Self, Culture and Society
October 2 , 2013
[Power is] the possibility of imposing one’s will upon the behavior of other persons’ (from Max Weber on Law
in Economy and Society, P. 323)
“The Manifested will (command) of the ruler or rulers is meant to influence the conduct of one or more others
(the ruled) and actually does influence it in such a way that their conduct…occurs as if the ruled has made the
content of the command the maxim of their conduct for its very own sake” (page 328)
▯What happens when relationships between the ruler and ruled do not go as expected?
▯Monty Python the annoying peasant (Youtube Video)
Lecture Outline: (Bold= Key Concepts/Important Ideas)
• Today in the House of Social science: The room of Sociology
• What is society? We need to construct a concept of our object of analysis (THIS IS NOT the same
thing as the ‘real object’)
• Tonnies: Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft
▯Context: Rise of “market society”
• Weber: Why study “Bureaucracy”?
▯Attributes of Bureaucracy (both public and private)
▯Modernity and the rise of “modern bureaucracy”
• Giddens and modern sociology: What is “modernity’?
Ferdinand Tonnies (18651936)
• Sympathized with Hamburg dock strickers in 1896 Prussian government considered him a social
democrat and denied him full professorship until 1913.
• Cofounder of German Society of Sociology (president 19091933)
• Removed from post due to his criticism of the Naxis
• Published Gemeinshaft und Gesellschaft (1887)
• Helped to create discipline of sociology
What is the argument?
• What is ‘society’ and how can ‘society’ be ‘known’? Need a concept of it ‘in our heads’
• Society is best understood in terms of the relation between two parts that make up the ‘whole’
• Gemeinschaft: translated as ‘community’, the level of society where ties are informal and cooperative,
most often associated with kinship ties (Diamond!)
▯Think back to the difficult part in Diamond’s reading of forms of kinship ties, forms of primitive life
and how different it is to our economic life today.
• Gesellschaft: translated a ‘society’, the level of society where ties are formal and based on individual
self interest, where there is a complex and impersonal division of labour.
▯There might be “a” division of labour, but it is never impersonal, it is very personal.
What is Society?
• Why is this distinction useful?
• First, distinguishing two components (maybe more?) of society allows us to be more precise about what
it is that we are analyzing: a complex object • Second, it may help us understand the real/potential opposition between these two ‘parts’: what good for
“Gesellschaft’ may not be good for ‘Gemeinschaft’ (and vice versa)
▯What’s good for the informal and impersonal modern economy may not be good for the community.
What might be good for one thing may not be good for another.
The Individual and Society:
• How do individuals relate to society?
▯Individual as a means to serve the ends of social group ( Gemeinschaft Preserves community)
▯Social group as a means to serve private, individual ends ( Gesellschaft promotes individualism)
The structure relationship between the individual and society promotes individualism. The pursuit of
individual selfinterest may antagonize the society. In Gesellschaft, there are other individuals outside of
yourself. Other selves are merely means to your own ends. We go up into Gesellschaft as if we are going
into foreign land.
Weber may say that it is dehumanizing (being known as a number only)
A great example would be one’s workplace.
• Pursuit of individual interests can be antagonistic to community may not ‘support the mental and
physical wellbeing of the other party’, and may ‘destroy them’ (page 17)
• Tonnies says “we go out into Gesellschaft as if into a foreign land” (Page 18) any examples ?
Conflict in Society:
• Tonnies also makes the distinction between Gemeinschaft as “old”, rural, and of the common people and
Gesellschaft as “new”, urban and of science and the state.
• Gemeinschaft is a “living organism” (where “the primitive” is at home?) whereas Gesellschaft is “a
mechanical aggregate and artifact” (19)
• How “big” is your “Gemeinschaft”? Just your family? Religious group? Class Group? What other social
• How is conflict ‘managed’ within Gemeinschaft? Gesellschaft? When the people speak?
▯Think about how Diamond talks about conflict. There was no state and there was no police. Order was
maintained in the kinship structure, the hierarchy that was assigned and within the traditional
institutions. How is conflict managed in our society? How is the conflict that documented in the people
speak? Conflict was managed through a third party, for instance the government. (Which side is the state
• This new way of looking at society coincides with the development of the “impersonal market”
• In the 19 century, a revolutionary change in the structure of society
▯Gemeinschaft about association (Individ uated ‘social beings’)