De alchemie van de samenleving


  • Engbersen,Godfried


Modernity, Modern society, Social change, Cultural change, Institutions, Weber, Max, Immigration, Hybridity


The Alchemy of Society. This article criticizes contemporary notions of "hybridity" and "liquid modernity" by emphasizing that old social boundaries still exist, and that new boundaries are erected in order to prevent ideas, groups, and institutions being able to melt, to fuse or to unite. However, in this area of globalization and individualization, important cultural, economic, and social changes have taken place. It is argued that these changes can be understood by focusing on the Wahlverwandtschaften or "elective affinities" between ideas, interests, and institutions. The Weberian concept of elective affinity is highly relevant for analyzing complex mutual interactions among ideas, social groups, and institutions, which give rise to societal transformations. The second part of the article elaborates Mary Douglas's argument that culture thrives on opposition and not on hybridity. Modern (world) society is not a melting pot in which institutions and ideas can easily be thrown and rendered down. Social boundaries are constantly erected and protected in order to prevent fusion from taking place. Douglas's recent work on thought styles and missing persons also offers relevant insights into the elective affinities that may exist between political, religious, and cultural thought styles and particular social contexts in which groups and individuals are embedded. In the final part of the article, the relevance of Weber's concept of elective affinities is demonstrated by analyzing some unintended consequences of human interventions in the field of international migration and migration policy. 1 Figure, 91 References. Adapted from the source document.

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