S. N. Eisenstadt : The Challenge Of Social Change

Thursday, July 17, 2014: 6:00 PM
Room: Booth 49
Oral Presentation
Eliezer BEN-RAFAEL , Tel-Aviv University, Israel
S.N. Eisenstadt: The challenge of social change

Social change was one of Eisenstadt's major areas of interest. In his view, the possibility of innovation and change is not something external or accidental to any institutional system. It is given in the very nature of the process of institutionalization and systems. He applies this principle of dialectical transformation to his analyses of the dynamics of civilizations and modernity. SNE perceives socio-historical transformations through an emphasis on the multiplicity and variety of forms that civilizations may adopt and where human agency and creativity play a major role. Hence, such developments are made possible by the emergence of new types of elite. It is in this perspective that SNE discusses inter-class and inter-elite struggles, demographic expansion, domestic and international difficulties of states. SNE’s analyses favour cultural and ideological premises, SNE sees modernity as the emergence of a social reality where the legitimacy of the social order ceases to be taken for granted and becomes an existential problématique for people, as members of society. This perspective, which developed in Western societies in the context of given civilizational legacies, has not remained these societies’ exclusive privilege but has quite rapidly conquered more and more spaces, intermingling everywhere with singular cultures. This is what qualifies for SNE’s notion of multiple modernities. SNE, however, does not indicate anything that transcends modernity in the social world. Under this angle, the project of modernity can be seen as a variant of ‘the end of history’ theme. Modernity is not only ‘on endless trial’, but also ‘on an endless trail’. Obviously, present-day globality, transnationalism and multiculturalism have tremendous influence on individuals - diasporans and non-diasporans – as well as on society. Are we now seeing signals heralding a new sequence of modernity or are they pointing out to a new era?