Sociocultural Evolution: The Case of Modernity. the Discourse on Modernity from the Perspective of a Theory of Long-Term Social Change

Monday, 11 July 2016
Location: Hörsaal 21 (Juridicum)
Distributed Paper
Heinz-Jürgen NIEDENZU, University of Innsbruck, Austria
The paper departs from the thesis that sociology without a genetic perspective cannot deal adequately with its object of knowledge. However, after a phase of intense discussion in the 1960s and 1970s in sociology as well as in social and cultural anthropology, the modelling of long-term sociocultural processes of change was set aside in the great recent theoretical conceptions. Research on macro-social processes of change nevertheless is simply indispensable for an understanding of early and contemporary societal forms of organization and knowledge structures since they build upon prior structures. Thereby, it is not a matter of a causal chain in the sense of an if-then constellation for the determination of social processes; it is not a matter of a logic determining and inherent in processes of change which realizes itself in a pre-determined succession of forms. Moreover, it is a matter of the analysis of facilitating and restricting conditions for systemic change.

At the example of the discussion about modernity and in special reference to the analysis of civilizations of Shmuel N. Eisenstadt as well as its critique I will make clear the meaning the historical perspective attains for a sociological theory of modernity. At the same time I will elaborate critical points out of his analysis which in turn are to be taken into account for the development of a general theory of a long-term change. In conclusion, I will sketch a sociological model of sociocultural evolution which takes into account the contemporary state of knowledge.