfectly sincere

nitive reality.

this presentation,

remains a form of

it

extremely useful one.

When

false consciousness,

critical outsiders

even

if

in

an

counter that academic work

does take value positions, spokespersons for the corporate body argue for objective rationality in a slightly altered way. In the process of producing objective knowledge, they suggest, reasonable scientists can often disagree.

It

the free pursuit of knowledge, not the connection between

is

knowledge and value,

tonomy

rests in this

The argument

that leads to disagreement.

way on

for au-

the need for cognitive rather than ideological

pluralism.

Yet even

omy

can

this cognitive fig leaf

if

be made.

still

commitment

the public



are

discarded, the argument for auton-

must simply be made

It

mately more restricted fashion. for political

is

The

— moral

in a different

ulti-

pressures on the corporate university

pressures from faculty, students, and

enormous. For those inside and outside the university the

citizenship of the faculty cannot easily be separated

vocations.

and

These pressures only make

for the corporate university to desist

all

the

from

their intellectual

more urgent the

from commitment

necessity

to particular val-

ues or interests. In a complex and contentious society, to adopt a particular position attack.

Such

is

to

open the university

powerful

to

political

and cultural

attacks will eventually seek to restrict the faculty’s

of thought.

This sounds

rationale. It

is

like the established position,

but

it

freedom

differs in its

to protect ideological particularism that the university

must

remain ideologically neutral.

It is to

encourage ideological communication

body must

refrain

from

that the corporate

itself

participating in ideological

communication.

The

political neutrality

sition,” not

am

I

describing

is

clearly a

simply a “compromise position.” Weber pointed out that the

purity of moral absolutism

is

very short lived.

A

always a rational compromise between ideals and fact

is

“compromised po-

that the university

times downright against them.

evil

must be willing

social

facts

evil.

reality.

The

to tolerate unpleasant

is

regrettable

and some-

without taking a corporate position

There can be no such thing

touched by the world’s

responsible vocation

as a pristine university un-

Like Shaw’s clergyman, the university must

i

structure, action, differentiation

82

*

either share the world’s guilt or go

ically naive

At

and

sociolog-

it is

politically counterproductive.

this point

position, just

not only absurd

It is

only good and holy things,

embody

to ask the university to

N

another planet.

to

introduce

I

when

it

my

third reservation about the established

would seem

that

I

am

much

endorsing so

of

it.

The

make autonomy into a universal, abstract principle that holds good for all occasions, for autonomy is not an end in itself but a pragmatic protection. Corporate commitments are renounced so that university should not

powerful extrauniversity forces will not be legitimated in taking a position

what

against the ideological discourse of the faculty collegium. But is

impossible for the university not to take a position, what

if

if it

certain

conditions in the external society, no matter what the university does, thrust a position

upon

it?

The

established position views this question as

an exotic possibility, a topic for speculation; President Bok (1982:265) refers, for

versities in the 1930s. social

commitments

for the life

which

it

Two

German

example, to the “extraordinary circumstances” of I

is,

uni-

suggest, to the contrary, that the question of

even in

limited version, an issue that

its

is

vital

and health of every university today and for the society

in

seeks not only to live but also to thrive.

kinds of occasion thrust a

subjective and the objective. therefore,

more

easily

The

obscured

commitment upon

subjective occasion

in

the university, the

is

less clear-cut

contemporary debate.

It

and,

goes back to

the evaluative character of internal academic discussion. In every society,

powerful moral feelings sometimes develop within the public, which make a particular issue take

on overriding importance. In such times

and cultural polarization, a moral decision

is

or not any institutional step actually occurs.

As

faculty share the widespread moral feelings,

of political

eventually made, whether citizens of their societies,

and because

of the inherently

ideological dimension of their activity, these feelings are significant factors in

motivating their work. However these controversial issues are resolved,

the moral motivation of the faculty

is

powerfully affected.

When

signifi-

cant enough, therefore, moral controversy can deeply affect the internal

operation of the university

itself.

To

defend

itself

on these occasions, the

make particular moral commitments. occasion is more obvious but not less important

corporate university must

The

objective

for that.

Cultural and political polarization often result in politically coercive powers threatening to

pared

with

the

impinge on the university subjective

situation,

in both, its forms.

As com-

on these occasions university

THE UNIVERSITY AND MORALITY autonomy

is

l8^

jeopardized without motivated action on the university’s part.

Either the government seeks to force the university to adopt a certain organizational position or the university

other major social institutions upon so.

is

whom

faced with a situation in which

depends

it

In the latter case, continued university neutrality

ment by another name,

tonomy

will

be effectively

set aside

the university’s having chosen for

political

Both underscore what Weber would

how

atively, to preserve itself.

mitment

is

will

occur without

call

I

make two

brief points.

the university’s ethic of respon-

than conviction. First, the corporate university must never

commitment must be

a

weight

the university might initiate

commitments. The need

take the lead in seeking to advance substantive

make

its

itself.

responsive value commitments in such situations,

to

throws

power. In either case, au-

and commitment

Before becoming more specific about

sibility rather

simply commit-

is

for a neutral university passively

behind whichever side has the most

be forced to do

will

an extremely

upon

thrust

it.

The

university acts neg-

Second, the justification for university com-

relativistic, situational one.

There

are

no issues

Even

that inherently violate the university’s ethical vocation to society.

anti-Semitism and racism in the larger society cannot be viewed as automatic commitment-producing

ment

is

dangerous one;

a

it

facts.

For the university, every commit-

should be undertaken only

when

threats to

university functioning are unavoidable. Thus, in a consensually racist society

— the American South

the university to

make an

in the

antebellum period for example

issue out of affirmative action

only in rupturing the university/society relation.

dermine the

had been taken

deeply divided over racism



for

would succeed

result

would un-

ability of its less racist faculty to advocate the very ideology

that corporate action

ple

The



a similar neutrality

— American

about

By

to uphold.

contrast, in a society

society in the 1960s, for

racial recruiting

exam-

would place the corporate

university at odds not only with powerful faculty sentiment but also with significant institutional forces in the society

WTen

social

state.

commitments cannot be avoided, what

university should

employ

to

The

university

are the criteria the

choose sides? What are the mechanisms,

moreover, by which the general expressed?

and

must

will of the university

align itself with

can come to be

whichever position more

clearly supports the principle of value rationality.

There

are certain social

conditions upon which the pursuit of such evaluative rationality clearly

depends.

First, there

must be

a substantial intellectual

freedom, that

is.

STRUCTURE, ACTION, DIFFERENTIATION

184

freedom that

is,

Second, there must be intellectual self-regulation,

of thought.

control as possible over the conditions of aca-

much academic

as

demic work. Third, there must be full communication, that possible opportunities for the exchange of ideas. In times that

must

demand

communication, it

seeks to defend.

The

university lives off It

commitments

scope of

to value ratio-

does, of course, contribute to the

by the vigor of the way

attractiveness of this value

are also occasions, however,

There

to extend the

for these conditions are the basis of the value rationality

nality in the general population.

it.

the widest

corporate value commitment, then, the university

freedom and control and

act to increase

is,

when

faculty exemplify

its

the university

must defend

the conditions of value rationality directly.

There can be no formal

when

rules that determine

value rationality must be defended.

What

the conditions of

involved

is

a sociological

is

process, a process of opinion formation that gradually crystallizes the

collegium’s public will. fact that the

committed

collegium

The dynamics is

composed

of this process proceed

of intellectuals

who

from the

are also value-

Yet while formal rules are impossible, formal pro-

citizens.

cedures might be desirable. At present, the only group legally

empowered

commitments to the outside world is the corporate governing board, composed almost exclusively of nonacademic and nonto formalize university

student personnel. intrauniversity

It is elear,

board does not control

of course, that this

eommitments. Ownership and control are separated

aeademic world as they are clear rationale for the

in the

in the

corporate one. Moreover, there

nonacademic nature

of

sueh governing boards.

is

a

They

represent the society’s fidueiary interest in overseeing academic work.

They may not, however, be nearly so effective sity’s own interests vis-a-vis society. The nonacademie and nonstudent nature

presenting the univer-

at

of

university

governing

boards often makes them too timid or too aggressive in deciding the lationship

between university and

society.

Why?

Because they themselves

are not deeply in touch with the value rationality that the university protect.

Because of

which university

this,

dangerous situations can

interests are threatened in

re-

ways

arise,

that

must

situations in

nonacademic gov-

erning boards could not have foreseen. Formalized faculty and student input, by contrast, could alert the corporate threats to the conditions for value rationality social

commitments

to

community

and

to the

to

impending

need

to establish

defend against them. Formal and explicit advisory

THE UNIVERSITY AND MORALITY powers should be assigned

to student bodies

and faculty senates, accord-

ing to which a vote by a certain percentage would require that an issue

be discussed and eventually voted upon by university governing boards.

Once

my

again,

position

may be

contrasted with the established one.

President Bok (1982:248-53) notes the extensive Harvard faculty debate

about the Vietnam War, but he dismisses the discussion as burdensome

and time-consuming. This observation close affinity

fails to

appreciate, however, the

between such discussions and “real” academic work.

also

It

see the need for a sociological rather than a formal approach to

fails to

university/society

some must be

commitment. Whether such discussions

left to

are burden-

the sensibilities of the faculty to decide.

As

a rule,

they will devote extraordinary time only in extraordinary circumstances. It is just

commitment. Obviously, such expressions

versity

may

may

such circumstances, of course, that

call for

of intrauniversity will

A

not finally decide the regents’ or overseers’ vote.

could, however,

come up

corporate uni-

strongly

again, and the reiteration of such a

felt issue

theme would

send a powerful message to the extrauniversity community from which the governing boards arise.

The

foregoing outlines a theoretical perspective within which the gen-

eral issue of university-society relations

clusion,

I

briefly consider

about issues

According

how

may be

this perspective

reconsidered. In

might be useful

my

con-

in thinking

in the present day.

to

tivate university

my

earlier

argument, threats to value rationality can

commitment

in

one of two ways.

On

ac-

the one hand, there

can be objective, coercive action that arouses the faculty collegium and the students.

On

the other hand, there can be a subjective threat that

although not producing an institutional challenge, activates commitment

because the moral feelings of the faculty collegium are perceived by them to

be threatened

in a

rational discourse

fundamental way. Equally

may

real limitations of value-

occur, of either an objective or a moral type.

will not create or justify university

commitment, however,

arouse the indignation of the faculty collegium

if

They

they do not

itself.

Consider, for example, the history of the university’s commitment to affirmative action.

which,

if it

Here the university faced

had not acted, would have committed

this objective reality, the university

tion

on

its

a direct

own

rather than to

stall

it

government

passively.

policy,

Faced with

decided to implement affirmative accompliance.

It

did so,

I

believe, in

accordance with the stricture to expand intellectual communication.

The

— 1

STRUCTURE, ACTION, DIFFERENTIATION

86

range of value-rational discourse in the university tinged hiring and admissions, just as

Now,

it

is

inhibited

that this step

racially

once was by anti-Semitic barriers.

has been argued by conservative opponents of this

it

by

beyond autonomy undermined one

commitment

of the other bases of

Xhe commerely broadened its own

value-rational discourse, namely, intellectual self-regulation.

mitted university has responded that

has

it

employment, not abandoned self-control, and it has everywhere sought to keep direct government intervention outside of even afcriteria for

firmative

academic hiring. The commitment to maintaining

all

the

conditions for value-rational discourse has, indeed, been the principal

source of contention between university and government in arguments

over university compliance with racial guidelines.

Although university commitments

to affirmative action

were made

in

the face of an objective constraint, they occurred against the background of a giant

movement

of public opinion.

This movement raised the

consciousness of American citizens, and students, and administrators

major

issue.

By

made

was

it

as citizens that faculty,

this particular objective constraint a

contrast, the university’s reaction to

penalties for those

who

racial

government-imposed

failed to register for the draft

— recently

lifted

indicates a very different situation.

This

latter threat

by the government certainly constituted an equally

objective situation, an attempt

by coercive powers

to force the university

commitment of great importance, into support for the draft and, indirectly, for American foreign policy. This coercively produced support ran directly contrary to the condition of self-regulation upon into a political

which value-rational discussion

based.

is

the government took federal financial aid

graduate students federal

who

failed to

To

enforce draft registration,

away from graduate and under-

comply. By supplying records to the

government, universities forced students to indicate whether or

not they had registered. In so doing, universities acquiesced to policies that

undermined

entific criteria.

their ability to allocate

rewards according to purely

In the sociology department

excellent graduate student

at

UCLA,

was substantially delayed

research because his work-study grant was withdrawn

for

sci-

example, an

in his dissertation

when he

failed to

register.

In this recent case of draft registration, the university has maintained its

neutrality but has

contrast with

its

been forced

to

assume

a position passively.

Why

the

actions on affirmative action? Because the sociological

THE UNIVERSITY AND MORALITY

iHy

process of opinion formation decides which threat to value rationality will

be crystallized. In the midst of the great popular upheaval of the 1960s,

major universities refused draft laws.

The change

to

comply with government pressures

in public

to enforce

consciousness in the 1980s makes this

commitment “unnecessary.” Because students

are not fighting in an un-

popular war, the draft has not aroused the collective consciousness of

The

faculty or students.

members in

issue does not “feel” like a critical

of the university

community. Hence

which commitment becomes Since World

War

II,

not, in fact, an issue

is

it

one to the

a sociological necessity.

powerful interconnections have developed be-

tween universities and defense work, both private and public, and more recently,

growing connections have emerged between universities and

technology industries. In both cases, the collegium

is

When

restricted.

economic and technological be hired according to

it

seems

bio-

clear, the self-regulation of

the corporate university allows such

relations to be established, scientists cannot

strictly value-rational criteria. Classified research,

proprietary information, and patent rights considerations, moreover, restrict

the freedom of communication

community depends. research, at

by skewing

It

upon which the extended

scientific

might even be argued that “mission-oriented”

scientific resources

toward short-term applications

None

the expense of basic research, restricts freedom of thought.

of

these threats represents directly coercive action against the university by the state, because in every case the corporate university has entered into

such relationships voluntarily. Once entered real

and coercive

Few ments

restrictions

on academic

into,

however, they represent

life.

of these instances, however, have triggered university to a

moral or

political stance.

The

reason

is

commit-

that in the postwar

climate they have not aroused sufficiently widespread faculty and student

concern. In the University of California system there has been continual protest against the university’s connection to the Livermore

weapons

oratory. Yet the protest has not been widespread. Indeed, even

popular governor

—Jerry Brown—sought

failed to crystallize sufficient

lab-

when

a

make Livermore an issue, he public attention. By contrast, in 1984 the

faculty at the California Institute of

to

Technology held

a series of

mass

meetings to protest the Caltech president’s plans to sponsor an Air Force think tank. Faced with threats by the faculty to seek his dismissal and,

no doubt, sincerely surprised by the depth found

a diplomatic

way

to

withdraw

of faculty feeling, the president

his initial offer.

The

difficulties of

1

STRUCTURE, ACTION, DIFFERENTIATION

88

the recent effort to petition scientists against “Star

Wars” research pro-

vides another example of the contingency and importance of experienced indignation. So far, this massive influx of restricted research

“Star Wars” has aroused relatively

little

for

opposition, and there have cer-

been no signs of university commitment

tainly

money

to

an anti-“Star Wars”

stance.

The South

African divestment

subjective threat than any that

movement

is

have discussed so

I

a

much more

It is

not, in the

responding to far.

first

instance, the real or actual danger to the society or the university

that

is

the stimulus for action; rather,

it

is

the danger to the university’s

moral reputation, which, of course, can ultimately have for both.

real

consequences

For many years, the existence of South African apartheid did

not seem related to the exercise of value rationality in American universities in a substantial

way. For

were complacent about the

number

of activists

issue. In the last

who have

to exert a far-reaching

many years, moreover,

moral

students and faculty

two years, however, the small

long campaigned for divestment have begun effect.

They have succeeded

in creating a

deep symbolic identification between American students and faculty and the disenfranchised racial groups in South Africa. Indeed, not to take

now experienced by many own intellectual life. The result, it

university action against apartheid a threat to the collegium’s

would be the

restriction of the

is

faculty as is

feared,

moral authority of collegium faculty and

of university students alike. In this situation, to maintain university au-

tonomy would, in fact, reduce the integrity of value rationality inside the American university itself. Apparently, some university commitment against apartheid is

to

must be made

The

be maintained.

faculty and students, other,

make evident

to formally express

In this essay

I

if

the motive for value-rational behavior

conflicts that

have once again arisen between

on the one hand, and governing boards, on the

the need for

more

rational

and consistent procedures

noncorporate university opinion.

have steered a middle course between long- and short-

term considerations, between conviction and practicality, and between advocacy and explanation. For Weber, this middle ground was called “responsibility.”

tonomy can

Only by revising the

liberal position

a truly responsible position

be maintained.

on university au-

4

THE UNIVERSITY AND MORALITY

lH(J

REEERENCES Bok, Derek. 1982. Beyond the Ivory Toieer: Social Responsibilities of the Modetyi Cniversity. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard UniversitV Press. Parsons, Talcott and Gerald Platt. 1973. The American University. Cambridge,

Mass.: Harvard University Press. Rawls, John. 1971

..

Theory of Justice. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University

Press.

Walzer, Michael. 1983. Spheres of Justice.

New

York: Basic Books.

Weber, Max. 1949. “The Meaning of ‘Ethical Neutrality’ in Sociology’ and Economics.” In Weber, The Methodology of the Social Sciences, pp. 1-49. New York: Free Press. Weber, Max. 1973. “The Power of the State and the Dignity of the Academic Calling in Imperial

Germany.” d/Zwd’na

(April 1973),

)

j

I

i

i

j

A

PART

III 0

The Micro-Macro Link

SEVEN Social Differentiation

and

Collective Behavior

Eisenstadt and Curelaru (1976:180) begin their masterful analysis of the structural-functional school of sociological theory with the following ad-

monition: “Despite

many

claims to the contrary, especially by opponents,

the structural-functional school was neither uniform nor unchanging.”

Indeed, they warn that there emerged “within this school,

many

internal

controversies, disputes, and ‘openings.’”

These words should introduce every discussion theory.

They

are an

of structural-functional

acknowledgment, by one of the most distinguished

“functionalists” of our time, of the need for revision experienced

the most representative and able dition (see Alexander 1979).

more

generally.

They

of every great theoretical tra-

As such, they provide

both Eisenstadt’s contributions dition

members

by even

to functionalism

a

key for evaluating

and the functionalist

tra-

are also vital to a proper understanding of

the relationship between this tradition and others.

In this chapter

we propose,

first,

to identify the

“openings” that Eisen-

stadt himself created within the functionalist school. After doing so, trace

how

his revision of social differentiation theory, in particular, creates

an opening toward developments within

be antagonistic to functionalism

we

we

a tradition often

considered to

— symbolic interactionism. This opening,

believe, allows critical elements of Eisenstadt’s revisionist theorizing

to be

expanded

significantly.

neofunctionalism, that

is,

tional theory that seeks to

retaining

its

is vital

to the creation of a

the emergence of a self-critical strand of func-

broaden functionalism’s

theoretical core.

Written with Paul Colomy.

Such expansion

intellectual scope while

THE MICRO-MACRO LINK

ig4

^



/

Every great

social theory

is

ambiguous on certain

Talcott Parsons’ was not less so than others.

On

presuppositional level, Parsons’ theory at

best

its

and

points,

critical

the most general and

was motivated by

a

genuinely ecumenical ambition, articulating a frame of reference that synthesized idealist and materialist

pendent but only

partial

sophisticated functional

modes

of analysis, allowing each inde-

determination of action and order. Using a

model and

a

complex yet precise conceptual

scheme. Parsons defined culture, society, and personality as analytically differentiated systems, a notion that mandated interpenetration but that also legitimated conflicting aims.

He

orientations to the social system

itself,

also applied these general theoretical

arguing that

it,

too,

is

composed

of internally differentiated systems that, while analytically interchanging

with one another, can be powerfully

and integration

much

icated tion

at

odds. After specifying equilibrium

as significant analytical points of reference.

Parsons ded-

of his empirical analysis to tracing the process of differentia-

and separation among actual

historical

groups and institutions,

a

process often produced by conflict and often producing conflict in turn.

Yet

this

ecumenical ambition was cross-cut

in Parsons’

work by

a

more

and reductionist strand of analysis (see Alexander 1983, chs. 6While the ecumenical strain of Parsons’ analysis embraced the mate-

sectarian 9).

rialist

of

segments of Weber’s work, and through them certain crucial aspects

Marxism, the more one-dimensional strand

confined to exploring the implications of

of his writing

was

Durkheim and Freud. In

Durkheim-Freud reduction, the normative-evaluative dimension sonal orientation

— which exerts moral

largely

control,

cognitive-instrumental orientations and acts



among

is

this

of per-

other things, over

said to control such ori-

entations and actions not just in the analytic sense of morality as nor-

matively regulated order but substantively, collectivities

tion

is

and

i.e., in

societies as a whole. Inevitably

the moral interest of

coupled with this reduc-

Parsons’ redefinition of “institutionalization.” In the ecumenical

strain, institutionalization is defined

simply as the intersection of often

conflicting

demands from

But

Durkheim-Freud reduction the disjunction created by the au-

in the

tonomy

the systems of personality, culture, and society.

of the social system drops

internalization

by personalities

of

away: institutionalization becomes the

common

value patterns (e.g.. Parsons

1951:36-45). This idealist reduction of presuppositions and models', in

SOCIAL DIFFERENTIATION turn, corresponds to an empirical reduction.

be taken as collectively moral, and

if

If

normative regulation

in a reciprocal

over, equilibrium

becomes not

is

to

the problem of scarce social resources

drops away, then the differentiated subsystems

change resources

795

in societv will surely ex-

and mutually supporting manner. Morejust

an analytical reference point for the

analysis of social process but also a description of the empirical status of that process itself (cf. essay 5, above).

II It is at

the reductionist strand of Parsons’ legacy that Eisenstadt has always

taken him.

A

loyal student,

he has for the most part carefully camouflaged

his departures, averring as recently as 1976 that Parsons’

emphasis” indicated neither an

idealist

“heavy systemic

reduction nor an anticonflictual

tone (Eisenstadt and Curelaru 1976:182). Yet, the evidence of a vast

subrosa revisionist effort

is

not hard to find.

In his little-known but extremely interesting introduction to

ber on Charisma

Weber squarely tionalist

and

and

if

Max

We-

Institution Building, a piece that ostensibly placed

into the Parsonian

camp, Eisenstadt

insists that in func-

theory values are viewed as the disruptive foundation of personal

collective struggles for fulfillment (1968:42). In

of Empires, a work that for the

first

The

Political

System

time translated Weber’s theory of

patrimonialism into functionalist language phasize, “Weberianizing” functionalism in

— even while, turn — the

as

we

later

em-

implicit challenges

to Parsons’ reductionist strand are omnipresent, (i) Parsons’ interchange

model

is

here cross-cut by the “ecological” dimension of stratification

(1963:69-93). (2) is

viewed

ing to

The

as creating

them

empirical differentiation modelled by interchange

problems and not simply or even primarily

(ibid.:224). (3)

The

differentiated parts of an interchanging

society, e.g., the political system, are conceived as

complementary but dominating

as adapt-

producing not

institutional forces of their

own,

just

as, for

example, in Eisenstadt’s discussion of the disruptive qualities of the early bureaucracies (1963:273-99). (4) tiated

The

“generalization” of such differen-

systems and their media of exchange

institutional

is

defined simply in terms of

autonomy and independent power

rather than in terms of

symbolically produced, moral, and fundamentally integrative legitimation

(1963:18-20). (5)

The

processes that result from such differentiation and

generalization are analyzed in terms of their contentiousness and the strug-

ig6

THE MICRO-MACRO LINK *

gles

rather than

they involve,

^

primarily as forms of reequilibration

(ibid. :3C4).

Clearly,

work

it

was the ecumenical and incorporative dimension of Parsons’

that Eisenstadt took

most strongly

to heart.

Rather than attempt to

defend the fortress-like distinctiveness of the Parsonian corpus against all critics hither and yon, Eisenstadt expanded the theory to encompass the critics’

best points. For classical theorists, this pertained primarily to

which Eisenstadt (1971) sublated differentiation and ecological segmentation

Marx’s emphasis on struggle and into his broader theory of

(1971);

it

class,

pertained also to the instrumental aspects of Weber’s political

which he (1963, 1968) incorporated into dimensional theory of interest group exchange.

a

analysis,

more muscular, multi-

In terms of contemporary theorizing, this ecumenical ambition reached

out to the reified, incomplete theories of conflict, exchange, and symbolic

Far from merely dismissing Homans, Eisenstadt (1971b)

interaction.

dwelled not on the inadequacies but on the insights that exchange theories generate about the concrete and processual aspects of what

Homans

called

subinstitutional behavior. Rather than emphasize the analytic inadequacies of instrumental conflict theories, Eisenstadt

95) used

them

to

(1965:1-68; 1976:245-

expand and make more systematic

his investigation into

the inequalities generated by allocation and by the merely formal aspects of legitimation.

And

while criticizing the individualistic dimension of sym-

bolic interaction, he tried, at the

expand

his

same time,

to utilize its insights to

understanding of the communicative and contingent aspects

of interaction processes strictly analytical

and

and purely

role behavior (1976:273-77). critical

a

more

approach (see Alexander 1987) might

have legitimately called the residual categories

Homans’ theory

What

of distributive justice



e.g.,

called openings,

and

in these traditions

— Eisenstadt

rather than decrying the fragmentation of contemporary sociology, he tried to

document what he described

as the

“broadening” of the sociolog-

ical tradition.

Though

Eisenstadt’s early work, for example.

From Generation

to

Gen-

eration (1956), represented functionalism in almost a pure form, his revisionist impulses

began

to manifest themselves

soon

after.

Rarely were

they explicit.

They

functionalist

framework and formulations and models from competing

traditions.

usually took cover behind a subtle combination of the

This should not be surprising. The same* pattern

is

evident in

SOCIAL D1 FFERENTIATION revisionist efforts

by other distinguished students

igj

of great masters



in

who eombined Marxism with Hegel and Freud, in those Durkheimians who melded their maitre’s theories with Simmel and Marx

those Marxists

(Alxander i982:chs.

9,

10).

In considering Eisenstadt’s work as a whole, his revision of Parsons

may be

said to have four distinct

(2) the

role

emphases:

and the significance of

(i) process

interests;

and innovation; omnipresence of

(3) the

conflict; (4) the disruptive aspects of culture. In his early revisions, these

challenges were articulated by the extraordinary “Weberianization” of functionalist theory

I

mentioned above.

On

the one hand. The Political

System of Empires (1963) demonstrated how Parsons’ theory could unravel the often confused relationships between class, state, and religion in

Weber’s monumental theory of

in

new

at

the

work demonstrated another ambition: to use the antiemphases of Weber’s theory to push the functionalist framework

same time, thetical

modernization. Yet,

political

this

directions. Eisenstadt firmly linked, for the

time, the different

first

functional exigencies of social systems to the interests of concrete social

groups and their desires for control (1963:8, 315). In demonstrate that of

power and

social

change

is

a

this

way, he could

process involving the differentiation

efforts at mobilization of resources

and control

(ibid.: 14)

while insisting, nonetheless, that the political goals and interests of the

mobilizing and controlling rulers were always mediated by overarching cultural patterns (ibid. :222-5o).

The

introduction of economic classes into functionalist theory comes

The boundary subsystems can now be seen

naturally from this emphasis on different concrete groups. relations

between functionally differentiated

as social relations

between different groups, and the groups that

articulate

the “adaptive function” are, at least in early periods, economic classes (ibid.:i20 and eh. 8, passim).

From

this innovation,

Eisenstadt could

powerfully extend class theory in turn, for he demonstrated that the de-

velopment

of different

economic

classes

is

related not just to

economic

development but

to the level of social differentiation. Indeed, Eisenstadt

developed

work

in this

development

a systematic, historically specific theory of

for each functionally differentiated subsystem.

he articulated a detailed theory of for the imperial period.

communist revolutions

social, not just

This theory suggests, of the

On

group

this basis

economic, contradictions

for

example, that the great

modern period have been

triggered, not

by

THE MICRO-MACRO LINK

ig8

forms of property, but by dominant

political relationships that

could not

escape the contradictions of an imperial bureaucracy (on this point, see

1966:67-74 and passim). Whereas these earlier revisions were couched in the language of Weber, Eisenstadt’s later revisions were most conspicuously articulated in the

also Eisenstadt

theoretical language of Shils. Shils’ center/periphery theory,

on the one

hand, allowed Eisenstadt to make even more concrete and subtle his earlier concentration on the interest relations that govern exchanges between

and

political

extrapolitical groups.

fully sublated Shils’ theory

At the same time, Eisenstadt power-

by defining the center

and Parsonian way, systematically linking

it

in a

more

pluralistic

to differentiated spheres in

the social system. Yet Shils’ broadening of the charisma concept proved still

more important,

and disruptive twist

for

it

enabled Eisenstadt to give

a

more innovative

to Parsons’ theory of culture. Eisenstadt

could use

charisma to open Parsons’ value conceptualization to the more mercurial qualities of sacredness.

This allowed him

to establish a fateful dialectic.

Eisenstadt argued that while according to Shils’ broadening of the concept

charisma

and

is

specific

The narrow

omnipresent,

it

can be produced only by specialized actors

and discrete aspects of the

social structure (igbSixli-xlii).

access to sacred power, however,

sive to the “quest” for participation in the lation as a whole. Eisenstadt .

.

.

must somehow be respon-

symbolic order by the popu-

concludes that “the quest for participation

does not necessarily constitute a focus of consensus

become

a focus of dissension, conflict,

and change”

new theory

foundation, he can formulate a

it

may

(ibid. :xlii).

of the relationship

which the terms

functionally differentiated groups, in



of

easily

On

this

between

exchange are

set

not only by a group’s dominating interest or relation to an overarching

symbolic order but also by

its

capacity to create and crystallize broader

symbolic orientations and norms sian recasting of

(ibid. :xxxix; see also Eisenstadt’s Shil-

Weberian revisions

tion to the paperback edition of

of functional theory in his introduc-

The

Political

System of Empires [1963

(1971)] :vii-xxii).

may be said to have reached forms. The first is his theory of

Eisenstadt’s efforts to revise functionalism theoretical maturity in institutionalization,

two different

which he developed

and made more detailed decade.

The second

relation

between

is

social

a

in

in the

1960s in various papers

book-length treatments over the subsequent

more metatheoretical conceptualization

of the

systems and culture, and

soc-ial

order,

social

SOCIAL DIFFERENTIATION change, a formulation that came to fruition

The

Fofiti of Sociology, in 1976.

only because

it

We

in his

igg

work with Curelaru,

consider the latter theory

supplies a framework for Eisenstadt’s

more

first,

not

specific con-

siderations of institutionalization but also because this institutionalization

theory provides an effective link to our empirical discussions in the latter part of this chapter.

From

the perspective of his intellectual development, Eisenstadt’s The

Fontis of Sociology

a richly revealing work, for he

is

and Curelaru devel-

oped an analytic history tracing sociological theory from the ures to the present. Because they

and accumulation of Whiggish

presentist treatments,

oping sociology.

to look

(Alexander 1977). Yet

to science

like

is

fearfully

many

other

proved extremely useful for Eisenstadt’s devel-

it

allowed him to look “forward” from classical theory

way to argue for the advances Parsons made “backward” from more contemporary debates to Parsons’

to functionalism

and

It

claims for the stready advancement

knowledge, their analysis

social-scientific

approach

in its

made

classical fig-

and

in this

functionalism in order to argue that these later developments responded

The final chapter in Tradition: Some Preliminary

effectively to real shortcomings in Parsons’ work.

Forms, “The Broadening of the Sociological Indications” (1976:347-75), marked the

first

time that Eisenstadt theo-

rized explicitly

from

in addition, the

most abstract and purely theoretical statement he has ever

made. This chapter, reading.

It

is

clear,

a perspective outside of functionalism. It presents,

like so

much

makes

of Eisenstadt’s work,

however, that

difficult

this discussion systematically refor-

mulates Eisenstadt’s ad hoc and implicit functionalist revisions, as well as the equally camouflaged openings he earlier

and postfunctionalist

traditions.

own work

of neofunctionalism. It

in Eisenstadt’s revisionist career.

in the early 1970s,

must be understood both

biguities of Parsons’ original

to the prefunctionalist

This systematic theory, therefore, marks

one of the principal starting points Smelser’s (e.g., 1974)

made

work and

it

With

marks the beginning

in relation to the

to Eisenstadt’s

own agenda

amfor

ecumenical revision.

While the fundamental elements

of Parsons’ synthesis remain, Eisen-

stadt forcefully integrates them, in this concluding chapter, with a focus

on process, group action,

interest, conflict,

and cultural disruption. The is

rooted

human

beings

potential for disorder and conflict, he maintains at the outset, in the is

very givens of

an open one;

it

human

must be

nature.

The

genetic code of

arbitrarily structured

by symbolic forms and

200

THE MICRO-MACRO LINK

technical organization. Yet this very act of structuring produces an open-

ness to change and disruption, for the details of symbolic forms and

They unfold

instrumental techniques cannot be determined in advance.

only in concrete interaction. This openness, in turn, creates powerful anxieties about the randomness and changeability of people’s goals and activities,

about the control of personal impulses, about the scarcity of

valuable resources, and about the duration of

human

life itself (ibid.

135^)*

Given the human tendency toward symbolization, such anxieties become transcendentalized, giving rise to various forms of cultural expression like religion, philosophy, science, rise to organizational effort

man

labor

and

and

art.

Yet these uncertainties also give

conflict.

Because the distribution of hu-

not genetically coded, this conflict becomes, in

is

general expression, a struggle over the division of labor. it is

indeterminacy of solidary relationships,

cation of the range of actors

specifically,

who

“the lack of specifi-

i.e.,

are admitted to a situation



the boundaries of interaction and of criteria of participation bership] in

most

over three different kinds of organizational indeterminacies:

a conflict

(i) the

More

its

it”; (2)

the indeterminacy of power,

i.e.,

human

should be sought by participants

any particular situation”;

determinacy of wealth,

i.e.,

[i.e.,

is,

of

mem-

“the lack of genetic

specification of universal or general in

that

goals and of goals that can or (3) the in-

“the lack of fixed specification of the range

of access of different actors to the

major resources which are being pro-

duced, exchanged, and distributed” (ibid.:354).

These overwhelming contingencies, Eisenstadt velopment pursue

of

mutual

trust the central issue for

this end, societies

make

believes,

all

human

the de-

societies.

To

develop organizational frameworks and mech-

anisms to regulate the division of labor and detailed symbolic codes that can structure the situation in accord with more general given cultural concerns. Yet there

is

by no means

a perfect

fit

between the meaningful

obligations and codes that societies develop and the organizational frame-

works and mechanisms that regulate the division between structures that develop

to

that trust cannot be maintained.

codes that transpose the critical ideologies

zational

life.

felt

promote

of labor.

This tension

trust has the effect of assuring

This tension produces new symbolic

inadequacies of the division of labor into

emphasizing the disorder and arbitrariness of organi-

Moreover, because these

critical

codes must be defined con-

cretely in each instance, differences soon develop

that exacerbate the tensions.

among

carrier

groups

SOCIAL DIFFERENTIATION

201

In this unsatisfactory situation, Eisenstadt argues, groups of actors seize

access to critical resources and positions and promulgate rules that support their

own

perspectives and interests. Such rules themselves often seem

and unjust

arbitrary, coercive,

The group

to

conflict that ensues

members

fought on the following grounds: hier-

is

archy vs. equality, effectiveness

of society outside these groups.

vs. legitimacy, authority vs. solidarity,

exploitation vs. justice, and spontaneity vs. control.

In response to such conflicts, there emerge in

ground

all

societies detailed

rules that control not only symbolic interaction but also access to

valued resources. These ground rules form what Eisenstadt structure” of society, and they are set

calls the

“deep

up and maintained by conscious

and unconscious coalitions

of different types of “entrepreneurs,” or insti-

These

coalitions seek to control the flow of resources,

tutional innovators.

symbolic and material, that are crucial for determining the structure of society. Eisenstadt’s conclusion to his

arguments that compose

metatheorv

is

as dialectical as the

While the establishment of ground rules

it.

“copes with the problems of social order,” he warns,

them;

it

only transposes them to a

new

“it

does not solve

level” (ibid. 1369).

Since this metatheory formalized notions that had evolved over the entire course of his work,

more

specific

which

should not be surprising that Eisenstadt’s

theory of institutionalization Eisenstadt means,

institutionalization,

by

it

organized,

the

in

described”

“societally

securely within

fits

first

place,

behavior

is

it.

By

the process established

(1964a 1235). But he also uses the concept to refer to the movement of specification social

from general, background conditions

arrangements,

to specific

and concrete

“the processes by which the various predis-

i.e., to

positions engendered in given structural, cultural, and organizational settings,

are

symbolic

taken up and crystallized patterns”

(1956

[1971]

into

:xlvii).

specific

While

emerges more directly from Eisenstadt’s attention cial

organizational

this

to

second

and

meaning

contingency and so-

process, both definitions refer to the problem of social change.

From

within his empirical and theoretical studies of social change, Eisenstadt issues this

work.

It

alization

fundamental challenge

was, after



its

all,

the idealism of Parsons’

theory of order and

change.

own

theory of institution-

failure to recognize sufficiently the “social” disjunction be-

tween personality and culture

social

to the reductionist strands of Parsons’

made

it

— that undermined the

original functionalist

appear to be antagonistic to the processes of

THE MICRO-MACRO LINK

202



^

Parsons identified social change and, more particularly social differenwith general processes

tiation,

and

ing,

inclusion.

differentiation can be

like

Although

value generalization, adaptive upgrad-

references

the

to

specific

causes

found throughout his work, most of the time Par-

sons was content with the general causal designation, “strain.”

was more interested

in

was

He

differentiation’s effects.

effects very precisely, but these descriptions

processes of differentiation themselves



like his

— tended

an important exception, see Parsons 1971

(for

of

significant, these descriptions of effects

What he

described these

descriptions of the

be highly generalized

to

:ch. 4,

assumed

passim). Equally

that the processes of

differentiation that responded to the initial strain would, in the last in-

stance, reestablish equilibrium (see essay 2, above).

Eisenstadt’s position on the effects of differentiation could not be different. “Recognition of the integrative

new

more

problems that are attendant on

levels of differentiation,” he insists, “constitutes the

main

theoretical

implication of the concept of differentiation” (1964b 1377, italics added).

He

also differs emphatically with Parsons

While

on the relevance of causes.

statement Eisenstadt (1964b 1375) purportedly is discussing only “older evolutionary models,” it seems clear that he also in the following

own

has Parsons’

confuse

.

.

evolutionary model in mind: “Very often [such models]

general tendencies with the causes of change.” Eisenstadt

.

quite clearly believes, in other words, that the integrative problems differentiation produces can be understood only

entiation are specified in a concrete

if

which

the causes of differ-

and systematic way.

The process of differentiation refers to tendencies that societies have, when certain background conditions are present, to respond to social conflicts

by developing more specialized structures.

or abrupt disruptions

Yet, even

disruption

if

such responses occur, Eisenstadt believes, social conflict and

may

not be resolved:

“The emergence

of a solution, i.e., the

institutionalization of a social order congruent with the

problems,

is

(1964b: 378).

may

new range

of

not necessarily given in the process of differentiation”

How

can

it

be possible that the process of differentiation

not “solve” the problems

caused such differentiation of differentiation eral strain that

is

— resolve the

strain

in the first place?

activated

by

factors

— which

in

some sense

Because the actual process

much more

specific

than the gen-

caused the prior social disruption. Tendencies to differ-

entiation are activated, Eisenstadt insists, “by the occupants of strategic roles within the

major institutional spheres”

who

“attempt to broaden the

SOCIAL DIFFERENTIATION

20J

scope and develop the potentialities of their respective spheres” (ibid.). He puts the matter more succinctly at a different point: ‘‘These things

done by people who are placed in or attempt to achieve positions and who aspire to certain goals” (1964a 1245).

are

The

fact that

groups acting

produced by

To

strategic

newly differentiated structures are established only by

why the institutionalization produce new problems of its own.

in their ‘‘self-interest” explains

social

change can

in turn

maintain the structures they have established, Eisenstadt believes,

these entrepreneurial groups will

make

‘‘continuous attempts to mobilize

resources from different groups and individuals, and to maintain the

gitimacy of the values, symbols and norms of the system”

Such

however,

efforts,

groups

in the society, giving rise to

system and

particular groups,

in their orientations to the existing institutional

and because the maintenance

depends upon resources

institutions

continuous shifts in the balance of

values” (ibid.). Because differentiation

its

(ibid., 246).

obviously “affect the positions of different

will

power among them and

le-

of

is

carried out

bv

newly differentiated

that can be acquired only

from other

groups, the differentiation process inherently produces group conflict.

“Most groups within any to exhibit

society or collectivity,” Eisenstadt insists, “tend

some autonomv

institutionalization

in

terms of their attitudes toward any such

and they vary greatly

or ability to provide the resources

The groups most

(ibid. 1246).

in the extent of their willingness

demanded by

the

[new] system”

unwilling or unable to supply the needed

resources, moreover, will develop organizations and ideologies even

more

antagonistic to the newly dominant group’s demands. Differentiation, then, actually

may

“facilitate the

development and ‘ma-

turation’ of certain inherent tendencies in the structure

key groups

system”

.

.

.

which may then develop beyond the basic premises

(ibid.). Differentiation, in

Though ment of a new tions.

it

responds to an

new

it

institutional

In the course of the tionalization process

and

sum,

is

a

process beset by contradic-

initial conflict,

the subsequent develop-

and may, indeed, create forces that “seek system” altogether

last

became

it

to

(ibid. 1247).

decade, Eisenstadt’s analysis of this instituin crucial respects

more

culturally sensitive

precise. In part, this further reveals the influence of Shils, but

significantly

of the

institution often leads “to the depletion of the resources

necessary to maintain” create a

and orientation of

indicates the response that Eisenstadt

made

more

to the struc-

turalism of Levi-Strauss. This response takes seriously the autonomy and

MICRO-MACRO LINK

204

internal systematicity of “codes,” but

relates

it

them much more

than structuralism to the level of the social system

work

of Eisenstadt’s, the carriers

also

the

creators

(i976:25off.).

and

and promoters

These codes

cultural

are linked (1973:119-50) to the

ceptual scheme articulated in The

Forms of

In this later

of differentiation

distinctive

of

articulators

itself.

forcefully

become

languages

complex con-

Sociology: to the levels of

organization and symbolic specificity, to the antinomies around which conflicts are

formed, and to the concrete and detailed ground rules that

Eisenstadt lays out. Eisenstadt has also tried to identify “rules of trans-

formation” that govern the relationships between the different levels and kinds of institutionally specific codes.

Though

Eisenstadt’s study of codes

is

still

far

from completion, the

general impact of his increased sensitivity to cultural in a preliminary

life

can be assessed

way. While “socializing” the purely cultural emphasis of

structuralism, Eisenstadt’s

work now

stresses, at the

same time,

that in

certain historical periods possibilities exist for a direct, suprainstitutional

relationship between socialized personalities

and symbolic patterns. In

the process of institutionalization and change, he suggests, this relation-

more preceding work

ship creates possibilities for social disruption as significant as the

purely

socially

generated

(1973:132-33, 325-27).

means

tensions

The

of ritual behavior,

more dramatically open

to

his

in

existence of such a direct relationship also

that periods of disruption

by episodes

described

and transformation

and such

ritualization

will

makes

be permeated societies

even

change (1976:248-52). Indeed, Eisenstadt has

argued (1978) that the impact and independence of cultural codes actually

makes them the

single

most powerful creator

of revolutionary transfor-

mations. Although this presents a dramatic change from his earlier, more purely political theory of revolution,

it

represents an expansion of ex-

planatory emphasis rather than a change of type.

The multidimensional

character of his general theory, which he inherited from Parsons along

with his ecumenical ambition, allows Eisenstadt’s cultural turn to enrich his earlier writing

on institutionalization rather than contradict

it.

Ill

We now

indicate

how some

of these openings in differentiation theory can

be extended by linking them with developments in one branch of the

symbolic interactionist tradition.

f

SOCIAL DIFFERENTIATION

205

While contemporary intcractionism suffers from an astructural and dividualist bias,

“open”

it

in-

contains, nonetheless, a strand that can be seen as

to the analysis of institutional

and structural change. This strand is collective behavior.* The interactionist approach to collective behavior overemphasizes its emergent character, yet the end point of such unstructured behavior

is

held to be structure

to structure, while structure itself

as a thing-in-itself.

early statement

is

never considered

This paradox appears

on the

area,

Antistructure

itself.

in

is

in a

said to lead

systemic

way

Blumer’s (1951 [1939] :2i4)

which recommends

that social

movements

can be viewed as societies in miniature, and as such, represent the building up of organized and formalized collective behavior out of what was originally amorphous

and undefined. In their growth a social organization is developed, new values are formed, and new personalities are organized. These, indeed, constitute their res-

They

idue.

new

leave behind an institutional structure

objects and views, and a

new

and

a

body

of functionaries,

set of self-conceptions.

But can structure simply “appear” out of collective behavior matic way, unaffected by any surrounding,

Wouldn’t the products

The attempt

in turn?

is

an auto-

structural environment?

of earlier collective behavior affect later episodes

to

develop this

senstadt’s work. Antistructure

tionalism

i.e.,

in

line of

reasoning leads back to Ei-

and structure can be combined

if

neofunc-

systematically related to one strand of the theorv of collective

behavior.

Early students of collective behavior described the crystallization of

new

these

institutional

and cultural orders

developments purely internal

to a social

as the invariable

movement. This

in efforts to construct a “natural history” of all social

assumed

that

realization of

of

clearly evident

movements, which

movements traversed a series of stages culminating in the new institutional frameworks. Blumer identifies, for exam-

ple, the stages of social unrest,

and

is

outcome

popular excitement, formal organization,

institutionalization. In the latter stage the

movement “has

crystallized

*In this analysis we focus on publics and social movements and do not examine

“elementary forms” of collective behavior, such as crowds or panics,

how more

affect institutional

change.

fjohn Wilson (1973:332-63) argues that as social movements persist they become more routinized and structurally differentiated. He does not, however, explicitly link the origins and development of such movements to the subjective, voluntaristic, and conflictual ele-

ments

of neofunctionalism or, indeed, to the symbolic interactionist treatment of collective

behavior. fashion.

Our

discussion attempts to articulate these links in a detailed and systematic

the micro-macro link

2o6

^

*

into a fixed organization with a definite personnel

movement”

into execution the purposes of the

and stucture

to carry

(ibid.:203; also see Ed-

wards 1927; Hopper 1950).

More

recent analyses of collective behavior have

moved away from

simplistic natural history approach and, in contrast, have

contingent

nature

Turner and

movements do not

emphasized the

movement development (Turner 1964:123-25;

of

Killian

1972:252-55; Jackson

invariably

et

move through

i960). Arguing that

al.

a set of fixed stages, these

interactionists have sought to identify the conditions necessary for

ments

to develop

the

and endure.

Ironically, this very increased

move-

emphasis on

contingency has opened the possibility for connecting the collective behavior approach to zation of a social

on

more

movement

a variety of social

The major

structural concerns, for once the institutionaliis

seen as problematic,

it is

seen also to depend

and cultural conditions.

theorists of this later collective behavior tradition.

Turner

for example, about the tension be-

and Killian* (1972:245-425), write,

tween competing value, power, and participation orientations within

movements;

a

movement’s success

in

generating material and ideological

support from the community; the public response and the reaction of social control agents to the

movement; and the

the movement’s leadership.

The

lective behavior

are clear

relation

and

strategies

tactics of

between these conditions of

and Eisenstadt’s innovations

col-

in the functional tradition

and unmistakable. As we have summarized these above, they

include an emphasis on process and innovation, on the significance of

group and individual

interests, of conflict,

culture. If the continuing emphasis

behavior perspective

is

and the disruptive aspects

on contingency

in this later collective

taken as illuminating a level of empirical analysis

rather than as articulating a systematic theory, then

some

of

it

clearly

complements

of these neofunctionalist concerns; the later theory’s

openness to

*In our view, Turner and Killian’s Collective Behavior (1972) is among the most comprehensive treatments of the field. Surely, it is the most thoroughly interactionist treatment.

With regard approach

is

action than 32).

For

to the latter point,

more is,

it

seems clear that Turner and

Killian’s

“emergent norm”

consistent with the basic interactionist tenets about the character of social

for example, Blumer’s depiction of “circular reaction”

this reason,

we employ Turner and

actionist treatment of collective behavior.

Killian’s text as the

(Turner 1964:128-

most authoritative

inter-

SOCIAL DIFFERENTIATION impinging structures promises, functionalism’s

more

in turn, to elaborate

207

and complete neo-

structural emphasis.*

Yet there are substantive, not

just analytic, reasons for seeking to

com-

bine neofunctionalist theory with this strand of interactionism, for the

phenomenon

seems

of collective behavior

ferentiation theory conceives of as

to

modern

embody much

life.

With the

of

what

dif-

differentiation

of a publie sphere in the late eighteenth

and early nineteenth eenturies, and the increasing impingement of the periphery on the centers, collective behavior became an increasingly important vehicle for aggregating and articulating societal

mechanism

demands;

for introducing

it

change

In the following discussion,

we

became an ever more important

also

continuous, self-regulating way.

in a

suggest

how key concepts developed by

these later students of collective behavior

—communication and

a sense



countermovements and general movements can extend the subjective, voluntaristic, and conflictual elements of Eisenof injustice, the public,

stadt’s

theory of social differentiation and change.

ment

is

illustrated

development Strain

and

with

in the early

examples

drawn

Our

theoretical argu-

primarily

from

United States.

the Settse of Injustice.

We

how

have shown

proach to strain makes several important advances.

broad and often vague notion of strain with

Eisenstadt’s ap-

First,

and disequilibrium

is

he replaces

a

a reference to specific tensions

generated by particular groups and their interests. In doing that general strain

political

so,

he allows

not enough: institutional entre-

preneurs must emerge to identify this dislocation with some positive personal gain. Strains, in other words, do not “reveal themselves”; they

be defined before they can be acted upon. This definition just

on material position but on contingent cultural

develop

in

must

depend not

will

sensitivities,

and

will

an atmosphere of contingent conflict between individuals and

groups. In interactionist terms, Eisenstadt of

communication and *There

is

is

suggesting that strain

collective definition. If a strain

a significant parallel

is

is

a

product

perceived, and

between our analysis and the one presented

in Neil

Smel-

Behavior (1962). Like Smelser, we seek to demonstrate how functionalism can be extended through the examination of noninstitutionalized conduct. Despite this shared intention, however, our theoretical strategy is somewhat different. ser’s

Theory' of Collective

Whereas Smelser sought to incorporate the analysis of collective behavior within the functionalist paradigm, we hope to show that functionalism can be enriched by opening itself to some of the insights generated by another sociological tradition.

2o8

the micro-macro link

an individual or group wants to act on it, proposed remedies require the cooperation of others. Institutional entrepreneurs must “persuade” others, then, that an important social problem exists that deserves immediate attention.

It

is

upon

these processes of definition and persuasion that

interactionist accounts focus

(Blumer 1971

Spector and Kitsuse 1977 *73”

;

96). If strain is to

precipitate collective action

it

must be transmuted

The

“sense of injustice” (Turner 1969; 1981:18-19). of systemic

problems or perceived threats

simple recognition

group

to a

into a

interest

is

rarely

sufficient to generate sustained collective mobilization oriented to insti-

tutional change. Eisenstadt believes there

must

also exist a sense of cul-

tural disruption or possible disruption. Interactionists like

Killian (1972:259) allow us to put the matter

more

Turner and

precisely:

if

differ-

must be defined as unjust. For example, the development of the first mass political party in the United States is an important instance in American history of institutional difentiation

is

ferentiation.

selecting

down.

It

to occur, these conditions

Yet

it

did not occur simply because the traditional

presidential

depended,

candidates

in large part,

movement

— the

Congressional

mode

Caucus

of

— broke

on mass mobilization supporting

a

new

depended in turn on a deeply felt sense of injustice. This sense of injustice emerged from the widespread belief that the Adams/Clay/Jackson presidential election was decided by a “corrupt bargain” in which Clay exchanged his electoral votes for assurances that he would be appointed Adams’ secretary of state. This “deal,” it was widely believed, enabled Adams to secure the presidency even though he had considerably fewer popular votes than Jackson (Dangerfield party structure, a

that

1952:331-45, 415-35). Eisenstadt is aware that, even beyond these considerations, students of social

change must consider additional historically

conditions. tion.

Once

again, interactionists provide

While enduring

specific

and contingent

more systematic

strain or perceived injury to

group

explica-

interests

necessary condition for the emergence of a sense of injustice,

it

is

a

not

is

(Turner and Killian 1972:259-68). Other conditions must exist: the presence among those directly or indirectly affected by the strain of

sufficient

an established communication network, a viable group identity, and an

embryonic subculture; an established

(often, high-status)

group that

le-

gitimates and supports the growing sense of injustice; an “independent” intellectual stratum that effectively articulates a sense of injustice;

the identification of an “oppressor” or “culprit”

who

and

appears to benefit

SOCIAL DIFFERENTIATION

20g

deemed responsible for existing conditions. To the degree that these conditions are combined with a recognized and enduring systemic strain, the more likely it is that a sense of injustice will be articulated and diffused, and the more likely that movements oriented to differentiafrom and

is

tion or dedifferentiation will arise.

For Eisenstadt, “institutional entrepreneurs” are both the cause and effect of such a successful response to strain. He portrays such movers and shakers, furthermore, elites.

The

as

both interest-seeking and culture-creating

interactionist usage of the concept of “ideological

groups”* seems to sustain and elaborate ically,

it

relates primarily to the

this understanding,

primary

though, typ-

normative rather than structural dimen-

As Marx and Holzner (1977:426) put it, ideological primary groups “focus the energies of their members on the construction and legitimation sion.

(through consensual validation) of a shared symbolic apparatus that publicly interprets a

defines)

it

problematic or incomprehensible reality and invents (or

into existence.”

Given the

the high degree of control at is

particularly effective

but also

when they

its

affective support

it

generates and

disposal, the ideological primary

when movements

aspire to restructure

group

not only fuel a sense of injustice

members’

identities vis-a-vis other

Such groups, for example, have been a conspicuous feature of the movement toward more universalist structures that has been generated by the contemporary women’s movement (Cherniss 1972). Finally, Eisenstadt insists that whatever the success of group formation, differentiation will meet opposition from the outside. Reactive groups may be insulated from the social positions in which strain is most intense; they may be beneficiaries of the existing social arrangements and fearful of collectivities.

alterations; or they

may simply

be convinced that certain deprivations or

inconveniences are an inevitable part of

by unnecessarily

stirring

active possibilities.

life

and tha^

up discontent. Eisenstadt

What remains

is

is

good is done aware of such re-

little

to link this focus, as interactionism

does, to the problem of collective definition. If reactive groups are successful in convincing others that serious deprivations

the process of differentiation will be inhibited. tualized

by interactionism

sense of injustice

is

as follows: the

typically

do not

The problem

development of

opposed by other groups and

a

exist, is

then

concep-

widespread collectivities

Nahirny (1962) introduced the notion of ideological primary group into sociological discourse. Marx and Holzner broaden the scope of the concept considerably by examining it

from an

interactionist perspective.

THE MICRO-MACRO LINK

210

that, for a variety of reasons,

deny

that the existing institutional order

a source of legitimate grievance (Hall

is

and Hewitt 1970). These groups

often attempt to defuse the growing sense of injustice

by attributing the

expansion of discontent to a small group of self-interest agitators or out-

(Blumer 1971, Spector and Kitsuse 1977). In sum, Eisenstadt’s recognition of the subjective and contingent

siders

mensions

of strain suggests that our understanding of this concept

relation to differentiation can be

advanced by considering strain

junction with a sense of injustice and by viewing both

as,

di-

and

its

in con-

in part, the

products of communication, collective definition, and definitional conflict. Eisenstadt’s revision of functionalist strain theory suggests a basis for

linking “objective” strains and contradictions to processes of collective

Such

redefinition. sential

if

redefinition processes, interactionists believe, are es-

“objective” conditions are to be recast as so inequitable and

unjust that they legitimate the collective mobilization necessary for social differentiation

and

institutional

Re specification and

the Public.

activities of institutional

interactionist alist

change (Zurcher and

1981 :469-72).

Eisenstadt’s description of the symbolic

entrepreneurs presents another area where the

emphasis on collective redefinition can extend neofunction-

thought. Eisenstadt argues,

institutions

Snow

is

we

recall, that

the establishment of social

the product of creative individuals or groups

who

not only

procure and exchange resources, establish organizational frameworks to

implement ened

collective goals,

and mobilize support but

also exhibit a height-

sensitivity to order-giving, charismatic principles.

are pressed

by

their

own

Innovating groups

special needs for contact with the sacred

and by

the necessity, as well, of demonstrating to their potential supporters the vital

connection between the

new

institution they are bringing to life

and

fundamental dimensions of the cultural order. Yet, while Eisenstadt notes sensitivity to the charismatic

some is

of the situations in

which

a generalized

heightened, he does not fully explore the

contexts or mechanisms through which connections between the bur-

geoning institution and broader symbolic orientations are established. His suggestion that a coalition between institutional entrepreneurs and representatives of various collectivities “selects” the

interaction

and establishes the

ground rules

of social

institutional specifications of those rules

should be followed up, particularly his remark that this coalition acts “in special institutional-ritual, legal,

and communicative frameworks” (Eisen-

— 1

SOCIAL DIFFERENTIATION

21

and Curelaru 1976:364-67). A more deexamination of such contexts and mechanisms is especially crucial

stadt 1978:33; also, Eisenstadt tailed

because institutional entrepreneurs are often not charismatic individuals Eisenstadt invokes here Shils’ attenuated sense of the term. therefore, able to

compel compliance by virtue

qualities. Instead, they

must

either

They

are not,

of extraordinary personal

borrow the aura

erate

new and more compelling

The

interactionist treatment of publics indicates

charisma or gen-

of

specifications of accepted cultural codes.

one context through

which such “borrowing” and “respecification” occurs. Differentiation theory explains

how an independent

comes

public

being (Parsons 1971), but theories of collective behavior explain

into

how

the

public actually works. Presupposing constitutional guarantees for freedom of association, expression,

and publication of opinion, the public

is

con-

ceptualized by interactionists as an emergent collectivity engaged in ex-

tended public discussions and debate (Turner and Killian 1972:179-98). Precisely through such discussion, one

may

reason, groups establish the

connection between an emerging institution and basic cultural beliefs.*

The

structure and process of publics then,

is

of vital concern for the

neofunctionalist theory of change. Public discussion, interactionists observe,

is

conducted by two opposing

assumed by others

factions, with each faction being

to represent the position of an established, usually

larger group. Despite this perception, however, the debates

ments within the public provide coalitions

velops a those

a basis for

new

strategic

and argu-

groups and

(Blumer 1948; Shibutani 1966:37-40). Each public faction derudimentary division of labor between an opinion leader and

who

may be drawn from persons and reliability, but they may also be chosen because values or are known to be closely associated with a

support the leader. These leaders

of established prestige

they personify certain

charismatic person (Turner and Killian 1972:202).

As

a public

debate

endures, disparate issues become solidified into a single matrix, and the legitimate alternatives on an issue are successively narrowed (ibid.: 19293). In the course of this consolidation

becomes “generalized”

and simplification, public debate

in the sense that Eisenstadt

and other functionalists

use this term to imply the heightened symbolic and charismatic importance of the debate. In this compacted and generalized phase, the mean-

•Jeffrey Prager’s (1986) study of public dialogues in a lates clear links

between functionalist and

macro

sociological context articu-

interactionist treatments.

212

THE MICRO-MACRO LINK * .

ings of abstract cultural codes and their relation to concrete practices are

addressed. Established practices and institutional forms not previously

considered in relation to fundamental structuring principles can scrutinized

1979);

if

for

they are delegitimated, institutional entrepreneurs can publicly

argue that

new

structures are better able to preserve basic principles in

turn. This, indeed,

name, though

One

(Blumer 1978:27-30; Gusfield

inconsistency

possible

now be

it is

is

functionalism’s “value respecification” by another

more

a

and systematic conceptualization.

detailed

elaboration of the interactionist treatment of publics has identified

three types of publics in which this connection between emerging struc-

made (Colomy 1982:103-10). The

ture and charismatic principle can be

connection

most

is

explicit

of public discussion. fully represents the

when

Opponents

the institution of the

new

itself

institution

community’s code, arguing,

for

becomes the topic deny that

it

example, that

faithif it is

allowed to persist, the community’s sacred traditions will be subverted.

Proponents, in contrast, attempt to describe is

how

the burgeoning structure

designed to uphold these traditions, suggesting that without this in-

novation the very integrity of the society

The second

is at

stake.

type of public context makes the object of discussion the

entrepreneurial groups and individuals themselves, not the institution

they seek to create. While the intent of those is

to discredit

who

initiate

such discussions

and publicly embarrass the innovators, the attacks usually

afford the entrepreneurs an opportunity to respond at a similarly generralized, “all or

may

nothing”

In these responses, entrepreneurial groups

level.

associate themselves with

society’s transcendent order.

matic figure, they

contemporary or

By

exemplars of

a

so identifying themselves with a charis-

may contend

designed to preserve

historical

that the institutions they propose are

at all costs the traditions

such charismatic figures

struggled to attain.

framework can become linked

Finally, the developing institutional still

broader discussion about the

In such a debate the

new

movement away from

fate

structure

is

to a

and future of the entire community. treated as prototypical of a general

established principles, a reactive position that en-

genders counterarguments that seek to demonstrate that the same structure actually

is vital if

cherished traditions are to be sustained.

All three types of publics, differentiation of the lier.

On

we might

note,

were deeply involved

in the

American mass party structures we mentioned

the reactive side, the

new

parties

were condemned

ear-

as cancers

on

J

SOCIAL DI FFERENTI ATION the social order; the

instrumental in constructing the

frameworks

particularly \ an

Albany Regency

— were castigated

zational of the

men

new

21

organi-

Buren and the leading members as self-interested, untrustworthy,

and greedy, and the emergence of party was treated as symptomatic of America’s declension from the sacred legacy of the founding fathers. On the innovative side, party structures were championed because they performed essential functions for the political and social order; leadlicentious,

ing institutional entrepreneurs defended their actions by declaring their personal identification with such charismatic figures as Jefferson and Ma-

dison; and

was widely contended

it

that

new

parties

revitalize the sacred principles of the “revolutions” of

lace 1969, 1973;

were

essential to

1776 and 1800 (Wal-

Hofstader 1969).

This integration of neofunctionalist and interactionist understandings may be clarified further by returning, once again, to Eisenstadt: such

communication processes can never be separated from the terial interests of

ideal

and ma-

the factions involved. Because the innovative groups, as

well as their reactive opponents, aspire to gain the support of other groups

community, the manner

in the

cultural concerns

made with

are often

tempt

is

bound

to

in

which they connect

have

particular

a “strategic”

subcommunities

at cultural respecification is sensitive to

interpretations of a society’s cultural codes.

their

arguments

to

dimension. Arguments in

mind, and everv

at-

the subcommunitv’s various

The

task of

making

a

con-

vincing connection between the proposed structure and a subcommunity’s interpretations of a basic organizing principle stimulates entrepreneurial

groups

make

to

this

modify

their original conception of the structure. In order to

proposed structure palatable

promises are often introduced

important constituencies, com-

that, in effect,

established institutional arrangements. to

to

More

combine new elements with generally,

if

new

ideas are

be combined with divergent but enduring interpretations, the “creativ-

ity” of institution builders

is

constrained. Ideas that cannot be linked to

the community’s fundamental codes are unlikely to generate sufficient

support.

The

ability to

dependent on the talents In

summary,

make

this

The

is

partially the

activities of institutional entrepreneurs. If

new

they

structures, entrepreneurial groups

emerging organizational frameworks

tural codes.

also, of course, partly

then, Eisenstadt argues that differentiation

are to successfully institutionalize link

is

of the entrepreneurs themselves.

product of the “symbolic”

must

connection

to

new

or established cul-

interactionist treatment of the public provides a useful

the micro-macro link

214

analytic tool for examining a key area

where such entrepreneurs seek

legitimation and where their efforts are contested. This discussion brings

us to our

final

substantive discussion. Eisenstadt insists that conflict can

be both cause and byproduct of differentiation. This proposition can be further developed by drawing

upon the

what

interactionists

countermovements and general movements.

call

Conflict,

Countermovements, and General Movements. In contrast

more benign versions historical

here

and opposition. Most of

and focuses on the more autonomous

his discussion

polity.

to generalize this discussion and, simultaneously, to

is

to

of differentiation theory, Eisenstadt’s analysis of

differentiation emphasizes conflict is

analysis of

Our purpose make it more

analytically differentiated.

In modernizing societies, where public spheres are institutionalized and

where peripheries impinge substantially on the center, tion, as ists

we noted

social differentia-

above, usually involves social movements. Interaction-

have consistently observed that social movements mobilized for

change stimulate the opposition of vested

interests,

which organize

into

countermovements. Countermovements can impede the effectiveness of initial

movements, prompt substantial modification

of the initial

move-

ment’s program, and/or generate intense polarization within a society (Mottl 1980; Turner and Killian 1972:317-21;

outcomes,

all

of

which

relative balance of

movement, the

aspects of this

theoretical interest.

These varying

depend not only on the resources but also

as the intensity of the original strain that gave rise strategic skill of leaders, the level of relative

general public support, and the response,

Two

1982).

movement and countermovement

on such considerations to the initial

inhibit differentiation,

Lo

if

any, of social control agents.

movement/countermovement dynamic have

The

first

obtains

when

special

the relationship between the

movement and countermovement assumes a competitive form. If initial movement appears to have considerable support and resources,

initial

the

countermovements

that initially arise to defend the existing institutional

and normative order may often adopt elements from the program and goals of the original

movement. In

this

way, as Turner and Killian

(1972:318) point out, a countermovement attempts to use for

its

own

ends some of the generalized discontent and also to force the opposed

movement to focus on the most extreme portions of its original program (also see Lo 1982:119). Yet by coopting elements of the initial movement’s

program and advocating changes

example tiated tive

normative order that were

origi-

in the

actually

promotes the

institution-

new, more differentiated structures. Competitive counter-

movements, then,

Once

2/5

countermovement

nally opposed, the alization of

SOCIAL DIFFERENTIATION

are often transformed into agents of social change.

again, early

American

political

phenomenon. The

of this

development provides

first

attempts to construct differen-

mass party organizations, which made the

and created

a

leaders, especially

more

dramatic

a

civil service less ascrip-

inclusive polity, were undertaken

by Democratic

by Jackson and Van Buren. The incipient Whig

lead-

ership vigorously opposed these organizational and normative changes, particularly the extension of egalitarian standards to political leadership,

and

it

sought to mobilize

a large

constituency in defense of traditional,

deferential patterns. This adherence to conventional patterns of authority

involved the repudiation of populist egalitarianism and for this reason was largely responsible for the Whigs’ inability to

the

Democrats

Whig

for political office.

By

compete

effectively against

1840, important elements of the

leadership decided not merely to adopt but to improve the inno-

vations introduced by the Democrats; the presidential campaign of that

year marked the

first

genuine institutionalization of mass

and the ascendence of the

egalitarian style as the

political leadership (Marshall 1967,

political parties

unquestioned

mode

of

Hofstader 1969, Wallace 1969).

At the same time, however, the acquiescence

of

countermovements

often has a “strategic” character; in this case, the institutionalization of

new

levels of organizational

ued opposition

to

new

and normative differentiation masks contin-

forms. This

is

especially true

if

acquiescence

fol-

lows upon a “split” in the ranks of the countermovement, with one faction arguing for accommodation and a pragmatic acceptance of “new

realities,”

another for shunning the desertion of principle and tradition. In any case, opposition to

new forms

of differentiation

institutions appear to have

may

become

may

persist

firmly entrenched.

even after new

That opposition

resurface and assume significance in later episodes of differentiation

or dedifferentiation, as Eisenstadt notes, for example, in his discussion of

counterrevolutionary groups in Revolutmi cieties

and

(1978:41-42). In the American case, the

ment emerged

in part as

the Transfotination of Socivil

service reform

move-

an attack on the mass party and the “corruption”

promoted. This movement resulted in the further differentiation of administrative structures, yet it was initiated and led by descendents of it

the “Conscience Whigs,”

men who had

always eschewed notions of party

the micro-macro link

2i6

and discipline because of

loyalty

entiation of the

mass party system

their general itself

antagonism

(Hofstader 1962:172-96; Blodgett

1966; Josephson 1938:158-70, 345-65, 374-84).

Another aspect

of the

to the differ-

.

movement-countermovement dynamic

that de-

serves serious consideration stems from Blumer’s (1951 [1939] 199-202) :

between general and

distinction refer to

broad cultural

drift, to

orientations that supply a

specific

movements. General movements

gradual but significant changes in value

common

formula for

many

varied, goal-oriented

movements.

A

structure,

oriented tow'ard a program, and provides a sense of identity

for

its

is

specific

movement, by

contrast, posseses organizational

members. Often goals and programs

are derived

from the broader cultural orientations

movement. Indeed, movements,

insofar as similar cultural

their adherents

movements same general

of distinct specific

and the public

of the

themes pervade

at large

specific

often recognize

them

as constituent elements of a “cultural gestalt,” as sharing a similar ori-

entation and as promoting compatible goals.

This interactionist conceptualization promises

to extend

and elaborate

certain key elements of differentiation theory. In a period of intense historical

change, opposing general movements often emerge. These general

movements

give rise to an array of specific

ments, each “set” battling

for,

and

movements and countermove-

against, differentiation in an array of

institutional spheres. Students of Jacksonian

America, for example, have

discovered that behind the discrete conflicts over differentiation in the political, educational, religious,

two opposing

sets of internally

modernization (especially control, qualitative

economic, and stratification spheres lay

coherent cultural themes.

in the

improvement,

One

set stressed

economic and cultural spheres),

self-

societal hierarchy, cultural uniformity,

achievement, and social reform; the other emphasized personal liberty

and expressiveness, quantitative expansion, equality, cultural heterogeneity,

and individual reform (Walters 1978,

The compatible

Howe

1979).

cultural orientations of adherents to the

movement, and the sense

same general

that each confronts a similar opponent, often

constitute grounds for the exchange of material resources and support

between different

international, societal, at least partially

movements (Lo 1982:126-29). Further, the and local responses to a particular movement are

specific

dependent on the perceived relationship between

movement and more

this

general social shifts. In terms of both resources and

SOCIAL DIFFERENTIATION social control,

movements

The

21J

therefore, the relationship

affects

distinction

between general and specific the forces mobilized for and against differentiation.

between

and general movements underscores

specific

the need for a conception of culture capable of comprehending contradiction and opposition in turn. Eisenstadt’s

promising

in this respect, for

institutionalization of the possibility for tensions

and he

work on

cultural codes

is

he contends that the very construction and

ground

rules of social interaction create the

and contradictions leading

change (1978:40), group and institutional life.

also relates these conflicts closely to

Eisenstadt’s discussion of the uneasy

fit

and the conflict-generating features

to

between established ground rules

of the social division of labor, for

example, identifies some of the central themes and the cultural-institutional axes a

around which general movements

broad framework within which more

movements and

arise.

fruitful

His analysis provides

examinations of general

the specific struggles they inspire can proceed.

r We

began our discussion by noting Eisenstadt’s “invisible” but powerful

revision of Parsons’ theory.

onstrating

how

stadt’s

followed that detailed analysis by dem-

certain strands of symbolic interactionism can contribute

to a crucial elaboration of fitting to close

We

some

our analysis with

of Eisenstadt’s central themes. It a brief

comment on

the opening Eisen-

neofunctionalism presents for the development of symbolic inter-

actionism in turn. Interactionists working are

seems

now

striving for a

at

many

different analytic levels

rapprochement with macrosociology

(e.g.,

Lewis

and Smith 1980, Stryker 1980, Handel 1979, Maines 1977, Strauss 1978). These efforts suffer from two limitations. First, by elaborating notions of process, bargaining, and negotiation, a

some

interactionists aspire to build

macrosociology entirely from within the interactionist tradition. Yet by

transforming conventional notions of structure and constraint beyond recognition, these efforts

fail

to reconcile interactionism with the vital

of macrosociology (see the critique

by Meltzer

et al.

corpus

1975:109-10). Other

writers in this tradition have, quite rightly in our view, acknowledged interactionism’s failure to generate a viable corpus of macrosociological

concepts. Yet their efforts to adopt ideas about structure from other sociological traditions have often

employed concepts primarily suited

to the

the micro-macro link

2i8

analysis of stability

and

stasis.

Th^

efforts to link

such concepts with

interactionism, which traditionally has stressed process, adaptation, and

change, has a forced and unconvincing quality. (Similar objections, e.g., are

made

Weinstein [1982], and Overington and er’s

by Warshay [1982], [1982]; see also Turn-

in the recent reviews of Stryker [1980]

Maugham

[1982] critical assessment of Handel’s attempt to unite interactionism

with structural sociology.)

We

share the conviction that interactionism has not generated a viable

macrosociology.

It

appears to us, however, that the most congenial macro-

sociological traditions for interactionists are those that focus

and that are open

to notions of process,

on change

temporal development, and the

capacity of individuals and groups to define and redefine their situation.

We

believe that Eisenstadt’s corpus provides just such a macrosociological

model, and we have tried to demonstrate the possibilities for linkage. Eisenstadt’s implicit revisions of Parsons,

we have

suggested,

amount

to

a call for a

major redirection of functionalist theory. Eisenstadt’s critiques

of Parsons

must be read

By

as,

simultaneously, openings to other traditions.

complementary aspects

aggressively searching out

of

what are usually

considered antifunctionalist traditions, important steps toward a fully

new and

multidimensional theory can be made.

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\

EIGHT

The

“Individualist

Dilemma”

in

Phenomenology and Interactionism

In this essay

I

delineate the positive accomplishments of the schools of

phenomenology and symbolic interactionism while,

at the

same time,

ex-

posing the limitations that have prevented either from becoming a fully satisfactory theoretical tradition of

contemporary

social thought.

I

dem-

onstrate that while each can enrich the collectivist understanding of social

order developed by the classical tradition of sociology, neither can replace

Yet the

it.

classical

approach to

collective, “social” order

enhanced by incorporating the “individual moment” and interactionism, even defer to

The

distinctiveness of

phenomenology

the collectivist tradition cannot completely

I

what follows

rests

bring to bear on the topics

with the general framework at

framework should become increasingly

analysis,

of

it.

of analysis that of this

if

can be powerfully

I

present

its

hand. Although the nature clear in the course of

my

essentials at the outset.*

Introduction:

Some Analytical Considerations possible to

It is

make

theoretical explorations of social thought at very

different levels of analysis.

I

could, for example, explain the problems of

phenomenological analysis by examining specific empirical studies con*This general framework tions,

and Current

is

much more

elaborately discussed in Positivism, Presupposi-

Controversies (Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1982a), the

Theoretical Logic in Sociology, though in the present context to a I

problem not

I

am

first

volume

specifying

it

of

my

in relation

directly considered in that work.

thank Lewis Coser, David Lewis, Victor Lidz, Melvin Pollner, and Emanuel Schegloff

for their instructive readings of this essay,

sation.

and Harold Garfinkel

for his instructive conver-

THE “individualist DILEMMA”

22J

ducted from the phenomenological point of view, examining the particular propositions advanced about the detailed structure of empirical “reality.”

Or, to consider another

level,

I

could focus on the distinctively method-

ological issues involved in producing such propositions. at

the models employed, or

could look

I

sumptions phenomenologists make, sistent

the normative-ideological as-

in fact,

make them

they

way. Although each of these different levels of analysis

and

significant aspects of theory I

if,

at

could also look

I

of the relative

power

will reveal

of different theories,

more general and,

focus here on a level of analysis

in a con-

I

believe,

generally ramifying than any of these, namely, the level of analysis

more I

call

the “presuppositional.”

The

presuppositions of any social theory are the positions a theory takes

human action and the manner in which plural actions The problem of action refers basically to epistemological

about the nature of are interrelated.

questions: to problems of idealism and materialism, which are usually

formulated sociologically totvpical actor in

in

terms of the relative “rationality” of the pro-

any theoretical system. The problem of order, on the

other hand, refers to the problem of

how

consistent patterns of such

rational or nonrational actions are created: are patterns of action the result

of continuous negotiation this patterning



between

at least in part

relatively separated individuals or

— the

is

result of the imposition (either con-

sensually or coercively) on individuals of a sui generis, prior structure or

pattern?

While the options

for “the

problem

of action” are rational versus non-

rational (not irrational), the theoretical options for addressing the order

problem are individual versus thetic

and

approach

idealist

to action,

collective. It

is

possible to develop a syn-

which would attempt

concerns without adopting either

in

to integrate materialist

an exclusive way.

It is

not possible, however, to adopt a synthetic approach to the order question if this implies that the

symmetrical.

To do

alternative approaches be regarded as theoretically

so

would be

to adopt a theoretical agnosticism pre-

cisely the opposite of the truly synthetic position required. Social theorists

must, and do, choose either collective or individualist positions, though within the context of either choice, theorists to the problematics of the counterposition.

may be concerned

may be more Thus,

or less receptive

a collectivist theorist

to incorporate into a conceptualization the (relatively

small) element of negotiation that goes into the creation of any specific historical construction of a particular social order, for only in this

way,

it

MICRO-MACRO LINK

224

might be argued, can the processes of creativity and change that characany empirical order be clearly analyzed.

terize

As

these

comments

indicate,

believe strongly that a successful social

I

theory must be synthetic vis-a-vis the problem of action and collectivistic vis-a-vis the

problem

of order.*

At the same time,

must incorporate some

tivist

theories can and

more

individualistic theories

believe that collec-

of the empirical insights of

they are to succeed as empirical descrip-

if

tions of the actual historical world. eral considerations that

I

These statements

raise

two

final

must be explicated before more detailed

gen-

analysis

can proceed: the problem of the “individualist dilemma” and the problem of “levels of empirical analysis” versus “kinds of presuppositional

com-

mitments.”

One advantage

that accrues

from focusing on the most general presup-

positional level of social theory

is

that

problems

and complex empirical character can be discussed stract

terms of theoretical

discussion that follows.

I

logic.

call

it

of the

most ramifying

in the general

One such problem

will

be

and ab-

vital for

the “individualist dilemma,” and

its

structure follows from the nature of the presuppositional issues

described above.

To

maintain an approach to order that

in a clear, consistent,

and honest way,

a theorist

is

the

logical I

have

individualistic

must introduce

into a

construction a level of openness to contingency that, in the final analysis,

makes the understanding unpredictability.

Most

of order

approximate randomness and complete

theorists of society,

of course,

unless they are

“closet psychologists” or absolute nominalists, will simply not be satisfied

with such randomness, even it

and, indeed, promote

theorists will

one way or

it.

if

they consciously feel they should live with

Because of this dissatisfaction, individualist

move toward the more collective moment by embracing, in another, some aspect of supraindividual pressure or suste-

nance.

The

individualist

dilemma

is

created because this “theorist with second

thoughts” will not give up on formal claims to a thoroughgoing individualism; for this reason, the “collectivist

moment” introduced must be

camouflaged by residual categories. Because

it

tematic and forthright argument of the theory

*The

collectivist position

on order must be regarded

cannot be part of the sysitself,

the collectivist ref-

as the major,

and

least

disputed,

contribution of the classical tradition initiated by Marx, Weber, Durkheim, and

Simmel

and carried forward by numerous “schools” and followers today, including, perhaps most conspicuously, the functionalists.

THE “individualist D erence

be

will

vagueness make plete.

To

and

indeterminate it

theoretically

vague.

This

MMA“

22 ^

indeterminacy

and

I

LE

and empirically frustrating and incom-

dilemma

resolve this problem, obviously, the

itself (i.e.,

the

choice between randomness or residual indeterminacv) must be tran-

scended; this can come about, however, only individualism

is

if

the formal adherence to

abandoned. Only with the movement toward an

explicitly

theory can the sui generis autonomy of social order be clearly

collectivist

stated rather than camouflaged in an

ambiguous way. Only

in this

way,

moreover, can the contingent and individualistic elements of order be inserted into a collectivist theory as significant insights into specific levels of empirical analysis

This

raises the

and

as nothing

more.

second general issue

I

would

like to clarify.

I

regard as

fundamental the distinction between empirical-level-of-analysis and presuppositional-approach-to-order. Stated in less oblique terms, it

is

one thing

analysis

to focus

on the individual

and quite another

to

I

insist that

as the point of one’s empirical

adopt an “individualistic” position in terms

of one’s presuppositions about the sources of patterned action in general.

A

collectivist theorist

may, indeed, focus empirically on the

dividual interaction or even at the level of the personality

an individualistic theorist

on

a collectivity or

focus, not

even a nation-state.

analytical assumptions or collective processes, ized attitudes as

may

on the

The

level of in-

itself.

Likewise,

isolated individual, but

point

is

more general

the

made about such empirical individual interaction e.g., how relatively important are a priori social-

compared with

historically specific, completely contin-

gent individual signals and responses?

One cannot

argue, then, that symbolic interactionists or

logical theories are preferable

interaction,

been

for this could

— the province

essay

is

because they focus empirically on individual

quite plausibly be

— and

of collectivist theories as well.

that, while the general

only from

phenomeno-

framework

indeed, has often

What

I

argue in this

for social theory can be derived

a collectivist perspective, the empirical analysis of individual

interaction should incorporate wherever possible the empirical insight of individualistic theories into the concrete operations, structures,

cesses of the empirical interactions of concrete individuals. insights are substantial even

if,

in

more general

I

and pro-

believe these

theoretical terms, they

are incapable of supplying the presuppositions of theoretical analysis itself.

THE MICRO-MACRO LINK

226

'‘Phenomenology'' Strictly

and

Traditionally Perceived In terms of Hegel’s debate with Kant, in terms, that

of strictly philo-

is,

phenomenology might be applied to any theory that accepts the independent structuring power of consciousness while denying the dualism Kant posited between phenomenal and noumenal worlds. sophical usage,

Insofar as a theory claims that objects (the

constituted purely by consciousness (the ity),

it

is

radically

is

to

would have

to incorporate

its

and thoroughly

go beyond the confines of an

would hope

in

Kant’s terms) are

phenomenal realm

phenomenological. In terms of

phenomenology

it

noumenal

approach idealist.

of subjectiv-

to action, then,

Any

theory that

idealist, or materialist,

theory

and transcend Kant’s dualism rather than

reject

out of hand.

The strictly

question that remains

is

the approach that such

phenomenology

considered takes to the problem of order. Hegel’s theory must be

considered the prototype of a collectivist phenomenology, though in specific

form

it

certainly does not exhaust

all

its

possible shapes of the genre.

Hegel focused on the structure, continuity, and development of supraindividual Geistes reductionist, his



and

“spirits” or “cultures.”

it is

phenomenology

His method was descriptive and

not surprising that in the supple hands of Dilthey

of the spirit could

become the

basis for a science of

the spirit, or Geisteswissenschaft. Dilthey called this science “hermeneutics,”

and both

method and

as

as theory this

commitment

to the struc-

become

turing power of ideational patterns has in the ensuing years

a

We

can see the Dilthey-

Hegel tradition of phenomenological hermeneutics

in significant aspects

central current of collectivist-idealist thought.

of

Weber’s work;

in the

temporary, Jellinek; in

superb

much

if little

noticed writings of Weber’s con-

of Parsons’ sociology;

and

such contem-

in

porary “post-” or “neo-Parsonians” as Clifford Geertz and Robert Bellah.

For most of these

collective phenomenologists, the individual actor

is

conceived as a representation of the broad cultural types. Through a process of internalization, the individual becomes identified with the collectivity,

and through externalization the

collective

becomes

identified

with the individual. As Hegel (1977 [1807]:! 10) describes “the experience of

what

spirit is” in the

enology of Spirit:

it

is

chapter on Lordship and Bondage in his Phenom“the unity of

itself in its

otherness

.

.

.

the unity

THE “individualist DILEMMA”

22 J

of different self consciousness which, in their opposition, enjoy perfect

freedom and independence: It

possible,

is

‘I’

that

is

on the other hand,

proach to the phenomenal realm, and phefioffienolog}' has traditionally

‘We’ and ‘We’ that

to

‘I’.”*

is

adopt a more individualistic ap-

it is

to this

been applied

approach that the term

in social theorv.

Such theory

begins, of course, with Husserl. Husserl accepted the structured, pat-

terned quality of reality, but he insisted that the source of such structure

must be found

in the constituting processes of the

human mind

itself.

After Husserl, the legacy of phenomenology as traditionally understood

moved

in

two quite different directions, each movement addressing

itself

to the individualist

dilemma. Moving toward rapprochement with more

collectivist theory,

Merleau-Ponty, Scheler, and Schutz, among others,

formulated the notion of tradition-bound tried,

“life worlds.’’

In so doing, thev

either directly or indirectly, to reconcile phenomenological her-

meneutics wdth the more traditionally understood phenomenology

in its

individualist sense.

At the same time, however, another school of Husserl followers moved toward the dramatically ualistic

phenomenology

swelt,” which inspired

emphasized

historicity

less structurally sensitive,

more purely

of existentialism. Alongside his notion of "'leben-

movement

in a collectivist direction,

and immediate experience (existence)

to Husserl’s insistence

individ-

Heidegger

in opposition

on structure and essence. Sartre completed

“purification’’ of Husserl

by

perience of nothingness that

insisting that all

it

is

this

out of the individual ex-

consciousness arises. Existential phenom-

enology takes the dynamism of Hegel’s dialectical emphasis on movement

and change and separates “spirit.”

without

The a

result

is

it

from any consideration

of

overarching

an individualistic theory par excellence

— the “I”

“we,” self-consciousness without any society. Once existence

is

accepted as the ultimate arbiter of society and structure, the relation be-

tween individual and structure becomes

*It

is

in principle irresolvable; the va-

precisely this “strict” tradition of phenomenological analysis that,

in this chapter, provides the justification for allowing so

“phenomenological.” This

is

is

more

will see later

of sociology the designation

the philosophical rationale for Tiryakian’s (1965, 1970, 1978)

position over the years, one that has

the individualism of a

much

we

drawn much

criticism

from those who would defend

“traditional” phenomenological position but that, nonetheless,

absolutely correct in terms of the synthesis of “phenomenology” and “sociology” that must

be carried out.

THE MICRO-MACRO LINK

228

and

inconsistencies,

garies,

ends

dead

existentialism and structuralism

amply

argument

the

of

attest to this

between

rupture.*

This dead end can be avoided only by combining

a sensitivity to the

individual operations that constitute ongoing “existence” with an appre-

mind: both moments must be

ciation for the structuring qualities of

moreover,

serted

traditions toward

into

theory of more inclusive

the

which some

life-worlds

collectivist tradition of

hermeneutics of Hegel and Dilthey. For several years this seemed,

American school

precisely the promise of the

movement has

ology called “ethnomethodology,” but, though the brilliant empirical

never I

more general

this

soci-

yielded

theoretical promise

was

fulfilled.

now

and

insights,

in fact,

phenomenological

of

and

moved and

of Husserl’s students haltingly

which has been articulated independently by the

in-

more

look

closely at the

movement from Husserl through Schutz

his followers. In the vicissitudes of this theoretical

believe,

one can discover precisely what needs

reintegration and synthesis

is

to

be done

to

be attained, even

development,

if

I

theoretical

if

such synthesis would

be anathema to some of phenomenology’s recent practitioners.

*The debate between and

traditionally

Sartre and Levi-Strauss

strictly

shows how the

traditions of phenomenology’

perceived have been so taken to their extremes that their leading

proponents believe they have nothing

in

common

at all.

In Being

and Nothingness (1966:46)

movement traditionally understood: “My free... As a being by whom values exist, I am unjus-

Sartre individualized the phenomenological

dom

is

the unique foundation of values.

tifiable.

by

My freedom

...

is itself

without foundation.” Freedom, therefore,

renewed obligation

a constantly

to

remake the Self which designates

“is

characterized

free being.” In

Savage Mind collectivized the idealist tradition so far that he suggested that cultural themes proceeded without being internalized by individuals and, in fact, had nothing to do with “meaning” per se. reacting against such thought, Levi-Strauss in The

Linguistics

.

.

presents us with a dialectical and totalizing entity but one outside (or beneath) con-

.

sciousness and will. Language

human

is

reason which has

its

reasons and of which

man knows

nothing”

(1966:252).

Or

as

he

insists

phenomenon.

.

.

.

Behind

in his later years tried to

was

at

(1970:64)

another point, “in

all

his bets,

a frustrating series of residual categories

essential

is

not that

man

is

perspective meaning

is

never the primary

non-meaning.” Whereas Sartre (1971:111) he would not give up his individualism; the result

meaning there

hedge

my

made, but that

is

a

and theoretical indeterminacy,

he makes that which made him.”

e.g.,

“What

is

THK “individualist dilemma’’ Husserl 's

22 ()

I ndividualistic

Phenouienology

Though

I

insist that

Husserl illuminated individual processes from within

an individualistic prcsuppositional framework,

from the outset

that Husserl was, indeed, very

and patterning

of structure

nomenology

in the real

world

important to recognize

it is

aware of the existence

he simply argued that phe-

:

correctly understands that this order proceeds

from con-

sciousness, and from consciousness understood in a decisively individu-

way. This order must come from, and somehow be completely produced by, the individual: “The Objective world, the world that exists

alistic

for

me, that always has and always

ever can exist for

me

whole sense and

its



will exist for

this world,

existential

with

status

all .

.

its .

me, the onlv world that Objects

me

from

.

.

.

derives

its

myself” (1977

[1931] :26).

To

understand the role that individual consciousness plays, one must

make

the “phenomenological reduction”

doubt the realness of the world

— one

must place

into radical

“The world is for us something added). The “sense of reality” or

as such:

that only claims being” (p. 18, italics

“sense of structure” comes only from the individual person: “It to the consciousness perceptually as

To

it

itself”

by me

(p. 19, italics

understand the process of perception by which

constructed



in

given

added).

a sense of reality is

another phenomenological vocabulary, the process of

fication that objectifies the otherwise

tions

is

— involves stepping outside

random stream

rei-

of subjective percep-

of the “natural” or “naive” attitude.

immersion in the already-given world, whether it be experiencing, or thinking, or valuing. Meanwhile, all those productive intentional functions of experiencing, because of which physical things are simply there, go on anonvmously. The experiencer knows nothing about them, and likeDaily practical living

is

naive.

It is

wise nothing about his productive thinking.

The numbers,

the predicative

com-

plexes of affairs, the goods, the ends, the works, present themselves because of the hidden performance; they are built up,

regarded.

.

.

.

The

member by member;

intentional performances

they alone are

from which everything ultimately

originates remain unexplained (pp. 152-53).

Husserl focuses, that go

in

other words, on those productive intentional functions

on anonymously

in his view, there

is

as

hidden performances, and as

an external world.

scendental subjectivity,” for

it

He

a result of

calls this the

which,

realm of “tran-

focuses on the objectivity-creating func-

2JO

THE MICRO-MACRO LINK

tions of the

mind

from the particular nature

that exist apart

historically specific or

context-dependent

phenomenological reduction

of the

Only by bracketing such existence that stems from

program and

of his

mind be discovered. This

is

definition

the source of Husserl’s distinctive

enormous empirical contribution; it and his students’ and followers’ his



time, the source of

any

reality.

particular details, indeed, can the realness of

the essential intentional structures of

of

is,



at the

same

greatest theo-

weakness.

retical

What Husserl accomplished was

stitutive techniques” of consciousness.

discovers “a (p. 39)

mode

of

some

to outline

Through

of the essential “con-

intentional analysis, he

combination exclusively peculiar to consciousness”

by which the streams of atomized experience are transformed into

an apparently transcendental and authentic these are, in the

first

instance, techniques

reality.

Husserl suggests that

by which consciousness arranges

the experience of ongoing space and time. Rather than “incoherent se-

quencing,” for example, the mind assumes that spatial connections exist

between elements

of perceived reality

not, in fact, actually be seen.

even when these connections can-

Consciousness establishes a “horizon of

reference” such that one always connects things one sees to things one

has not yet perceived but anticipates that one will see or must see

and forms are

to

capacities as well.

be completed. Such spatial

Only because

of

memory

abilities rely

if

shapes

on temporal

can temporal sequences be

random occurrences. The capacity for connecting past, present, and future provides that “new evidences are restituting of the first evidences” (p. 60), i.e., that the mind constitutes a whole from successive sequences that seem merely to be parts. More generally, this constitutive technique means that “the object is always met expectantly as having a sense yet to be actualized; in every connected to each other instead of seeming

moment

To

of consciousness

it

is

like

an ‘index’ of prior expectations”

(p. 46).

allow newly encountered objects to maintain this status as index,

specific techniques are required.

There

is

the constant use of analogizing:

“Each everyday experience involves an analogizing transfer of an originally instituted objective sense to a

new

case, with

of the object as having a similar sense.

component

in further

its

anticipative apprehension

... At the same time that sense-

experience which proves to be actually

new may

function in turn as institutive and found a pregiveness that has a richer

sense” (p. iii). There

is,

further, constant association

and “pairing” of

THE “individualist DILEMMA”

2J/

things with other things, people with other people, and each with the other.

The

suggestiveness of such insights into the order-creating capacities

and order-creating

would wish us.

to

activities of the

mind should be obvious

for

all

who

understand the sociological structure of the world around

These contributions

be examined further when Husserl’s contem-

will

porary followers are discussed below. At this point, however, some of the limitations of this position First, of course, there

must be discussed.

is

the problem of idealism

not shirk from the idealist label; “I

.

.

.

Husserl does

itself.

have objects solely as the inten-

modes of consciousness of them,” he asserts (p. 37), and he describes his method as “transcendental idealism.” Even though purposefully one-sided, however, this method is one-sided nonetheless, tional correlates of

for although objects

may,

in fact,

always be mediated by consciousness,

they are not by any means always created by

only

at

such subjective mediation

power and

will

cultural constraint through

became constituted before

its

it;

any theory that looks

leave unexplored structures of

which some aspects

of this object

conscious mediation.

But even within the framework of idealism, there Husserl’s choice of an individualistic versus a

more

is

the problem of

collectivist

mode

of

proceeding. Husserl looks into the structure-producing capabilities of the

mind

individual

rather than into the typical structures and processes of

culture or collective world-view.

Whereas Hegel and Dilthey developed

mode

the latter kind of idealism, Husserl proceeds in an individualistic that

has

some

of

the intellectual weaknesses of traditional

thought. Indeed, in one of his

quotes Augustine: in the inner

man”

“Do

last

major works, Husserl approvingly

not go out; go back into yourself. Truth dwells

(p. 91).

Husserl w'as not completely unaware of such shortcomings.

end of

his

life,

in

religious

published and unpublished

(e.g.,

Toward

the

Husserl 1965) work,

he indicated a desire to combine his insights with an account of the sui

some aspects construction of meaning

generis social element. Borrowing from

of Heidegger, he

suggests that the intentional

results in,

made from

within, lebenswelteti or “life-worlds”

bolic patterns,

communities

that are given. It

—cognitive

is

and

styles,

is

sym-

important to see, how-

ever, that, while achieving this illumination about the limitations of his

work

as a social theorv, Husserl did not succeed in reconceptualizing the

THE MICRO- MACRO LINK

2J2

He was

presuppositions of his theory as such.

so consistent a thinker,

indeed, that, for the most part, he succeeded in introducing ''lebensweW into his theory without even

making

external, collective world, he insists,

sion

of

worlds

the techniques

into a residual category.

it

is

constituted merely by the exten-

use

individuals

This

construct

to

individual

their

— through analogy, pairing, and other techniques that make things One creates, in this way, others who are like oneself (pp.

similar to the experience of one’s past.

understanding of

a

“normal” world of

a

mode

the 99,

119, 125).

But

this

is still

What Husserl

of consciousness,

has concluded

consciousness are modes of

who

is

and

it still

simply that “not

my ^^’//-consciousness”

starts

all

with oneself.

my owm modes

(p. 105).

are the objects of such associational techniques are

The

still

unexplained. Husserl can say only, “let us assume that another

our perceptual picture” ing the alysts

work

— not

of the

(p.

no). Although he acknowledged,

Durkheimian-manque Levy-Bruhl,

simply phenomenologists

beneath the “natural attitude,” he

still

— could

also

insists that

of

“others”

completely

man

enters

after read-

that cultural an-

illuminate

a

reality

understanding the struc-

ture of the lebenswelt (the task of cultural analysts like Levy-Bruhl and

Durkheim,

as well as of the hermeneuticists like Dilthey

only “preparatory” to showing

how

lebenswelt

itself is

and Hegel)

is

the result of tran-

scendental consciousness and abstract intentionality (see the unpublished

statement cited in Merleau-Ponty 1978 [i960] 1154). In such moments,

seems even Husserl himself succumbed the collectivist

moment from

to the

it

temptation of transforming

a logical part of his theoretical

individualism

into an unexplained residual category.

HusserVs Collectivist Revisers

Some

of Husserl’s

most important students and followers transformed

these later references of his

work from

residual categories into theories

about the relation between intentionality and the impact of supraindividual collective order. Merleau-Ponty, for example, writes about Husserl’s

“dilemma,” which concerns, remain

a residual

a-vis the objects

in fact, precisely

whether the lebenswelt

will

category or a source of independent determination vis-

produced by individual consciousness. Intentionality,

Merleau-Ponty suggests (1978 [i96o]:i53), operates only in reference the culturally given: “It is not the mere sum of expressions taken

to in

THE “individualist DILEMMA” isolation.”

Another

2JJ

significant revisionist, Alfred Schutz, argued that “our

from the outset, an intcrsubjective world of culture” (1978 [1940] :i34-35). Schutz develops what he calls a mundane rather than transcendental phenomenology: he inserts transcendental intentional everyday world

is,

activity into the context of supraindividual culture

and gives both impor-

Schutz 1967 [1932]). Schutz and Merleau-Ponty issued strong and perceptive programmatic statements about the individual-ortant roles (e.g.,

much more

der relationship, and Schutz,

than Merleau-Ponty, conducted

detailed empirical studies that were so programmatically informed.

That

there remained even in Schutz’s efforts an “amalgamizing” rather than a

completely “theoretized” quality offered in the

first,

and perhaps

clear

is

still

from the summarizing statement

most famous,

he published in

article

English:

The

naively living person

ingful

.

.

automatically has in hand, so to speak, the mean-

,

complexes which are valid

for

from the manifold sedimentations

him.

From

things inherited and learned,

of traditions, habituality,

and

his

own

previous

constitutions of meaning, which can be retained and reactivated, his store of ex-

perience of his life-world

is

rience of the life-world has

built its

up

as a closed

meaningful complex.

special style of verification.

the process of harmonization of

all

single experiences. It

is

This

The

style results

co-constituted

expe-

from

last

but

not least, by the perspectives of relevance and by the horizons of interest which are to be explicated (1978 [1940] :i37).

The

last

three sentences refer to Husserl’s techniques for “verifying” the

familiarity

and objectivity of the external world: through

poral consistency,

through analogizing from oneself

spatial

to

and tem-

other people,

through pairing, through expectant meanings, and through indexing, the culture that

and

to

is

already shared

ongoing events. The

collective cultural

The

is

relation

made more widely first

applicable to

two sentences

refer,

new

actors

by contrast,

to

complexes that precede such individual constitution.

between the two

is

posited, but

it

remains unexplained.

Early Ethnomethodology: Gatfinkers Revolutiotiaty Pursuit of Theoretical Compromise In the early and early-middle phases of his career, Harold Garfinkel con-

tinued this camouflaged effort to resolve the individualist dilemma by

transforming that

is

its

polar choices: to restore a social, supraindividual

moment

neither a residual category nor a vaguely defined indeterminacy.

the micro-macro link

2J 4

him

Husserl’s mathematical background gave

the false sense of order as

“just being there”; Merleau-Ponty’s political activism

him

a

more accurate understanding

and socialism gave

of historically specific supraindividual

order that could, in principle, include collective constraint; Schutz trained

Weber

within the collectivist idealist tradition and absorbed from

the

notion of collectively rooted idealist tradition and normative patterns.

He

Garfinkel was trained by Parsons, as well as by Schutz. easily understand, therefore, that order

of

any individual

actor.

could more

given and persistent and outside

is

Yet while acknowledging

institutionalized culture, he could see that

it

had

this order as to be,

based upon

and was, contin-

uously revived through individual practices.

Though

Garfinkel produced a variety of articles in the 1950s and 1960s,

the most powerful statement of his

was

cessful, position

and

initial,

his magnificent essay,

I

most suc-

believe his

“A Conception

of

and Exper-

iments with ‘Trust’ as a Condition of Concerted Stable Actions” (1963), where he introduced an entire conceptual schema in the context of a series

Was

of ingenious empirical tests.

merely an accident that this great

it

attempt to incorporate individual intention into the study of supraindividual order was devoted to the study of “games,” the very prototype of institutions that link individual desires to social needs

intense rivalry by submitting

it

and that

mutual acceptance of

to the

civilize

common

rules?

Garfinkel’s

work has

so rarely been properly understood as central to

the classical sociological tradition that

and most important

article at

some

Garfinkel identifies the games he

it is

worthwhile

to

study this

first

length. is

studying as supraindividual “nor-

mative orders” and “disciplines.” Trust occurs to the degree that this

normative order

is

maintained.

How

is it

sustained?

To

answer

tion Garfinkel tries to synthesize the traditions of Parsons

on the one hand tics

— and

— the

traditions, that

is,

which goes back

to Husserl

and Durkheim,

of phenomenological

the phenomenological tradition

more

this ques-

hermeneu-

traditionally conceived,

through Schutz.

Rules are, and have to be, internalized. But they must also be “worked at,”

because norms, or rules, are effective only because they operate in

conjunction with “consciousness” in a phenomenological sense: they pro-

duce expectations and behaviors that mesh with the order-creating functions of consciousness in Husserl’s sense.

A

game’s rules rely on certain

THE “individualist DILEMMa” intentions, they create certain

constitutive expectancies”

among

2J5

the play-

Rules exhibit, therefore, the following characteristics: (i) Players in the game (i.e., the members of a group) expect the rule to be unquesers.

tionably accepted

them which, expect

all

How

— they

assume the natural and naive

as Husserl suggested,

other participants in the

is

part of everyday

game

to exhibit the

are these expectations confirmed:

maintained? Actors must constitute

how

is

attitude toward

same

attitude.

this natural attitude

conform with

reality to

(2) Players

life.

their expec-

tations. If rules provide “categorical possibilities,” then they are also in-

tended events. People work to bring

“all actual

observations

.

.

.

under

the jurisdiction of intended events as particular cases of the intended

event” (p. 194). Every definition

new

and interpretation

game

situation in a to “rules,”

is

therefore referred for

which are viewed

as

embodying

past experience, and which, in fact, helped produce and direct this prior

experience just as they are doing so with this then, in every

is,

tion of

all

game an ongoing

new

event in turn. There

process of “normalization,” the depic-

new' events as normal and consistent with past events and with

the overarching rules.

The

specific techniques of normalization, Garfinkel

follows Schutz and Husserl in suggesting, are comparability, typicality,

analogy, association, and most interestingly of

all,

the “etc. clause,” which

holds that no given set of rules can be expected to refer beforehand to

every possible kind of event. In this way, every given set of rules can be

extended and reformed to cover new situations. Because these intentional techniques are continuously employed, the “natural attitude” can be maintained toward rules by

we

of social groups: rules exist, they work,

believe them, and so does everybody else.

that

we

elaborate and extend rules to

force the rules to

the rules

What in

members



this

is

fit

fit

If

what

really

happens

is

our new situation and thereby

the objective reality rather than limit each reality to

the nature of normativizing action.

threatens social order

is

the violation of constituent expectations

such a drastic way that the new event cannot be normalized.

The new

event, in this case, produces senselessness rather than sense, and though

Garfinkel does not say so, in such periods radical or revolutionary norms

would have

to

be produced that would allow a new and different game to

be played. Senselessness logical definition:

it

in this subtle use follows

an operational, socio-

implies an event that defies analogizing.

When

this

occurs, there has been, in Garfinkel’s words, a “breaching [of] the con-

— the micro-macro link

2j6

gruency of relevances” and of the “interchangeability of standpoints.” The “etc. clause”

not plastic enough: collective

is

cannot traditionalize

memory

malfunctions;

it

Normative order breaks down.

reality.

Because of his commitment to supraindividual social order, Garfinkel’s

phenomenology more traditionally understood has produced some remarkable results. He has shown that normative order, i.e., cultural depend on the prointegration, does as Durkheim himself insisted sensitivity to





cesses of individual representation.* In important is

ways such integration

sustained from event to event through the normalizing processes Hus-

serl first described.

For

can

this reason, Garfinkel

insist that rules exist

within rather than without actors, and he can argue that sociology should

pay careful attention

to

such “accommodative work.” Although from this

perspective collective order does indeed have the quality of an emergent

product, Garfinkel clearly realizes,

at this stage of his career,

accommodative work occurs only with reference constitutive expectations exist,

that this

to internalized rules:

and intentions are carried out, only

in

relationship to an internalized culture that produces a sense of the nature of a legitimate order.

When

discussing the

breakdown

of order, therefore,

Garfinkel does not point merely to individual failures of typification

though these certainly would, perforce, have

to

be involved

— but rather

environments” that occur

to social processes: to the “modifications of real

because new cultures are introduced that demand new learning and create

new ceremonials ried out

or because instrumental transformations have been car-

by coercion or

force.

The 'Tndividualist Dilemma” and Later Ethnomethodology's Return

To

to

an

Anticollectivist

Stance

appreciate the difficulties that Garfinkel tentatively overcame in this

work we must remind ourselves

early

thought involves. *One

To

of the

dilemma

that individualistic

maintain individualism in a clear and honest way.

typical case of the frustrating,

and entirely inappropriate, theoretical distance that

has developed between the phenomenological traditions strictly and traditionally defined has

been the

inability of

relied heavily

on

a

most

theorists

and interpreters

to

understand that Durkheim himself

theory of individual “intention,” or “signification,” to develop his later

theory of symbolic collective order (Alexander i982b:247-5o).

Durkheim discovered

through “representation” individuals continuously “named” external objects terial)

;

this

naming

specified

some

prior expectations

internalized and externalized the object

much

the

it

created.

I

and

traditions,

suggest that

same phenomenological, subjective process

as

and

it

Durkheim

(ideal or

that

ma-

simultaneously articulated here

Husserl and his followers.

THE “individualist DILEMMA*’ must introduce

theorists

fantastic

randomness

2^7

into their picture of the

world, basically denying that patterning exists outside specific situations.

Most

however, unless they are psychologists or nominalists, will with such a position and will move toward embracing the

theorists,

not be satisfied collectivist

moment. Yet

moment

are maintained, such a collective

residual way:

it

will inevitably

The

empirically frustrating.

horns of this dilemma

minacy

— usually

commitments

as long as formal

to individualism

can be introduced only

in a

be indeterminate and theoretically and

tension generated by being stranded on the

— being pulled

produces resorts

between randomness and indeter-

to “last instance”

suggest that, though collective dimensions

may

arguments, which

exist, “in the last instance”

individual negotiation actually creates social order. Garfinkel, by contrast, offered

some

tentative steps at true theoretical

resolution. His detailed attention to intentional practices

show how omnipresent

to his

collective, supraintentional rules really

emphasis on the significance of

testify to the absolute ingenuity

“work” is

if

this order

fundamental

this trust relies uals.

What

is

to

seemed designed

rules,

were;

on the other hand, was used

to

with which individuals must continuously

be maintained.

On

the one hand, a priori trust

to the very sensicality of an individual’s

life,

on the other

completely on the normativizing actions of single individ-

Garfinkel has been able to do, and here

offered in the introduction of this chapter,

is

I

return to a distinction

embrace the contingent,

to

purely individualist element as a level of empirical analysis rather than as a presupposition of social order itself.

Despite this general synthetic thrust, even

some troubling ambiguities

in

in this earlier

Garfinkel’s approach.

Though he

clearly argued that collective rules are, in fact, sui generis cible to intentions

and

practices, he suggests in several

statements an exactly opposite point. “The

way

organized means the same thing as the way

its

istics are

a

mean

here that rules (the

way

organized) are the same thing as practices (the

are

has

and not redu-

programmatic

system of

activities is

organizational character-

being produced and maintained” (1963:187,

Garfinkel really

work there

a

italics

added). Can

system of

way

activities

is

these organizational

produced and maintained)? He seems tempted here to return the individualism of Husserl. The ambivalence about whether contin-

activities are

to

gency

is,

sition

is

in fact,

an empirical-level-of-analysis or

a presuppositional po-

strikingly revealed in the following statement

from

work: “Structural phenomena ... are emergent products

of

.

that early .

.

accom-

the micro-macro link

2j8

modative work whereby persons encountering from within the environ-

ments

them with

that society confronts

establish the social structures that

are the assembled products of action directed to these

Now

(p. 187).

if

structural

products, then they are,

phenomena is

it

environments”

indeed, merely emergent

are,

simply the assembled products of

true,

action; but such structures cannot, at the

same time, confront individuals

from without.

moved back commitment to

In these studiedly ambiguous statements, Garfinkel has

within the horns of the individualist dilemma: to retain a individualism, evidently, he has

felt

compelled

collective constraint extremely indeterminate.

emerges

full

blown

in Studies in

work moves toward

recent

But before examining

to

This

make

his assertions of

strain in his early

Ethnomethodology (1967), and his

work more

a decisively individualistic position.

this desynthesizing

movement,

it is

important to

recognize that in Studies there remains a strong thrust of valuable synthetic conceptualizing and, especially, of empirical investigation

by

it.

Garfinkel here declares that his subject

they must be able to account for

new

is

informed

“accounts.” Actors believe

events, and they can

do so only

in

common

terms of their prior expectations and normatively structured

sense. But these accounts, Garfinkel suggests, are actually constitutive of

the settings they purport to merely describe. Precisely this circularity

allows us to understand the reproduction of of continuously

new

cial

is

is

is

to be maintained.

action

is

basic

if

a

Through “members’

practices,” therefore, so-

an “accomplished familiarity.” All such practices must in relation to still

“background assump-

maintains, “consult insti-

There

he acknowledges, a

culture” from which intentional action

must always draw.

in discussing

how

finkel argues that they

a public health staff investigates suicides,

happened” but

to

common

way what

“document” the prior expectations they had.

This practice of “ad hoeing” nance of anv

Gar-

employ the “documentary method”: they use the

scraps of information they find not to “induce” in an objectivist

There

still,

is,

tutionalized aspects of the collectivity.”

“really

is

smooth and continuous normative

tions.” Intentional actors, Garfinkel often

Thus,

necessity

merely another way of saying that action

however, be conceived as occurring

“common

The

objects are treated as signs of prior knowledge: this

quality of “indexicality”

order

rules in the face

changing external events and situations.

for accounts, of course,

“indexical,” that

norms and

is

fundamental, he suggests, to the mainte-

culture.

are currents in

contemporary ethnomethodolgy

that,

despite

THE “individualist DILEMMA” and iconoclastic self-presentation, continue

their individualistic

^J9

this train

of Gartinkcl’s work, maintaining the attempt to synthesize individual in-

tentional techniques with the

power

the attention on “members’ practices” level of empirical analysis: tivist

a

sociology; that

it

is, it is

normative culture. In

of

work

this

important as an illuminating new

is

not the basis for an alternative to collec-

is

not taken as the necessarv presupposition for

completely individualistic understanding of social order. Perhaps the

most systematically developed example courel’s.

of such

ethnomethodology

is

Ci-

In Coguitive Sociology he criticizes collectivist sociologies for

“not address [ing] hoic the actor perceives and interprets his environment, hole certain rules govern exchanges, and

how

taken to be standard, ‘familiar,’ ‘acceptable’

He

is

.

the actor recognizes what .

.”

(1974:16,

suggesting, in other words, the need for a

analysis to be brought into play.

importance of such intentional structure” of havior.

He

added).

level of empirical

Of course, Cicourel exaggerates the

rules,

arguing that they supply the “deep

norms and values and the

“critical” feature of all role be-

ignores, further, the illuminations of intentionality that have

been developed outside of the Husserlian tradition, of defense

new

italics

is

mechanisms and Mead’s theory

e.g., in

Freud’s theory

of the “act.” Nonetheless, Ci-

courel has used the middle period conceptualizing of Garfinkel to explore significantly

(1974) and

new

aspects of normative order in the social world. Molotch

Tuchman

(1978) have similarly

made good

empirical use of

much

these insights, suggesting that newspaper reporters do not so

dis-

new empirical facts as normalize them, that they use the documentary method to demonstrate and specify preexisting expectations. Leiter (1976) has shown how teachers, without knowing their students, read in cover

expectations and interpret their actions in ways that sustain the often defeating normative order of the classroom.

shown how welfare agencies transform and doubtful

into hard

and

fast

Zimmerman

client records that are

(1969)

self-

has

fragmentary

records that simply reproduce conven-

about their behavior. Kitsuse (1969) (and Cicourel, of course) have shown how the social control of deviance is often no more than finding ways of documenting prior expectations. Other analysts, like tional expectations

Zimmerman and

Pollner (1970), have described

how even

objective social

science relies on concepts that are indexical not only for the scientists but also for the subjects

and that

monsense knowledge

for this reason tend to

reproduce the com-

of a given society rather than studying

it

from

a

truly independent position. I

must now turn

to the

developments

in Garfinkel s

Studies that failed

— THE MICRO- MACRO LINK

240

to transcend the individualist

dilemma,

and more elaborate conceptualization

for in the very

of a

new

midst of this richer

level of empirical analysis

the level of contingency and individual intentionality

— Garfinkel simul-

taneously suggests that ethnomethodology should, in fact, be viewed, not as an empirical illumination, but as a countertheory of order: as

dividualistic theory that

is

an alternative rather than

a

an

complement

in-

to the

classical sociological tradition.

To

understand the difference between these two versions of what

apparently, in Garfinkel’s and his followers’ minds, odological” tradition,

ment

— or rather

“ad hoeing.”

On

sufficient to

two treatments

an object, uses relation of a

To



it

in

way

that

makes

it

an actor, encountering

symbol, to “represent” or “signify” the

more general system

engage

treat-

of the intentional practice he calls

call “signification”:

as a sign, or

the “ethnometh-

examine closely Garfinkel’s

the one hand, he uses this notion in a

what semioticians

parallel to

stance.

his

is

it

still

is

of

meaning

ad hoeing, then,

is

circum-

to this particular

to use

some new

object indexi-

cally.

This approach clearly exemplifies Garfinkel’s synthetic ambition,

for

is

it

a

way

of neatly

combining contingency with the importance of

sustaining collective order. Thus, Garfinkel describes

how

a

graduate

student “coder” engages in ad hoeing in the course of the research he

doing on

He

is

a clinic’s files:

treats actual folder contents [i.e., the material he

is

to code] as standing in a

relationship of trusted signification to the “system” in the clinic activities

[i.e.,

the organization to which the folder contents refer]. Because the coder assumes the “position” of a competent

an account

of,

member

to the

arrangements that he seeks to give

he can “see the system” in the actual content of the folder (1967:22).

[The coder] must

treat actual folder contents as standing

proxy for the

social-

order-in-and-of-clinic-activities. Actual folder contents stand to the socially or-

dered ways of

clinic activities as representation of

order, nor are they evidences of the order.

It

them; they do not describe the

is

the coder’s use of the folder

documents as sign-functions to which I mean to be pointing in saying coder must know the order of the clinic’s activities that he is looking at to recognize the actual contents as

that the in

order

an appearance-of-the-order (1967:23, original

italics).

Yet only

a

few pages

between the practice it

is

later,

Garfinkel suggests that this vital connection

of ad hoeing

and the broader referent upon which

based should be broken.

Suppose we drop the assumption

that in order to describe a usage as a feature of

THE “individualist DILEMMa’’ a

community

common

we must

of understandings

understandings consist

the outset

at

With

know what

241

the substantive

drop the assumption’s accompanying a “sign” and “referent” are respectively properties of something said and something talked about, and which in this fashion proposes sign and referent to be related as corresponding contents. By dropping of.

it,

theory of signs, according to which

such a theory of signs zee drop as zeell, thereby, the possibility that an invoked shared agreement on substantive matters explains a usage. If these notions are dropped, then zehat the parties talked about could not be distinguished from hozjc the parties were speaking (p. 28, italics altered).

In this statement Garfinkel makes a sharp and,

toward individualism. talk

about

— the

He

is

meaning

believe, fateful

I

move

suggesting that the contents of what people

of

what they

are saying

— can

be understood

without reference to the broader normative or cultural framework within

which they speak.

If

the sign can be separated from the cultural referent,

then to understand the meaning of the sign we are

left

only with the

techniques of individual intentionality themselves. Garfinkel maintains, indeed, that the meaning of a sign

is

the product of interactional tech-

niques, the constitutive gestures Husserl called analogy, normalization,

shared perspective, to which Garfinkel adds some more of his own.

An

explanation of what the parties were talking about would then consist entirely

of describing hozv the parties

whatever

is

had been speaking;

to be said, like talking

method

of furnishing a

synonymously, talking

for saying

met-

ironically, talking

aphorically, talking cryptically, talking narratively, talking in a questioning or

answering way, lying, glossing, double-talking, and the

rest (pp.

28-29,

italics

added).

“The recognized

sense of what a person said,” Garfinkel

“consists only and entirely in recognizing the

method

now

concludes,

of his speaking, of

how he spoke'' (p. 29, original italics). Yet this movement toward embracing individualism

seeing

as a presupposi-

tional position rather than simply as a level of empirical analysis trans-

forms

an

important,

presumption.

The

synthetic

fact that a speaker uses

actually tells us nothing about

stand

how

this

what was

a

synonym,

said;

“what” was produced. Yet

on breaking apart signs and

into

insight

it

it is

their referents

dubious, irony,

one-sided

and metaphor

simply allows us to underprecisely

by

this insistence

— practices from

rules



that

Garfinkel can insist in Studies that social structures are completely emer-

gent from practices;

dology

need

not

it

follows from this, he reasons, that ethnometho-

follow

“sociology”

in

its

analysis

of

rules

and

THE MICRO-MACRO LINK

242

culture.

institutionalized

writes,

“Organized

social

employing phraseology that became

movement,

odological

accountability

of

a

''consist

setting’s

a

Garfinkel

arrangements,”

byword

ethnometh-

of the

of various methods for accomplishing the organizational

ways” (pp. 33-34,

italics

added).

This radical individualism completely contradicts the more synthetic strand of Garfinkel’s work, a strand that, we have seen, was still very visible in Studies itself.

When

ognizeable sense ...

not independent of the socially organized occa-

sions

for

their

indexicality he

is

use” (p.

had

Garfinkel argues, for example, that “rec-

he

3),

is

denying the very phenomenon of

earlier labored to conceive, for

according to the notion

of indexicality, a priori notions of recognized sense are precisely the

by which the meaning

of

any particular occasion

argues that “rational features consist of what

added), he

is

is

ascertained.

members do”

means

When

he

(p. 3, italics

similarly eliminating the very collective referents that

had

allowed him to avoid the randomizing, asocial qualities of earlier phenomenology: he had once assumed that cultural rationality set a standard of legitimate order to

which ongoing “members’ actions” had necessarily

to

be compared. Garfinkel has reduced his theory to a pragmatism of the purely experiential kind. As he writes in the very

first line

of Studies,

introducing a chapter that was clearly written just before publication:

“The

following studies seek to treat practical activities, practical circum-

stances, will

and practical sociological reasoning”

more

(p. i, italics

added). As

we

clearly see in the latter part of this chapter, this reduction to

the “practical” makes Garfinkel’s later

work fundamentally

similar to the

tradition of symbolic interactionism that he has always despised.

Before turning to the interactionist tradition, however,

let

us follow out

the implications of the individualist turn that occurred in Garfinkel’s middle period work.

What was

critical

about this turn was that

it

the official self-understanding of the ethnomethodological Garfinkel’s Studies, after

1960s, the

same period

versy and attracted to

in

all,

movement.

were conducted during the decade of the

which “ethnomethodology”

itself

established

first

gained contro-

younger students. The most rebellious and

apparently revolutionary thrust of this approach, as these younger students viewed

it

in relation to the reigning functionalist sociology of that

day, was, ironically, precisely the individualistic and antinormative quality that

undermined the

contribution.

potentially

most

significant parts of Garfinkel’s

To champion “ethnomethodology” was

to reject “sociol-

THE “individualist DILEMMA*’ ogy,” that

Whether

is,

to reject a discipline

committed

it

— by Cicourcl, Zimmerman, Kitsuse, its

belief,

collectivist thrust.

certainly informed their self-under-

more synthetic

standing. Indeed, each of the

ulates

more

or not this individualism correctly characterized ethnometho-

dological studies in fact, therefore,

above

to a

^43

studies

I

have referred to

Pollner, Leider, et

findings, not in terms of the relation

al.



artic-

between intentionality and

but in terms of practices alone. In the

later period,

conduct of ethnomethodology conformed more closely

the actual

to this self-under-

standing.

Probably the most conspicuous corpus of

work

later

the theory of signification

is

and now carried on by

network of researchers who constitute

a

the language analysis

first initiated

conscious school of “Conversation Analysis.” For this group the nature of the conversational interaction

itself that

up

that has given

by Sacks

it is

a self-

entirely

determines the ac-

tions of each speaker: the necessity for exchanging speakers without ex-

cessive gaps or overlaps, the

continuity, the

number

problem

of

changing

Not only

is

the a priori

— the intertwined culture meaning sense — but

considered irrelevant

also

from concern. Not surprisingly,

more

positivistic

and

without losing

of speakers, the visibility or lack of visibility of

the partners in a conversation.

Wittgenstein’s

a subject

of language

of the “language

branch of

game”

in

has dropped completely

itself

this

meaning

later

latently materialistic than

ethnomethodology

any other, though

it

is

can

range from the focus on individual decisions (Pomerantz [1980]) to the elaboration of “speech exchange systems,” which are held to allocate turns

according to an economy of interaction (Sacks, Schegloff, and Jefferson [1974])-

More revealing perhaps of Garfinkel’s later individualist turn is the work by Pollner, for it continues to preoccupy itself with meanings as such. In “Explicative Transactions: Making and Managing Meaning in Traffic Court” (1979), Pollner provides an elegant description of the enormous interpretive efforts that everyday life entails, even in the well-insti-

court of law.

Because of the contingency

produced by temporality, actors employ

a repertoire of techniques to

tutionalized

location

of

a

enable meaning to proceed: they make examples, they take exception, they make things visible, they arrange and rearrange temporal sequences, they carefully try to maintain the “horizons” of their actions. Yet Pollner wishes to do more than describe intentional techniques in an ethnographic setting: he

wants

to describe

how

the

meaning

of the

courtroom experi-

the micro-macro link

244 ence

on

is

created as such.

in a traffic court

is,

He

is

proposing that the meaning of what goes

quite simply, the product of the interactive tech-

niques he has described. “What one does next,” he writes, “will be seen as defining the

import or significance of what another did before.”

But can significance can define to,

my own

and can be

clearly interpreted by, an elaborate

would

plea that

is

Is the

succeeding action

them?

When

and complex cultural

judge in a court “constituting” meanings,

like to suggest, or is he,

ation, “enacting”

A

only insofar as both mine and the succeeding act refer

system of prior meaning. as Pollner

be so shorn of referent?

really

a

with significant individual vari-

judge expresses incredulity

lodged in an awkward and illegitimate way,

a legitimate guilty plea, or

is

is

at a guilty

he “inventing”

he merely using normalizing techniques to

ensure that ongoing events conform to well-established norms about what guilty pleas “should be”?

That Pollner concludes

Mead’s insistence that the meaning to

it



main

a position,

line of

we

of an act

is

this

paper by lauding

determined by the response

will see, that is not necessarily representative of the

Mead’s thought

— shows,

once again,

how

odology has moved back toward the tradition to which

later

ethnometh-

was

it

originally

opposed. It

has been a long time since Garfinkel himself has provided published

work

in

which the

later individualist strand

form: he has confined his public

could be examined in “pure”

efforts, in the

main, to be a maitre of

who have themselves articulated his later position in effective What Garfinkel and his students now study is “work,” the details

students

ways.

of “practical” action in highly circumscribed natural settings. Garfinkel’s

own

recently published essay on science, however, allows

into

what

new vocabulary

this

implies. In studying

entific observations of the optical pulsar al.

came

to

how

some

the

insight

initial sci-

be made, Garfinkel

(1981) insist that they are concerned only with the

“m

situ

.

.

.

et

effi-

cacy” of the scientists’ actions. Without reference to scientific norms, either formal or informal, or to the paradigmatic or thematic prior ex-

pectations of the scientists themselves, they suggest that “the properties that their

[i.e.,

the scientists’] competent practices have in local produc-

tion” are completely “interactionally produced.” This study

is

concerned,

indeed, with the tools and instruments the scientists used, the words they spoke, and the notes they took, with the “worldly objects” that allowed

“embodied practice” and terial

shape”

(italics

that, together, created “the pulsar’s existing

added). Garfinkel’s later ethnomethodology,

mait

is

THK “individualist DILEMMA” become more like the conversational movement hrst stimulated: it is a study

245

clear, has

analysis that his individ-

ualizing

of situated material prac-

tice

without reference to meaning,

by which, according to

alone to the traditions of culture

let

to Garfinkel’s earlier

work, such meaning would have

be informed.

Mead's Interactionism: The hidividualist Dilejnma Resolved or Reinstated? George Herbert Mead’s theorizing developed from American pragmatism, and this quintessentially American philosophy, as Lewis and Smith have recently affirmed, vidualistic

known, oped

was

and more

of course,

is

subtly, rent

between more

indi-

the strand of pragmatic individualism. James devel-

a personalized theory of

from

if

understandings of action. Most well

collectivist

the experience to which is,

sharply,

itself

it

meaning

leads.

means pragmatic method

that claimed that a concept

The mandate

of the

this perspective, to test all conceptual beliefs with practical ex-

meaning

perience, in James’ words “to determine the

of

all

differences of

opinion by making the discussion hinge as soon as possible upon some issue.”

practical

showed

Though Dewey’s work

a similarly exclusive focus

more ambiguous,

is

it

often

on the “here and now” and evidenced

a similar opposition to the notion of the existence of overarching tradition

and idealized,

a priori

commitments. His “American” individualism often

decisively colors his thought: subjectivity

is

“initiative,

inventiveness,

varied resourcefulness, and the assumption of responsibility in choice of belief

and conduct” (1957:200). Individuals, he often holds,

are not sim-

ply morally but theoretically responsible for their choice of beliefs. Social

order must therefore be continually started over anew: “Society

word, but

infinitely

many

things.”

When

is

one

he writes in this vein, Dewey’s

theory precludes the symbolic generalization upon which any notion of a subjective supraindividual order must rest.

“the

new pragmatic method,

specific,

changing and

takes effect

relative facts for

He

writes, for example, that

by substituting inquiry

into these

solemn manipulation of general

notions” (1957)-

Against this nominalist strand in Pragmatism there stands a more collectivist and synthesizing strain that is well known. The work of Charles

was he who actually founded Pragmatic philosophy and who was acknowledged as its most original and Peirce has not been given

its

due, yet

it

THE MICRO-MACRO LINK

246

systematic thinker by his contemporaries. Although Peirce’s theory will not be considered systematically here, theless, tily to

be stated

in stark

and

its

fundamental point can, none-

relatively simple terms. Peirce strove

reconcile the need for, and the empirical existence of, a

of ethics

and obligation with

a

migh-

community

pragmatic emphasis on experience in the

real

world as the basis of truth.

the

first

To

pursue this synthesis, he developed

elaborate theory of signs, and he argued that such systems of to provide the context for every experiential act.

symbols would have

Peirce was not wholly successful in this synthetic effort, but there can be

no doubt about the nature this

of his ambition or the synthesizing thrust of

work. Far from separating signs from referents

in the later

ethnomethodology

— Peirce developed

tion to better explain practical reason. this

We

—the problem we

find

his theory of significa-

can understand the nature of

accomplishment by examining the thought of Mead, for while Mead

was only indirectly affected by Peirce (particularly

more

tionship to

individualistic

via Royce), his rela-

pragmatism was much the same

Mead’s discussion of Realism and Pragmatism

in

Mead

(see, e.g..

1936:326-59).

In the work of Blumer and most of contemporary symbolic interactionism, “symbolism” as such seems to have completely disappeared, and

with

the possibilities for any integration of interactionism with the

it

collectivist tradition.

to the thrust of

WTat must be understood, however,

is

that, contrar\^

contemporary interactionism, symbolism was,

absolutely central to Mead’s thought.

presupposition; he preserved

it

He

in fact,

did not accept contingency as a

as a vital empirical

moment. He

realized,

indeed, that supraindividual symbolic systems were the most important creators of an individual’s objects.

It is

“symbolization,” he wrote, not

the individual per se, which “constitutes objects not constituted before,”

and he asserted that “objects of social relationships

.

.

.

would not

exist except for the context

wherein symbolization occurs” (1964 [1934] :i65).

Language does not simply symbolize a situation or object which is already there in advance; it makes possible the existence or the appearance of that situation or object, for it is part of the mechanism whereby that situation or object was created. Objects [are] dependent upon or constituted by these meanings. .

.

.

At the same time, however. Mead emphasized, more than those

in the

tradition of phenomenological hermeneutics, the significance of concrete

individual interaction, what he called the “conversation of gestures.” Gestures are every kind of

movement

or expression in which people engage.

THE “individualist DILEMMa” including language. With gestures,

24y

Mead

entered the pragmatists’ world of experience and activism, but he entered in a distinctive, synthesizing

way, “Gestures” can,

be treated as dependent for their meaning either on individual stratagem or on more generalized symbolic frameworks.

in principle,

It is this latter

he does not foresake the former as

meaning

of gestures.

Mead

position that

Mead

takes,

though we

a significant empirical

insists, is

will see that

The

dimension.

not open to individual manipulation

major way: “Gestures ... are significant symbols because they have the same meanings for all individual members of a given society or social in a

group, that

they respectively arouse the same attitudes in the individ-

is,

making them

uals

that they arouse in the individuals responding” (1964

from providing the rationale

[^934] -iSQ)-

Mead actually views his how the contingency of

for a return to individual-

ism, then.

theory of gestures as a means of under-

standing

individual action

is

enmeshed within

symbolic structure. Gestures, he believes, make possible “the symbolization of experience” within the broader field of tures

allow people to link their ongoing,

categories, in

Durkheim’s words

in the process of objectivizing

emphasize and elaborate the

meaning

novel experience to social

to “represent” the

themselves

Ges-

(p. 128).

in the

world

world.

It

themselves

to

was, in fact, to

social character of gestures that

Mead

de-

veloped the notion of the “generalized other.”

The

individual experiences himself as such, not directly, but only indirectly, from

the particular standpoints of other individual

members

or from the generalized standpoint of the social group as a

belongs,

.

.

.

The

same

individual [brings] himself into the

that of the other individual selves in relation to

whom

same whole

of the

social

to

group

which he

experiential field as

he acts in any given social

Reason cannot become impersonal [a development upon which this inter-individual experience depends] unless it takes an objective, non-affective

situation.

attitude toward itself; otherwise

we have

just consciousness, not 5c^-consciousness

(p. 202, original italics).

The in

socializing impact of this generalized other

critically elaborated

Mead’s theory of the game, an analysis that makes the same kind

profound contribution

on

is

to empirical integration as Garfinkel’s early essay

trust in experimental

games.

When

children are very young.

believes, the sense of other individuals has not result, children

engage

of other children,

of

in

become generalized;

“play” rather than in games.

moving from one kind

Mead

They

as a

take the role

of behavior to another in an

THE MICRO-MACRO LINK

248

individualistic way. Children at this early point in their

development,

With further devel-

then, can only put themselves in place of another.

opment, however, children incorporate into themselves an abstract understanding of the roles that other members of the game assume. This incorporation constitutes the “rules” of the game, or the “generalized

now

other,” which are real

invisibly regulates the behavior of

“games” possible,

all.

Only with

rules

for only with the rules that a generalized other

provides are individualized interests and goals pursued in a simultaneously social is

When

way.

Mead

an older, game-playing child gestures.

insists,

he

gesturing for himself but for others too, for he has automatically taken

into account

tion

— by

virtue of his personal identity

— the positions and obligations

The

who makes a which he belongs. He

baseball player

the nine to

play the gallery, be

team

more

to win, just as a

playing for

interested in

surgeon

may

his actual percep-

of his fellow players.

brilliant play is

and

making

making the play called for by his side. A man may, of course,

is

a brilliant play

than in helping his

carry out a brilliant operation and sacrifice the

But under normal conditions, the contribution of the individual gets its expression in the social processes that are involved in the act, so that the attachpatient.

ment of the values

to the self

does not involve egoism or selfishness (p. 239,

italics

added).

The is

taking of

aware

He

of.

all

of those organized sets of attitudes gives

can throw the ball to some other

him

members because

.

.

.

the self he

of the

demand

made upon him from other members of the team. That is the self that immediately exists for him in his consciousness. He has their attitudes, knows what they want and what the consequences

of

any act of his

will be,

and he has assumed respon-

sibility for the situation (p. 230).

The game

for

Mead

is

an analogy, or microcosm, of

all

social

systems and

groups. His understanding of the nature of gestures in games, therefore, allows

him

to

maintain that gestures are social institutions. Institutions

are conventionally understood as structured

Mead

has

others of all,

and objective orders, but

shown that such collective order corresponds to the generalized its members. “An institution,” he can then suggest, “is, after

nothing but an organization of attitudes which

we

all

carry in us”

(p- 239)-

Yet the contingent and individualizing aspect of action

been expressed. Mead attends

how

the social

changed.

The

is

to gestures not

still

simply because they show

specified but also because they

show how the

gesture involves an element of freedom because

the passage of time, and temporality

is,

for

has not

Mead

it

social

is

involves

as for Heidegger, the

— THE “individualist DILEMMA*’ Mead

essence of contingency. action,”

which

talks

2^9

about the “temporary inhibition of

signifies thinking. In carrying out his act the individual

is

presented in his consciousness with “different alternative ways of completing [what] he has already initiated” (p. 169). For this reason, every

new

gesture has an emergent property that distinguishes

it

from those

preceding:

That which takes place in present organic behavior is always in some sense an emergent from the past and never could have been precisely predicted in advance

— never could

have been predicted on the basis of

complete, of the past, and of the conditions

emergence

The same

in the past

a

knowledge, however,

which are relevant

to its

(p. 177).

“I” and the “me,” then, are “two distinguishable phases” of the

act.

In describing the genesis and constitution of acts.

fully outlines the alternation of contingent

“attitude,” in Mead’s terms, constitutes the

Mead

care-

and determined phases. The first

part of the response

another’s gesture, and he insists that one’s “attitude”

is

socially

by

determined

by the nature of the internalized symbolic order: the meaning an actor gives to another’s gestures

scious w’ay. Yet, to

a

gesture.

Mead

immediately given

is

in a

completely uncon-

cautions, this does not constitute one’s “response”

Within the context of the

sciously, or consciously

— one

act

— unconsciously,

precon-

performs various rehearsals, feeling and

seeing imagerv of various kinds, exploring the ramifications of this or that response. Only after such “rehearsal” does one

make

one’s response. After-

ward, one evaluates the relation between the meaning given to the other’s gesture and the effect of the response on the immediate and generalized others involved.

To

the degree that

Mead

so separated “attitude”

without, in other words, reducing one to the other*

from “response”

— he made

mental contribution to the integration of individualist and

phenomenologies, for by doing so he significantly elaborated

gency becomes incorporated collective order.

Though

in the

moment-to-moment

a funda-

collectivist

how

specification of

empirically different, this contribution parallels

in its implications those of Garfinkel in his earlier

work. Yet, although

Mead’s position was more stable than Garfinkel’s, not even Mead to

maintain such a synthetic and integrated position *I have benefited greatly in

by Lewis (1979).

contin-

my

understanding of

in a

this distinction

is

able

completely con-

from the excellent piece

THE MICRO-MACRO LINK

250

sistent

omy

way. There are significant places

and response

attitude

of

meaning

instances, that the itself,

that

is

Mead’s work where the auton-

in

He

collapsed.

of a gesture

proclaims,

in

these

determined by the response

is

by contingent and purely “pragmatic” individual consider-

is,

ations.* response of one organism to the gesture of another in any given social act is the meaning of that gesture and also is in a sense responsible for the appearance The act or adjustive response of the or coming into being of the new object.

The

.

.

.

second organism [therefore] gives to the gesture of the

which

it

organism the meaning

first

has (p. 165).

This individualistic strand problems inherent

in the

in

Mead’s work

is,

in part, the result of

philosophy of pragmatism

itself,

which

is

too

anti-Kantian and anti-Hegelian to fully transcend an individualistic point of view.

way

Whatever

its

that eventually

source, this individualism

came home

undermined Mead’s synthetic accomplishment.

so because the interpreter of Mead’s thought for

been

tionists has

to roost in a It

did

contemporary interac-

by individualism that when

a pragmatist so infected

reading Mead’s work he evidently could perceive the individualistic strand alone.

This man was Herbert Blumer.

Blunter as Meades Misinterpreting Interpreter:

Symbolic Interactionism” as the Reinstitution of Individualism

The

history of the interactionist tradition foreshadowed in eerie

more recent promised

to transcend the individualist

reinstating

much

history of ethnomethodology

it.

this tradition,

:

ways the

which

initially

dilemma, concluded by actually

Mead’s thought contained certain deep-seated ambiguities,

as did Garfinkel’s early

work.

The

difference

is

this: the internal

transformation into an unambivalent and radical individualism, a change

which Garfinkel carried out his

own

earlier thought,

for

ethnomethodology within the context of

was accomplished

for interactionism

more by

Mead’s followers than by theTounder himself.

When Blumer article

*The

defined

Mead

on “Social Psychology”

as a

“symbolic interactionist”

in 1937,

reference to this individualistic strain in

reveals the link

famous

he tainted him with the brush of

Mead

in Pollner’s

work

between the individualistic “practical” emphasis of

and the contemporary reading of Mead.

in his

(cited above) clearly

later

ethnomethodology

THE “individualist DILEMMA*’

^51

individualism from which the interactionist tradition has never recovered. Until recently, Blumer remained the principal interpreter of Mead’s

thought and the most forceful teacher of interactionism’s most promising students. Of course, the “reason” for the reinstatement of individualism

American

in this quintessentially

tradition certainly cannot be the fault

of a single person alone; the roots lay in deeper historical

and

developments

fundamental, unresolved problems of theoretical logic itself. The structure of Blumer’s thought is, nonetheless, worth examining. The manin

ner in which he has reinstated the individualist dilemma provides nating

evidence

for

the

universal,

“structural”

status

of

fasci-

theoretical

problems: Blumer’s forceful individualism, though conceived entirely

from within the

intellectual traditions of

American

culture, bears a strik-

ing resemblance to the individualism that emerged in Garfinkel’s later

version of phenomenology, a tradition originally conceived in a very different time

Blumer

and place. collapses the

autonomy

which any successful integration

of

and “response” upon

of “attitude”

contingency and order depends. In

doing so he returns to the pragmatic emphasis on practical experience and quasi-Darwinian adaptations: “Culture,” Blumer writes,

“is clearly de-

rived from what people do" (Blumer 1969:61; emphasis added).

It is

the

response to the gesture that determines meaning, not the pre-given cultural

background within which the gesture

itself is initiated:

“Meaning

is

derived from or arises out of the social interaction that one has with one’s fellows” (Blumer 1969:2) in

which other persons

;

act

“the meaning of a thing grows out of the ways

towards the person with regard to the thing”

(Blumer 1969:4).

To

argue that action and response so directly determine meaning

course, to insist on an absolute individual control over meaning:

is,

of

“The

actor selects, checks, suspends, regroups, and transforms the meanings in the light of the situation in

which he

is

placed and the direction of his

action” (Blumer 1969:5; emphasis added). Whereas

Mead

usually,

though

not always, spoke of meaning as the product of an unconscious attitudinal specification of general cultural patterns, trast, that “self-indication” is

Blumer proposes,

the basis of

“self-indication,” the individual organism

notes, gives its

it

a

meaning

meaning [and] uses the meaning

over the meaning of his acts



attribution.

“makes an object

Through

of

what

it

as the basis for directing

action” (Blumer 1969:15). Blumer’s individual

trol

in direct con-

is

given incredible con-

a control contested only

by the presence

THE MICRO-MACRO LINK

25-2

The

of Other, equally separated selves.

individual, in Blumer’s world,

consciously “takes account of,” and decides the rational appropriateness his “wishes

of,

and wants” and even

“images of himself” (Blumer

his

1969:15). Individuals are given the ability to stand against not only the entire external world but their internal world as well.

moving communicative process in which the individual notes them, gives them a meaning and decides to act on the basis of the

Self-indication

is

things, assesses

a

meaning. The human being stands over against the world, or against “alters,” The process of self-indication cannot be subsumed under with such a process. .

.

the forces

.

which are presumed

.

.

.

behavior. ...

It

upon the individual

to play

them

stands over against

to

produce his

in that the individual points

out to

himself and interprets the appearance or expression of such things, noting a given

demand

social

that

is

made on him, recognizing

a

command, observing

that he

is

hungry, realizing that he wishes to buy something, aware that he has a given feeling, conscious that

he

is

he dislikes eating with someone he despises, or aware that

thinking of doing something.

By

virtue of indicating such things to himself,

he places himself over against them and

is

able to act back against them, accepting

them, rejecting them, or transforming them or interprets

We self

in

how

accordance with

he defines

them (Blumer 1969:81-2).

are in the midst, here, of the “I” without the “we,” of the childlike

who

who

can put himself “in the place of the other” but

carry within himself the “generalized other” which allows

and unconscious resource

meaning

to the

of others’ acts.

does not

him automatic As in the later

Garfinkel, the symbolic language of signification completely disappears in

Blumer’s work; tion”

is

when he mentions “interpretahermeneutical theory new events are re-

not surprising that

— the process by which

lated to

in

background assumptions

purpose and “is a

it

to the

— he always subordinates

need for immediate

it

to practical

results. “Interpretation,”

he says,

formative process in which meanings are used and revised as instru-

ments

for the

that

the focus of later ethnomethodology

guidance and formation of action' (Blumer 1969:5; emphasis added). What we have left is the same world of “local production” is

lead participants to act as they do

.

.

.

:

“The

have their

sets of

own

meanings that

setting in a localized

process of social interaction” (Blumer 1969:19-20).

Blumer

caught firmly between the horns of the dilemma that

is

had shown

a

way

On

moves back and forth randomness and residual in-

of transcending: his thought

uneasily between the unattractive choices of

determinacy.

Mead

the one hand,

Blumer

posits a radical uncertainty about

the course of every interaction, a randomness which he not only accepts

THK “individualist DILEMMA’’ as the price for absolute

freedom but usually seems

to glorv in. Structural

factors, he writes, arc “mattcr[sl the actor takes into account. [But this]

does not explain for action”

how

they arc taken into account

How

(Blumer 1969:16).

in the situation that calls

could one, then, explain

how

they

are taken into account, an explanation

the patterned processes of

which obviously would be basic if interaction were to be understood? Blumer

suggests merely that ‘‘one has to get inside of the defining process,” a process he has defined as completely within the moment of contingency itself.

tures

The

evanescent, indeterminate quality of this accounting for struc-

comes through even more

clearly

‘‘catch the process of interpretation

actions” (Blumer 1969:82).

when Blumer

writes that one

must

through which actors construct their

Even Blumer, however, does not

entirely es-

cape ‘‘second thoughts” about such randomizing implications.

One can

find in the interstices of even his theorizing residual references to supra-

individual structures, references which

Blumer attempts

indeterminate and often extremely vague formulations

to

camouflage bv

Blumer

(see, e.g.,

1969:17-19). In the double of

Mead, the

shadow

of Blumer’s

his misinterpretation

tradition of symbolic interactionism has produced

mise formations that constitute its

own work and

purely social critique.

One

a

continuum from pure individualism

to

strand of interactionism has simply focused

on events and “one time only” processes tive outbursts.

compro-

like historical

episodes or collec-

In another strand, external structures are acknowledged

but they are treated as parameters which become, ual categories. In

still

another strand, the social

entire focus of analysis, an interactionism

in effect, glaring resid-

self of

Mead becomes

the

from which any focus on the

“I” and on contingenev has completely disappeared. Finally, there are

some attempts,

as in the best

works of Goffman, where under the guise

of explicit obeisance to astructural individualism a forceful

nating integration of contingency and structure last

and much too infrequent genre

is

is

and

illumi-

conceived. Only in this

the potential for theoretical synthesis

pursued that Mead originally introduced.

Conclusiofi

The preceding

analysis has sought to demonstrate that such supraindi-

vidual elements are not, in fact, necessarily absent from the “individualist” traditions.

When we

look at the most sophisticated and most successful

the micro-macro link

2^4

strands of phenomenology and interactionism,

we

see that they were not

intended to be epistemological and ontological confrontations with theosupraindividual order"; rather, they were intended to give

ries that posit

greater urgency to an empirical aspect of order that has been neglected

by most such between the

collectivist theories, at least

prior, supraindividual order

folding of real historical time.

The

post-Hegel: the relationship

and the moment-to-moment un-

relations

between order and contin-

gency, these traditions have argued, can be illuminated only by a more detailed empirical understanding of the processes of individual consciousness. Garfinkel

and the phenomenologists discussed the intentional

egies

by which normative order

Mead

analyzed the social

the

same

thing.

self

specified in each concrete situation;

and the nature of gestures

Both traditions emphasized that

duces change even while ally far

is

it

strat-

this

—which did much contingency intro-

ensures specification. These changes are usu-

outweighed by the impact of collective normation, but they are

individual innovations nonetheless.

The

initial

development of ethnomethodology, the subsequent strains

and schisms within

it,

have revolved precisely around this question of

empirical versus presuppositional individualism.

and empirical studies

of Garfinkel’s earlier

The

conceptualization

work synthesized

a focus

on

empirical contingency with an analysis of social order. In this work, and in

subsequent strands of the ethnomethodology school, which considered

these studies paradigmatic, the integration of the two phenomenologies strictly

and traditionally considered was powerfully begun. Yet

in the

work Garfinkel created after, and alongside, this synparadigm was established through which ethnomethodology

more

individualistic

thetic

work, a

sharply separated signification from the signified. With this movement, the effort at theoretical integration was just as powerfully opposed.

The same kind of fateful dialectic occurred in the history of interactionism. Mead created a powerful, individually focused theory that precisely interrelated contingent creation and collective constraint. But when Blumer interpreted Mead, he drew upon an anomalous strand

of individ-

ualism to elaborate, in the founder’s name, the radically anticollectivist theory he has called, incongruously, symbolic interactionism. ers of

Blumer, with rare

the individualist It is if

if

dilemma ever

is

to be

follow-

important exceptions, have been caught within since.

precisely this individualist

the individual

The

dilemma

that sociology

“brought back in” to the

must transcend

classical tradition of

THK “individualist DILEMMA” sociological thought.

individual that

the better for

If this

^55

individual cannot be the isolated, pristine

Homans wanted

to bring

back long ago, we are

all

so

much

it.

REFERENCES Alexander, Jeffrey C. 1982a. Positivism, Presuppositions, sies.

Vol.

I

of Theoretical Logic in Sociology. Berkeley

and Current Controverand Los Angeles: Uni-

versity of California Press.

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Chicago: Aldine.

NINE

From Reduction to Linkage: The Long View of the Micro-Macro Debate

Our aim

in this essay

by providing

is

to take the “long

a historical

view” on the micro-macro debate

and theoretical framework within which current

arguments can be read. This debate has gradually emerged in

as a

key issue

contemporary sociological theory, transcending paradigmatic bounda-

ries

and fostering communication between

different theory traditions

disciplinary integration. Although the micro-macro sociological theorizing as a distinct

recent decades,

its

and

theme has entered

and firmly established issue only

in

prehistory can be traced from late medieval thinking

through postwar metamethodological debates over science, epistemology,

and

political

We

philosophy.

argue below that the micro-macro dichotomy should be viewed as

an analytic distinction and that

omies

— such

all

attempts to link

it

to concrete dichot-

as “individual versus society” or “action versus order”

fundamentally misplaced. Only

if it is

— are

viewed analytically, moreover, can

the linkage between micro and macro be achieved. During

its

intellectual

prehistory, however, the very distinction between micro and

macro was

superseded by other conceptual oppositions. Powerful philosophical dichotomies conflated this more analytically differentiated notion with deeply entrenched disputes that were often supported by political and social conflicts.

This overlapping of the micro-macro theme with

episte-

mological, ontological, and political distinctions gave rise to fierce disputes

demanding

that decisions be

made between incompatible

Such an all-or-nothing choice precluded any attempt Written with Bernhard Giesen.

alternatives.

at reconciliation.

THE MICRO-MACRO LINK

2^8

Transmitting the micro-macro theme from general, all-encompassing philosophical and political debates into the disciplinary realm of social

we

science,

and

believe, gradually qualified the oppositions

plied in presociological statements of the problem.

The

conflicts im-

effort to constitute

sociology as a scientific discipline helped to close the border to ontological

and metaphysical

issues.

The

result

was that

for the first time the

problem

could be treated in a distinctly sociological rather than philosophical or political

manner.

We

show

phase, sociological

its initial, classical

that in

theory recast the conflated dichotomies into arguments about the general

The

character of empirical processes.

was

action

rational or interpretive

questions cam.e to focus on whether

and whether

between individuals or imposed by

social order

collective, or

was negotiated

emergent, forces.

Translation into sociological theory did not, however, fully “secularize” the micro-macro debate. Although the imposition of empirical discipline closed off certain philosophical extremes and pointed to certain synthetic possibilities, in the

main the controversy was simply

shifted to another

Indeed, the postclassical period witnessed a resurgence of philo-

level.

sophical debate that polarized the issue anew. Political and explanatory

were once again conflated, the very possibility of emergent prop-

issues

was sharply challenged,

erties

and

metamethodological

erupted concerning the boundaries of sociology as

This philosophical debate was followed by ing argument in sociology.

upon the attempt

The

a scientific discipline.

new round

of dichotomiz-

response to this phase, in turn, depended

to conceptualize the

between different

a

controversy

micro-macro theme

levels of empirical reality. This,

we

as a distinction

been

believe, has

the distinctive accomplishment of sociological debate in

its

most recent

phase. Rather than confront incompatible conceptions about the constitution of social reality, the most important contemporary theoretical ar-

guments seek social reality.

to discover empirical relations

of the

different levels of

This analytical differentiation of the micro-macro relation

has generated a

ment

among

new

level of interparadigmatic discourse

problem: the

conflict over reduction

is

and

a

new

state-

being replaced by the

search for linkage.

The

path toward linkage and the implied possibilities for theoretical

synthesis were prepared by the earlier theorizing of cott Parsons.

The

current

ample

when

set it

Their theories

resist classification as either

movement from reduction

by these

first

Max Weber and

to linkage

is

Tal-

micro or macro.

inspired by the ex-

great attempts at micro-macro synthesis, even

does not follow the theories themselves.

FROM REDUCTION TO LINKAGE

259

Ph ilosoph ica I Ba ckgro u n d Despite the current effort to overcome the rigorous opposition between micro and macro approaches through analytical differentiation and theoretical synthesis,

impossible to overlook the fact that current debate bears the unmistakable imprint of earlier controversies. In our view this it

is

does not represent rather,

its

weakness of contemporary theorizing; it suggests, strength and vigor in the face of demands for reasoning of a a

purely inductive kind.

Although superseded and, ciological ideas, the

to

some

extent, transformed

by

classical so-

micro-macro distinction ranks with the core opposi-

tions in Occidental thinking, at least since the late medieval differentiation

between the individual and the political

Entering academic discourse and

debate as part of the nominalism versus realism dispute,

form the background whole

state.

more than

is

helped

such enduring controversies as whether the

for

the

it

sum

of

parts,

its

whether

state

and society can

claim ontological and moral primacy over individuals, and whether the

meaning

of concepts can be

some transcendental

reduced

to their empirical referent or involves

ideal.

Although connected

to

one another by reference

and frequently intertwined during the history

of

to a

common

ontology

modern thought,

the

epistemological dimension of this dichotomy can be distinguished from the political and constitutional dimensions. After the turn of the century,

neopositivism, and the growing pressure on antipositivist philosophy to

cope with epistemological presuppositions, generated new formulations of the old

theme. Vitalism

in biology

and Gestalt theory

in

psychology

defended the macro position against radical psychological behaviorism and rigorous scientific physicalism. cro position

The

was provided by the

philosophical background for the mineopositivist postulation of a unified

science based on the atomistic ontology and experimental methodology of

modern

physics.

The

repercussions of these early epistemological and

ontological disputes continued to be

felt in

postwar metamethodological

debates and in confrontations over the mind-body problem of contem-

porary philosophy of social science.

The

political

branch of the micro-macro dichotomy dates from the

controversy over constitutions versus divine rights of kings.

It

was

also

arguments that the newly emerging nation should be the prime basis for political loyalty as compared with the societal community comrelated to

posed of individuals.

The

contractual thinking of the Scottish moralists,

26 o

the micro-macro link

as well as

John Stuart

Mill’s liberalism, established the individualist tra-

This so-called Anglo-Saxon tradition has the micro brientation in classical and contem-

dition in political philosophy.

formed the background

for

porary sociological debate. That

it

took shape against the mainstream of

continental political thinking must not be forgotten. of Fichte, Hegel,

such thinkers as

The German

idealism

and Herder and the French revolutionary naturalism of Rousseau provided the holistic orientations upon which

and contemporary macroformulations arose. Although the development of sociological thinking in the past loo years has tended to classical

undermine

between geographical,

this relation

cultural,

and theoretical

concerns, national styles continue to canalize the theoretical conflict over

mico and macro today.

The Micro-Macro

Split

in Classical Sociological

Theory

In the latter part of the nineteenth century and the early years of the

came

twentieth, these philosophical dichotomies

founding statements of logical theory.

a

to

be reproduced in the

new, more empirical mode of discourse: socio-

Although general and abstract, sociological theory

from philosophy

in its explicit

commitment

ciological theory nonempirical concerns

become implicit parts of discourse; they They become the “presuppositions” of

differs

to empirical science. In so-

such as metaphysics and morals rarely define

its

explicit character.

sociological argument.

Onto

this

general, presuppositional level, the philosophical debate about individual

and society comes is

to

be translated, and even this presuppositional debate

often conducted in terms of the nature of concrete, empirical facts.

Although Marx eventually produced the most a purely

argument

for

macroperspective in sociology, the emphasis in his early writings

was on consciousness and

“down

influential

action. Bringing Hegel’s transcendental idealism

to earth” via Feuerbach’s critical materialism,

force of critical rationality into play

by

activity (praxis) over objective force.

(Marx 1965 [1845])

insisting

He argued

Marx brought

on the centrality in

men

cumstances.” Such a doctrine forgets, he

human

“Theses on Feuerbach”

against “the materialist doctrine that

ucts of circumstances” and that “changed

of

the

men

are prod-

are products of other cir-

insists,

“that

change circumstances.” This radical emphasis on the

it

activist

circumstances clearly gives to the micro level pride of place.

is

men who

changing of

When Marx

1

FROM REDUCTION TO LINKAGE

26

goes on to argue against “the materialist doctrine” on the grounds that it “necessarily arrives at dividing society into two parts,” one begins to wonder just

how

Does the

be.

radical this early sociological call for micro analysis

critique of materialism

mean

might

we must conceive

that

of in-

dividuals and consciousness alone, without any reference to supraindivi-

dual structures?

This, of course, was not tell

at all

the case.

us something important about

ceived sociologically. writings

it is

From

how

Why

it

was

the micro-macro link can be con-

the very beginnings of Marx’s sociological

clear that he never conceived of the actor individualistically,

and because he did not do so he would never suggest

The

not, moreover, can

a purely

micro focus.

praxis that changes circumstances in Marx’s early writings

of interpersonal

communication

that achieves

its critical

As Marx 1967 ([1842]

from

his earliest essays

intelligence

are chains

sarily

level, in

beliefs that

in

our conscience,

away without breaking

tear ourselves

our hearts.” Focusing on individual consciousness

— and the micro

is,

:i35) explains in one of

and our minds, ideas that reason has forged

or affective sense



moral,

in a cognitive,

other words, does not neces-

imply an individualistic position that sees

this individual conscious-

ness as unrelated to any distinctively social, or collective, process. it

does mean, however,

is

form

which have conquered our

this period, “Ideas,

from which we cannot

a

leverage by ap-

pealing to deeply held, universalistic systems of belief, that unite isolated individuals.

is

that such collective force

What

must be subjectively

conceptualized.

The

empirical micro analysis to which such subjective formulations of

might lead

collective order

the Ecofiomic

ditions

suggested by Marx’s focus on alienation in

Philosophical Manuscripts. In contrast to purely philo-

and

sophical writing

is



and

for example, earlier idealist

— alienation

is

later existentialist tra-

not viewed here as an ontological condition, a

conception that guarantees the irredeemable dichotomy of individual (micro)

and society (macro). Marx describes

gent empirical

fact.

alienation, rather, as a contin-

This allows him the possibility of thinking

of interrelated levels.

Arguing that alienation

experience of estrangement, he suggests that as a “translation”

on the individual

ditions. In these early writings,

plete

it

is,

terms

indeed, an individual

can be seen simultaneously

level of interpersonal, structural con-

however, Marx does not

homology, on the replication

in

of

macro

in

insist

on com-

micro conditions.

He

has

vigorously called our attention to the micro level of alienation for a reason.

THE MICRO-MACRO LINK

262

He

believes that

it

reveals a relatively

order that must be studied in

its

own

autonomous mediation

When Marx

right.

insists that alienation creates private property,

erty creates alienation, he

(1963 [1844] :i3i)

and not that private prop-

arguing that individual experience can be a

independent variable

significant it is

is

of collective

in

macro

sociological analysis even

when

not considered to be the source of social order in a presuppositional

way.

Marx moves

in his later theorizing to a

but he does not do so because he has

more exclusively macro

moved from an

focus,

individualistic to a

His focus earlier was on emergent prop-

collectivist philosophical position.

erties located at the empirical level of the individual; his focus later is

emergent properties located ity,

the empirical level of the group, collectiv-

and system. He continues,

properties,

order I

at

is

and

means

this

in other

that his presuppositions about order

— remain the same. What has changed

to order but his

significant

consequences for the micro-macro

writings after 1845,

—whether

Marx

uses

it,

link.

and chs.

not his approach shift

can have

Because he has shifted

of action to an instrumental

one

in the

uses alienation neither to underline emotional

estrangement nor to establish, on

He

is

understanding of action. However, this

from an expressive conception

focus.

words, to recognize emergent

“individualistic” or “collectivist” (see Alexander 1982a

and 8 above)

on

micro

this basis, the necessity for a

emphasize the objectified, antiemotional qual-

rather, to

ity of action in capitalist society

and

to establish,

on these grounds, the

irrelevance of the micro, “motivational question” to sociological analysis (see

Alexander 1982b :48-53).

Because commodification

is

“in the saddle”

the concrete, particular sensibility that interpretation in noncapitalist societies

Marx is

and exchange value believes underlies

rules,

human

impossible. Because actors are

reduced to beings that calculate their external environment mechanically, theoretical attention shifts entirely

away from the microanalysis

of con-

sciousness, motive, and intention. Capitalists and workers are ruled

the naturalistic laws of social

life.

The

to relative surplus value propels

circumstances

Marx’s

way

it is

now change

inevitable

them

people.

instrumental action and of the

by macro structures made

for every sociological theory that sought to analysis.

absolute

to socialist revolution. Objective

brilliant empirical elaboration of

restricted

movement from

by

This structural emphasis

Marxism paradigmatic privilege macro over micro late

in turn has created

fundamental prob-

FROM REDUCTION TO LINKAGE

26j

lems for Western neo-Marxism, which has tried to reinstate the centrality of consciousness to critical theory.

The

classical alternative to

such

a structuralist

approach

to collective

order was established by Durkheim, who, from the beginning of his career, searched for a way to combine awareness of society with commitment to the individual.

of holism

Durkheim’s connection

and realism

abundantly

is

to the philosophical traditions

clear, as in his

famous declaration

in

The Rules of Sociological Method (Durkheim 1938 [1895]) that “social facts are things” that have a “coercive” relation to the individual. The

same cautionary statement must be made about Durkheimian structuralism as was made about Marxian and for the same reason. Even in his most dramatically macro vein, Durkheim’s commitment to sociological as opposed to philosophical realism led him to root society in interaction, an effort that allowed

him

to avoid the

maximal

antiindividualist extreme.

In The Divistou of Labor in Society (Durkheim 1933 [1893]), example, he locates the macro, social force in the “non-contractual elements of contract,” and he sees these as emerging from the functional interventions of an order-seeking state.

are similarly linked, in

The

Book

historical origins of

Two

modern

social structure

of that early work, to concrete inter-

action, in this case to the increasing density of population

struggle for survival. In Suicide (1951 [1897]),

and the resulting

Durkheim

links reified

“suicidogenic currents,” which he treats as fields of force in a purely macro sense, to patterns of interaction in different kinds of solidary groups.

Although Durkheim’s commitments prevented him from the

to empirical reasoning

may have

realist excesses of philosophical theorizing,

it

is

nonetheless true that in these earlier writings he conceptualized emergent properties as exclusively macro. Only as his thinking developed in the

1890s did Durkheim find a way to avoid the later Marx’s antithesis be-

tween individual (micro) and

social

(macro) determination. In a sense he

rediscovered the insight of the early Marx. if

He came

to

understand that

action were conceptualized as symbolic and emotional, then collective

order could be seen as exercising constraint by exercise of these voluntary capacities. This led in principle, that a social

its ability

Durkheim

to

to

inform the

acknowledge,

theory premised on emergentism could have an

empirically micro focus.

Thus,

as

Durkheim moved toward

of society, he insisted that the

depended upon sacredness,

a

fundamentally “religious” theory

most powerful elements

that they

of

symbol systems

were effective only because they

the micro- macro link

264

drew upon the most protective Alexander 1982b 1259-98).

from individual personalities

feelings

When Durkheim

(see

how

(1965 [1912]) described

Aborigines, in their ritual ceremony, transformed themselves into figures

totem animal,

of the

scription.

He had

this

was

discovered

theoretical, not

how

merely ethnographic, de-

individual action reproduced social con-

Action consisted of unending representations, symbolic activity that

trol.

conceptualized collective representations in an appropriately individual

way.

Micro analysis was certainly

by

justified

mode

this later

theorizing, for the illumination of perceptual processes

symbolic exchanges was believed to be

of

Durkheim’s

and emotional and

the heart of collective

at

heim never, however, developed even the rudiments

life.

Durk-

of a social psychology'

that could explain such micro process satisfactorily.

This

com-

failure,

bined with his positivist commitment to observable, “lawful” regularities

and

his missionary zeal to

meant

pline,

defend the autonomy of the sociological

that the strikingly micro qualities of his later theorizing

never brought systematically to interpreters

for

materialistic tradition,

erent for sociologists it

macro

Durkheim’s

who

Durkheim and Marx,

as

were

his followers, or his

Marx’s

later writings be-

theorists writing within a rationalistic later

theorv became the “classical”

and ref-

believed in the subjectivity of action but con-

to be ordered in a strictly

their work,

by Durkheim,

light,

on the contemporary scene. Just

came paradigmatic

sidered

disci-

then, for

all

macro, antivoluntaristic way. the complexities and possibilities of

produced strongly polemical arguments

cro emphasis (Alexander 1984 [chapter

i,

for a one-sidedly

ma-

above]). Given the range of

philosophical discourse that lay in the background of this classical debate, it

was

inevitable that their positions

would be challenged by theories

polemicizing just as strongly in a micro, antistructural way. Just as Durk-