The Many-Splendored Society. Draft of appendices to a text by Hans L. Zetterberg. Web version open for the time being for vetting and comments by email to the author.

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Appendix A. Methodological Notes


A Demanding and Worldly Pursuit Requiring More Than Understanding

To understand what is going on, the observer, the reader, the historian, the anthropologist, the interviewer, in short, all the practitioners of social science, must share the hidden code of their symbol-using subjects of study. This simple fact has led a score of authors in specialties such as symbolic interactionism, ethno-methodology, hermeneutics, semiotics, and conversation analysis to rewrite social science, rejecting everything unrelated to the notion that students of social life and those persons participating in social life must share a common code.

Now, there is much more to social science than understanding what the other fellow means. True, without that understanding we do not get very far. Therefore, social scientists and historians should know languages – particularly the vocabularies and idiosyncrasies used by the subjects of their study. They must immerse themselves in the social contexts relevant to their study; social science is normally not an armchair pursuit. We must learn how other people actually think, and not rely on how we would think in their shoes.

This does not mean that we must abandon the use of statistics and other tools of science. Once meanings are established they can be treated by all ordinary scholarly and scientific means that ensure objective analysis. The language of the sources is translated into the more general terminology of social science. And that language lends itself to the usual arsenal of scientific tools: logic, mathematics, and statistics. Ours is a very worldly and demanding pursuit; we must be at home with many tongues and places and also with an arsenal of intellectual and methodological skills.

Societies and their symbolic environments are not necessarily so incomprehensible as laymen think. Buildings are many and varied but the first fact is that the kinds of building blocks are very few. A child playing with building blocks can build a large number of scenes and structures notwithstanding the small number of different kinds of blocks: brick-like, board-like, and a few more forms.

And the second fact is that the number of rules for joining building blocks is still smaller. In the popular toy of Lego there is actually only one rule, namely that the cones from one block shall fit into the spaces between the cones of another block. Here we will find inspiration in the approach toward a Universal Grammar of the linguists. Its rules seem less complex than the sum of school grammars of the various languages.

Classical and Emerging Categories

To Descartes, the great philosopher of reason after the Renaissance, and his followers, reason is something that joins all intellects. They held that all human beings, although varying in their customs and desires, are alike in one crucial respect: they are equipped with reason.

These philosophers may have admitted that reason may not be the strongest voice in human affairs, but they held that when reason is used men and women of all times and all civilizations would arrive at the same conclusions.

This faith in a universal reason is found in all varieties of classicism. For example, the classicists believed that reason provided one universally valid taste. Thus the artists in the classical tradition disregard individual differences and create general types, universally valid forms. The scientists in the same tradition seek a small number of types, e.g. a periodic system of elements, and eternal laws of nature. The politicians in this tradition strive for a clean-cut social order with the universal application of law emanating from a central government believed to embody the best of reason. Seen in this same classical tradition, businessmen are engaged in pursuit of high numbers on the bottom line of their balance sheets. Regardless of their type of business, these balance sheets have the same layout and can be analyzed for good or weak points by the same methods.

Generalized conceptions of man and his activities like these are found in all classical categories. They often lead to static and sometimes inhuman conceptions of human life.

Darwin disproved the rationalist dogma of Descartes about the consistency and permanence of reason. Man has developed, unfolded and enriched his person, including his reasoning, and he is able to grow to further heights and levels. (He is also able to regress to incredible lows and make himself extinct.) This has led to new classifications in which we find categories in the form of stages rather than states of reality. We may call them emerging categories.

The outside framework of a categorical schema for social science may be classic. Everything that a society contains – in the past, present, or future, in the Western world or the Eastern, in the southern hemisphere or the northern – everything should fit into the outside frame of a table of society. However, inside this framework we may have a number of emerging sub-typologies. An example would be the transformation of societies with undifferentiated spheres of activity into more complex societies that differentiate special life areas dealing with knowledge, wealth, order, aesthetics, holiness, virtue. Or, emergent divisions of labor that give different assignments to those who create, sustain, mediate, and receive knowledge, wealth, order, etc. Man's developmental stages, from childhood, to adulthood and old age is, of course, a developmental classification. Likewise our thinking about the growth of populations, technological advances, the clashes of lifestyles and class struggles, all give rise to developmental categories.

[To signal that we deal with emerging rather than classical categories I will try to avoid the usual lines around the cells in the final editing of the tables in this text.]

The dominance of developmental typologies in serious societal theorizing has led to the recognition that the body of knowledge of the social sciences is not as universal as that of physics. Many theses that social scientists hold to be valid are, in truth, limited to the place and time which they can overview and grasp.

In general, social sciences resemble the biological sciences more than the physical sciences. Darwin's work on the evolution of species is a better model for social sciences than Newton's or Einstein's work on the behavior of matter (Lieberson & Lynn, 2002). Darwin, like the social scientist, was faced with the task of drawing conclusions based on series of observations rather than controlled experiments. Darwin, like the social scientist had to condense volumes of diverse data into a relatively simple system with few independent variables. Darwin, like the social scientist, had to use and publish theory that often was incomplete in respect to both evidence and development.

The Choice Between Abstract or Concrete Terminology  

In presenting thoughts and evidence from other authors I have tried to cite or mention those who formulated them first or, at least at an early stage, and, at the same time, gave evidence that they fully understood their importance. This is why you will find more old references in this text than in most others that profess to be up to date in the 21st century. I have not bothered to present the great number of other supporting statements and additional evidence discovered at later date. I hope this practice will convince readers that there has been much accumulation of knowledge in the social sciences, sometimes obfuscated by the delight that some prominent colleagues have taken in refreshing their enterprise by simply changing their terminology from time to time without adding much to knowledge. 

Max Weber usually used the same term to designate both a pure ideal-type – for example, “the economy” – and a concrete societal phenomenon – for example “the Prussian agricultural economy in the 1890s” with its special political rules, kinship structures, aristocratic ethos, etc. He wanted precision in his study of society. Most of the time he achieved this by sharpening ordinary language, not by using unusual words.

In my work on categories I have not been much bothered by the dilemma that the same terms may stand for both the abstractly pure and the messily concrete. Normally one can easily figure out the usage from the context. In communicating social science to laymen, I have rather appreciated Weber’s praxis of using the language of the sources, but at the same time giving the key terms a more formal or ideal-typical meaning. However, his written language has an unfortunate distance from direct and easily accessible every-day sentences. In this sense Weber is a poor model for social science.

To sum up: Our program is to search for a universal structure of all human societies, an empty form into which all present, past and future societies fit. The structure should include emerging categories, not only classical ones. It should be conceived in terms a system only when this is empirically proven. It will be presented in a concrete terminology understandable by laymen, but their everyday terms should also have a more precise scholarly meaning.

The best proof of such a rich pudding, perhaps the only genuine proof, is found in the eating, i.e. in a pragmatic test of the fit between our text and known social realities, and a logical test of the fragments of consensus of among great social scientists of the past and in the present.


The Context of Discovery: A Schema Evolves
(Scrapes to be Edited)

 "Basic classification (categories) are used to sort out reality, and they guide our observations. At the same time they are building blocks in the construction of theories, models, and explanations. Thus categories and classifications are primary in relation to theory and empirical research."

Thomas Brante in the 2002 invitation of the Swedish Sociological Association to the "Workgroup on Sociological Categories and Classifications."


The Adjective: "Many-Splendored"

The adjective "many-splendored" in the title of this multi-volume work dates from the 1950s. It was invented and spelled "many-splendoured" by Han Sugin, a Chinese-born author and physician writing in English and French. One of her novels was turned into the 1955 film "Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing," set in Hong Kong, starring Jennifer Jones and William Holden. Their many-splendored love in the film struggles to overcome the ingrown distrust of a racially and ethnically different couple and their families. The most memorable scenes in the film are set on the high and windy hills of Hong Kong where the lovers first meet.

Love is a many-splendored thing,
It's the April rose that only grows in the early spring,
Love is nature's way of giving a reason to be living,
The golden crown that makes a man a king.

The song won an Oscar but is since forgotten. I felt that the adjective in its title, "many-splendored," deserved a longer life. So here it stands for a society with personal freedom and a differentiation of six self-governing realms: economy, politics, science, art, religion, and morality. When these realms are joined in a voluntary cooperation we have a many-splendored society, in my view, a good one.

Early in my professional life I decided to specialize in the study of advanced societies whose history could be shown in surviving buildings (or ruins), in cleverly invented tools, and above all, in pictures and written stories. This was not a self-evident choice in the middle of the twentieth century when a new generation of young academics had discovered the excitement of what was then called "underdeveloped societies." The present work, The Many-Splendored Society, is thin on that topic. To be a many-splendored society may actually require some over-development rather than under-development by today's standards.


A Paradigmatic Tale

The Many-Splendored Society is not a typical collection of essays of theoretical relevance, more or less revised and integrated, as are many works of Max Weber (1920, 1921), Robert K Merton (1957), Herbert Blumer (1969), Clifford Geertz (1973), Edward Shils (1982), Daniel Bell (19xx), and YY (xx), all of whom that have greatly inspired me. The Many-Splendored Society certainly has material from my older essays but it is reworked into a whole cloth and everything is presented in English. Actually, my native tongue, Swedish, is not well suited to this topic since the people and intellectuals who speak Swedish use the same word, "samhället," for both state and society, an anathema of being many-splendored (1: xx). 

In modern scientific articles and monographs one presents only results. In earlier scholarly writings that took the form of more paradigmatic essays it was customary to include also the trials and tribulations that preceded the emergence of the results. I will in this Appendix to The Many-Splendored Society follow the old-fashioned path and describe an intellectual process that began in 1950 with the writing of my MA-thesis, A Semantic Role Theory, at University of Minnesota (Zetterberg 1951) and ended with the present text more than fifty years later.

The Inspiration from Early Chemistry

The categorical schema publicized in the Many-Splendored Society has not evolved in an armchair. It is a product of picking and choosing in response to actual needs during a lifetime in social science research, teaching, and practice. And it is still evolving. Treat this text as a progress report.

There was a time when I attended high school in the 1940s in Sweden when I wanted to become a chemist. When friends and relatives wondered "What do you want to do with chemistry? I could answer by telling them about the periodic system. This was a classification of all the elements in a table where columns and lines pointed to common characteristics of the elements. In 1869 Dimitri I Mendelévy had created a first version of chemistry's periodic system by classifying the elements, seven to a column, according to their atomic weight.

My excellent chemistry teacher made it clear that although there were at that time nearly 100 elements, they can form over a million combinations. If you know where in the table an element is located you have already got a great deal of information about its characteristics and its ability to unite with other elements. Blanks in the table meant that the elements had not yet been discovered. This was a something for a budding chemist to work on, and perhaps a chance to discover something new!

When I became a social scientist I often missed the elegance of chemistry's periodic system, especially when confronted with the question "What constitutes a society?" I was forced to ponder this question on many occasions. For half a century I have had opportunities to study modern society as a sociology teacher and scholar, as a publisher of social science books, as a pollster with involvement in market, media, and value research, as a consultant to businesses, voluntary associations, and museums, as an ideologue for a political party, and as a newspaper editor and columnist. Nowhere did I find a classification for this study as elegant as that to be found in my school days’ periodic system of chemical elements and their valence.

Torgny Segerstedt

I was fortunate to have as my first teacher of sociology Torgny T. Segerstedt, a Swede who had been a professor of philosophy. His intellectual roots were in the Scottish Enlightenment, his main interest was the study of the role of language in society. His first book after the doctoral dissertation was called Verklighet och värde (1938) addressed the issue of "reality and value," and his second major book  with the title Ordens makt (1944) was a study in the psychology of "the power of words", also available in German (Segeratwdt 19xx). These books led me to two names that seemed to have celebrated ideas: the great European linguist, Ferdinand de Saussure and the great American philosopher of language, George Herbert Mead. However, it was not until 1949 when I had entered graduate school at the University of Minnesota that I read Cours de linguistique générale (1916) and Mind, Self and Society (1934) in their full original shape. The impression was lasting and to honor them I have in Chapter 2 labeled two types of symbols with their names, although my definitions of these concepts are not particularly orthodox.

Both these pioneering books were edited by their students from lecture notes, and they are not particularly easy reading. I decided to check also some writings by their editors. How had the editors handled and elaborated the heritage of their great masters?

Mead’s editor, and author of the long introduction, was Charles W Morris, a semiotician and a philosopher in the American pragmatic tradition. In his 1946 book, Signs, Language and Behavior, he divided the actual use of language into a universal classification. "These usages may be called in order the informative, the valuative, the incitive, and the systemic uses of signs. These are the most general sign usages; other usages are subdivisions and specializations of these four. "(Morris 1946, p 95, italics in original).

I became overwhelmed by the scope and usefulness of these distinctions. However, I developed two small objections to Morris. His fourth category, the systemic use of language, is not separate from the three others. Nothing can be systemic that is not originally informative, and/or valuative, and/or incitive. The systemic is an attribute of the other three basic usages of communication. It is the attribute of rationalism. The second objection was that Morris immediately obfuscated his big discovery by trying to cross-classify his universal uses of language with the structure of the school grammar of language (Morris 1946, p. 125f ). This produced a confusing 16-fold classification that few except some students of rhetoric have appreciated.

de Saussure's editor and collaborator was Charles Bally and in his book La langage et la vie from 1913 I found a wonderful comment on the meanings of the phrase "It is raining." In my MA-thesis (Zetterberg 1951, p??) I recited his discovery:

If we make some slight changes in his illustrations we can put the phrase into all Morris’ categories. It may, for instance, stand for:

It has now started to rain (informative)

The weather is bad (valuative)
Shut the window! (incitive)

Here then emerged the Tri-section of Languge that became so fundamental in The Many-Splendored Society. But the terminology was changed into descriptions, evaluations, and prescriptions. They turned out to be fundamental in the discourses that create economy, politics, science, art, religion, and morality.

Charles Stevenson, an American philosopher of the same period as Charles W. Morris and in the same tradition of pragmatism, (1944), clarified an attribute of language by penetrating its emotive component. When we say with Shakespeare that "All the world's a stage" this emotive description is distinct, Stevenson argues, from an executive description such as "There is a routine in real life, each man going through a prearranged course"; or, "There is a good deal of trivial make-believe in each man's conduct." When the very words rather then what they stand for convey emotions -- such as "Long live the King" -- Stevenson talks about their ‘independent emotive meaning.’

The background of my systematic use of a Bi-section of communication, its instrumental and expressive forms is also from my student years in Uppsala. On European soil, independent emotive components of opinions, attitudes, and behavior received a first systematic study in Uppsala by Ulf Himmelstrand (1960), my fellow student of sociology. In retrospect, Himmelstrand’s work, billed as attitude research, stands out as the first major treatise that both in data and theory challenged the seminal rational choice theory of von Neumann and Morgenstern (1945). 

In Paris, the sophisticated axiomatic theory of signs and symbols of Greimas (1966) eventually also added emotive intensity (Greimas & Fontanille 1991), which I took as a welcome confirmation of the need for the Bi-section.

The intellectual efforts behind the distinction in the Bi-section are impressive. But using it appeared self-evident: a duality between head and heart, or between skill and emotion. Eventually I began to express this dichotomy in terms of 'executive actions,' e.g., issuing instructions, giving a scientific lecture, driving a car, getting dressed for a football game, as opposed to 'emotive actions' e.g., applauding a team's victory in a football game, reading romantic poetry, hand-wringing. In any analysis of rhetoric and art, ideology and religion, the separation of executive and emotive components seemed crucial.

Arnold M Rose

My second influential teacher of sociology was Arnold M Rose at the University of Minnesota.  I was his research assistant in the academic year 1950-51. He had his intellectual roots in “symbolic interactions” as developed in the Chicago School of Sociology. He introduced me to teachings of Ezra Park and Herbert Blumer. Symbolic interactionism has been the longest continuing school of sociology. It has been easy for me to merge the ideas I had picked up from and philosophy of language and linguistics with symbolic interactionism.

The Categories in a Library of Social Science

Which subjects ought to be found in the texts that best describe modern society? This was our chief concern when I and other social scientists together with a librarian were to list and classify the most important books in the social sciences that were to form part of the base of a new college library (White, 1964). I classified the sociology books on this list as follows:

·        Precursors of Systematic Sociology

·        Works that Made History

·        The Present State of Sociology

·        Theoretical Sociology

·        Social Psychology

·        Groups and Encounters

·        Organizations

·        Markets

·        Social Stratification

·        Institutional Realms

·        Topics of Sociology

·        Human and Non-human Resources

·        Family Sociology

·        Economic sociology

·        Political Sociology

·        Sociology of Science and Education

·        Sociology of Art

·        Sociology of Religion

·        Urban and Rural Life, Communities and Societies

·        Social Problems

·        Methods of Sociology

Under these headings I proposed a total of 210 book titles in sociology as a minimum for a new library for a college or ambitious junior college. To this a list was added a selection of journals.

Behind the list hides bits and pieces of a widely used Exposition of Categories for social sciences, a Kategorielehre, provided by the very learned German sociologist Max Weber (1922, Chap. 1). It is a list of terms and their definitions in which also the most complex ones can be reduced to observable and understandable behavior. Weber did not allow for any abstractions in the social sciences that cannot be derived from actions that we can see or understand. This so-called “methodological individualism” has been widely accepted. 

The Categories of Social Statistics

What is important to learn from statistics describing a contemporary society? Which are the basic tables? This was the main problem of the editors of A Sociological Almanac for The United States (Zetterberg & Gendell 1961). The book contains a section that recounts how we solved the problem.

One should not pretend that there is complete agreement among social scientists as to the most relevant information that enters into a routine description of a society. However, as a rule, social scientists and historians, in dealing with total societies, begin by discussing:

1. Human resources
2. Material resources

 Then they may process along many paths, but in the end they have usually described six interrelated but different realms of society. The latter are:

3. Polity                  6. Religion
Economy             7. Art
5. Science               8. Ethics

 Each of these realms has a dominant concern, that might be called its “institutional value.” In polity it is order, in the economy it is prosperity, in science, knowledge, in religion, sacredness, in art, beauty, and in ethics, virtue. In each of the institutional descriptive sociology collects information about (a) the amount of institutional values; (b) the suppliers, surveyors, and receivers of the institutional values; (c) the stratification of the population according to their control over institutional values; and, when relevant, (d) information about social movements attempting to change the distribution of the institutional values. We shall proceed by these four items in some detail for the first three institutional realms, recording information according to the following schema:




(c )



Supplier Purveyor Receiver
of Institutional Value

Mode of



















 In turning to the remaining realms of religion, art, and ethics, we cannot give the corresponding information in the same quantitative detail and will, therefore, at this time make far briefer notes that do not lend themselves to this organization. Finally (9), having dissected the society into these parts, we have to give attention to how they are integrated into an ongoing whole.

The tables of this almanac are numbered according to the above scheme. Thus, any table with a prefix ‘6’ will deal with religion, any table with the prefix ‘4’ will deal with the economy, etc. The same holds for the subheadings of the text (Zetterberg & Gendell 1961, pp. 31-32).

Here we use a table rather than a list of categories as in the library project. We designated the rows of the schema with numbers and columns with letters, a practice that continues in the present text. The idea is that the reader who knows the column and row of a phenomenon automatically shall know a great deal more about it, since everything in the same column or in a row are in some respects similar.

The First Use of Categories of Language as a Basis for The Categories of Society

A recurrent goal in my work in theoretical sociology has been to pursue the efforts of my teacher, Torgny T Segerstedt, to derive the categories that best describe society from language. Segerstedt (1947, 1948) showed how useful grammatical imperatives (prescriptions, social norms) are for the definitions of social groups. I wanted to add the usefulness of descriptive and evaluative terms as a vocabulary for the study of society. I developed the core of these categories at Columbia University in the 1950s. The approach worked fine for micro-sociology and terms such as attitude, position, role, group could be precisely defined. It was less certain for macro-sociology. When I published them (Zetterberg 1962, pp. 66-73) I was still so uncertain about them that I buried them in footnotes (pp. 68-69 and 71). They are shown in Figure 20:1 below.

Figure 20:1. The First Language-Based Categories Tabulated



Institu- tional Realm





Mode of Stratif-ication



of Institutional Values



































Art public
















Fountains of morals






Forty years later, I still place these categories at the core of the schema. In a revised version of this text (Zetterberg 1997/98, p. 115) a new category of “Keepers” was added to the Creators, Purveyors and Receivers, and a new category "Media" was added to Organizations and Markets.

A Stick in the Wheel of Progress

In an essay "On the Theme: 'My Life as a Sociologist' I have told about an intellectual struggle that made me put sociological theorizing on the back burner for a long period. I discovered that my own theory had a serious weakness.

At Columbia University my theory course was called “Group and Institutional Dynamics”. The starting point was a common minimum terminology that would apply both to microsociology (e.g. group dynamics) and macrosociology (e.g. institutional dynamics). The minimum terminology was taken from the Indo-European languages. These make a distinction in their grammars between evaluations (adjectives), prescriptions (imperatives), and descriptions (indicatives). Segerstedt had already developed a prescriptive mode for sociology in his concept of social norms, linguistic expressions with an imperative function. Segerstedt’s concept of social norms led to his definition of a social group, i.e. those persons who share the same source of norms. I developed this type of reasoning further for the whole array of the microsociological vocabulary. I had thought that the institutional realms of society, their stratification and division of labor, would grow out of the same basic terms. In the sketch of the conceptual scheme in Social Theory and Social Practice I glossed over this issue with a reference to Festinger’s concept of social dissonance, and I thought I could work out the details later.
To demonstrate that micro- and macrosociology have the same basic terms of symbolic actions (such as prescriptions, evaluations, and descriptions) would be a tight and strict way of solving in one stroke two problems that plague social science literature: the “micro-macro-link” and “methodological individualism.” So far as I know, I was the only one in the world who tried to tackle these issues in this way. I spent many days and nights thinking about it and covered many writing pads in search of a solution. To fail in solving a scientific problem that I myself had invented took quite a mental toll. I had been foolish enough to announce a book with the brave title Sociology in a New Key, a centerpiece of which would be the solution of this problem, and I had to withdraw this title from publication. In 1991 I returned briefly to the same theoretical problem without being able to come any further, but now I confessed to the failure in a short Zwischenbetrachtung (Zetterberg 1996c, pp 371-372.)

My hope at that time was that a system theorist who works from the macro-level down to the micro-level instead of my way of going from micro to macro would find a right and tight solution.

The possible solution turned out to be different and much simpler. An aha-experience came when I worked on an entirely different problem, the issue of rationality in society. Here I had to give up Max Weber's idea of an all-embracing rationality, and instead emphasize that each life area had its own distinct rationality. By this rationality the cardinal values of the language-produced life areas could be constructed: we arrived at the critical terms of knowledge, riches, order, beauty, sacredness, and virtue. Thereby the division of labor between the creators preservers, conveyors and receivers of each cardinal value could also be elaborated. I suppose a reader of The Many-Splendored Society would not notice that the whole work on societal realms was held up for many years because I had barked up the wrong trees.

The AGIL of Parsons and Shils

My categories were a conscious effort to find something simpler but as inclusive as the dominant theory of the days. When I started to teach social theory in the 1950s, the engaging ideas in the field came from Talcott Parsons and Edward Shils (1951. As scholars and translators they had delved deeply into Weber’s work. In opposition to Weber, they assumed that the whole of society and its various subgroups were systems. They identified four elements that eventually became known as "AGIL" as constituent elements of all parts of society as well as of society as a whole.

The “A” stands for adaptation. It is the focus of any economic organization. The “G” stands for goal attainment. This is the focus of the political organization of societies. The “I” stands for integration of economic, political and other relatively independent societal units into a whole that can maintain its boundaries. The “L” stands for latency, the maintenance of the patterns of a society and its parts. The latter they located in the expressive symbolism of society such as religious ritual, art, recreation, and in the adherence to common values. According to Parsons and Shils, all four, A, G, I, and L, enter into any and all concrete social phenomena in various forms and proportions. The total society has its AGIL and so does all its parts. For example, a household has its A in the form of earning money and buying essentials of housing, food, and clothing. Its G appears in the form of its rules for childrearing and decisions about common property. The I in the household takes the form of fences and admission restrictions for outsiders and strangers. Its L takes the form of an honored name and family rituals.

Unlike Weber's terms, AGIL are more than abstract names of actions or clusters of actions. AGIL is a system, and “A”, “G”, “I”, and “L” are thus assumed to be interrelated in predictable ways.

To say that AGIL is a system with all the properties of a system is not an innocent proposition that can be accepted in advance of proof. There is danger in borrowing the concept “system” from biological science and engineering. The danger was once identified when social science borrowed the term “force” from physics (Zetterberg 1965, pp 38-40):

Often we are drawn into truth-asserting by the use of analogous terms. In social science it has been common to draw analogies from physical science. An example is found in the definition of group ”cohesiveness.” Cohesiveness has been defined as the sum total or resultant of all forces that keep a member of a group (Festinger et al. 1950, p 164). Borrowing from the field of physics of the term ”force” might seem innocent enough were it not for the fact that usage of the term implies at least two propositions. In Newton´s days these propositions were grand discoveries, but since then they have become so self-evident that we take them for granted. One of these hypotheses is that whatever the origins of the forces − whether from the moon or from an apple − they have the same consequences. Now, the forces keeping a member in a group may vary greatly. He may stay in the group because of the prestige the group offers him, because of the friends he has there, because of his need to be punished by an authoritarian leader, and so on. To assume without testing, that all these forces have the same consequences would indeed be presumptuous (Back 1950). The second assumption involved in the use of the term ”force” in the definition of cohesiveness, is that whenever several sources of cohesiveness are present their effects are cumulative. This principle has proved to be immensely useful in physics: when several forces act simultaneously, the effect is the same as if they had acted in turn. This hypothesis is much less likely to be successfully maintained in social science than in physical science. The consequences of family cohesiveness deriving from both adequate communication and adequate sexual adjustment during one year of marriage are likely to be very different from the consequences of a family cohesiveness based on one year of adequate sexual adjustment and poor communication, followed by one year of adequate communication but poor sexual adjustment. Thus, we see how the person who borrows a term from another science runs the risk of borrowing more than a word: inadvertently he may borrow also some propositions of this science. Clearly, definitions in the form of analogous terms deserve an extra careful examination prior to their use in social theory.

It is not very likely that “A”, “G”, “I”, and “L” acting simultaneously in an institution have the same effect as if they acted sequentially, i.e. one after the other in some historical order.

The assumption that AGIL is an inclusive system of society I also fund problematic. A fair amount of the content of society seems in fact unrelated to most everything. Parsons’ teacher, Pitirim Sorokin (1941, vol 4 p 147), had actually called attention to the amount of fragments and debris in society, the heaps of which he called “congeries”:

.... there is no difficulty in finding congeries in many a small combination of culture elements. A car and a bunch of flowers in or on it, a writing desk on which stands a shoe, a copy of Plato's Republic with a photograph of the latest movie star between its pages - these "complexes" are evidently congeries in which flowers, shoe, or photograph can easily be separated from car, writing desk, and Plato's book, without destroying either one of the elements, and each element can change without involving a change of the other. More difficult is the diagnosis of vaster and more complex conglomerations of cultural objects and elements. In regard, for instance, to the totality of the cultural elements found in Boston, or in the United States of America, or in Ancient Greece, the difficulty in diagnosis is to decide whether all these elements are a part of one system; if not, which are systems and which are congeries; which elements belong to which systems; and how close is the integration of the elements of the system, and is it the same for all the elements. ... In diagnosing such vast cultural conglomerations from this standpoint there is a strong possibility of error in taking for congeries what is a system, and vice versa.

How various actions or communications relate to one another is an empirical question; they may form a system, or they may not form a system.

I think it is more practical and quite sufficient to speak of the elements of polity, economy, science, ethics, religion, and art embedded in a concrete societal phenomenon rather than speaking of A, G, I, and L. The AGIL categories may belong to the scientific advances that suffer from a premature closure (Anderson 2000).

The Classification of Lifestyles

Which lifestyles do we find in modern society? This became a question for research in 1977 when I was to address the Confederation of Swedish Employers about the interests and activities that competed for their employees’ involvement in their work. Not everyone has a business-driven lifestyle with economic incentives.

I used some terms from the 1962 classification. It immediately became apparent that the schema needed to be enlarged with new categories to accommodate the large variations of  lifestyles in Swedish society of the 1970s. A questionnaire with 310 questions − many formulated ad hoc − with  lifestyles and personality items and some questions on general values provided the raw data. (Zetterberg 1977, p. 62) Computer-assisted classifications were at that time still in an experimental stage. I tried to find new categories by means of factor analysis. This provided the basis in the schema for lifestyles and some material about social personality types.

Figure 2:11. Some Empirically Identified Lifestyles and Social Personalities Placed in a Schema of Categories

Cardinal Values



Wisdom seekers




Business driven






Social Personality →






The factor analysis in 1977, however, did not offer a comprehensive list. Later my experience in market and media research revealed other lifestyles which could be fitted into typologies of actions.

The empirical methods of market research at that time did not separate lifestyles from personalities or characters. Such shortcomings are often the case when sociological or psychological categories are produced from raw interview data, in spite of the fact that sophisticated statistical methods are used such as factor analysis, correspondence analysis, or cluster analysis. The results are not wrong, but may benefit from cleansing by theoretical coding, and sometimes also from additions suggested by theory but obscured in the raw data.

The wisdom seeker may be a creative loner, or a sociable person working in a network, or an organizational champion in a research institute. We had to use our theory to separate 'lifestyles', i.e. what we most enjoy to do, from 'social personalities', i.e. the part of our makeup that is shaped by our position in the social structure. The former we eventually learned to record as columns and the latter as rows (Figure 20:2).

Classifying Cultural Values

How is one to bring order into research results on cultural values? Many research reports on values resemble the tales told by explorers from an era when there was still no agreement on latitude and longitude. The explorers returned home with wondrous, exotic accounts. But one did not really grasp how the discoveries of the different explorers could be related to one another. It was not until agreement was reached on the earth’s latitudes, longitudes, and heights above and below sea level that a cumulative picture of the planet’s continents and oceans emerged.

During the 1980s and 1990s when I worked on the integration of values into opinion and market research I encountered a similar situation. I tested a number of approaches to value research before finally deciding on the three dimensions that were well established in classic works in the social sciences (Zetterberg 1997, 1998). I used a confirmatory factor analysis to calibrate them, but classical social theory had defined them.

The first dimension is found in many texts, for example, Vilfredo Pareto's two first so-called residues. In its deeper meaning this dimension stretches from "being" to "becoming," from traditionalism, with its emphasis on stability (to "be loyal and traditional") to modernism, which welcomes change in the form of new combinations (to "be open and modern"). The second dimension is important in Max Weber's analysis of the distinctive character of the Western world. Weber's analysis reaches from placing a priority on faithfulness to one's values, even to "dramatizing" them, to a prioritization of pragmatism or instrumentality, where one is prepared to "compromise one's values" in order to reach overarching goals. The third dimension is central for Pitirim Sorokin. It runs from a culture of the senses to a culture of ideas, between the polarities materialism ("gadgets and carnality") and humanism ("the human spirit and dignity").

Input-Output Analyses

Which are really the various parts of a modern society, and how are they connected? We need to know some of the answers if we are, in the spirit of Wassily Leontieff (1997/19xx), to write comprehensive analyses of the mutual input and output between parts that are not merely economic transactions.

I have done just one extended input-output analysis, showing the interaction between schools and the total society (Zetterberg 2001). The report contains the categorization schema for social science in about the same form as the one presented in this text. Input and output from various cells to the ones containing the school system is described. I doubt that I could have written the report on the school system without having completed the categorization schema, and I further doubt that I could write similar texts about other parts of society without the schema.

Categories of Ideological Relevance

As I became fully active in public opinion research in the 1970s my interest in politics increased. My views on the possibilities and limits of politics developed, and I was aided in this by the theories of the German sociologist Nicklas Luhmann.

Niklas Luhmann takes fuller advantage of the advances in systems theory than his teacher Talcott Parsons. He sees society as an endless exchange of communications and the endless effort to interpret them.  His constituent parts of society are, not actions, but communications. They form  autopoietic subsystems. The latter have an autonomy that gives a new and added precision to Weber's Eigengesetzlichkeit, for these systems are not only a bounded autonomy but are also self-defining, self-evaluating, self-regulating and self-reproducing. Jointly, the systems shape the whole global society. The individual is not part of society but part of its environment (Luhmann 1984/1995).

An interesting point in Luhmann's theory is that the various subsystems of society certainly can produce disturbances for one another, but that no system, e.g. the economy or the body politic, can successfully intervene in the internal running of another, e.g. science or welfare. Courts belong to the body politic, and legislators can intervene and change the practice of a judge, but only if their proposals respect judicial procedures and traditions. A legislator or an adjuster from a private insurance company cannot dictate to a doctor whether a patient is sick or well, nor how a patient should be diagnosed and treated. At best, they can make arrangements to pay the doctor’s bill without undo arguments. Legislators, employees in insurance companies, and doctors work in different life spheres. Luhmann's version of Eigengesetzlichkeit thus sets limits for social engineering in which political decisions run details inside a non-political sphere of society. It set similar limits for priests to run the subsystems of entire societies by religious dogma. Likewise, science cannot be run by business considerations.

In passing Lyndon Johnson’s so-called Great Society legislation, Congress requested evaluation research for each of its welfare reforms. The researchers of these and other similar programs found both successes and failures. (See the twelve volumes of  Evaluation Studies Review Annual 1976-87.) A common but by no means universal observation was that administrators and recipients of the various welfare programs redefined the intent of the legislation to better suit their own needs. Such modifications could, of course, result in cost overruns. The existence of reported distortions and shortcomings in some programs made it easier for Ronald Reagan to ask Congress to cancel many of the welfare programs an d for Bill Clinton to "abandon social welfare as we know it.".

How much any two or more systems interfere with one another is in practice a worldly problem for institutional elites in the central zone of society. For social scientists, the question whether an attempt at intervention by one system into another is a success or not ought to be a subject for research, not speculation, faith, or ideology. One may be skeptical to much social engineering, i.e. attempts by politicians to change life outside the strictly political area, but one cannot rule out the possibility of social engineering by the fiat of invoking the word "system."

Two illustrations of my involvement in political debates illustrates my convictions about Eigengesetzlichkeit, i.e. bounded autonomy..

What Unique Aspects of European History Should Shape a Constitution for a European Union?

The debate on the organization of European Union has to a large extent centered on the principle of "subsidiarity." This principle requires that the EU's political bodies should be subsidiary to the citizen's own initiatives and decisions. Their task is to facilitate these, not to replace them. Any decision on political intervention should accordingly be taken at the lowest possible efficient level.

Within the EU bureaucracies and ministerial councils the concept of subsidiarity has been interpreted as "vertical subsidiarity," meaning that the EU shall not decide anything − outside the topics defined in the Union treaties − that a regional body or a member state can decide with greater sensitivity, knowledge, or efficiency. Since the topics covered by treaties have become very extensive the sway of subsidiarity is limited indeed. In addition, it has been generally forgotten that there exists also a possibility of "horizontal subsidiarity," meaning that the public sector should not attempt to do anything that the private sector or institutions outside the body politic can do as well. In its ultimate form horizontal subsidiarity should mean that the realms of science, economy, art, religion, and morality should not be subsidiary to the body politic. For example, The European Science Foundation which is run by the scientific community should take precedence over, nay replace, the research financing of the EU which is run by politicians and civil servants.

Modern Europeans, living in many-splendored societies, are offered the opportunity to create self-chosen biographies in their quest for wealth, order, truth, salvation, virtue, and beauty. The success of the EU depends on finding a form that suits this mainstream of European structuration. The appropriate form to govern such peoples seems closer to the model of ancient Athens than that of the Roman Empire. I entered this debate in the early 1990s with a much repeated lecture “The Structuration of Europe” (Zetterberg 1991) using the 1962 schema with an expanded classification of societal realms.

The idea of horizontal subsidiarity in the EU constitution became a lost cause. Valerie Giscard d'Estaing, the President of the Convention on the Future of Europe which was to conclude with a “Constitutional Treaty” for the EU, is credited with having formulated the doctrine of horizontal subsidiarity for the EU in the 1980s. The doctrine has been opposed by politicians and officials with socialist leanings as well as by old-fashioned conservatives anxious to preserve the centrality of political power. Horizontal subsidiarity is totally forgotten in the Constitutional Treaty!

What Would a Non-socialist Sweden Be Like?

This was the question we asked ourselves when the first conservative government in seventy years assumed office in 1992. An answer that explicitly applies the schema of categories is to be found in a paper in Swedish, “Individualism, Justice, Hierarchy, and Equality” (Zetterberg 1992). It contains schematic representations of conservative features in four countries where I have lived and done some research: the United States under Eisenhower and Kennedy, Great Britain under Heath, Sweden under Palme, and Spain under Gonzalez.

It quickly became apparent that contemporary conservatism is far from uniform. With the aid of the schema I could show that Swedish conservatism of the late 20th century had a chance of playing in a key of its own. It had an opening to reinforce those life areas that lie outside the political arena - for example, science, art, and ethics - and of developing the creative and conservative functions of the state, in addition to the socialist function of the welfare state as a redistributor of wealth to the Takers.

In the main, these conservative ideas for a restructuring of Sweden in the first half of 1990s were  lost. Per Unckel, minister of higher education, gave universities and colleges an opportunity to opt out of the state system and become independent foundations. But few did. After three years of managing a parliamentary minority status. an economic crisis, and some complex negotiations on the terms of Sweden’s entry into the EU, the non-socialist government of Carl Bildt was out of office, and the Social Democrats returned to their customary power.

My heart rose in 1988 at the 900th anniversary of the founding of the University of Bologna. Then more than 400 European university presidents signed the Magna Charta Universitatum, a reaffirmation of  the ideals of Humboldt's university amended with programs of exchanges of faculty members and students between the various universities in Europe. It was their initiative, and a pure and serene voice of the life area of knowledge reaffirming its place as a partner with Eigengesetzlichkeit and full voice in a many-splendored society. My only complaint would be that the university presidents did not want to squarely face the mish match of curriculum content that the modern universities exhibit. Particularly the social science disciplines are full of overlaps and inconsistent terminology.

But my heart sank eleven years later in 1999 when the initiative of Magna Charta Universitatum was taken over by 30 ministers of Education with a political agenda formulated by the EU Commission called The European Higher Education Area (EHEA) and The European Research Area (ERA). The latter documents speak with the voice of a hegemonic body politic, not science. It subordinates universities to the so called Lisbon process to achieve economic leadership for Europe. I am sad to conclude that the European Union acts in dissonance with the the unique and promising trends of institutional differentiation in European history.

My interventions on the EU constitution and on conservative visions of Sweden involve an ideological use of social science categories. They have been drops in buckets. However, inspired by Aristotle, we should be receptive to the fact that also ideological and consulting endeavors can add and develop categories for social science. And any social science category, developed inside or outside academe, may inspire both the political left and the political right by reminding them of the many-splendored nature of modern society.

Personally I prefer the joy of living with the present world to the blessings of a future utopia.  This leaves you with the choice of tackling social problems piecemeal, as pragmatic conservatives, or not at all, as do the nihilists. I belong to a breed of non-utopian intellectuals. The book you are reading is intended to be a substitute for an utopia. Its vision of a Many-Splendored Society, is shaped by pragmatism and restrictions coming from some scholarly knowledge of societies. It is primarily shaped by an awareness of the one-sidedness of the existing utopias.

Friedrich Hayek’s (1945) seminal article “The Use of Knowledge in Society,” showed the impossibility of large scale central economic planning due to inherent limits of knowledge. However, unlike Hayek I will not say that we must let the market and its spontaneous order solve all problems since our economic knowledge is insufficient for good social engineering, The market economy is a good logic for the world of affairs, but the worlds of politics and legislation, not to speak of the worlds of religion, art, and morality, have, as we have seen, other forms of rationality. In addition, I actually believe that theoretical programs of the kind presented in this book can reduce the uncertainties of applying social science knowledge to practical problems. We have come some way since 1945. At best, Hayek's thesis applies to complex structures with a membership higher than Dunbar's number. 

Political Premises

Social scientists who enter the border territory between science and politics should state their political creed.

With their different freedoms, different rewards, and different rationalities, the various realms in a modern society form a many-splendored whole, a society freely pursuing knowledge, money, power, artistry, holiness, and moral rectitude. All these pursuits seem essential to individuals who want to live rich and full lives and to communities that claim to be advanced and civilized. Yet the pursuits are often dissonant and sometimes incompatible. Often the different rewards and rationalities get in the way of one another. It is a basic fact of the human condition that the societal realms have aspects that are incommensurate.

A threefold stance for coping with this dilemma in the twenty-first century might be:

·                  First, we should be very restrictive in promoting the ideals of the market economy outside the realm of business.

·                  Second, we should be very restrictive in promoting the ideals of democracy outside the realm of politics.

·                  Third, we should see to it that science, art, religion, and ethics get a concrete chance to develop their core activities on their own merits, undisturbed by one another, and by business and politics.

Needless to say, in the beginning of the twenty-first century, these rules of thumb are not common wisdom among the general public. Nor are they endorsed by the leading social scientists. They have merely become my personal credo in applying social science to practical problems.