Hans L Zetterberg:


A Book Project: The Many-Splendored Society


Preface, Ambition, and Abstract
Volumes 1 through 4 of The Many-Splendored Society.
To be updated as further volumes are completed.

In this work, we use the adjective "many-splendored" to depict a society with personal freedom and a shining differentiation into six rather self-governing realms: economy, politics, science, art, religion, and morality. A good society, in my view, joins these societal realms so that no one rules over the others.  

Our claim is that the main division of social reality is not the two classes of workers and bourgeoisie, as Karl Marx thought, but rather the above six societal realms. As mentioned, they are science, art, economy, religion, polity, and morality. (Class, of course is a mighty stratification within the realm of economy; other realms have also significant stratifications but of other kinds.) A certain specific type of symbols dominates each societal realm. Consequently, the realms depend on what human language brains can produce. In an animal kingdom lacking advanced language, these realms can hardly develop.


The Many-Splendored Society deals with emerging categories and spontaneous tendencies in a social science based on the properties of language. I admit being happy whilst writing this text, sharing with the readers a chock full of nuts of exciting discoveries about social reality. I write for a public of serious readers in all walks of professional life, and for college and university students and their teachers in any part of the social sciences. At the same time, the text provides professional social scientists a framework larger in scope than their own specialty. 

The entire study has seven planned books of which this is the first. Each volume has a topic of its own. You can read it on your own with or without the other volumes. In total, the seven volumes will add up to a panorama of a many-splendored society that not only is within the reach of humanity, but it is on a path on which we have already come a long way. When this project is finished, the seven volumes will appear in one comprehensive and integrated treatise, and/or in one Kindle-type file.

Volume 1 (chapters 1 – 5)

Volume 1 of The Many-Splendored Society, had its first edition in 2009, the 3rd edition in 2013 from which you are now reading.

Immense are the tasks that mankind´s symbols provide. Our message is that symbols of the unique human language brain develop our social life, our culture, and us, nay ourselves. Symbols codify societal orders, represent wealth, summarize knowledge, embody beauty, define sacredness, and express virtues. When we pursue humans’ symbolic environment, we come a long way toward addressing symbols as the basic elements of peoples’ lives. We need only a minimum of references to those aspects of biology other than the human language brain. The latter being the latest main addition in the evolution of the functions bound in the entire human brain.

In this Volume, we clear the decks for this immensity by identifying common abuses of language in the form of magic, confabulation, and defensive bilge. We want to avoid these in exploring a scientific vocabulary for the study of society, its grounds, and scaffoldings.

 A huge potential for personal freedom comes with using language. This freedom shapes our own lives and our own society. Our language contains an almost unlimited number of linguistic germs: any one of us can produce sentences that no one has ever heard of before. The fertile environment of language is, of course, freedom of speech. Language gives humanity a wide crack in an otherwise deterministic universe. Human language is an opening to our freedom. 

Taking a first telescopic view, we find some intense bursts of symbolic activity in the so-called “axial civilizations” of China, India, and the Occident in the period 800 to 200 BCE. We follow mostly the resulting development in Europe from its Greek, Roman, and Jewish roots. I admit having found pleasure in experiencing the social world from a European perspective. Of course, I too, have a bounded, but real, despair over the shortcomings in European history: its falling into cases of religious and political tyranny, its economic exploitations at home and abroad, and I never forget that Nazism and Stalinism are European products. Europe, with its long record of anti-Semitism (3: 83-84), casting a whole people as a contamination of humankind, can never be held up as a model for other civilizations. It is, however, unwarranted that so many intellectuals today are ashamed of the entire European heritage and its North American continuation with a unique elaboration after the American Revolution. Where else do we find richer experiences of many-splendored societies?

Taking a second telescopic view of symbolic environments, we find some recurrent vibrations. We present three pulsating strings: tradition vs. modernity, faithfulness vs. instrumentality, and materialism vs. humanism. You find these themes in many, perhaps most, symbolic environments. We can also map them by sociological questionnaires. Their vibrations exhibit an unusually high degree of independence vis-à-vis their context of groups, networks, classes, and other social structures. In their various combinations, these strings provide distinct hints about the Zeitgeist prevailing in humankind’s spaces and times.

Moving to a microscopic view of single symbols and sentences, we find three recurrent usages: descriptions, evaluations, and prescriptions. We propose that these usages should enter into the minimum vocabulary of social reality. In other words, they are fundamental to a social theory.

A so-called postmodern approach has tried to dispense entirely with stable classifications in the social sciences. By writing in ever changing symbols referring only to other symbols that are also changing, i.e. what we call Saussurian symbols, we could achieve this questionable feast. To avoid this quagmire, there is, in any language, and in scholarly terminology as well, what we call Meadian symbols, depicting something other than just other symbols. We appeal in our first Volume to social scientists to use a generous number of the latter to achieve enhanced stability in thinking about social reality (1: 98-99).

Surrounded by Symbols introduces two default states of the human condition. These make small, but important, modifications in the economic axioms presently ruling most thinking about societies. First, we hold that the urge to preserve standing and to avoid degradation is more basic than the urge to improve (1: 198). Second, we claim that an emotive choice is initially more typical than a rational choice (1: 190). These small and seemingly trivial modifications to old doctrines have major consequences. These threads of thought are essential to our further explorations.

Volume 2 (Chapters 6-10)

Volume 2 of The Many-Splendored Society: An Edifice of SymbolsCITATION Zet10 \t  \l 1053  (Zetterberg 2010, 3rd ed. 2013), contains a taxonomy of the social reality created by ordinary language. The tale of society is the manner in which these categories interlace into humanity’s social and cultural achievements. Most worthwhile thinking about this comes from some celebrated individuals in the social sciences of the past, so in this journey we experience many intellectual milestones achieved by classical writers of social science, from Adam Smith to Max Weber.

A standard use of symbols stripped of magic, confabulation, and defensive bilge, provides us with a set of general categories and dimensions for the construction of social reality. We begin by learning to separate what is individual and what is collective, as well as individuality and uniformity, positions and relations.     We then identify collectivities, i.e. certain common structures of communication such as organizations, associations, assemblies, networks, and mass media. We discover and portrait no less than eight types of leadership. We pay special attention to mass media, one of the “demons” that happens to govern much of modern lives. We pause to consider universal human rights.

The categories we need for the study of society have, often, some degree of materiality, such as a building serving as a home when you study a household. Nevertheless, the life in the building is, in the main, governed by categories involving symbols and is, in effect, “symbolic interaction,” the name of one of the best twentieth century schools of American sociology (2: 69) and (3: 102-103).

In An Edifice of Symbols, we look at the place of statutes and contracts in human affairs and the spirit they produce in societies in which they are allowed to dominate. To study the major difference between a law-dominated society and a contract-dominated society comprises a promising territory for future scholarship and for finding future political agendas.

One of the simplest, but most useful divisions of human living separates folk life from city life or Gemeinschaft from Gesellschaft, two German expressions used by Ferdinand Tönnies over 100 years ago. In time, these terms have become household words also among English-speaking social scientists. Repeatedly, the social scientists have added to their meanings. We present Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft as master clusters of social life, which help us understand phenomenon such as corruption, invisible contracts inside organizations, and also many contentions in civil wars, as well as some conflicts between social movements.

Following a lead from Max Weber that has been largely unused, we discover that stratifications and reward systems, diverse spontaneous orders, and several other social attributes are different in different realms of social reality. That is, they vary in science, economy, polity, art, religion, and morality, the constituent parts of a many-splendored society.

The central parts of An Edifice of Symbols is the Periodic Table of Societal Realms (2: 222-223) and a Table of Valences of Societal Realms (2: 230-231). A chemist might see these tables as kindred to his field, for they have some “periodic” properties of the type discovered in chemistry in the nineteenth century. By identifying the place in a Periodic Table of a phenomenon in social reality, we also identify a large number of its characteristics.

In the main part of Volume 2, we demonstrate that the different societal realms can be described in terms of the same categories, for example, cardinal values, communication structures, stratifications, reward systems, and spontaneous orders, et cetera, described in the rows of The Periodic Table of Societal Realms. Each realm is unique in having its own distinct cardinal value, its special communication structure, unique stratification, separate reward system, and its own type of spontaneous order. People with matching lifestyles and who have passionate cardinal commitments such as "the spirit of capitalism" in the economy, "the spirit of discovery" in science, or "the spirit of justice" in the realm of morality are great promoters of their specific realms.

A condensed copy of our Periodic Table of Societal Realms for a modern society is found below on page 20. This table illustates the total scope of our efforts in this work. Details about the societal realms will follow in Volumes 4–6 in which we describe the six societal realms of science, economy, body politic, art, religion, and morality in terms of the columns in the Periodic Table of Societal Realms.

The various societal realms have different attractions to one another, something we spell out in a Table of Valences. The latter table illustrates ease and difficulty in the collaboration and integration of societal realms.

In the end, a full merger of societal realms results in increasingly wobbly structures. For example, merging the body politic and the economy into a socialist society creates an unstable mixture. Likewise, we sense instability in the air when the polity merges with the realm of morality into a Nordic-type welfare state.

Volume 3 (chapters 11 – 17)

The third Volume, Fueled by Symbols (2010, 3rd ed. 2013), shifts from the use of constructing society by language to examining how we use language in order to inspire human beings to live in the home built by their language. We prompt ourselves by "justifying vocabularies," and we prompt others by "impelling vocabularies." These motivating vocabularies are comprised of short pieces of language with remarkable leverage. This use of symbols makes for a civilized, in which conflicts are resolved not by force, but by words, and where violence is reduced to the minimum needed to defend civility.

We find that different justifications are in use in all of the subdivisions of society appearing in our Periodic System of Societal Realms. Six justifying vocabularies are unique to each of the societal realms of science, art, economy, religion, polity, and morality. These realms are responsible for their own legitimacy. No sovereign or divine force grants them justification.

Within each realm in modern societies, four justifying vocabularies comprise competing ideologies: individualism, meritocracy (a hierarchy based on achievement, not birth as in an aristocracy), universalism, and egalitarianism.

Compelling language shapes, amongst other things, personalities by constructing vocabularies of identity. We look at some length at other impelling vocabularies shaping social inclusion and exclusion, preserving a favorable self-image, and maintaining the order upholding us. These impelling and justifying vocabularies lock into each other in very interesting ways. One such link creates the human conscience. Another makes the vocabularies work together like the left and right part of a zipper, resulting in a most reliable human motivation in day-to-day living.

Such vocabularies, not Hobbes' strongmen of the state, provide societies with the motivation to flourish. Very few of the tasks to be undertaken by a modern state need overriding physical force for their execution. Instead, the body politic needs to cultivate compelling and justifying vocabularies, as do the other realms of civilized.

In past times, the use of shortcuts involving violence, instead of diplomacy (i.e. language), in order to exercise ambitions and solve routine conflicts was perceived as political wisdom. This is unfit as the highway to the future. We argue that those still practicing this approach are, literally, "uncivilized." Likewise, it is uncivilized to use language to incite violence (“hate speech”), to convert imprisoned enemies by a torture of words (“brain washing”), as is the use of words to erode the self-integrity of others in daily life (“bullying”). The civilized parties should overpower such practices, if they persist. In the latter case, it is justified to apply a necessary measure of police and military violence.

Volume 4 (chapters 18 – 28)

The loveliest wholes in society are our societal realms. With Volumes 4 to 6 in this series we start to present the details of each societal realm as we know them in advanced societies. Already in the first chapter of the first volume of The Many-Splendored Society, we sketched how these societal realms appeared in European history; now we go into detail regarding their cartography.

A striking fact is that societal realms have the potential of becoming comparatively autonomous parts of society, a collective home for individuals who have civic rights, academic freedom, free trade, artistic license, and freedoms of religion and of conscience. A slogan, such as "Six Realms Born Free and Equal," signals both a discovery and a bias: science, art, religion, and morality are as important in society as are today's favorites, economy and politics.

Volume 4 of the Many-Splendored Society has two parts: Part 1 takes science as an example of Societal Realms and How They Emerge. Part 2 is titled The Pursuit of Knowledge. This deals with the social reality of contemporary science. 

The fact that science gets more attention than the other societal realms, and is presented in a binding of its own in The Many-Splendored Society, is purely pedagogical; this is not any claim that science is the most important societal realm. The realm of science is, however, the most recent one making up social reality, and is much younger than economy, polity, art, and religion. Science is well documented; in fact, its Makers thrive on publicizing findings. In the case of science, we can learn from its recorded history how a societal realm begins and grows. Therefore, we shall dissect science in more detail than the other realms in order to help us to a fuller understanding of the nature of societal realms, the large building blocks of many-splendored societies. What we learn will be particularly useful when we deal, in Volume 6, with the societal realm of morality. In Western civilization, morality is in the process of becoming independent of religion and emerging as a full-fledged republic of virtue at the core of civil society.

We devote Part 1 of Volume 4 to distill from the history of science certain general principles about the rise of societal realms. A new realm is initially likely to assume selected features from already existing realms. The emerging societal realm of science showed copying from the realm of religion. In later times, an emulating from the guild system of the pre-capitalism economy took place. The first who practiced science, the so-called natural philosophers, typically viewed the search for knowledge as a calling. Not unlike the priests in “the religions of the book” ― Judaism, Christianity, and Islam ― studying God’s Scriptures, the first men of science, and a few women, not to forget, studied God’s Nature. The first generation of professors at research universities, however, became monopolists, somewhat like bygone masters of commercial guilds.

A case history of the attempt to merge the societal realms of science and religion in creating a medieval cultural synthesis, an ideal Catholic society in the outlook of Thomas Aquino and his followers, is included in Part 1. This merger proved to be unhinged as the realm of science grew. An important piece of evidence supporting a very central proposition in The Many-Splendored Society is: Full-scale mergers of societal realms (including their cardinal values, stratifications, organizations, networks, media, et cetera) tend to create instable structures that deteriorate over time. (Proposition 10:14, clause (b), on page 2: 242.)

Science is a very rational pursuit. Scientists, however, are human beings working under the same language-dependent conditions as other human beings. For example, the struggle to formulate and gain acceptance of "the present standpoint of science" has much to learn from the struggles to achieve consensus in other realms of society. Distortions in and corruptions of science are shown to follow the same paths as in other societal realms.

Turning to modern science, we note how the German universities in the nineteenth century created a new home for science by making competence in research, rather than in learned teaching, the criterion of appointment of professors, thus moving most serious research into a reformed structure for higher learning. These universities formalized the meaning of academic freedom, and became a model for scientific pursuits all over the world. They also incorporated the Napoleonic idea that universities should be open to all qualified students, regardless of their kinship and their class background. We trace the modification of these ideas into the graduate schools of the American research universities of the twentieth century.

The enormous success of applied research in medicine and engineering still has a big base at universities. However, the recent growth of the societal realm of science has its momentum in applications. Increasingly, research, nowadays, takes place outside the universities in the context of varied applications.

We take time to study the stream of technical innovations and find that it consists mostly of new combinations of old innovations. A full acceptance of innovations in society is found in rather shorts periods of history, marked by values of materialism and pragmatism.

Volumes 57 (incomplete)

Volume 5 The Pursuit of Beauty, Sacredness, and Virtue (incomplete)

Volume 5 of The-Many-Splendored Society will deal with the emotively loaded societal realms of art, religion, and morality. Part 1 of this volume deals with The Pursuit of Beauty. The societal realm XE "societal realms"  of art is concerned with what Germans call Erscheinung, i.e. aesthetic forms, revelations, appearances and entries that attract our emotive attention and are worthy of our contemplation. Symbols of emotive descriptions make up art, but far from all emotive descriptions qualify as art. We often hear that art expresses what we cannot express in words. Modern artwork often searches below the roots of language, before it is born on the tip of our tongues. However, not always — such a view would exclude literature from art.

Art does depend on descriptive symbolism, but of a different and more emotive kind that opens a door for people to stay in touch with expressions revealing previously unseen aspects of beauty, and of experiences inherited from pre-language stages and worlds.

Part 2 of Volume 5, has the title The Pursuit of Sacredness, and is a version of the sociology of religion. Religion, with its cardinal value of sacredness, also uses largely evaluative language, but a language of a very different kind than that of Mammon, so familiar from our study of economy. Religion, like fiat money, is a language product. It will be with us as long as we have language. The fact that language organizes identities, and that all language-using beings are mortal, has given rise to religions in which selves are turned into souls who remain in our symbolic environment beyond the demise of the body.

Part 3 of Volume 5 is entitled The Pursuit of Virtue, and deals with the realm of morality. This realm uses impelling imperatives, but of a different kind than in politics. We will make an effort to disentangle the seemingly self-evident merger of religion and morality. Such a merger was far from natural in antiquity. It is, largely, without substance outside the Abrahamic religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. We advance the thesis that such a merger inhibits the flowering of both religion and morality.

At times, morality has had a strong focus on how we should cope with biological spontaneities, such as sex or violence. In recent times, a new, moral focus has emerged in requiring humanity to live so that the physical environment is sustainable, and to live in such a manner that the animal kingdom and plants can survive. In a many-splendored society, XE "many-splendored society"  there is an additional new, moral requirement of authenticity in the cardinal values of knowledge, beauty, wealth, sacredness, order, and virtue. The way these cardinal values support or hinder one another remains a key issue in this series of books.

Volume 6 The Pursuit of Wealth and Order (incomplete)

Volume 6 deals with the social reality of economy and the body politic, those two societal realms which in recent centuries have received most attention by historians and journalists.

Economy, with its focus on wealth, uses mostly evaluative language; it is not the goods and services we have that constitute our riches, but their evaluation. We give particular attention to three rather different pursuits of riches: manufacturing, service, and finance. The latter has made the lion´s share of modern money, the fiat money, a strict language product not tied to gold or other material phenomena. We believe that the understanding of the functioning of symbolic environments, which is an ambition of our text, is essential to a science of economy and, in particular, of finance.

The body politic focuses on the exercise of power, using the tools of legislation and diplomatic treaties, usually composed in the commanding speech of prescriptive discourse.

A many-splendored society XE "many-splendored society"  is a federation of societal realms. The key to running such a society is a ‘central zone XE "central zone" ’ in which exponents of the six societal realms meet and interact. It is essential that access to the central zone is open to all comers. ‘Consent of the governed’ takes on new qualities here; the soft power of consent of the self-governed societal realms becomes essential.

In Volume 6 we also take up a modern attempt to merge the societal realms of economy and polity in creating a socialist society XE "socialist society"  in the outlook of Karl Marx XE "Marx, Karl"  and his followers. Such attempts proved inefficient and unstable, as have other attempts to merge societal realms.

The six societal realms have certain relations to one another which are particularly worthy of study. Among the issues which are interesting: how do societal realms search for hegemony within society, and how do they seek a global reach. We have plenty of opportunities to look at infightings within a society: state vs. church, religion vs. science, morality vs. law, business vs. politics, et cetera. Other issues here are classical, for example, how does progress the cardinal value of one societal realm XE "societal realms"  spill over into others? Is it true, as Sorokin argued, that advances in scientific truth results in more of artistic beauty and more of moral virtue?

We will pay special attention to efforts to merge realms; each of the volumes 4, 5, and 6 contains a case history of attempts to merge realms. Our major discovery in this effort is that merged realms — such as socialism, which merges economy and polity — are intrinsically unstable. Furthermore, we discover that our six realms are the main actors in the process of globalization preoccupying humankind at this juncture of history.

So far, the grand story of societal realms and their interrelations in this book project.

Volume 7 Life and the Good Life (incomplete)

What remain are some notes on the interpenetrations between our main topic the social world, on the one hand, and the biological and physical worlds, on the other. Physicians, ecologists, engineers, and military officers use language-based skills to cope with bodily spontaneities, vagrancies of nature, technologies, and violence. In the seventh and final Volume of The Many-Splendored Society, entitled, we progress a short distance beyond that which is created by mankind´s language capacity (that is "the good life" in Plato XE "Plato" ´s sense) and pursue the impact of some biologically based areas of living (that is, “life”). The latter is where the requirements of food and shelter and sleep give rise to humanity´s tradition of living in households. Sex and reproduction give rise to the tradition of living in generational families. It is also here where biological age sets a stage for lifecycles with different phases from infant to elder. Most interesting is the development of bodily skills into the social institutions of athletics, such as running, swimming and jumping, as well as sports involving certain types of technology such as tennis, golf, bicycling, and sailing. Team sports, such as ball games, give rise to a range of issues related to the main topic of our concern, i.e. social reality shaped by language.

In these seven volumes of The Many-Splendored Society, we will tell a story — a social theory — of how man´s use of language creates a framework for freedom and creativity XE "many-splendored society" . Each of these seven volumes can be read on its own, and it has its own pagination. Each volume is also an installment in the larger project about the theory and practice of a many-splendored society that is within the reach of humanity.


With some ingenuity that, at least, sometimes goes beyond conventional wisdom, we may discover how the categories of our volumes The Many-Splendored Society can establish a set of testable and consistent propositions providing us with an understanding of the past and a handle to cope with the future. This is not to say that a future society can be predicted, but, instead, that our options in the present and for the future can be less myopically perceived.

To obtain a total view of society a contemporary scholar might have to draw on a many-sided collection of accumulated knowledge. The list is long and can be made longer: anthropology, brain research, business administration, communications, cognitive science, cultural studies, demography, human geography, economics, gender science, hermeneutics, history and (especially) history of ideas, journalism, jurisprudence, linguistics, market research, pedagogy, political science, public opinion research, rhetoric, semiotics, and sociology. The schema presented in these volumes is not the property of any particular academic discipline in the social sciences. In the latter part of my professional life, I have worked mainly outside universities and their somewhat archaic division of disciplines. At many times, I have dealt with problems outside my specialties of sociology (my field as a university professor in the United States) and public opinion research (my livelihood in Sweden). I believe this has been a favorable condition for these volumes.

I hope that deans of liberal arts faculties will take notice; many of the courses they offer have a common base and many overlap with one another in applications. A major rationalization of students' time and curriculum is possible if you can overcome the straitjacket of the traditional university departments.

Faculties, of course, need specialization for their research and for assessing professional rewards. (In fact, they are often driven to over-specialization, as shown on page 4: 125.) During their first college years, students do not require such specialization. Even graduate students in the social and cultural sciences might benefit from an advanced integrated course, taken parallel with their specialized courses. In such manner, they will understand how their chosen major field of study integrates with other specialties.

The creation of a general social science course at college level and finding research-oriented professors to teach such courses is not easy. Max Weber , the great German scholar, active a hundred years ago, noted in a speech to students seeking a scientific career (cited on page 4: 30-31) that it is unrewarding to try to integrate and interrelate varying scientific areas. Weber, himself, had contributed to such efforts in political science, economics, history, jurisprudence, comparative religion, and other specialties, including music. He accomplished most of this in periods in which he had no university duties in any of these specialties. His standing in the world of scholarship is in large measure due to his (admittedly partly unfinished) integrative and interrelating work that he called “sociology,” and which we here call “social science.”

My Bias, Advantage, and Gratitude

I will not, and cannot, hide the fact that I like the vision of a many-splendored society. However, my focus in these pages is not to convey personal preferences, but to give a broad picture of social reality, and to provide an image of what we presently know of it in social science. This picture has grown to adult size and old-age maturity in my own life, and ready for revision and sheading by new generations. I will not and cannot hide in this text some autobiographical influences, mostly from the United States and Sweden.

A work of this kind can only be attempted by standing on the shoulders of giants, as the saying goes. It is also essential to have good people to give you a lift up, and it is particularly important to have many others who, in various projects, help you to avoid falling off. These volumes may stand as a token of appreciation to a number of colleagues and friends who have helped me. They include teachers, colleagues, graduate students, clients, learned and lay friends. Too many of them get this thank-you-note posthumously.  

My teacher Torgny T Segerstedt at Uppsala University, gave me and a number of fellow students a total commitment to the spirit of discovery. Among the first of the latter were Georg Karlsson, Ulf Himmelstrand, and Bengt Rundblad. Segerstedt had also given similar inspiration to Erik Allardt from Finland. We all wanted a new scientific sociology, and we received help from each other along that route. My teachers at University of Minnesota, F Stuart Chapin, Don Martindale X, Arnold Rose, and Stanley Schachter, set the tune of my subsequent social studies and reinforced my commitment to the spirit of discovery.

My colleagues at Columbia University, particularly, Sigmund Di-amond, Amitai Etzioni, Johan Galtung, Herbert H Hyman, Paul F Lazarsfeld, Juan Linz, Robert K Merton, Seymour Martin Lipset, Guenter Roth, and David Sills entered my “internalized reference group” in sociology; thus they have, unknowingly, been ever present in judging my writing. Guenther Roth confirmed the choice of Max Weber as my intellectual house god of my mature years; Weber is an imaginary Chairman at our virtual meetings of my reference group. Later, my colleagues, Saad Nagi and William Petersen, at Ohio State University entered this virtual group.

In the 1980s and 90s in my native Sweden, I was a member of a “professor circle” called Ratio, which had purposes that gave them status as new members of my virtual reference group: Erik Dahmén, Tor Ragnar Gerholm, David Magnuson, Torgny T Segerstedt, and Stig Strömholm. The group was sponsored by Sture Eskilsson of the Swedish Employers’ Federation (SAF), and it was administered by Carl-Johan Westholm;  he later became Secretary General of the Mont Pelerine Society, and he has been a long-time friend of The Many-Splendored Society. The Ratio circle was in charge of an annual retreat and seminar, and a yearly selection of the publication (usually translated into Swedish) of a lasting book in international social science. From this experience, I wanted, and still want, to accomplish something that this group would think worthwhile.

Without an intellectual house god such as Max Weber and the above groups of scholars, The Many-Splendored Society would not have been written. A real-life reference group has been Richard Swedberg and Emil Uddhammar who evaluated my early writings as editors of the collection Sociological Endeavor (1999), and who have continued to inspire the present writing.

Some 30+ doctoral students, whose dissertations I have assisted, have taught me as much as I have managed to teach them. They include, among others, Alexandra Åhlund, Charles J Hanser, Murray Hausknecht, Terrence K Hopkins, Barney Glaser, Charles Kadushin, Imogen Seger Colborn, and Nechama Tec. To this group belongs also Murray Gendell who in 1961 became my co-author in a collection of statistics about the United States, in which we, for the first time, classified societal realms in the same way as became standard in The Many-Splendered Society. He has also been a close and helpful reader of four volumes of the latter.

To select and edit manuscripts for Bedminster Press in the 1960s taught me a great deal, and brought me in rewarding touch with scholars such as Vilhelm Aubert, Hugh Dalziel Duncan , Alf Ross, Pitirim Sorokin, Herbert Tingsten, and Aaron Wildawski. From this period dates also a long association with the late Greta Frankel as editor and occasionally co-author of papers. She helped me to search a style for the first edition of the first Volume of The Many-Splendored Society, taking advantage of the fact that social reality fully depends on language, a property of all readers! A writer about social reality has actually a huge advantage over writers on physical and biological reality. Greta Frankel and I had an idea of a sophisticated writing about social reality that any reader, reasonably well skilled in the use of ordinary English, should be able understand. At least, in principle, that is. What I ask my readers to practice is the reading of tables, not primarily numerical ones, but “tables of words.” It is also helpful to practice reading “equations of words,” that is, propositions summarizing the most informative scientific knowledge we so far have.

Pictorial illustrations often give us an insight and understanding that bypasses many words. I have been fortunate to work with Martin Ander. He is the second generation of exceptional Swedish artists who turns ideas into drawings.

As a long-time member of Gallup International Association, I have had the privilege of friendship and full access to the advice of Dr. George H Gallup in all matters of opinion polling, national and international. Many in his circle of friends and collaborators became my helpful colleagues; I will describe the Gallup world in another publication. In the broader field of public opinion and value research, I have learned much from studies in collaboration with Daniel Debomy, Alain de Vulpian, and Helène Riffault in France, Giampaolo Fabris in Italy, Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann, and Burkhard Strümpel in Germany, and Gordon Heald, Elizabeth Nelson, and Robert M Worcester in Great Britain,  and Daniel Yankelovich in the United States. I have learned much from Michael Maccoby about leadership, and from Peter Schwartz about future studies.  

Several collaborators and visiting scholars at Sifo, my former social and market research institute in Stockholm, have left marks on my thinking. They include Tom Burns, Stefan Dagler, Ralph Ginsberg, Berth Jönsson, Evelyne Huber Stephens, John Stephens, and Herman Wold.

At Sifo, a resident team of competent and committed colleagues included among many others Hans Alfredsson, Ingrid Berg, Karin Busch, Håkan Gartell, Stig Holmer, Ulf Isander, Karna Larsson-Toll, Anders Leion, Alf Sjöström, Mari-Ann Persson, and Bo Winander. We conducted national and international applied social and market research. Our clients were corporations in forestry, agriculture, manufacturing, transport, service, finance; bureaucracies, royal commissions, political parties, unions, employer organizations, parties of court cases; voluntary associations, churches, charities, interest groups; and we polled on behalf of media, and, on our own initiative (hopefully) on behalf of the general public. Contacts with this range of clients brought us much needed knowledge as regards how a total society works; a type of knowledge that is not easily available when you are confined to a department at a university. To team up with research directors for Xerox, Shell, and IBM gave invaluable insights, not only in the advancing role of technology in bureaucracies, but in corporate globalization. I particularly remember the eye-opening collaboration with Ulf Berg of IBM. Also, studies for Coca-Cola, whose research director, Richard Halpern, I had met and admired as a doctoral student at Columbia University, gave unusual insights, not only in global marketing, but in global anti-Americanism. No one of these clients is forgotten, but Pehr G Gyllenhammar, at his days as head of Volvo, must also be named. He had not only knowledge of his fields of business, but an unusually comprehensive view of modern global society. The latter can be also said of his staff director, Bo Ekman, my successor at Sifo and the founder of the Tällberg Foundation.    

The many drafts of The Many-Splendored Society has benefitted from continuous comments by Bo Anderson, a friend and colleague from Uppsala and Columbia University. Volume 1 benefitted also from suggestions from his wife, Rhoda Kotzin, philosopher at Michigan State University. Patrik Aspers introduced me to the post-Bourdieu phase of French sociology and Luc Boltanski and Laurent Thévenot, which reshaped Volume 3 into the division between compelling and justifying motivations. Helena Streijffert has been helpful at many points, and particularly in the writing in Volume 4, by sharing her experiences as a university administrator both in central government bureaucracy and on local campuses.

In 1992 to 1996, the prematurely closed City University in Stockholm housed a research project, "The Social State," managed by Carl Johan Ljungberg and myself. The research team comprised Håkan Arvidsson, Lennart Berntson, Anders Borg, Ulf Kristersson, Stefan Carlsson, Lars Dencik, Anita du Rietz, Gunnar du Rietz, Thomas Gür, Helena Rivière, Karin Busch Zetterberg, och Emil Uddhammar. We produced twelve reports on our welfare state, all in Swedish. Without this effort, it had not been possible for me to write about welfare in Part 3 of Volume 5 of The Many-Splendored Society. Among many other things, the latter text concludes that the merger of the societal realms of Swedish body politic and the Swedish realm of welfare morality is shaky and will eventually break up. I should point out that this is my own conclusion, and not the conclusion of the research team.

Many colleagues have commented on earlier editions and pre¬sent sections of the Many-Splendored Society and on papers that have been revised for inclusion in the manuscript. Special thanks and fond remembrances go to the contacts with Edmund Dahlström, Rune Barneus, Mattias Bengtsson, Hans Bergström, Margaretha Ber-tilsson, Anders Björnsson, Wolfgang Donsbach, Patrik Engellau, Inger Enkvist, Rolf Englund, Karl-Olof Faxén, Evert Gummesson, Ingrid Heyman, Stig C Holmberg, Erland Kruckenberg, Anita Kruckenberg, Rita Liljeström, Lorenz Lyttkens, Roland Poirier Mar-tinsson, Torjus Midtgarden (at the time as an anonymous peer re-viewer), Fredrik Sterzel, and Birgit Stolt.

Ulla Daggfelt, Eva Bojner, Gösta Bojner, Gustaf Ekholm, Weine Jarnevall, Peter Kockum, Inga Lidén, Rolf Sjölinder, Lars Söderberg, Ingemar Tommos, Jan Westerlund are some who have given me very helpful comments, not in their occupational roles, but as general readers, a most welcome audience.

My brother Göran Zetterberg and my daughter Anne D Zetterberg have filled me in on the pursuit of art. My brother Nils Zetterberg has been a knowledgeable partner in business. My son Martin C Zetterberg has filled me in on the pursuit of both engineering and finance.

The Many-Splendored Society is dedicated to Karin Busch Zetterberg, partner in marriage and research, and my first reader.

A Short Aid to First-time Readers

While the professional language about social reality is compatible with ordinary language, the layout of a book on social science can differ significantly from pages in a diary, biography, or history book. I will ask the readers to cope with three features that that are different from ordinary books.

First Difference: Internal Sequences and Cross-references

The various volumes and parts of volumes of The Many-Splendored Society represent divisions of the subject matters that students usually study separately. These gross divisions are reflected in our pagination that includes a volume number and a page number. For example, the designation "1: 189” leads you to page 1: 189 in Volume 1, where we state that a universally available wide opening towards freedom in an otherwise deterministic universe, is secured for humanity through her use of language.
A further basis for references is the numbering of chapters. The ti-tles of tables, figures, and propositions include the sequence number of the chapter in which they first appear. The footer on a page also indicates the chapter id-number and repeats the heading of the chapter. While all volumes stand alone, and you can read them on their own, the chapter numbers run unbroken through the first to last volume. We do this in the interest of unambiguous cross-referencing by indicating chapter title followed by a colon, and the relevant sub-headings. A reference to page 189 would might read “Ch 5 (Vol 1) Linguistic Forms and Usages: Freedom in Social Reality”. This is useful in e-book editions, which often lack page numbers.

Unlike a novel or a detective story in which you, the reader, is challenged to keep track of previously introduced characters, intrigues, and investigations, our text contains numerous explicit cross-references, i.e. points referring to previous or following sections or sentences. Such is the nature of theorizing, even postmodern attempts.

Highly informative and grounded ideas hanging together, including their implications, make a ’theory.’ To show that the ideas hang together, we use cross-references. Our theory hangs together very well, and the cross-references are numerous. Starting with a minimum vocabulary of grounded fundamentals, we present layers of detail built up on top of each other. Alternatively, we present an overall system based on subsystems that cannot function without one another, and which may even need the overall system to function. Such undertakings require a large number of cross-references in the text.

We need references to other parts of our running text as notes at the end of chapters in the text, or in footnotes at bottom of pages. Readers, who are uninterested in the nitty-gritty congruence of theoretical arguments, should, of course, ignore the many, admittedly tedious, such internal cross references.

Second Difference: References to Other‘s  Publications

A distracting number of references to the scholarly literature are interrupting the running text. I apologize to non-academic readers for this. However, within the academic world we tip our hats och drop our curtsies to those who have said it before us and/or who have provided research in support. This culture of citation is part of the reward system in the societal realm of science.  

I have chosen to note the names of authors and the titles of their publications in a standard format called Turabian. In reading the text, you see, inside a parenthesis, the last name of the author, the year of his publication, and sometimes page numbers. The rest of the information about the publication is in a separate Bibliography at the end of the book. 

In presenting thoughts and evidence from other authors, I have tried to cite or refer to those who first formulated the ideas or princi-ples or, at least who formulated them at an early stage, and who, at the same time, provided evidence that they understood their im-portance. At times, I underline the buildup from the past by noting the original year of publication in the Bibliography, in addition to indicating the later edition I have used. You will find a greater num-ber of older references in this text than in the majority of texts other-wise up-to-date in the twenty-first century. I hope this occasional practice will convince readers that there has been a great deal of ac-cumulation of knowledge in the social sciences. I have not felt obliged to include the large numbers of other supporting statements and additional evidence from dates subsequent to the original discovery. The reference to American philosopher George Herbert Mead in the next paragraph shows a mention made in the Turabian way.

No author, dead or alive, is a supreme lord over his or her own formulations. New generations create formulations that are their own. As George Herbert Mead (1936, 116) said: "A different Caesar crosses the Rubicon not only with each author but with each generation." I have made several reformulations of the classics of social science and humanities to fit into my schema in order to be more relevant to the contemporary state of knowledge. I treat the classics here, not as monuments, but as stepping-stones.

The various volumes and parts of volumes of The Many-Splendored Society represent divisions of the subject matters that students usually study separately. These gross divisions are reflected in our pagination that includes a volume number and a page number. For example, the designation "1: 189” leads you to page 1: 189 in Volume 1, where we state that a universally available wide opening towards freedom in an otherwise deterministic universe, is secured for humanity through her use of language.

Third Difference: Tables of Words

Liberal arts students have a tendency of to skip tables in their readings, and the frames around tables make this easy. We have re-moved both left side and right side borders of our tables as signs of “Welcome in!” and “Please continue reading!”

In our text, several tables do not contain numbers, but words. These tables specify classifications, a backbone of theory in all sciences. As an example, let us choose a table that also hints to the big scope of our effort in The Many-Splendored Society, the so-called Periodic Table of Societal Realms.

The row “Critical Symbols,” a top line in the Table lists the pieces of language that acts as elements of social reality. They serve as basic terms of our theory.

The cells in a table of words are shorthand to sentences of words. The three cells in the upper left corner of Table 2.1 is an abbreviation of a sentence reading: “In science, the critical symbols are executive descriptions.”

To construct a straightforward sentence from a cell in our table of words, you must first read the column heads and, then, the row headings and finally, i.e. at last, you begin to pay attention to the cells in the table. Most people do the reverse in reading tables, and find it often difficult to understand the message of a given cell.

Table 2.1 Abbreviated Preview of a Periodic Table of Societal Realms.









Executive description

Executive evaluation

Executive prescripts



Emotive prescripts


Learning buffs






Cardinal values















First to discover

Monetary devices






Scientific method







Academic freedom




Religious freedom

Free conscience

neous order




Art  im-provisations

Non-ritual prayers

Unplanned civilities





Theatres museums




Associa  tions

Professsion societies

Coops    Unions

Political   parties

Art guilds

Congrega-  tions

Humanitar  charities





Art circles bohemia

Fellow believers




ing  media


Stages, novels, exhibits

Holy texts, cults



Competing laboratories



Schools (=ap to art)

Rival con-gregations

Contending moral groups







Sources of hi norms






Learned clerics






Performers, entertainers


Moralists Carers





Fans of


Decent people



Investment advisors


of art

to realms




Investment seekers




Endorsement chasers


Spirit of

Spirit of capitalism


Spirit of

Spirit of

Spirit of justice





















The columns in our Periodic Table separate the various language-based societal realms: science, economy, polity, art, religion, and morality. The rows of the table separate various attributes or illustrations of what a realm may contain. For example, one row of the table, says that each realm has a “spontaneous order,” telling us that far from everything in society is planned. For example, scientists routinely check each other’s work; this self-correction implies that mistaken findings do not last long, and what is the “current standpoint of science” materializes spontaneously. In the economy, accepted market prices likewise emerge spontaneously, as do public opinions in the body politic.

Each column in the Periodic Table of Societal Realms hides a mobilizing force: the Spirit of discovery, the Spirit of capitalism, the Spirit of politics, the Spirit of artistry, the Spirit of worship, the Spirit of justice. We do not want to miss any of them.

Fourth Difference: Propositions

Some particularly informative sentences in our text are elevated as Propositions and are numbered and named; these are also re-listed at the end of each volume. These sentences formulate certain well-grounded probabilities about social reality, sometimes supported by historical records or records systematically collected by researchers, sometimes simply convincingly declared by famous social scientists. Other considerations and conclusions (derivations), based solely on such Propositions, also carry some credibility, albeit attenuated, and certain such reasoned hypotheses may sometimes be included among our Propositions.

The chosen Propositions in this work summarize what I have found belonging to our present knowledge from a scholarly study of society. Our Propositions about social reality are not the same as Laws of nature. The latter are immutable, and calculations and forecasts based on these command credibility; they are genuine predictions. By contrast, certainty is absent in our Propositions about social reality; they are all probabilistic, and they can even be negated or altered by social designs employed by rulers and by free people — but only at a cost and with a human effort.

Our theory about the creation of social reality and how it works has less than one hundred propositions. Some propositions, mostly those who tell about social processes, have sub-clauses. This makes for many more statements taking off as testable, and, at least on initial inspection, they seem reasonably well grounded.

In the next chapter, we will introduce our first Proposition, called “The Symbol Rule,” where we also discuss the nature of such num-bered and named statements. Another important Proposition, number 5:3 “Freedom in Social Reality,” deals with the capacity of self-determination possessed by human beings, which can be utilized to override, at least temporarily, the messages in The Symbolic Rule as well as any of our other propositions about social reality. Anyone is, thus, free to rescind our Symbolic Rule and declare it null and void in a particular instance over which they have control, and do the same as regards any other of our propositions. Of course, such a response may be met by frostiness or questioning, but such a “self-allowance” is possible in social reality. Such an allowance does not apply when we deal with physical and biological realities and their technological applications.

Social science is a great story. By finding its propositions, we summarize its story. To link the various parts of the story we use the notes at the end of each chapter. When we ask  the reader to make deductions from several propositions belonging to different places and/or volumes, we do not only make a cross-reference, but we repeat the content of that proposition in the current text, or more common, we reproduce the entire proposition in a note, as in the Exercise below. This repetition is not only good for the memory and the making of implications, but is essential in making each volume of the Many-Splendid Society series into books each of which you can read on its their own, ignoring the others. 

An Exercise in Reading and Using a Proposition of Social Science

A proposition about a complex topic may contain several clauses separated as (a), (b), (c) et cetera, each requiring its empirical support. Such a bundle is sometimes called a social mechanism or a social process. An example is the fundamental mechanism of “Socially Induced Compliance” discussed in Volume 3 in the series of books called The Many-Splendored Society. We will use a preview below of this proposition as an exercise to show how to disentangle the highly informative content of a proposition in social science.

First note that the terms used in a proposition are very general; in 16:5 we find terms, such as persons, encounters, norms (i.e. shared prescriptions), compliance, evaluations, symbolic environment, compensation. All told, these cover a huge amount of social reality. In addition, for example, the term “evaluation” may stand for praise or blame, as well as high rank or low rank in the realms of politics, economy, science, art religion, sports, et cetera. Thus, the Proposition becomes applicable to a large number of situations and events..

Second,  let us note that the text

of this Proposition has various clauses separated by letters (a) to (g). Read them now to the left. They show what rules guides the common process of compliance in social life. Let us assume that our main character in this drama is one called Ego, and our secondary characters are all called Alters. The first two clauses, (a) and (b), of Proposition 16:5 join in interplay between Ego´s actions and the reactions of Alters. When Ego receives general appreciation from the Alters, this increases Ego´s lust to find out and obey the norms that the Alters stand for in an encounter. These norms can be anything from, let us say, abstaining from smoking to prohibiting overtaking a school bus when it has stopped to let chil-dren on and off. As Ego complies more and more with the norms of the Alters, Ego receives specific appreciation and approval from the Alters. This give and take can go on in several rounds, as is typical in social life, and a whole community can eventually share the same norms. However, if or when Ego disobeys the norms of Alters ― lights a cigarette and drives past a stopped school bus discharging children ― Ego is met by disapproval from the Alters sitting in the back of the car, as is said in Clause (c). His community, both by a court sentence and a loss of general esteem, may also degrade Ego, when he or she is seen as a violator.
Clause (d) declares that the disobedience of Ego will not only result in degradation of Ego by the Alters, but that the norm itself, will be articulated by the Alters. In various ways they will spread the word “Don’t smoke!” and “Don’t pass a school-bus!”
Clauses (e) and (f) deal with the consequences for the perpetrators of their violations. Among these are the damage of secondary smok-ing, and the damage of having frightened all of the children in the school bus, and perhaps hurt some by reckless driving. The degrad-ing of violators is not the only consequence; perpetrators are also expected to obey a new norm to compensate their victims. Clause (f) says that it is not sufficient to compensate the hurt child for pain and suffering; the life of the child´s family of parents and siblings are dis-rupted and compensation is to be made to the family.
Clause (g) in the Proposition 16:5 is particularly interesting. Sanc-tions and compensations for wrongdoers are called for, also by members in the general public who have not been injured or deprived by the perpetrators! This is how certain laws and all human rights become generally accepted.

 Proposition 16:5 anticipated. Socially Induced Compliance: (a) The more favorable evaluations a person receives in an encounter, the more he is likely to conform to the prescriptions in the encounter. (b) The more persons comply with the norms (customary prescriptions) in an encounter, the more favorable evaluations they receive from others in the encounter, (c) The less they comply, the more unfavorable evaluations they tend to receive. (d) When a person in an encounter deviates from its norms, the others in the encounter tend to articulate these prescriptions. (e) A person in an encounter who does not comply with norms of the encounter and consequently thereof hurts other members of the encounters, i.e. victims, are met by an expectation (a new norm) that requires him to compensate the victims in proportion to the damage he has caused. (f) Compensation shall be given not only to the victims, but also to persons in the victims' other encounters who have been affected by the violation (restorative justice). (g) If they are publically visible, the above reactions in (d), (e), and (f) spread to include all other encounters in a shared symbolic environment, including encounters of non-victims and non-affected who have not at all been involved in the original violation. Thus the latter, a general public, also articulate the broken norm as in (d), and they articulate the compensation norm as in (e), and they articulate the restorative justice norm as in (f) (3: 147-148).

Text Box:  

In several situations, we will find a “clause-g deficiency” in social contexts that upset the functioning of society. Human self-allowance creates such deficiencies. A flagrant example is anti-Semitism.

Of course, in their personal life, economic scientists adhere to clause (g). However, as far as I can  see, clause (g) has no counterpart in current economic theory. This indicates that some theory-based advice from economists to politicians and business people may be inadequate and/or incomplete.

“Clause-g deficiency” is not the only example of shortcomings of economic theory. To be useful, consultancy based on economic theory needs many more complements from the knowledge of proposi-tions in jurisprudence, social psychology, and other parts of general social science. That is a general undertone in The Many-Splendored Society, also explicitly illustrated with recent events in Europe.

This ends our exercise in reading propositions. Proposition 16:5 is one of the more complex ones in the whole work. The readers who could follow our analysis can continue reading The Many-Splendored Society with confidence, and the others shall know that future and further propositions are easier than 16:5.


The Author

Hans L. Zetterberg, born 1927 in Stockholm, Sweden, came to the University of Minnesota in 1949 and did maintain The United States as his main base for 20 years. He taught sociology at the Graduate School of Columbia University and at Ohio State University, where he was Chairman of the Sociology Department. He was also the head of publishing at Bedminster Press, which had the motto: “Books by scholars for scholars.” A highlight of this position was the publication in 1968 of the full translation of Max Weber, Economy and Society, now available as a paperback from University of California Press. The members of American Sociological Association voted in 1997 this work as the 20th century's most influential book in sociology.

In his native country, Zetterberg was the first Chief Executive and organizer of The Tri-Centennial Fund of the Bank of Sweden, one of Europe’s larger foundations supporting social science. He turned to the private sector and became a long-established professional pollster, Managing Director and owner of Sifo AB, a company for market and social research. He became Editor-in-Chief of the national daily newspaper, Svenska Dagbladet, and further developed his writing to reach an inquisitive general public.

Zetterberg is a past President of The World Association for Public Opinion Research. He is a member of The Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences.

In a multi-volume work in progress, The Many-Splendored Society, Zetterberg sums up essential knowledge of social science. His key to social reality is simple and optimistic: if humanity has the capacity to cook previously unheard-of sentences, it also has the capacity to cook and serve social structures and cultures never before seen. However, only a minority of our sentences is new from generation to generation, and it takes effort to create sets of new ones. Societies and their institutions, likewise, can count on both long traditions and on manageable changes. The Many-Splendored Society is a great story about this achievement.


The Term “Many-Splendored” in the Title of the Book

The adjective "many-splendored" in the title of this book dates from the 1950s. A Chinese-born author and physician, Han Sugin, writing in English and French, invented the term and spelled it "many-splendoured." 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 new generations have usually passed it over, and rightly so, since the text to modern ears presents love as a many-splendored affair for grander males.

I felt that the adjective in its title, "many-splendored," deserved a longer life. In this book, it stands for a society with personal freedom and a differentiation of six self-governing realms: economy, body politic, science, art, religion, and morality. When these realms are joined in a federated cooperation, we have a many-splendored society, in my view, a good one. Science, art, religion, and morality are as important for humanity as are today's favorites, economy and politics.

Hans L Zetterberg