Table of Contents
A. Richard Münch on Cultural Accumulation
B. The Contradictions and Dynamics of Modern Development
C. Theoretical Development of Münch’s Sociology
D. Present Application of Münch’s Sociology
I. Economic and Cultural Accumulation in World Cities
A. Cultural Accumulation in World Cities
B. World Cities in the Entrepreneurial Strategies of Urban Development
C. Poststructuralist Critiques: World City Policy-Making and Culture
II. Culture and Economy in Sociological Theory
A. Revitalization of European Sociological Theory
B. Historical Overview of European Sociological Traditions
C. Philosophical Foundations of Parsons’ Social Theory
D. Systematization by Münch of European Classical Traditions
E. Concluding Overview
III. Theory of Action in American Sociological Tradition
A. Münch’s Development of Action Theory
B. Parallels in American Sociology to Münch’s Theorization
C. Individual and Collective Action in Sociological Research
D. Dynamics and Contradictions of Individual and Collective Action
IV. Operationalizing Münch I: A Methodological Excursus on Multi-Sited Anthropology
A. Multi-Sited Applications of Anthropological Methodology
B. Methodological Challenges of the Anthropology on Global Capitalism
C. Relevance and Shortcomings of Multi-Sited Anthropology
V. Operationalizing Münch II: Evaluating ‘Spirits of Capitalism’
A. Ideal-Typical Relations between Economy and Culture
B. Culture and Economy as Historical Ideal Types
C. Analytical Ideal Types of Economy and Culture
VI. Modern Systems of Economic Accumulation
A. The System of Economic Accumulation in the Structure of Modernity
B. Varieties of Capitalism within the Structure of Modernity
C. Theorization of Varieties of Modernity
VII. The Spatial Analysis of Urban Modernity
A. The Spatial Theorization of Urban Modernity
B. The Historical Production of Urban Space
C. The Historiographical Critique of Spatial Analysis
D. Sociological Applications of Spatial Analysis
VIII. The Structure of Modernity in Cities
A. Economic and Cultural Accumulation in Cities
B. Economic, Cultural, Social and Political Accumulation in Cities
C. Urban Structure of Modernity, Accumulation and Action
IX. Strategies of Cultural Accumulation in Cities
A. Urban Strategies of Cultural Clustering
B. Cultural Accumulation via Cultural Clustering
C. Cultural Accumulation as Urban Development
X. Cultural Accumulation of Global Modernity
A. International Art Exhibitions as Cultural Accumulation
B. Philosophical Transition to Global Modernity
C. International Art Institutions vis-à-vis Social, Political, Economic, and Cultural Accumulation
D. Art Museums in the Urban Structure of Modernity
The original contribution of the present thesis lies in its applicability to multi-sited research on culture and economy. It introduces Richard Münch’s (1982; 1984; 1986b-c; 1991b) works, which are only incompletely translated from the German language. Most are not available in English at all. I rely on my first-hand reading knowledge of his original publications. Münch’s (1982) highly consistent development of Talcott Parsons’, Max Weber’s, and Emile Durkheim’s sociological theories has proved to be of great relevance to my research on the relationships between economy and culture. Having access to his works both in German and English, I find Münch’s theorization of cultural accumulation to be of key importance. In my thesis, I set out to conduct multi-sited research but have in the end focused more theoretically. I show how Munch’s conceptualization of the structure of modernity, applied to scales ranging from macro to micro, bears upon understandings of cultural accumulation.
Within the context of this approach, I explore the applicability of the notion of ‘cultural accumulation’ as an analytical ideal type. The context for this research on cultural accumulation supplies secondary sources on transitions from deterministic policy-making to interdependent urban strategies, from planned urban environments to interconnected world cities, from structural functionalism to micro theorization, from historical empires to urban modernity, from industrial production to cultural clusters, and from art history to philosophy of art. Drawing on the methodological standpoint of multi-sited anthropology (Marcus 1995), in my thesis, I propose a translation of the notion of the structure of modernity to micro as well as macro scales. At the same time, I propose that the structural conception of cultural accumulation could be a topic for multi-sited research (Marcus 1995). This approach allows me to show on a limited range of secondary sources the relevance of Münch’s (1982; 1984; 1986b-c) theorization of action, systems, and modernity to the urban scale in particular.
My multi-sited research of cultural accumulation has concentrated on urban space and global cities theorization. But this theoretical thesis also lays the basis for research at the scale of institutions and in specific cultural communities and fractions of urban societies. A significant part of my research process has involved research trips to New York as a site of my scholarly research conducted during a visit in June 2006 and a research stay from May 29 to August 30, 2007. The research stay became possible with support from the Research Abroad Travel Grant awarded by the Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research, with an equal share of participation in its funding by the Faculty of Arts, of the University of Alberta. I wish to express deep gratitude to these bodies for their support of my research project. No less thankful I am to my Department of Modern Languages and Cultural Studies for nominating me for this research opportunity and for recruiting me to its doctoral program.
As a Visiting Scholar at Columbia University, I was principally concerned with the aim of working with hard to access publications in the following libraries: New York Public Library, Lehman Library of the Columbia University, Art History Holdings Library of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Reading Room of the Guggenheim Museum, Goethe Institute Library and Research Center, French Institute Alliance Française Library, and the Research and Study Centers of the Museum of Modern Art, New York. Theses sources and the urban space of New York have significantly shaped the theoretical positions, methodological choices, and subject matter of this thesis.
Prof. Andreas Huyssen, from the Department of Germanic Languages, graciously supported my Visiting Scholar application to Columbia University. In New York, I worked with sociological, art historical and theoretical sources yet to be translated into English language. These included Die Erlebnisgesellschaft: Kultursoziologie der Gegenwart (1992) by Gerhard Schulze, Dialektik der Kommunikationsgesellschaft (1991) by Richard Münch, documenta: Mythos und Wirklichkeit (1997) by Harald Kimpel, and Die Gesellschaft der Gesellschaft (1997) by Niklas Luhmann along with other publications and periodicals. Additionally, my research stays in New York have made possible personal meetings with such scholars as Prof. Vera Zolberg, from the New School for Social Research, Prof. Paul Werner and Prof. Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, from New York University. Making contact with these scholars has been highly enriching intellectually.
Prof. Rob Shields, Henry Marshall Tory Chair at the Sociology and Art and Design Departments of the University of Alberta, has supervised my research project and doctoral thesis. His support and encouragement have played critical and invaluable role in shaping my research efforts and directing my intellectual development as part of my interdisciplinary doctoral program at the Modern Languages and Cultural Studies Department. Such members of my supervisory committee as Prof. Massimo Verdicchio, from the Modern Languages and Cultural Studies Department, and Prof. Charles Barbour, from the Department of Sociology, have also played important mentor roles in the progress of my thesis and research. As crucial has been the role of Ms. Jane Wilson, Graduate Program Secretary of the Modern Languages and Cultural Studies Department, whose involvement at every stage of my doctoral program cannot be overestimated. I am also thankful for the guidance of Prof. Robert Thornberry, Graduate Chair of Modern Languages and Cultural Studies and for the assistance of the members of my Examining Committee.
I am deeply thankful to all of these people. In different ways each of them has made my progress towards completion of this doctoral thesis an unforgettable intellectual journey.
Richard Münch on Cultural Accumulation
Drawing on the impetus that art museums and global cities, as points of initial departure for my research, gave to this thesis, I seek to understand the instances of culture-driven urban revitalization in analytical and historical terms. The growing role that art museums play in urban development raises the questions of how global capitalism, local communities, post-industrial cities, and art museums relate to each other. Thus, this thesis intends to explore how economy, culture, society and politics relate to each other on the urban level. The methodology of multi-sited anthropology guided my search for understanding how cities and culture relate to each other within an ideal-typical framework of theoretical reference that I borrow from Richard Münch (1982; 1987; 1988; 1991b). In this thesis, I explore the macro and micro applicability of the notion of ‘cultural accumulation’ as an ideal type. In the English-speaking urban studies, the terms of cultural accumulation (Ong 1992), urban order (Short 1996), flexible accumulation (Harvey 1987), cultural logic (Jameson 1991; Ong 1999), cultural economy (Gibson and Kong 2005; Scott 1999; Scott 2000b), cultural strategies (Griffiths 1995), accumulation strategies (Jessop 1995; 1997), global city (Sassen 1991), world city (Friedman 1995; Knox and Taylor 1995), postmodernity (Harvey 1989), and global capitalism (Boltanski and Chiapello 2005a; Harvey 2006; Sklair 1997) are used as historical typifications of micro and macro processes. Instead, I seek to establish whether the notion of cultural accumulation as an analytical ideal type can provide an explanatory frame of reference with regard to culture and economy in cities. My original contribution is to explore, in a multi-sited fashion, the analytical and historical applicability of the notion of cultural accumulation as an analytical ideal type.
In this thesis, exploring the relations between the processes of economic, cultural, social and political accumulation from an urban perspective, I rely throughout my thesis on Richard Münch’s theorization of modernity, systems, and action. The focal points of Richard Münch’s sociological works are sociological theory, historical and comparative sociology, and sociological examination of contemporary society. In German sociology, Richard Münch continues the development of Parsons’s theory of action. His theoretical orientation towards structural relations, systematic analysis, and theory building sets Münch apart from other streams of sociological theory such as symbolic interactionism, rational choice theory, and systems or functionalist theories. His reconstruction of theories of Parsons, Weber and Durkheim seeks to demonstrate that the perception of modernity as an outcome of a functional differentiation of its constituent systems is secondary to the integrative processes that are at the heart of modern social order. The claim that Parsons’ theory of action has an excessive bias in favour of macro levels of social norms and structures Münch counters on the ground that the micro level of individual action is equally accounted for by Parsons’ recognition that the coexistence of individual autonomy and social order is the central organizing principle of modernity. Moreover,
Parsons’ theoretical work is important because it remains one of the very few attempts to locate what would be the minimal requirements for a genuinely general theory of the social sciences as such. Parsons wanted to establish the fundamental and elementary theoretical components of action theory which would become a general analytical paradigm for all the sciences of human action (in contrast to theories of behaviour). The unit act, the notions of interaction and social relations, the theory of social systems and so forth were contributions to a general theory of action which would embrace economics, sociology, political science, anthropology and psychology. In other words, Parsons sought a theoretical strategy whereby, inter alia, the insights of Freudian psychoanalysis, Marshallian and Keynesian economics, Durkheimian sociology, Meadian and Piagetian social psychology, the anthropology of Malinowski and Kroeber, and the philosophy of Kant could be brought within a single, but complex and evolving, theoretical system. (italics in the original, Robertson and Turner 1991: 14-15)
There is a history of serious engagement of Parsons’ theory of action in European and especially German sociology (Robertson and Turner 1991). Owing to this, Münch’s works on modernity, culture and action appear to explore the relations between the processes of economic, cultural, social and political accumulation to a great analytical and historical extent while avoiding to some extent the theoretical debates that have surrounded the legacy of Parsons in the English speaking sociology. Rather than proposing to develop Parsonian sociology in a direction of a reappraised grand theory of a functionalist or a structuralist cast, Münch attempts to reconnect Parsons’ theory to its foundations in European sociology without discarding the efforts at theoretical systematization of the former. As a proponent of the theoretical importance of culture to economic, political and social action, Münch continues in the steps of Parsons whose
critique of utilitarian rationalist economism remains one of the most cogent attacks on the core logics of the positivistic variant of social science, which is as valid today as it was when Parsons published The Structure of Social Action in 1937. In contemporary social theory, there are still many variants of the utilitarian position, including rational choice theory, various forms of exchange theory and a number of other versions of economism, which embrace many of the assumptions which Parsons radically criticized in the 1930s. Parsons’s critique provides a method of combining value-analysis with mainstream sociological theory, thereby also offering a possible solution to the fact-value distinction. Parsons’s work cannot be criticized in terms of some simplistic adherence to a value-relevant and value-neutral dichotomy. This aspect of his sociology is very clearly illustrated by his philosophical relationship to the Kantian formulation of the categorical imperatives. (italics in the original, Robertson and Turner 1991: 15)
Born in 1945, Richard Münch conducted his both undergraduate and graduate studies in Sociology, Philosophy and Psychology at the Ruprecht Karls University of Heidelberg between 1965 and 1969. There he defended his doctoral degree in 1971. At the University of Augsburg, Richard Münch joined the faculty of the Sociology Department in 1972. In years 1970-1974, Münch worked as an Assistant Professor at the Department of Sociology and Communication Studies of the University of Augsburg. He was Professor of Sociology at the University of Cologne between 1974 and 1976. He held a Professorship in Social Sciences at the Heinrich Heine University of Düsseldorf from 1976 to 1995. Since 1995, Richard Münch is a Chaired Professor of Sociology at the Otto Friedrich University in Bamberg, Germany. Between years 1985 and 1989, he held numerous guest professorships at the University of California, Los Angeles. Between 1982 and 2007, Richard Münch has served at the editorial boards of American Journal of Sociology, Current Perspectives in Social Theory, Soziologische Revue, and Zeitschrift für Soziologie. Currently he is the journal editor of Sociological Theory. Richard Münch is a professional advisor for social research at the Max Plank Institute, Cologne. He takes part in the work of the scholarly directorate of the Institute for European Policy-Making, Berlin. He is a board member of the German Society for Sociology. He is a professional advisor and spokesperson for “Markets and Social Spaces in Europe” – an interdisciplinary association for postgraduate students.
The theorization of interrelations among modernity, accumulation, and action proposed by Münch (1982; 1991b) offers a perspective that clarifies economic, social, cultural, and political transitions taking place in cities, as this thesis hopes to demonstrate. Processes of cultural accumulation involve multiple social, political, economic, and cultural agents in relations of interchange of money, expertise, reputation, and power (Münch 1991b). As theorized by Münch (1982; 1991b), the media of accumulation, such as reputation, money, power and expertise, stand in a dynamic and contradictory relationship with the processes of their interchange, such as inflationary or deflationary cycles of their accumulation. In this regard, Münch comments that
Analysing relations of interchange between subsystems by means of the theory of media permits us to grasp such dynamic processes as deflation or inflation of media. Deflation and inflation are crises which indicate a decrease in the ability of the system in question to fulfil its function. Deflation is a decrease in the demand for good, as this is expressed in money, which ultimately leads to a corresponding decrease in the capacity for production. In like manner, a deflation of value-commitments is a decrease in the potential breadth of implementation of general values; it impairs the ability of the general value pattern to shape action in widely disparate areas of life. Monetary inflation is caused by a rise in demand which is not followed by an increase in production. In the same way, inflation of value-commitments occurs when the claims of value-commitments on various areas of life are not accompanied by a corresponding ability of these value-commitments ethically to shape action in these spheres. (Münch 1987: 86)
These relations of interchange draw attention to global cities where processes of accumulation occur. Münch’s sociology theorizes these processes in connection to the notions of ‘differentiation,’ ‘institutionalization,’ ‘rationalization’ and ‘interpenetration’. The latter terms, Münch applies based on his theorization of their analytical interrelations within the frame of reference that his development of the theory of action makes available. Münch defines the relations between action and the systems of economic, cultural, social and political accumulation in ideal-typical terms so that
[…] the decisions of a corporate actor and their implementation rest upon a political structure, that is, on the mobilization of legitimate power within the framework of an authority structure. This does not, however, mean that ‘society’ is definable only in political terms. The political aspect is so clearly in evidence only because the political structure is in closest contact with immediate collective decision and action. Before they can in fact be realized as concrete action, such decisions always need to fulfil a number of further preconditions. Material resources, cultural legitimation, collective solidarity and individual motivation are all factors which must be mobilized if a decision is to become collectively binding and then be carried out in reality. Only to the extent that these resources are actually brought together does collective action really take place and only then is it even possible to speak of the existence of a collective. Society is the name given to a collective which fulfils this requirement for collective action and also, amongst all comparable collectives, possesses the greatest scope for collective action. An actor acts in a situation. This is also true for society as a collective actor. But we can also see society as a system of interdependent actions taking place in an environment. (italics in the original, Münch 1987: 65)
Based on this understanding of society vis-à-vis its environments that one may analytically describe as ideal-typical environments for action, such as politics, economy or culture, Münch, towards his theorization of interpenetration, states that
[i]f major problems are to be overcome there has to be an increased interaction between society and environment, which we can term interpenetration. This signifies that the environment, through the problems it poses, influences the society, and society for its own part influences the environment by developing certain regular, institutionalized actions, which shape environment without depriving it of its independent existence. The various regular actions form subsystems which mediate between society and the particular dimensions of the environment as zones of interpenetration. […]
‘Interpenetration’ [,,,] denotes a process in which a system has such an influence on the environment, and the environment such an influence on the system, that the two transform each other at the margin, without mutually changing their central cores. The more pronounced the marginal zones are, the more they tend to form definable subsystems which mediate between the system and the environment. The more closely they themselves are linked to each other, the more they together form a subsystem which combines within it aspects of the system and aspects of the environment […]. (italics in the original, Münch 1987: 66-67)
This definition of interpenetration is closely linked, in Münch’s theorization, to the notion of differentiation. As terms of ideal typical reference, these processes can be conceptualized from high levels of analytical generality to as high levels of analytical particularity. For this feature of scalability of Münch’s abstract analytical paradigm that I interpret for my methodological purposes as ideal-typical frame of analysis, the following quotation from Münch’s theorization of systems provides an incomplete example only. Thus, Münch states that
[…] one can see that differentiation as described here occurs as a result of interpenetration. The process begins with the interpenetration of society and environment, leading to the differentiation into four basic systems, the interpenetration of which leads once again to the formation of sixteen subsystems. It should be understood that this differentiation is a differentiation beside which integration remains preserved. Society and environment thus have their mutual ties extended by further, finer chains. Even in the outward direction, the differentiation becomes more detailed through new interpenetrations. Between the centres of the economic, political, community and social-cultural systems and their respective environments, new subsystems interpose themselves which then become the new extreme points of the societal system:
The market is the mediating zone of interpenetration between economic action and the environmental shortage of economic resources.
Executive administration is the mediating zone of interpenetration between political action and the environment of external and internal conflicts of decision.
The constitutive affective community is the mediating zone of interpenetration between community action and the environment of particularized groups.
The constitutive symbolism of religion is the intermediary between discursive communication in the social-cultural sphere and the transcendental conditions of meaningful human existence.
Between the social system’s extreme points listed above, further subsystems are generated by internal interpenetration as follows:
The penetration of economic system by the political orientation results in economic entrepreneurship.
The penetration of economic action by the community orientation results in economic (market) order.
The penetration of economic action by the social-cultural discursive orientation results in economic rationality in the form of rational calculation and rational technology.
The penetration of political action by the economic orientation results in political exchange between interested parties and representatives.
The penetration of political action by the social-cultural discursive orientation results in the political constitution, representing a discursive frame of reference for political action.
The penetration of political action by the community orientation results in the legal system, which forms a communal basis for political action.
The penetration of community action by the political orientation results in the political community of citizens.
The penetration of community action by the economic orientation results in the interest-based market community.
The penetration of community action by the social-cultural discursive orientation results in the cultural community.
The penetration of social-cultural discursive action by an adaptive, economic orientation results in rational science.
The penetration of social-cultural discursive action by the political orientation results in the professional complex, which combines discursive procedures with systems of authority based on differences in professional competence.
The penetration of social-cultural discursive action by community orientation results in normative culture. Cultural orientations obtain their normative binding force by being anchored in the community. (Münch 1987: 70-71)
As Münch highlights, for an adequate understanding of the notions of differentiation and interpenetration, it is important to bear in mind that
[t]he differentiation and integration achieved by interpenetration between society and environment, or between the societal, action and human condition subsystems, is still only one type of relationship among a number of other possibilities. These relationships vary according to how clearly formed and how strong society, environment and the subsystems are, and according to the degree of development attained by the mediating systems. (Münch 1987: 75)
With regard to the notion of rationalization, Münch clarifies the latter in the context of his theorization of modern social order. By his analysis of how other theories of modernity either fall short of or achieve their proclaimed aims and achievements, Münch proposes the following theorization of rationalization as an ideal-typical component of modern social order:
In contrast to the voluntarist concept of linking communal action to instrumental and rational action, Habermas is unable to offer an adequate solution to the problem of order in modern societies. He excludes the affectual component of solidarity from the life-world, expecting the validation of norms to stand solely on the frail rationalistic support provided by a discursive process of ethical rationalization. The rationality of discourse is the sole basis of normative order. But how can one be sure that individuals will also recognize the laws of discourse, and the laws of the universal justification of norms? In order to escape the pitfall of an infinite regression, or vicious circle, other bases of norms, or at the very least for the rules of discourse, are necessary. In the voluntaristic frame of reference it can be shown with the help of Durkheim that such an appropriate basis for universal rules can develop only if they are anchored in the affectual solidarity of a universal community. Communication only becomes possible once a community has been formed. It is evident in the approach to this crucial question that Habermas, compared to the more comprehensive voluntaristic theory of action, falls back on a rationalistic reduction of action theory which tries in vain to subject material rationalization to the control of idealistic rationalization. But the crucial theoretical component of a developed theory of solidarity is lacking. The fact that Habermas’s access to the latter area of theory is blocked manifests itself especially in his treatment of Durkheim’s sociology; he strips it of all its affectual components, allowing it to culminate in the rationalistic idea of turning the sacred into secular speech. In no way should this be seen as a denial of the significance of discursive, argumentative procedures in establishing a value consensus; indeed Durkheim made a clear demonstration of this. What we are concerned with is simply that these procedures have the function of securing the identity of society through generalization and are not able to fulfil the further function of attachment to values and norms. Commitment to values and norms demands particular attachment to them arising out of a general quality of affectual attachment within a community. Under modern conditions this cannot be a particularistic community, but only an inclusive one. In this respect, inclusive processes are a special precondition for the attachment to universal norms, and they also have preconditions of their own. They cannot be substituted for by processes of discourse and argumentation. Inclusion cannot be reduced to the generalization of values. However, the alternative to the more comprehensive voluntaristic action theory offered by Habermas is an action theory bereft of this dimension of inclusive processes and human affectivity, and reduced to the rationalism and unresolved dualism represented by an idealistic developmental logic of the life-world and a positivistic developmental logic of systems – reduced, in other words, to a rationalistically ‘bisected’ theory of action. (italics in the original, Münch 1987: 142-43)
Münch understands modernity as a dynamic and contradictory process not having a teleological or evolutionary direction of development beyond the struggles among individual and collective actors. Hence, Münch puts the notion of institutionalization at the core of his theorizing how societies make transitions from one state of economic, cultural, social and political affairs to another, such as a transition from a managerial capitalism to global capitalism. In this regard, Münch provides the following context to the notion of institutionalization:
Within the framework of the voluntaristic theory of action, in which ‘meaning’ is the constitutive characteristic of human action and ‘understanding’ (Verstehen) is the corresponding method of explanation, sociocultural evolution, the evolution of action, cannot be understood as a quasi-naturalistic process. Parsons had already refuted a version of such a theory in 1937, in his critique of Darwinism as a radically anti-intellectualistic variant of positivism. Parsons held to this position up to the very end of his career. That means that we must give to the general categories of the theory of evolution a meaning consistent with the theory of action. Indeed, we can understand socio-cultural evolution as a sequence consisting of the constitution of genotypes out of a gene pool, the reproduction and variation of the genotypes, the construction and selection of phenotypes, and finally, the feedback effect of this process on the composition and structure of the gene pool. But what is important here is that these terms of be understood strictly in terms of the theory of action. So, by ‘gene pool’ we understand a value system, such as the modern Occidental value system rooted in Judao-Christian culture. The constitution of the genotypes corresponds to the interpretation of this value system, their reproduction and variation to the traditionalization and socialization of the interpretation and to innovations in it. The construction of phenotypes has to be conceived of as the application of value interpretations to specific subject matters. Their selection corresponds to the institutionalization of interpretations in social systems and their internalization in personality systems. As the theory of selection forms the core of every theory of evolution, so the theory of institutionalization and internalization forms the core of the theory of social-cultural evolution. That means that this theory of evolution grows out of a voluntaristic core […]. (italics in the original, Münch 1987: 109)
In Münch’s theorization of accumulation, the latter term of reference is inseparable from the ideal-typical structure of interrelations among the systems of economic, cultural, social and political accumulation. The differences between Münch’s theorization of accumulation and more common theoretical applications of the latter term come forward strongest when contrasted with Marx’s understanding of original accumulation that Münch describes as falling short of the reality of historical capitalist development because
[t]he error of disregarding the working of noneconomic forces begins with Marx’s account of original accumulation as the starting point of capitalist development. The original accumulation of capital in the process of expropriating peasants and of commercializing agriculture in England undoubtedly contributed to the economic beginnings of capitalism. However, this is only one factor in a much more complex process. Without the formation of strong nation states in Europe, without the backing of trade and industry by a system of civil law, and without the establishment of the work-ethic by Puritanism, no capitalism would have developed in Europe. Because such a unique convergence of different causes came about, Europe became the center of capitalist development. Outside of Europe all the material preconditions also existed, but not the legal, political, associational, and cultural preconditions. Therefore, no rational capitalism emerged outside Europe.
What is true for the emergence of capitalism holds true for its development. It is inseparably interrelated with different noneconomic institutions in a very complex way and not only shapes these institutions by its dynamics but also is framed by these institutions. Political intervention, the labor movement, the rise of the welfare state, the broadening of education, the rise of cultural standards of living, the working of the legal system in controlling capitalism, and the expansion of citizenship rights all exerted their own influence on capitalist development so that it did not completely correspond to Marx’s derivation from its internal dynamics. Class compromise, rising standards of living, the broadening of education, a progressive shift from manufacturing to service industries, political guidance of the economy, and the welfare system have brought forth a complex system that no longer corresponds to the picture of capitalism drawn by Marx. (Volume 1, Münch 1994: 72-73)
In cities, cultural, political, social, and economic accumulation historically involved particular interests, identifiable individuals, and differentiated institutions. Since modernity is theorized by Münch (1984; 1991b) to set into motion the processes of differentiation, interpenetration, rationalization and institutionalization, variations of the structure of modernity have not only macro dynamics of and contradictions between systems of political, economic, cultural, and social accumulation, but also micro dynamics and contradictions of strategic relations among project-oriented groups, formalized organizations, and urban spaces. From such a perspective, cultural accumulation belongs to the structure of modernity as a continuous process of differentiation, interpenetration, rationalization and institutionalization (Münch 1982; 1987; 1988; 1991b).
In this thesis, I intend to follow Münch’s notion of cultural accumulation on scales ranging from macro to micro. Thus, I take recourse to Münch’s notion of the structure of modernity in order to open avenues to understanding how cultural accumulation may relate to the spheres of economy, society and politics. Münch, who will emerge as a key theorist in this text, defines cultural accumulation within the following context:
Cultural accumulation requires connection to ideas, norms, aesthetics, and knowledge. It develops in the field of cultural association. This connection to culture is a factor of social influence that via the reputation of social action will be transmitted to cultural communication and realized in cultural products. Willing to convince with arguments, one first of all needs those who would listen for a while to grant an advance of trust with their listening. And one needs the approval of those who at some point bring to a halt, for once, their critical calling into question. The one and the other do not proceed properly with arguments, but with good reputation. One ought to earn the latter via trustworthy handling of words and via listening in one's turn. One can also gain reputation with confidence-building, distance-bridging words. In this way, speech is deployed for the mobilization of reputation – a product of social action. (My translation, Münch 1991b: 352)
The theoretical importance of the notion of cultural accumulation lies in the larger context of the ideal-typical structure of modernity. The contradictions of modernity in the second half of the twentieth century Münch (1991b) explores via tracing the dynamics of development of media of interchange among systems of economic, cultural, social and political accumulation. Münch (1991b) describes the acceleration of the interchange of money, power, reputation and expertise as the growing predominance of communication in contemporary society. Münch relates the classical sociology of Weber, Durkheim, and Parsons to the present-day dynamics and contradictions of contemporary society. In this regard, cities stand out as historical crystallization points of cultural accumulation. Münch comments that
[i]t was, moreover, cities and the special nature of their life that has played a decisive role in a further renewal of Western culture: The Enlightenment and modernity were decisively brought forth through them. Thereby some cities also took over a leading function that has shone upon other cities. London developed into the first centre of the early Enlightenment in the seventeenth century. It was followed by the flowering of the Enlightenment in the eighteenth century that was concentrated in Paris. In the nineteenth century, Berlin became an important site of the late Enlightenment. Over and beyond the phases in which they occupied a leading position in the cultural renewal, these cities retained at least a part of their splendour. Once created, culture gives to corresponding urban life a long-lasting continuity. In this century also, these cities still experienced periods of distinctive cultural crystallization, as, for example, did Berlin in the twenties, and Paris in the twenties, thirties and fifties. In the meantime, another city has moved into the center of cultural renewal – New York. It is the city of contemporary modernity par excellence. (My translation, Münch 1991b: 231)
The Contradictions and Dynamics of Modern Development
Münch (1991b) argues that the contradictions modernity produces increase in scope, scale, and intensity. The suffering, injustice, irrationality, and atomization appearing on the account of modern culture derive from striving to bring liberation via rationality, individualism, and solidarity.
The process of modernization receives additional impetus as remnants of traditional society clear the way for a more open and differentiated modernity. Class, religious, organizational, economical, and professional structures are replaced with the multiplicity of mutually interpenetrating associations of independent individuals. They form self-organized groups lying at the basis of the systems of markets, policy-making, communities, and discourses. These systems increase the areas of their overlap as the primary sites for social action dedicated to inter-systemic communication, networking, negotiations, and compromise building. The areas of overlap drive the processes of both inter-systemic and international communicative interconnection to become increasingly central (Münch 1991b: 15-16).
Via the intensification of communication, society is altered to an unprecedented extent. Society is constantly reorganized by the increasing circulation, application, and relevance of knowledge. No one can escape the pressure to take public attention and successful self-representation as reference points for fear of being forgotten, lost, and disadvantaged. In addition, integration into a modern culture of cultures hailing from all corners of the world creates contradictions. Cosmopolitan imperatives increase the complexity of the problems and demand higher standards of understanding for their solutions (Münch 1991b: 17).
The constantly increasing demand for influence on public awareness and attention makes public discourse increasingly central but creates inflationary waves of communication. The periodic inflation of communication causes relapses into less advanced forms of strategic conflict settlement such as confrontations between state forces and urban squatters (Münch 1991b: 17-18). Münch understands these confrontations as similar to recessionary crises of economic accumulation. The existing forms of regulation and coordination lose their effectiveness unless their complexity and adaptability is increased to fulfill the function of symbolic and generalized communication. Language, money, power, and reputation serve as media of such communication. These communication media can cross previous dividing lines of solidarity (Münch 1991b: 18).
Wider information circulation and definition creation lie at the foundation of growing social complexity. Within the more complex circumstances of action, cooperation and support are regulated and coordinated by reputation. This is an instrument of inflation control, and creating widespread accountability for the purposes of discursive inclusion, communicative regulation, public discretion, discursive disarmament, closed negotiations, and crosscutting connections building. One needs these communicative means in order to create socially binding definitions of situations corresponding to the increasing level of social complexity.
The core of Münch’s contribution is to argue that a scholarly grasp and analysis of the complexity of interdependencies is only possible with the help of theoretical points of view that bring the comprehensive scale of economic, political, social and cultural processes together. Without an integrative frame of social theoretical reference, accounts miss the relationally interwoven and socially dynamic existence of their subject matter (Münch 1991b: 19-20). Advancing from classical sociological theories, Münch's comparative macro studies foreground the interpenetration and interdependencies between various systems of accumulation that make up society and culture. His study of the culture of modern social order (Münch 1986b; 1986c) rests on comparative construction of the ideal-typical structures of modernity in England, the United States, France and Germany. These countries provide points of historical comparison throughout Münch’s work. At present, Münch conducted a more detailed exploration of the contradictions (Münch 1991b) and dynamics (Münch 1995) of modernity of only one country – Germany.
Unfortunately, sociology has dissolved itself in countless specialized study areas while losing sight of large-scale topics. There is a growing demand for social theory able to counteract this shortcoming. In this thesis, I attempt to demonstrate how Münch contributes to satisfying this demand.
Münch conceives the development of modernity as a dialectical process that involves culture and society in a dynamic of contradictions not leading in a teleological direction of their resolution or synthesis. Even though, in German, Münch uses “dialektik” – “dialectics” in a literal translation into English –, his theorization does not subscribe to a Hegelian philosophy of a historical development of contradictions towards their eventual synthesis. Rather, Münch envisions an endless process of one set of contradictions replacing another via the economic, cultural, social and political dynamics that these contradictions set in motion. Therefore, throughout this thesis I use “contradictions” in place of “dialectics” or its derivatives in order to prevent misreading of Münch’s theoretical intentions.
The present development of modernity distinguishes itself by the extent of social contradictions between different facets of culture and social action. However, the crises that ensue from these contradictions increasingly exceed the coping capacity of capitalism, technology, democracy, bureaucracy, and law while problematising their deepest cultural foundations. Furthermore, in the process of these crises, Western culture increasingly needs to produce self-justifications via communication within a discursive interrelationship among different cultures of the world. The competition among Western, Islamic and Asian cultures leads to their participation in a shared discourse over meaning, value, and purpose of human existence (Münch 1991b: 21).
The present development of modernity brings about an unlimited reproduction, acceleration, compression, and globalization of communication. Permeating society to an unprecedented extent, communication deepens social contradictions via its unintended consequences. In the course of their representation and overcoming, social contradictions become more acute as continuous communication is integrated into modern culture. As controversies, conflicts, and disagreements become commonplace, the devaluation, inflation, and impoverishment of communication derail effective communication with violent reactions, power-accumulation strategies, and communication breakdowns coming in its stead (Münch 1991b: 22). A further contradiction of social development results from the unremitting expansion of the social spheres of economy, politics, association, and culture. These systems increasingly put interpenetration, overlap, conflict, and competition across social domains, organizing principles, and communication media into the centre of communicative processes.
To a growing extent, the stable mediation between conflicting functions and orientations requires going beyond the mutual adjustment of economy, politics, society, and culture. Institutions of inter-systemic communication, such as litigation suits, out-of-court settlements and negotiation rounds, will be an ever more urgent need as conflicts over contradictions need to be productively translated into social development. In society increasingly defined by communication, the communicative mediation between systems of social, political, economic and cultural accumulation is achieved via their mutual interpenetration (Münch 1991b: 23-24).
Theoretical Development of Münch’s Sociology
The findings that Münch (1991b) presents in his Dialektik der Kommuninkationsgesellschaft are generalizable beyond the context of Germany he takes into conceptual consideration in as much as it is seen as a particular variation of a more general structure of modernity. For the understanding of modernity in system theoretical terms, Münch (1982) lays the groundwork in his Theorie des Handelns. It puts into a single volume the articles of Münch where he reconstructs the sociological contributions of Talcott Parsons, Emile Durkheim, and Max Weber to the theory of action. In this book, Münch proposes the solution of the problem of social order as a contradictory and dynamic structure of action in his process of theoretical movement from Parsons to Durkheim and Weber. Positivism and idealism lie at the foundation of the voluntaristic theory of action of Parsons. The tension between individual autonomy and social order leads to comparable theoretical treatment by Weber and Durkheim of the relations between capitalism and rationality. Münch offers to integrate the positivism of Durkheim and the idealism of Weber into a neo-Parsonian treatment of the theory action. Münch’s use of the idea of dialectics also refers to the figure of Marx as another major contributor to the sociological theory of modernity and accumulation.
This reading of the classics of social theory allows Münch (1984) to further formulate the ideal-typical parameters of the structure of modernity in his Die Sturktur der Moderne: Grundmuster und differentielle Gestaltung des institutionellen Aufbaus der modernen Gesellschaften. This macro theoretical approach becomes contextualized in Münch’s discussion of the place of culture in different structures of relations among the systems of accumulation constitutive of national variations of modernity. Notably, Münch’s (1986) Die Kultur der Moderne explores the cultural variations of England, the United States, France and Germany. Both other countries and such other spheres as economy, politics, and society remain to be analyzed from Münch’s theoretical perspective. Given Urry’s (2000) criticism of the national bias of many works in sociology, one may argue for taking global systems of economic, cultural, social and political accumulation into research focus based on Münch’s theoretical oeuvre that can be criticized for its historical commitment to a national perspective. Moreover, the tracing of the structure of modernity characteristic of a particular country does not exhaust the analytical potential of Münch’s theory. The structure of modernity is defined not only by the dialectics of its contradictions but also by the dynamics of its development. The latter Münch (1995) demonstrates on the example of Germany in his Dynamik der Kommunikationsgesellschaft.
Within the context of the European Union, in his Das Projekt Europa: Zwischen Nationalstaat, regionaler Autonomie und Weltgesellschaft, Münch (1993) tentatively demonstrates the potential of his theoretical tools for the analysis of the challenges that the EU faces in attempting to resolve its contradictions and to promote its development. Parts of the latter work are adopted for their English translation as Nation and citizenship in the global age: from national to transnational ties and identities (Münch 2001). A restricted application of Münch’s (2001) theoretical framework is his comparative analysis of the European legislation of environmental protection is his The ethics of modernity: formation and transformation in Britain, France, Germany, and the United States partially drawing upon his Die Kultur der Moderne (Münch 1986). Münch’s (1994) Sociological Theory examines different national schools of sociology in both historical and comparative detail.
Since Münch is a largely bilingual sociologist, his works that have appeared in English represent a product of his collaboration with assistants and translators. Münch took primary responsibility both for the quality of translation and for its undertaking. In many cases, his book chapters appeared in English sociological periodicals before being either collected in a reworked book form or in an expanded German translation. This is the case with Münch’s Theorie des Handelns that reworks his earlier English articles and with his Sociological Theory that later appeared in a largely reworked German edition. From my experience of working with Münch’s publications, working knowledge of the German language is required both to appreciate the development of his concepts over time and to appreciate the style of sociological analysis that best represents Münch’s theoretical intentions. In some cases, it appears that Münch’s works may easier lend themselves to an interpretation into a different terminological idiom rather than to a direct translation into English. The unique writing and presentation style of Münch’s sociological works adds to the existing differences between the German and the English languages that make the work of translation even more difficult than otherwise. The latter is the case with the English version of Münch’s Sociological Theory some passages from which I decided to translate anew for the sake of improved readability, even though his Theory of Action and The Theory of Modernization are translations of very high quality. This might explain that independent translations of Münch’s works are yet to appear.
In Soziologische Theorie, Münch (2004) expands and reworks his Sociological Theory in order to include theoretical developments taking place over the intervening decade and to reflect the development of his approach to the gamut of topics the work covers. The major risk that is to be avoided in applying the concepts, theories, and frameworks of Münch is lack of sensitivity to the local variations of the structure of modernity. In his theoretical works, Münch explores how the notions of action, structure, contradictions, and dynamics apply to the ideal-typical structure of modernity. An adequate application of these concepts would have to rely on the knowledge of the corresponding texts. To date, only one of his major theoretical works – Theorie des Handelns (Münch 1982) – is exclusively available in English translation as two separate volumes of Theory of action: towards a new synthesis going beyond Parsons (Münch 1987) and Understanding modernity: toward a new perspective going beyond Durkheim and Weber (Münch 1988). Earlier versions of chapters of the two latter books have appeared in English-speaking sociological periodicals only. The majority of the works representing the development of Münch’s theorization remains inaccessible not only to the English-reading public but also to those reading other languages than German.
Such major theoretical contributions of Münch as Die Theorie des Handelns (Münch 1982), Die Struktur der Moderne (Münch 1984), Die Kultur der Moderne (Münch 1986), Die Dialektik der Kommunukationsgesellschaft (Münch 1991b) and Die Dynamik der Kommunkationsgesellschaft (Münch 1995) come in the wake of such his earlier works as Gesellschaftstheorie und Ideologiekritik (Münch 1973), Legitimität und politische Macht (Münch 1976), Theorie sozialer Systeme: Eine Einführung in Grundbegriffe, Grundannahmen und logische Struktur (Münch 1976), and Basale Soziologie, Soziologie der Politik (Münch 1982). Such German sociological classics as Marx, Tönnies, Simmel, Weber, and Elias are Münch’s constant points of reference. Münch’s technical style of writing may have impeded a wider acceptance of his contribution to sociology, especially within French, English and American sociological traditions. Building his works on the basis of thinking in axioms, theorems, and propositions, Münch draws theoretical conclusions in highly precise, formulaic, and logical manner. In translation of his publications into other languages, there is much to be gained from the introduction of Münch’s works to a wider scholarly audience than has been the case heretofore.
Present Application of Münch’s Sociology
Since the notion of cultural accumulation does not find a direct specification in the works of Münch, in a multi-sited fashion I follow this notion from macro to micro contexts of its analytical and historical specification. In as much as such theorists as Luhmann (1977a; 1978a; 1984; 1988; 1997) and Habermas (1965; 1967; 1973; 1976; 1978a; 1981; 1982; 1988) have more dominant positions in the contemporary German sociology than does Münch, his basic concepts need introduction into more general sociological discourse. The theoretical development of Münch’s sociology and its interrelationships with both his contemporary sociologists and the classical works of sociological theory exceed the scope of this thesis. An interested reader can consult an earlier version of his work on sociological theory (Münch 1994) in English where he addresses other sociological theories in a broadly comparative perspective. A later, reworked and expanded, version of the latter work is also available in German (Münch 2004).
In these volumes, Münch assesses strengths and weaknesses of a number of social theorists, while reformulating their key propositions in light of his larger project of comparative sociological theorization. In his opinion, careful reconstruction of the classical and contemporary sociological theories from the point of view of the state of the art of sociology should help through inter-theoretical discourse to sharpen the conceptual tools of distinct bodies of theorization coming into contact with each other. I restrict myself to operationalizing his theory within an ideal-typical frame of reference so that it can be applied at an urban and possibly an institutional scale. This takes the form of a multi-sited tracing of Münch’s notion of cultural accumulation across its contexts. A larger scale engagement of Münch’s sociology may be in order, especially in view of the significant body of his both theoretical and applied works that have accrued, as is shown above.
For my research purposes, I take recourse to Münch’s notion of cultural accumulation which is a later development of what his earlier theorization terms as ‘cultural system’ (Münch 1982). Münch (1991b) further developed his notion of cultural system into the direction of its understanding as cultural accumulation taking place through the media of interchange. In this context, I pursue my multi-sited research of the notion of cultural accumulation across its global, national, urban and institutional contexts. In this, I follow in the steps of Münch’s elaboration of Talcott Parsons’ contribution to sociology in the direction of ideal-typical construction of systems of accumulation, their media of interchange, and their types of interrelations. While Parsons has intended to integrate the works by such founding figures of sociology as Max Weber, Emile Durkheim, and Sigmund Freud, Münch has undertaken a reformulation of Parsons’ theory from the point of view of the later stage of development of the latter’s body of works. Since a way to understand the eventual outcome of my multi-sited discussion of cultural accumulation would be in terms of its construction as an analytical ideal-type, which I tentatively apply in this thesis, I have found Münch’s elaboration on the notion of ideal type, initially developed by Weber, of use for methodological purposes. Münch comments that Weber’s
[…] concept of ideal type is another example of a synthetic approach on the metatheoretical level that remained just as unfinished [as his general theoretical model]. It is designed to integrate analytical abstraction with empirical-historical reality and especially rationalistic idealism with historical realism. According to Weber, an ideal type is construed by exaggerating particular features of a historical phenomenon to an extreme and by leaving out other concomitant features. Two varieties of ideal type can be distinguished, one closer to analytical abstraction, the other to historical reality: the analytical ideal type and the historical ideal type. (Münch 1988: 8).
Within these parameters, Münch defines the relation that the system of cultural accumulation has with such other ideal-typical systems of accumulation as the social, political, and economic ones. Parsons uses the complexity and contingency of action to set the analytical dimensions of his four-function paradigm – ‘Adaptation,’ ‘Goal attainment,’ ‘Integration’ and ‘Latent pattern maintenance,’ referred to within the Parsonian sociology as the AGIL schema. Based on its further analytical refinement, Münch develops his understanding of systems of economic, cultural, social and political accumulation as analytical ideal types that in their interrelations set the parameters for his understanding of the ideal-typical structure of modernity. More precisely formulated by Münch, the systems are theoretically derived from
[t]he development of the four-function paradigm [that] was progressively freed from its connection with the pattern variables, and the paradigm was progressively generalized beyond its originally limited area of application, so that it could be continually respecified and applied to new ranges of objects. In this way, the paradigm assumed more and more the character of a general theoretical instrument for the analytical differentiation of reality. From this point of view of the development of the theory as a whole, the most significant events of this period are the use of the four-function paradigm in the analytic differentiation of subsystems of action, the repeated application of the paradigm to the problem of the internal differentiation of various individual subsystems and to the problem of the differentiation of levels of analysis having different system references, and the connection of the paradigm with the hierarchy of cybernetic controls. The application of the A-G-I-L schema to the subsystems of action, their environment and their microscopic-macroscopic ordering yield basic levels of analysis, each of which in turn could be further internally differentiated into a microscopic-macroscopic hierarchy:
1. The level of the ‘human condition’, which Parsons explored at the very end of his career, consists of : L – telic system, I – action system, G – human organic system, A – physicochemical system.
2. The level of the general system of action consists of: L – cultural system, I – social system, G – personality system, A – behavioural system.
3. The level of the social system consists of: L – social-cultural (fiduciary) system, I – societal community, G – political system, A – economic system. (Münch 1987: 52-54)
My application of Münch’s theorization of modernity, systems, and action is limited to my own aims. I attempt to abstain from technical terminology or scientific jargon. At the same time, throughout my thesis, I apply basic terms of conceptual reference, such as systems of accumulation, media of interchange, and kinds of possible relations among systems of accumulation referred to as interpenetration, differentiation, rationalization and institutionalization. The latter terms do not denote actual historical processes. Rather, they refer to analytical ideal types of interrelations among systems of economic, cultural, social and political accumulation. My approach is likely not to do justice to the theoretical detail of analytical relations within the ideal-typical context of which Münch develops his theorization of modernity, systems and action. However, extensive quotations with his original formulations present Münch’s theoretical positions in more detail. I follow Münch’s concepts within the context of different scales of reference reaching from the macro theoretical level of modernity and capitalism to the micro level of cities and institutions. Münch justifies his recourse of the notions of systems and subsystems in the following way:
By defining the functions of systems through the classification of the relations between the elements of a system and their most abstract properties, one can justify the choice of these functions: at this level of abstraction the classification is exhaustive. The abstractness of the functions is what allows them to be specified for various subsystems, sub-subsystems, etc., without the danger of committing that error, so feared by Parsons, which Whitehead calls ‘the fallacy of misplaced concreteness’. The microscopic-macroscopic, ‘sliding scale’ nature of the classificatory scheme allows for the drawing of ever finer distinctions and for the continual identification of intermediary types which lie in the zones of interpenetration of the basic types. The repeated application of the classificatory scheme performs here the function that in mathematics is performed by systems of numbers, of which the simplest is the binary system. By means of the repeated application of the same set of numbers, the binary system does everything the decimal system does. The four-function paradigm is this type of system, one which through the repeated application of a small group of basic categories is able to capture all aspects of reality. The four-function paradigm is itself a duplication of a simpler two-term schema (absence of orderedness vs. maximum of orderedness) through the application of this simpler schema to the two basic elements (symbols and actions). (Münch 1987: 60)
Even though the AGIL schema is associated with Parsons’ sociology and its purported stress on value system or moral integration, his major contribution lies in the domain of social theory where disagreements among theoretical perspectives and critical differences among different bodies of theory are to be expected. While Parsonian theory was met with criticism in the English-speaking sociology (Bershady 1973; Dahrendorf 1958a; Gouldner 1970b; Merton 1967; Mills 1959), there were attempts at neofunctionalist (Alexander 1998b) or differentiation theory (Alexander and Colomy 1990) revival of Parsons’ theory of action. However, it is in German sociology that Parsons’ works earned him consistent attention both by his critics, such as Habermas and Luhmann, and intellectual heirs, such as Münch. Even through Luhmann (1994a; 1994b), as a leading systems theorist in Germany, offered a critique of Münch’s work, the latter, considering himself a theorist of modern social order who derives his premises from the analytical and historical foundations of classical sociology may better be approached as a developer of theorization of modernity, accumulation and action from a broadly ideal-typical standpoint. I hope to contribute to the recognition that Münch’s oeuvre can have both analytical and comparative applications putting him widely outside of reductivist category of a systems theorist. The substantive issue of the relation between theory and reality may have found in the works of Parsons one of the more thorough examinations that sociology has to offer, as Münch suggests. Münch analytically separates such two dimensions of social reality as the contingency of action and symbolic complexity. This can help in analyzing a phenomenon from an ideal typical perspective. My tracing of cultural accumulation, while methodologically deriving from multi-sited anthropology, draws theoretically upon Münch’s sociology.
Münch addresses insufficiencies in methodological foundations of the theorization of capitalism as a structure of interrelations among processes of accumulation. His works on the contradictions and dynamics of modernity, as they bear on the processes of political, economic, cultural, and social accumulation (Münch 1995; 1998), open theoretical avenues to the conceptualization of modernity on both macro and micro levels. Münch’s theorization of modernity, systems, and action (Münch 1982) does not preclude carrying out, on its basis, of rigorous analyses of the relations in which individual and collective strategies are deployed by historical agents facing particular national traditions, political situations, economic practices, and cultural expressions (Boltanski and Chiapello 2005b: 179-80). The specification of capitalism in terms of the structure of modernity (Münch 1984) may account for the historical dynamics of the disruptions that context-insensitive analyses of capitalist development may fail to do justice to.
The continued relevance of the analysis of the spirit of capitalism (Boltanski and Chiapello 1999; Castoriadis 1999), referring to the famous Weber’s work The Protestant Ethics and the Spirit of Capitalism, opens an opportunity for application of Münch’s systematically elaborated analysis of the structure of modernity (Münch 1982; 1984; 1986) vis-à-vis its historical typology, changing configurations, and dynamic interrelationships. The theory of the structure of modernity, as proposed by Münch (1986; 1984), responds to the main points of the conceptualization of multiple modernities (Schmidt 2006), while suggesting an approach that both addresses its substantive concerns and steers clear of its pitfalls. The theorization of the structure of modernity (Münch 1984) also provides the framework to conceptualize varieties of modernity (Münch 1986).
To account for dynamic social change, Münch (1982; 1984; 1991) re-established links to European sociology. The integrative conceptual approach resulting from Münch’s systematization of Parson’s sociology sheds light on unexplored possibilities of social theory building. Münch maintains that Parsons has provided a theoretical articulation of how the reconstruction of the interrelationships – in Parsons’ terminology referred to as ‘interpenetration’ – among the institutions that compose social order can explain social change. The normative order characteristic of modernity with its co-existence of universalism and individualism, of rationalism and activism, and of its natural law and commercial law has institutional interpenetration as its major generative structure.
According to Münch (1981: 732), Weber discerned the origins of the generative structure of the West, whereas Parsons systematized it into the theory of action. As Münch (1980) highlights, the efforts of Parsons are directed at the creation of general theory. Matching in its importance the critical philosophy of Kant, the body of theory formulated by Parsons invites the examination of the substantive and methodological implications his theory has both for the adequate understanding of classical social theory and for the development of contemporary sociology, as is demonstrated by Münch (1980; 1981: 735).
In dialogue with Luhmann’s systems theory, Münch argues that
[t]he empirical objection to Luhmann’s theory of differentiation is that it is incapable of explaining the conclusive hallmarks of modern society. In the framework of his theory, Luhmann can only conceive of the development of the modern economy or modern political systems as a process of detachment from formerly existing close ties – the economy, for example, would become detached from the household, and politics from religion. The economy goes beyond the boundaries of simple household management because of the expansion of the monetary system, and politics frees itself of the attachment to religious legitimation. Hence Luhmann fails to grasp the special features of the modern economy and modern political systems. The specific characteristics of the modern economy are in fact based not on differentiation but on interpenetration. (Münch 1988: 202).
To this Münch adds that
[w]ith this theory of differentiation, Luhmann does not manage to reach an adequate explanation of the essential constituent characteristics of modern society. Moreover in standing by this theory Luhmann misses the explanatory opportunities which would be available to him in Parsons’ theory of interpenetration. His incorporation of the concept of interpenetration into functionalistic systems theory leave the theory of differentiation untouched and the theory as a whole therefore misses out on the crucial theoretical advances made by Parsons. In the one instance where Luhmann meets with a central concept in Parsons’s interpretation of modern Western development as a process of increasing interpenetration, namely the concept of inclusion, he reshapes it to function as an element in the theory of pure systems differentiation. For inclusion – the opening up for all people in principle of participation in the most varied fields of action – is a substitute for population growth; both, he believes, generate the ‘orders of magnitude’ appropriate to the increased density of interaction necessary for functional differentiation. By interpreting it this way, Luhmann completely conceals the meaning Parsons attributed to ‘inclusion’. Parsons interprets it as the universalization of community relations, which depends on the interpenetration of specific communities, just as it requires communal action to interpenetrate with other action spheres. (Münch 1988: 202-203)
Understanding cultural accumulation as just an analytical dimension of action, I likewise conceive of the system of cultural accumulation, which I borrow from Münch`s (1982; 1991b) theorization, as an analytical ideal type in need of historical concretization. From this perspective, the system of cultural accumulation, like the systems of social, political, and economic accumulation, is a dimension of individual and collective action. Furthermore, with regard to the theoretical understanding of the place of culture in society, Münch comments that
[t]he theorem of the cybernetic relations of control and dynamization belongs to the Parsonian theory of action as a way of making more precise the theorem of interpenetration, as a way of analysing relations between subsystems. This theorem too should not be misunderstood as an assertion concerning concrete systems. It does not entail a ‘cultural determinism’ or a functional primacy of the cultural system in a concrete sense. The theorem of the high position of the cultural system as an analytical system in the cybernetic hierarchy applied to social institutions postulates that institutions can lay claim to a truly normative validity, as opposed to a mere empirical validity dependent on power and interest, only if they can establish themselves as specifications of a more general system of common values. I have given a still higher place in the hierarchy to the societal community because these culturally justifying institutions can possess normatively binding validity only if the value system is anchored in at least a possibly universal community of solidarity which, through the self-evidentness of the obligations it imposes, sets a limit to the potentially endless rational questioning and examining of the value system. This hypothesis is traceable to the theorem, already present in The Structure of Social Action, that the social order as normative, that is, as an order which includes the freedom of the individual rather than as a causally determined, empirical order, cannot be reduced to the interplay of power and interest. The Parsonian theory of action never denies the empirical effectiveness of power and interest, or of conflict, as is so often asserted. Conflict is a dynamic factor which tends toward the dissolution or reorganization of existing institutions. The reorganization of old institutions and the establishment of wholly new ones, however, are subject to the same conditions as every other attempt to establish social order. (italics in the original, Münch 1987: 64)
Chapter One: Economic and Cultural Accumulation in World Cities
This chapter covers the following aspects of transition to global capitalism as it becomes reflected in economic, cultural, and urban policy-making:
- The institutional spaces of art museums represent the everyday reality of the social processes of differentiation, institutionalization, rationalization, and interpenetration of cultural accumulation regulated on the individual, organizational, and urban scales.
- World cities have been argued to now play a key political and economic role in global networks. This literature ignores the performative, contingent and material aspects and has been critiqued from poststructuralist and cultural theory positions.
- Attention to global flows and networks is important to understand these cities, formulate urban policy and theorize the complexity of their role in cultural, economic and political relations.
Cultural Accumulation in World Cities
Arguably embodying the dominant mode of cultural accumulation, New York is one of the cities, the level of intensity of the representation of which few others match. In the city, three museums are especially prominent – the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, and the Museum of Modern Art, New York. In the permanent collection exhibitions at the art museums of New York, the assumption of the radical otherness of the modernist moment of art history is at a spatial, institutional, and discursive distance from the expectation that art, architecture or exhibitions, as outcomes of collective practices, contribute to cultural accumulation on their own.
The modern and contemporary art galleries at the Museum of Modern Art, as well as other art museums of Manhattan, appear to contribute to cultural accumulation. However, no terms of reference exist that the theory of art can lend to the understanding of cultural accumulation, as a cultural, social, political or economic phenomenon (Perniola 2004a). Masterworks by the major representatives of artistic avant-gardes, interwar artistic movements, postwar painting styles, and modern and contemporary art groups do not represent unquestionably an organizing scheme of interpretation of art. As art history continues to explore the limits of its inherited assumptions concerning the theory of art (Preziosi 1989; 2006), art exhibitions map the possibilities of artistic practice. For example, in the summer of 2007 the Metropolitan Museum of Art exhibited the paintings of Neo Rauch, a German contemporary artist from the East German city of Leipzig. The museum leaves it to the exhibition’s visitors to connect the formal experiments with grid-like structures of the conceptual sculpture of the 1970s, which they can see on their way through the modern art galleries, with the nearly flat, fragmented pictorial spaces of his paintings. While consciously citing the representational conventions of painterly realism, these canvases leave gaps in their representational spaces, per Lefebvre’s (1986; 1991) distinction among representational spaces, representations of space, and spatial practices, through which their self-consciously absurd forms and inscriptions break through. Across the memory of the aesthetic divide of the Cold War, Rauch’s pictorial style refers to the historical citation of the simultaneity of pop art in the West and the socialist realism in the East that the space of the museum stages. Thus, the situated spaces of art exhibitions institutionally perform the inclusion into the museum’s spaces of representation. This is done via de-politicized walking strategies (de Certeau 1984) of the museum visitors as they find their way from the Egyptian to the American wing of the Metropolitan Museum of Art – a palatial and an historical example of the increasingly spectacular architectural practices of world cities.
As museumgoers make their visit, their experience can apparently find an objectified validation at the end of the exhibition-walking route. There, a mini-supermarket of the commodified aesthetic experience waits for its customers. In the form of catalogues, posters, recordings, and decorations in their shopping bags, they can carry affordable tokens of the cultural memory that the museums represent, reproduce, and sell to their visitors. For their more inflexible dedication to civic and educational causes, ethnic and municipal museums of New York cede the high ground of commodification to the art museums that strategically place shopping areas at the terminus points of their visitor walking tracks. These exhibition rooms of objects for immediate acquisition logically conclude the enfilades of exhibition rooms through which, for example, the Metropolitan Museum channels its visitors while asking after their voluntary contribution of their suggested attendance fees at the entrance.
Whether one observes the sprawling shopping center at the ground level, the stylish library-style bookshop at the second floor or the piles of merchandise in the best Bloomingdale’s tradition at its top floor, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) deploys commodification strategies of artistic experience to a great extent. Art museums commonly implement these strategies even though the generous endowments of the largest of them make these strategies unnecessary. Likewise, at the bottom and top floors of its spiralling upward exhibition space, the Guggenheim Museum has the smallest retail spaces of the three major art institutions of New York. The Whitney Museum, not least due to its decades-long scarcity of space and the reputation that holding exclusive biennial art exhibitions lends, has the least amount of areas purely dedicated to the pleasurable experience of shopping for distinction through the association with art that the related merchandise may offer. Its ratio of exchange value per use value of the real estate reaching skyscraper proportions, New York City serves as an emblematic backdrop to the interchange of cultural values for economic, political and social ones.
Bearing an archival debt to the history of cinema as a representational medium, film programs of different degrees of exclusivity run at all of the art museums. The Museum of Modern Art has one of the more developed approaches to the curatorial practice of film screening. The film screenings virtually turn into art exhibitions. Moreover, the MoMA serializes films into separately curated thematic sequences. The latter receive highlighted status in the film programs of the museum, extra booklet space for the overarching descriptions, and enhanced appeal to the audiences that, otherwise, are not necessarily museum going. At the MoMA, the film screening entrance lets people in long after the regular opening hours of the museum. As the museumgoers exit this differentiated spatial arrangement of the museum space they also pass through premises exhibiting the vintage movie posters from Europe. The glass walls of the passageway sometimes open onto the bow tie and evening gown crowd of exclusive museum member events that take place regularly. Ubiquitously stationed guards and service persons make sure that the streams of visitors circulate seamlessly. These institutional spaces represent with singular vividness the everyday reality of the social processes of differentiation, institutionalization, rationalization, and interpenetration of cultural accumulation regulated on the individual, organizational, and urban scales.
Approached as virtual entities (Shields 2003), cities are neither concrete nor abstract but virtually constituted through the interrelations between economic, cultural, social and political accumulation. In art museums, urban economy, culture, society and politics become interrelated with cultural accumulation as an outcome of their differentiation, institutionalization, rationalization and interpenetration. A city, as an environment of cultural, social, political and economic accumulation, is a system of interconnected infrastructures (Amin and Thrift 2002). Urban space is the scene of interconnected processes of accumulation, and clearly an arena of inequalities, oppression and competition where some urban spaces are more autonomous and authoritative than others. New York, where different art museums form its cultural cluster, virtually serves as the most basic condition of possibility of these cultural institutions concretely positioned within its urban space and abstractly represented outside it at the same time.
As in the case of New York, global art museums accumulate especially high amounts of reputation, power, money, and expertise. These art museums lift New York to the status of one of the more important centers of cultural accumulation. Not incidentally, New York serves as a node in a globe-spanning system of the relations of cultural, social, political, and economic accumulation (Hardt and Negri 2000; Sassen 2006). Owing their emergence as institutions (Duncan 1995) to the economic, cultural, social and political revolutions of modernity, art museums belong the history of modern ideas (Foucault 1966), representation (Prior 2002), experience (Schulze 1992) and culture (Münch 1986b-c; 1991b). Münch’s (1982; 1991b) theorization of modernity, accumulation and action offers a perspective that clarifies the economic, social, cultural, and political transitions taking place since the late twentieth century. Cultural accumulation involves multiple social, political, economic, and cultural agents entering into relations of interchange of money, expertise, reputation, and power (Münch 1991b). Art museums and biennials enjoy economic, political and social support from a wide variety of individual and collective agents (Meyer 1979; Wu 2002). Consequently, across globally, regionally and nationally spread cities, art exhibition spaces are the sites of differentiation, institutionalization, rationalization and interpenetration of cultural accumulation.
These museum vignettes hint at the inspirations for this thesis’ search for an adequate theory to explain the operation of contemporary extremes of cultural and economic accumulation. This search led well beyond the humanities and beyond notions of communities or artists, audiences and taste. As concretizations of aesthetic rationality (Preziosi 1989), art exhibitions represent the outcomes of accumulation of expertise, reputation, power, and money. It is the modern social order that provides the economic, cultural, social and political conditions of access to the spaces of art museums (Bennett 1995). As the dynamics and contradictions of modernity increase in their scope and scale (Münch 1991b), the interrelations between economy, culture, society, and politics increasingly take place over networks with global reach. In the increased circulation of artworks, density of art exhibition events and participation of museums and curators in art valorization, global cities, such as New York, participate as agents of cultural accumulation. An arguable trendsetter of urban development, New York structures its cultural accumulation around its cultural cluster of art museums. Since the late 1980s, New York has gone through a process of urban revitalization that reinstated its status as a global metropolis (Sassen 2001). World cities serve as nodal points for the circulation of money, expertise, reputation and power on a global scale (Sassen 2001; 2006). New York historically drew these means of economic, cultural, social and political accumulation into its specifically modern dynamics and contradictions since the late nineteenth century.
As art museums become more central to the processes of cultural accumulation (Perniola 1995; 2004a), they are increasingly embedded into various city-specific structures of accumulation. Art museums accumulate art works, lending agreements, pledges of posthumous estates, and shared ownership of actively collecting or exhibiting individuals or institutions. Art museums institutionally customize their operation by combining control over messages that circulate within their walls, pre-programmed routines of interaction between its exhibition halls attendants and visitors, and cultural appeal of art works on display (Perniola 2004b). As art museums increasingly become primary sites of artistic representation (Plagens 2007), they concentrate the activities of exhibition publications, scholarly research, exhibition design, international cooperation, and conferences and workshops. Public, private, and governmental agencies pursue interrelated strategies connected to art exhibitions and cultural events. Art exhibitions increasingly involve loan agreements, traveling shows, special projects and artist residences. Thus, art museums and biennials become embedded into economic, cultural, social and political relations of regional, national, and urban scale. Interrelated with the processes of cultural, economic, political and social capital accumulation via their institutional strategies, art museums occupy a distinctive place in urban, regional, and global processes of accumulation. Therefore, the processes of cultural, economic, social, or political accumulation (Münch 1991b) via cultural clusters of art museums take divergent courses of development depending on specific urban configurations of their interrelations.
The attempts to turn metropolitan cities into centers of cultural accumulation date as far back as the 1970s (Meyer 1979). In discussions of curators’ concerns (Perin 1992; Schubert 2000), in re-interpretations of visual canon (Crimp and Lawler 1993; Hooper-Greenhill 2000), and in public arguments over access and accessibility (Hooper-Greenhill 1992; Zolberg 1986) that attendance fees, disability access routes, and differential pricing for different audience groups create, art museums receive center-stage as focal points of cultural accumulation. Embedded into conventional city-visitor routes, art museums see coming through their halls groups of globe-trotting tourists and local cultural consumers alike. Moreover, global art museums appear to be central to a more general process of transformation in the dynamics and contradictions of modernity a more radical reading of which provides Schulze (1992; 1994; 2003). In his exploration of the limits of social, political, economic, and cultural accumulation, Schulze (2003; 2006) adumbrates the possibility of the exhaustion of the fund of ideas on which capitalism, and by extension modernity, has been running until the last decade of the twentieth century.
A corresponding argument is offered by the theory of postmodernism. As it applies to art, postmodern theories recognize the originality of the modernist moment as one of the rare peaks of creativity that has nearly exhausted the resources for artistic innovation for generations to come. Recombination, citation, and remake become signature characteristics of the postmodern style that in the form of pastiche, intertextuality, and simulation has received attention from the circle of thinkers, philosophers and critics that put postmodernism at the global center stage of intellectual discourse (Baudrillard 1994; Foster 1983; Jencks 1987). Writing of art historians and curators acquires the quality of personalized accounts that have more in common with travelogues, diaries, and fiction (Perniola 2004a) than with a scientific program with either weak or strong claims to validity (Danto 1997). Critics and curators seem to create and promote their personal brand as much as artists do. In the field of artistic production, circulation, and valorization, cultural institutions, such as art museums, gain an unprecedented amount of institutional independence (Perniola 1995; 2004a). Furthermore, art museums connect into a network that includes into its mesh galleries, art schools, and independent spaces.
To this institutional network, growing in permanence and comprehensiveness as the number and size of art museums continued to grow over the twentieth century (Meyer 1979; Twitchell 2004), add art biennials that in a growing number of urban locations are highly mediatized events (Vanderlinden and Filipovic 2005). As the frequency with which art events – such as exhibitions, biennials, or film screenings – occupy public stages intensifies (Schulze 2000), world cities become especially culturally saturated. Concert events, classical music presentations, film retrospectives, book readings, club and association meetings make, in conjunction with their dedicated websites for the place, event, and particular series, urban spaces into busy intersections of the traffic of audiences, performers, sponsors, supporting personnel, and security services. Thus, world and global cities become centers of cultural accumulation.
As part of the dynamics and contradictions of the growing interrelation between the processes of economic, cultural, social and political accumulation, the architectural expansion of art museums takes place in the context of growing share of their space being dedicated to shopping, dining, and education purposes (Boeri, Koolhaas, Kwinter, Obrist, and Tazi 2000). Global art museums, such as the Guggenheim Bilbao Museum, act as stand-alone media attention triggers not least through their spectacular architecture. As global art museums become differentiated, institutionalized, rationalized and interdependent with regard to the processes of economic, cultural, social and political accumulation, not infrequently they forge highly selective connections to local, regional and global communities. For example, critics of the museum island development in Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates, have noted that the cultural cluster does not necessarily contribute to bridging the social, cultural, political and economic gaps among the diverse constituencies of the city, country, and region (Ostling 2007; Pes 2007), even though how art museums elsewhere may perform such role – as the decision of the Louvre Museum to open an Abu Dhabi satellite (Parry 2007; Pes 2007; Riding 2007a; 2007b) might exemplify – is not free from contradictions as well.
World Cities in the Entrepreneurial Strategies of Urban Development
World, or global, cities are defined by Doel and Hubbard (2002) as cities that perform key functions in the global economy that in the process of competition with other urban locations for capital accumulation obtain competitive advantage not from their indigenous infrastructure but from their strategic positions in networks of flows. Attempts at the introduction of entrepreneurial urban strategies (Jessop 1998) are oriented at improving the image of city. The achievement of that goal is sought by the reflexive design of urban spaces through the means of their association with emotion, art, and spectacle. However, these measures frequently leave the task of theoretical discourse, policy-making, and urban design to define the characteristics of world city unfulfilled (Doel and Hubbard 2002: 351; Harvey 1989; Leitner and Sheppard 1999). This is especially the case when that task is set in the context of a greater role of translocal economic relations on global scale (Amin and Thrift 2002). Place promotion and urban policy that seek to be effective on a global stage have to change their orientation away from the local-bounded essentialist perspective that counterpoises city to the world as an object or a flow. Urban policy-making has to adopt a world-bound relational approach to city as an entity distributed across performances, clusters, and scales (Brenner 1999; Law 2000) that in their sum achieve various degrees of urban existence as world-city (Doel and Hubbard 2002: 352).
Considered from a poststructural perspective (Gibson-Graham 2000), world-cities fall short of the requirements for turning their concept into an empirically specifiable phenomenon (Markusen 1999). This leads to a necessity to explore to a greater extent the bearing that the theoretical construction of world-cities has on policy-making. Additionally, urban policy-making may have to become multi-scalar, context-sensitive, and process-oriented (Doel and Hubbard 2002: 352) in order to respond to a possibly greater role of sociological theorization. Since the central tenet of poststructuralism is the phenomenological attentiveness to the complexity level exhibited by any given research subject (Derrida 1988: 118), a theorization attempt commensurate with poststructuralist approach has to translate the complexity of the phenomenal world into its concepts. First coined in 1915, the notion of world city (Geddes 1915) has remained shaped by its original definition as a place "where a disproportionate amount of the world's business was conducted" (Doel and Hubbard 2002: 352) despite its subsequent qualifications, abstractions, applications, and quantifications. Even though the operational definition of world cities can require large-scale empirical support (Short, Kim, Kuus, and Wells 1996: 698), the commonly used world city attributes are transnational corporation (TNC) headquarters presence, service-sector employee numbers, foreign residents proportion, and equity market capitalization (Doel and Hubbard 2002: 353). The more comprehensive rankings are based on financial assets, transportation infrastructure, population size, business services, manufacture output, TNC headquarters, and international institutions presence (Friedmann 1986). The point estimates take the presence of internet domain names (Townsend 2001), public-private partnerships (Kresl 1995), and cultural vitality (Smith and Timberlake 1995) as world-city indicators.
Due to the epistemological, ontological, and methodological weakness of the notion of world cities (Markusen 1999), the leading criteria for ordering their hierarchy have experienced a shift from the economic and financial orientation to the focus on advanced producer services, credit ratings, multi-jurisdiction law, and risk management (Beaverstock, Smith, and Taylor 1999; Friedmann 1986; Short and Kim 1998; Taylor 1997). Such definitional flexibility follows from the irreducible polysemy of urban discourse, multiple urban contradictions and complex factor correlations of city life, and discontinuous, dispersed, and abstract character of the constitutive urban phenomena (Doel and Hubbard 2002: 353-54). From a relational perspective, world cities are conceptually assembled via “distanciated social relations” (Doel and Hubbard 2002: 354). In order to countervail the tradition of theorization of cities as fixed and bounded phenomena, the relational perspective emphasizes "clustering, agglomeration and localization" (Amin and Thrift 2002: 51) belying the structural underpinnings of such an approach. Based on dependency and world-systems theories, the analysis of the world economy highlights its structure and makes the function and composition of economic activities on different scales more important in explanatory terms to understanding how world cities operate as a global system affected in its turn by the stages of world capitalism (Storper and Walker 1989). At the same time, such forms of structural analysis are open to the charges of excessive macro bias, decontextualized functionalism, and teleological essentialism (Guattari 2000).
To understand the world importance of certain cities taking over command and control functions, a larger structure of strategic relations among cities “within a changing world system” (Doel and Hubbard 2002: 354) needs to be clarified. To this reorientation towards structural relations, the influence of the temporal and spatial dispersion of relations, time-space compression via media and communication, and the globalization of capital, migration, and knowledge all contribute (Harvey 1989; Virilio 1997). Arguing that globalization changes the structure of translocal flows, Castells (2000) gives priority to global networks at the basis of novel organizing principles of capitalism. While being built on information exchange, these networks significantly alter relationships among commodities, individuals, and institutions as they become complexly embedded into a networked space of flows. As capitalism acquires increasingly abstract and distributed qualities (Barnes 2001; Buck-Morss 1995; Gibson-Graham 1996), Castells offers diagrammatic representations of structural relations among world cities constituted through global flows. These flows link urban cores and peripheries into nodes of multiple networks that remain in need of further research on their nature (Bromley 1999), on their relation to developmental stages of global capitalism (Doel and Hubbard 2002: 355), and on their definition (Friedmann 1986).
Building on Castells’ (2000) research on world city networks, additional attention to their performative, contingent, and material aspects may have to be paid (Doel and Hubbard 2002: 355), should the structural position of the production and reproduction of the formal structure of global flows be fore-grounded via a shift of theoretical attention. To the formation of these structural processes contribute discourses on global capitalism (Gibson-Graham 1996; Thrift 2000), institutional, entrepreneurial, and organizational action (Amin and Thrift 2002), and interaction between global networks and urban hierarchies. To understand the structures of exchange that networks of global cities connect, both their contingency and complexity may have to be reduced via application of analytical ideal types. The scales of applicability of these models must range from macro to micro, if the emergent, process-dependent, and dynamic properties of global networks are to be accounted for. From this perspective, Castells’ (2000: 10) theorization of the network as an integrated unit of global operation not reducible to the scale of cities comprising it makes important contribution to the theoretical understanding of the global space of flows (Taylor 1997). An analytical approach to global cities would stress the ideal-typical structure of exchange among different processes of accumulation that, within a global inter-urban network, constitute the functions of world cities that follow from their connectivity (Storper 1997), centrality, and nodality (Beaverstock, Smith, and Taylor 1999; Taylor 2000).
Poststructuralist Critiques: World City Policy-Making and Culture
While exhibiting greatest connectivity, London, New York, Paris and Tokyo claim dominant positions in global urban hierarchy. The structuring effects of connectivity as an ordering principle in the world economy promulgate themselves throughout urban networks to produce markedly different regional variations in the concentration of economic infrastructures (Doel and Hubbard 2002: 356; Taylor 2004). Within the geography of unequal globalization (Castells 2000: 10), these urban variations allow for a wider number of cities to play significant roles in national, regional, and global economies precisely because they are parts of the network of global flows. Castells' (2000) theorization presupposes a set structure of global economy where financial flows connect its nodes into a novel network. In contrast, the formulation of the structure of relations among actors active at different institutional, political, and territorial scales has to take a critical account of the wider range of processes, contexts, and concepts that constitute world cities (Doel and Hubbard 2002: 357). From poststructural perspective, the global economy is emergently constituted in the movement of heterogeneous assemblages (Deleuze and Guattari 1983), in the configuration of carrying forces (Doel 1995), in the relational dynamics of flows among spaces (Doel 1999), and in the becoming, mutability, dissemination (Law 2000), and contradictions of network formations (Doel 1999).
As the relational properties of global networks receive greater attention, the heterogeneity of their constitution via the production of images, discourses, and organizations (Sayer 1994; Thrift 2000) increases. Corresponding parameters of the cultural, social, political, and economic accumulation in which the global spaces can be reconstructed also multiply (Amin and Thrift 2002: 61). Consequently, an overarching conception of globalization is replaced with an emphasis on its unstable geography emerging with the help of institutional reflexivity (Amin and Thrift 2002), fragmented practices, and relational performances (Rose 1999: 248). With practices of everyday life coming to the forefront of the poststructuralist analysis of globalization, the interpretation of world cities becomes attuned to interruptions and fluidities of their constitution (Gibson-Graham 1996; Guattari 2000), movements of displacement, intensities, and human and non-human actors (Amin and Thrift 2002; Brenner 1998; Murdoch 1997; Thrift 2000), spatial heterogeneities of global networks (Taylor 1997), irreducibility and incalculability of spatial practice (de Certeau 1984; Lefebvre 1991), and financial and legal services as translation practices (Beaverstock and Doel 2001). After the poststructuralist departure from excessive emphasis on macro theoretical factors (Thrift 1997: 143), the conceptualization of world cities gives equal weight to the microsociological reconstruction of urban phenomena and a multi-sited perspective (Thrift 1997: 143). Together with an institutional approach to network formation and reproduction (Beaverstock and Doel 2001; Bingham 1996) and the relational mapping of trans-local assemblages (Amin and Thrift 2002: 52), such a ‘multi-sited’ perspective avoids the reductive pitfalls of both atomistic and structuralist urban studies.
Urban agglomerations of know-how and capital have long been in the focus of policy-making approaches to the competitiveness of world cities (Amin and Thrift 2002). Correspondingly, entrepreneurial strategies on the local level are one of the areas of concentration for urban scholarship. These strategies, aimed to gain competitive advantage (Kresl 1995; Porter 1998), not only couple the notion of world city with international competitiveness but also treat connectivity with regard to global networks and economic competitiveness as related phenomena (Castells 1996; Munck 2005: 62-65). Urban competitive success is widely accepted to derive from internal characteristics (Duffy 1995; Oatley 1998). Among the factors decisive for competitiveness are initial local conditions and individual entrepreneurial strategies (Deas and Giordano 2001: 1413), strategic economic complementarity (Krugman 1995: 28), untraded interdependence (Boddy 1999; Storper 1997), and entrepreneurial governance of city asset bases (Jessop 1998; Swyngedouw 1997). World cities serve as arenas for individual and collective action. They localize, cluster, and agglomerate a specifically-urban economy. They depend on such entrepreneurial strategies as growth coalitions between urban administrations and business communities (Hubbard 2002), coalitions of urban elites across business, real-estate, and political sectors (Logan and Molotch 1987), negotiated power clusters among dispersed urban spheres (Stone 1989), and non-hierarchical co-operation between governmental and non-governmental actors (Stoker 1995).
The major objective of world city promotion strategies is the creation of a "favourable environment for business and commerce" (Doel and Hubbard 2002: 360). These promotion strategies come to expression in new localism policies (Hall and Hubbard 1996; Valler, Wood, and North 2000), entrepreneurial place promotion (Gold and Ward 1994), communicational urban image marketing (Rutheiser 1996), and mixed-use urban quarters construction (Olds 1995). While meeting with criticism for the deliberate commodification of urban representations, these strategies seek to reinvent cities as centers of innovation, creativity, and exchange. In spite of the charges of standardization, polarization, and deleteriousness (Harvey 1989), the staging of international cultural, exposition, and sports events is geared to urban transition towards post-industrial development. That is achieved by means of the transformation of city infrastructure (Short 1999) and strategic urban investment even though without guaranteed success (Fainstein 1994; Leitner and Sheppard 1999; Loftman and Nevin 1996). To mutually integrate perspectives on world cities as either self-contained economic engines or innovation hubs in a space of flows, a perspective sensitive to contradictions and dynamics of modernity, accumulation, and action is needed, as is offered by Münch (1982; 1991b). Münch’s integrative development of sociological theorization allows one to bring an ideal-typical reconstruction of the links of institutional interchange to bear upon their particular informational, analytic, and legal translation among incommensurate networks, the division of labor among human and non-human actors, and the urban, place-based constellation of otherwise distantiated practices (Doel and Hubbard 2002: 361).
Understanding the global economy as a part of a global system of economic, cultural, social, and political relations, where world cities mediate heterogeneous flows, rather than as a hierarchical order of cities vying for access to economic gain (Amin and Thrift 2002), opens crucial possibilities for the sociological conceptualization of the urban economy. Accordingly, such a conceptualization would fill the gap in the sociological theorization of urban change. The development of the framework of collaboration and division of institutional labor allows the possibility for every participating urban center to enhance its global positioning, for global structural transformations to make greater contributions to urban network centrality than do national economies, and for integration into the global economy to be facilitated by proximity to world cities (Sassen 1991). The synergies obtainable among world cities do not obviate competition among them. To the extent that entrepreneurial strategies reflective of urban agency result from alliances between public and private agents (Doel and Hubbard 2002: 362), these strategies affect the relative standing of cities in the global economy in accordance to their success (Dicken 1992; Taylor 1997).
When taken to the urban level, Münch’s notion of the structure of modernity may contribute to analytically sharper delineation of the place of world cities in the global structure of heterogeneous flows. where assemblages of mediating practices (Sassen 2006) variously perform integrative functions. The agents, objects, and relations making part of the trans-local circulation within the inter-urban networks participate in the construction of a world city's positioning. The agents critical to the latter process are local stakeholders (Stone 1989), urban institutions and agencies (Newman and Thornley 1997), globetrotting individuals and groups (Cox and Mair 1989), and practice-inventing highly mobile subjects (Thrift 2000).
Despite being embedded into global networks, world cities possess capabilities of urban agency that via connective, performative, and translative strategies can improve the relative standing a city has in these networks (Thrift 2000). Over alternative attempts to either reinforce the globality of the world versus the locality of cities or collapse the difference between the two (Massey 1999), place-based conceptions of world cities have to be corrected with a flow-based approach (Doel and Hubbard 2002: 363). In its emphasis on contingency and context-dependency, such a sociological approach would chart a theoretical course beyond infrastructure projects, multi-media spectacles, and local asset base investment towards the network-oriented urban policy of the global extension of its translation capabilities in heterogeneous environments. To build global networks, a corresponding investment into trans-local projects sited outside of world cities is necessary. Correspondingly, only non-hierarchical, non-bounded, and non-deterministic urban policy is able to include into its goal-setting the delivery of benefits unrestricted to narrow segments of urban population, evenly distributed across global networks, and propagating “their city networks into a multiplicity of sites” (Doel and Hubbard 2002: 364).
The adoption of the flow-oriented model of urban agency opens possibilities for mutually enhancing urban identities, growth promotion within an urban network as a whole, and knowledge transfer facilitation among cities. These goals are achievable by means of pursuing regional urban growth models (Terhorst and Van De Ven 1995), innovative transnational networking (Phelps 2000), and the trans-local involvement of policy-making (Church and Reid 1996). It remains to be seen whether the highly conditional model of national-scale place promotion or the fostering of transnationally collaborative and coalition-supportive networks will prove more successful in improving relative positions of world cities. The risks attendant to excessive dependence on a small number of world cities as financial, industrial, or cultural centers need to be mitigated by the balance between both the effects of the network development and the implications of the infrastructure investment. A sociological approach to urban policy-making, drawing upon Münch’s theorization of modernity, accumulation and action, may, therefore, prove to be more adaptable to a national, regional, and global situation where flexible hierarchies of world cities may appear (Doel and Hubbard 2002: 365). As established relationships among world cities undergo change, theoretical attention towards the networked nature of cities can more adequately secure a gain in urban competitiveness. The latter is likely to be arrived at not by overly stressing the structural position of cities in existing global hierarchies or by narrowly restricting the possibilities of their differential positioning but by an emphasis on entrepreneurial strategies oriented towards the reflexive functions of translating among heterogeneous flows, mediating between wide-spanning networks, and the multi-sited performance of globally open city.
Chapter Two: Culture and Economy in Sociological Theory
This chapter reviews the historical composition, institutional development, and philosophical influences of sociological theory summarized in the following points:
- Through theoretical exchanges, American and European sociological theories can cover a wider range of social phenomena that any national tradition of sociology alone.
- Via its interrelated diversity, its theoretical integration, and its overlapping achievements, European social thought can compete with American sociological theories.
- By continuing the development of Parsons’ theory of action, Münch’s theorization of ideal types offers to supply theoretical constructions with historical contextualization and empirical research with frames of analytical reference.
- Münch integrates Parsons, Weber, and Durkheim into a theory of modernity, systems and action with wide analytical and historical reach.
Revitalization of European Sociological Theory
Cultural backgrounds affect social forms of theory production shaping traditions of social theory in the United States, Britain, France and Germany. The change in their contributions to world sociology can be summarized as a revitalization of European social theory. As respective influences of American, Asian, and European culture rearrange to reflect the shifting international balance among the three regions, sociological discipline also participates in the process where European social thought undergoes revitalization vis-à-vis a long period when American sociology prevailed. According to Münch, after World War II, the United States established a significant presence in sociology for the following reasons. It developed a world-leading academic system, dominated the world in political affairs, expanded to commercially encompass the world economy, and forged major international organizations (Münch 1991a: 314). The dominance of American sociology was based on the integration of research and teaching on the level of graduate schools and on the institutionalized competition of academic institutions at the national scale. The failure of European universities to introduce research-oriented graduate training, the lack of market competition among their academic schools, and isolation within and across national boundaries of their scientific schools account for their simultaneous decline (Münch 1991a: 314). In this context, American sociology has established itself as a professionalized discipline whereas European sociology, by contrast, has not had access to the comparable organizational resources of large competitive departments:
It is therefore better to follow another way of integration of sociological knowledge than the way of the reduction of diversity via the monopoly of the corseting paradigm of a unified science. This way consists in ascertaining, with the most possible exactitude, which investigative purposes and which objects of inquiry are particularly suitable for a theoretical designation and correspondingly a research direction or a research method, and to integrate different paradigms into a network with the help of which an as broad as possible and as internally differentiated as possible spectrum of social reality can be captured. A network of more differentiated paradigms takes the place of this hierarchy of assumptions and derived hypotheses of a paradigmatically restricted unified science. Thereby, advancements of knowledge will be attained, in as much as connecting paradigms through the loose ends between them is successful. In order that social reality could be reconstructed in greater breadth, differentiation, and depth it is necessary to eliminate lacunae in the network through linkages and to pull the network more closely together. This primarily succeeds via the inter-linkage of paradigms in close mutual interrelation. In as much as they complement each other for the most part, through their inter-connection, certain parts of social reality can be grasped in more precision than only with the help of one paradigm. Besides, in a more narrowly delimited field of investigation, in addition to the division of labour, a further degree of competition can arise and compel the specification of propositions. Furthermore, inter-linkages among paradigms more distantly positioned from each other are also necessary, in order to investigate the interaction of different forces in specific phenomena. (My translation, Münch 2004: 11-12)
However, more recently, within an economically, politically, and culturally polycentric world, the European Union reemerges on the basis of dramatically intensified “economic transactions, concerted political decision-making, communal ties, and cultural communication” (Münch 1991a: 315) among its constituent nations. Together European nations engage in a non-ideological competition with the United States and Asia in the areas of economy, politics, society, and culture. Consequently, it seems logical to hypothesize that the world preeminence of American sociology will be replaced by a horizontally polycentric system where European sociology becomes once again one of the leading schools of the discipline. The rise to preeminence of American sociology has historically been accompanied by the dominance of the structural functionalist paradigm (Merton 1949; 1968; Parsons 1937; 1951; 1967b; 1977; 1978a;  1968) and positivistic quantitative methodology (Lazarsfeld and Rosenberg 1955). This was reinforced via the control of the leading journals organizing the scientific community – American Journal of Sociology, American Sociological Review, and Social Forces – a unified academic market with the controlling agency of the journals, and the highly reputed academic institutions promoting them – Harvard and Columbia Universities (Münch 1991a: 315).
Synthesized out of British anthropology, Anglo-Saxon empiricism, Italian positivism, French positivism and organicism, and German historicism and idealism, structural functionalism (Merton 1949; 1968; Parsons 1937;  1968) has reflected the American society of institutionalized individualism, instrumental activism, intersecting voluntary associations, common citizenship, institutionalized political democracy, party competition, minor political cleavages, and capitalist mass production (Münch 1991a: 315-16). While each European sociological tradition had only partial ability to account for the historical variability of social phenomena, the complementary diversity of European social thought continues to resist attempts at its homogenization or integration into a mainstream social theory. As opposed to European social theory, structural functionalism (Parsons 1937; 1951; 1966; 1967b; 1969d; 1971; 1977; 1978a) has arguably lost connection with the intellectual contradictions of its European origins. As the empirical grasp of structural functionalism on the social reality it sought to describe slipped, the voices of its critics raised in the 1950s led to its demise as a leading theoretical paradigm in the 1960s. To account for dynamic social change, links to diverse European traditions were reestablished by Münch (1982; 1984; 1991) with European sociology, by Coser (1956; 1967) and Dahrendorf (1958a; 1958b) with European conflict theory, by Homans (1961; 1974) with European neoclassical economics, by Blumer (1969) with German hermeneutics, by Garfinkel (1967) with German phenomenology, and by Gouldner (1970a; 1980) and Wallerstein (1974; 1980; 1984; 1989) with German political economy.
Save for Gouldner and Wallerstein, the institutionalization of the plurality of microsociological models (Ritzer 1985) has replaced the Parsons' attempt to build a unified theoretical framework with multiple adaptations of European thought to the empirical concerns of American sociology. Without recourse to broad comparative approaches, American sociology offered few alternatives to the complexity of structural functionalism (Münch 1991a: 317). In all its variety of conflict theory (Collins 1975), rational choice theory (Coleman 1990), symbolic interactionism (Blumer 1969; Strauss 1978), and ethnomethodology (Garfinkel 1967), American sociology spells out basic structures of the societies it studies. The society of the United States is constituted of "the many activities of free, independent agents who realize their individual selves through competition, exchange, negotiation, and cooperation" (Münch 1991a: 317). The globally dominant position of American sociology after World War II affected the development of sociological theory around the world. There its academic system exerts a standardizing effect on European sociology (Münch 1986a). The sociological periodicals of the United States impose, through their editors and reviews, format and quality requirements upon their widely disseminated distribution network marked by uniform professionalism not unlike other global franchises from the United States (Ritzer 1983).
Münch’s position is that the American system of sociological education in its dedication to professional standards has led to greatly narrowing the range of deviation from average scholarly quality. This is not the case in Europe where exceptional diversity of its sociological traditions has made it possible to produce works of a much higher level of excellence (Münch 1991a: 318). Correspondingly, as economic paradigm is increasingly ascendant in American sociology (Coleman 1990), claiming to represent a defining direction of theoretical development, as did structural functionalism (Parsons 1937), the major source of inspiration for the current economic turn is neoclassical economics exclusively built around rational choice theory. Such an economic paradigm of sociology excludes other aspects of social phenomena that are not only no less important than economic calculation but also exercise reciprocal impact on the latter (Münch 1994):
This is the point where culture, another dimension of social life that does not establish substantial presence in the world of rational choice theory, comes into play. Just as this theory does not succeed in dealing appropriately with the non-rational elements of social life when it comes to revealing the roots of trust, common norms, and binding decisions, it also fails to deal appropriately with the concept of rationality itself. It reduces rationality to the narrow concept of instrumental economic rationality or goal rationality. Yet that leaves out of account the world of ideas, values, cognitions, norms, and expressions as the subject of interpersonal communication. Both ideas and communication stand in relation to each other according to laws that cannot be understood in terms of rational choice. People live in a world where what they believe in, what they perceive, and what they share with each other determines very strongly what they view as their own legitimate self-interest and that of others and whether they respect the self-interest of other people. Whether I ultimately honor the rights of other ethnic groups to have equal access to any public good that my group enjoys depends largely on the culture within which I live. This culture entails the values, norms, and cognitions that that can be mobilized for the support of a specific right. This is a cultural relationship of the logical derivation of rights from values, norms, and ideas and of consistency or inconsistency between rights, on the one hand, and values or norms, on the other. In rational choice theory, there is no language for dealing with this aspect of the world. (My translation, Münch 2004b: 124)
Economic sociology, in common with conflict theory, social interactionism, and ethnomethodology, puts transactions between free individuals at the center of its construction of social reality. Its theoretical parsimony, empirical applicability, and basis in the common sense of American economy have contributed to its dominant position in social theory. This puts at a disadvantage other directions of theoretical development overshadowed by the prolonged centrality of American sociology in the world (Münch 1991a: 319).
As “the most exactly and precisely formulated theory” (Münch 1991a: 319), rational choice theory enjoys wide-spread recognition and success that its exact reproducibility, wide applicability, and high quality ensure for it around the world. Despite minimal instruction in the cultural, theoretical, or philosophical underpinnings of rational choice theory, the latter finds its reflection in the global expansion of Western capitalism. However, rational choice paradigm represents a reductive synthesis of other sociological theories that encompass diverse aspects of social life going far beyond the common denominator of economic perspective (Münch 1991a: 320). To rebalance international relations among intellectual traditions of America, Europe and Asia it is necessity to cover a wider range of social phenomena than any single scholarly tradition is able to. In Europe, multiple theoretical schools have historically coexisted that, “based on their own philosophical principles and methodological rules” (Münch 1991a: 320), neither put any single paradigm at the center of their sociological traditions nor professionalize themselves as a discipline.
Historical Overview of European Sociological Traditions
Münch proposes a concerted effort is required to mobilize European theoretical traditions in order to achieve an account of reality that would be sociologically comprehensive in its dealing with the diversity of social phenomena. For him, the more important contributions to social theory come from British, French, and German traditions (Münch 1986a; 1986b; 1986c; 1989). As British sociology displaced Spencer's (1897; 1975; Spencer and Collins 1914) liberalism, utilitarianism, and evolutionism after World War II, it has developed its own school of Marxist class-conflict theory. This was done by such scholars as Rex (1962; 1981), Lockwood (1958), Goldthorpe (1968; Goldthorpe, Llewellyn, and Payne 1980), Miliband (1982), and Giddens (1984), amongst others, that do not evince a philosophical influence of Hegel as does German Marxism. In Britain, Marxist sociologists, without giving much weight to theory development, have acted in alliance with established power structures to apply class-conflict theory to labor politics, the extension of rights and welfare services, and the regulation of industrial production (Münch 1991a: 321). The British labor politics of compromise secured existing class hierarchy by utilizing the power of mobilization through organizations and unions to bring improvements in the social conditions of working classes emphasizing thereby the solidarity and community.
Münch reads the workers’ struggle in Britain within a structure of solidarity among their classes where “tutelage from above and deference from below” (Münch 1991a: 322) ensured the acceptance of the existing class structure. Consequently, the latter has inhibited technology-related productivity increases, individual achievement, and job requirements change. The Thatcherist policy of curbing union power and appealing to individualism has weakened solidarity both within and among classes. While allowing change and innovation to promote the economic development of British society, the implementation of Thatcherist policy-making has made it necessary to restore inter-class consensus. The vibrancy of Marxist sociology in Britain has made an important historical contribution to the establishment of social consensus among classes.
In contrast, French sociologists belong to a flourishing intellectual elite with a wide audience appreciative of their works appearing in the course of rapidly changing cycles of intellectual fashion (Münch 1991a: 323). Works of Saint-Simon (1980; 1865), Comte (1998a; 1830; 1853), and Durkheim (1897; 1973a) continue to exert a definitive impact on French sociology. French sociology envisions society as an organic whole governed from the top of its hierarchic organization. There, every class has specialized functions that in their sum promote social development, individual liberation, and general well-being.
After World War II, structuralism (Lévi-Strauss 1949; 1962) and Marxism (Althusser and Balibar 1968; 1970; Lefebvre 1959; 1966) gave an impetus to the development of French sociology by highlighting the constitutive role of autonomous structures. The development of French sociology was carried forth by poststructuralism (Foucault 1969; 1971; 1975), deconstructionism (Derrida 1967), and postmodernism (Lyotard 1979; 1983; Zylberberg and Baudrillard 1986). The latter interpreted social domination in terms of the relations between power and discourse, of the mutual implication of social structures and texts, and of the “plurality of aesthetic projects” (Münch 1991a: 324). Beginning with Descartes ([1618-1637] 1963), in French thought power is perceived abstractly so that the access to its manifestation lies in textual structures that only intellectuals can contest as they struggle for the achievement of universal freedom explicitly pursued by actionist sociology (Touraine 1973; 1978). French sociology of Crozier (1964), Bourricaud (1976), Bourdieu (1979), and Boudon (1977) combines the standardized empirical approach of American rational choice theories with an emphasis on social structures thus continuing the positivistic tradition of Durkheim and Parsons. Not without a precedent in Tocqueville (1856; 1967), for French sociologists social structure is represented by the positional power of individuals within bureaucracies (Crozier 1964), capital cities (Bourricaud 1976), and economic, social, and cultural capital structures (Bourdieu 1979; 1984; 1985). In this tradition, social structure serves the mobilization of “appropriate resources in the power struggle” (Münch 1991a: 325).
From the three above sociological traditions, German sociology, from Münch’s perspective, differs in the drawbacks and advantages that set it aside as an important counter-hegemonic intellectual tradition. Drawing upon the cumulative development of philosophy and social thought since the German Enlightenment of the late 18th and early 19th century, German sociology operates under the conditions of academic autonomy where theories, concepts and ideas provide its exclusive environment. This has made possible its “conceptual sharpness, theoretical consistency, and logical conclusiveness” (Münch 1991a: 326). In contrast to French sociology, the academic consistency of German social theory lacks innovation and spontaneity. This leads to its theoretical development by way of either reinterpretation of classical and contemporary works (Habermas 1971; 1973; 1981) or return to classical problems and solutions whenever a radical break with tradition is attempted (Luhmann 1984; 1986; 1988). The impact of philosophical idealism on German social thought expresses itself in rendering modern society understandable via the dynamics of dialectical contradictions located in culture and institutions. For Kant (1966), moral universalism and moral particularism tend to converge while never coinciding, whereas, for Hegel (1957; 1972), the freedom of reason and the necessity of reality can merge by gradual resolution of the contradictions between them. In an ideal sense, the state can be the embodiment of the resolution of these contradictions whenever philosophical thinkers acting under autonomous academic conditions guide its rulings. This Hegelian position on the role of academic intellectuals is in stark contrast to the engaged proletariat that Marx ( 1956;  1962;  1963;  1964) expected to perform a homologous function as agents of historical change within capitalist economy.
With tragic consequences, Nazism and Stalinism represent totalitarian extremisms that German idealism could not contain within its synthetic logic. The Nazi state sought to exterminate social contradictions of capitalism while the Soviet state pursued the eradication of economic contradictions of communism. Both of these regimes led to total domination by a party elite. For the suffering that these two totalitarian regimes inflicted in the 20th century German social theory carries responsibility because it lent them intellectual legitimation, however minor it may be (Münch 1991a: 327). However, the contradictions of modernity have nowhere found their as deep and as sharp elucidations as in the works of such German social theorists as Simmel (1890; 1900; 1908;  1926) and Weber ( 1972;  1972;  1973;  1976). They have made an unparalleled contribution to the sociology of institutions (Schluchter 1971; 1972). Münch argues that their theoretical importance is growing (Schluchter 1979; 1988) after a long period of narrow political reception (Hennis 1987; Mommsen 1959; 1974).
In German critical theory, instrumental reason prevents Enlightenment-based modernity from realizing its claims for a full realization of human potential (Horkheimer 1967; Horkheimer and Adorno 1947). For this, either the objectification of conceptual thought (Adorno 1966; 1973) or the regulatory colonization of communicative life-worlds (Habermas 1971; 1973; 1981) are held responsible, with aesthetic criticism and communicative rationality being respectively proposed remedies.
Though Habermas argues that discursive procedures should serve as institutionalized connective links among specialized social domains, only together with the “procedures of negotiation, compromise, and conflict settlement” (Münch 1991a: 329) can they contribute to managing the complexity of modern societies. The autopoietic systems, i.e. self-organizing systems, (Luhmann 1984; 1986; 1988) that modern societies are composed of should be approached as institutionalized functional domains contingently interpenetrating each other while leaving room for individual and collective action (Münch 1991b) and for critical reflection (Beck 1986; 1988; Willke 1983; 1989). To maintain the relevance of distinct contributions of European social thought to the discipline of sociology, it is necessary to integrate its perspectives and its variety into sociological theory. This, however, should be achieved not via the path of the standardization of sociology towards its professionalization as a discipline but via the preservation of its interrelated diversity (Münch 1991a: 329). The comparative advantage of American sociology in empirical research should be combined with the strengths of European theoretical achievements, in order to integrate distinct contributions of diverse national traditions into world sociology.
Exchange, cooperation and migration have always contributed to creating areas of overlap between sociological traditions. These traditions were carried by the wave of refugees from Nazi Germany in the 1930s, the movement of such British Marxist and class conflict theorists as Moore (1966), Skocpol (1979), and Wallerstein (1974; 1980; 1984), and the reception of European sociology by Alexander (1982; 1987b). Nevertheless, the need for integration between American and European sociology remains. No less necessary is the mutual integration of European theoretical traditions that have more developed communication and exchange with American sociology than with each other. An integrative approach to sociological theorization has to rest on the interrelated diversity of European schools of social thought should the latter exert a long-lasting theoretical influence (Münch 1991a: 330).
Philosophical Foundations of Parsons’ Social Theory
The general theory of action of Parsons shares with the critical philosophy of Kant its basic structure and method, its epistemological assumptions, and its object theory. The core of Parsons’ theory is that “concrete action is to be explained as a result of the inner laws and the characteristic interrelations of analytically distinct subsystems of action” (Münch 1981: 709). The response of Parsons to the problem of social order lying in interpenetration derives from Kantian transcendental philosophy.
Parsons takes normative orientation to be fundamental to the conceptualization of action. The latter he understands as an “effort to conform with norms” (Parsons  1968: 76-77) conceived of in relational terms that map it onto a space of regularities. Towards the latter, the epistemological intention of Parsons is comparable in its manner to how physical laws aim to capture the regularities of the physical world. The relation between an individual action and the environments that affect it is formulated by Parsons within a framework of “transcendental normative conditions” (Parsons 1978a: 370-71) in clear cognizance of Kant’s constitutive impact on both the Durkheim’s and Weber’s theorization of social structure. In the field of applied sociology, Parsons’ work begins with the analysis of Weber’s and Sombart’s concepts of capitalism (Parsons 1928; 1929), extends to economic theories of Marshall (Parsons 1931; 1932) and Pareto (Parsons 1936;  1968), culminates in the discussion of social action within classic sociology (Parsons  1968), and leads to the elaboration of action theory (Parsons 1978a). Consequently, Parsons’ work demands discussion as a classical contribution to social theory in its own right.
Although Parsons’ sociology has been associated with conservatism (Dahrendorf 1955; 1958a; Gouldner 1970a; Mills 1959), complicated model building, and theoretical reifications, the adequacy of his theory has barely been tested to explore the range and limits of its application. Nevertheless, the groundwork for the constructive interpretation (Münch 1976a; 1976b; 1978a; 1978b) of and the conceptual contributions (Parsons and Loubser 1976) to Parsons’ action theory has been laid. Though the importance of Parsons’ work has been ranked very high (Faris 1953; House 1939; 1950), the abstruse style of his writing has led to his theories attracting few followers. This happened not least because its complexity has continued to increase over time. This, however, does not diminish his contribution to sociology. Similar to philosophy, it needs to pay systematic attention to its theoretical foundations, as Münch argues (1981: 710-11). Neither general arguments nor global judgments make it possible to assess the explanatory power of Parsons’ theory. His theory draws its fruitfulness from the “joining of opposites – of general theory development with empirical-practical analysis” (Münch 1981: 711) that continually systematizes its formulation of relations between theoretical logic and social practice.
Parsons has demonstrated that when applied to diverse particular cases his theoretical framework had the effect of bringing “considerable clarity, consistency, and continuity” (Parsons 1970: 868) to the mutual clarification of both formal definitions of theoretical problems and empirical insights deriving from research proceeding in a manner not unlike a legal adjudication. The theoretical effort of Parsons has primary importance for the mutual reinforcement of the explanatory power of both theoretical research and practical problem-solving that can supply theoretical constructions with content and empirical intuitions with frames of conceptual reference (Münch 1981: 712). The interpenetration of theoretical concepts and intuitive experience finds it earliest explication in the works of Kant. The latter had profound importance for the development of Parsons’ theories of action and social systems. Via repeated engagement with Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason (1781; 1956), Parsons structured his engagement with sociological discourse through the lens of Kantian thinking (Parsons 1970: 876). Taking his point of departure from the Kant’s duality of theoretical categories and empirical knowledge exemplified in practical ethics or aesthetic judgment, Parsons expands this duality across other fields of science to formulate theoretical structure as “an a priori set of conditions without which the phenomena in question could not be conceived” (Parsons 1978b: 355-56) systematically. Parsons’ theorization of action and social systems follows the conceptual track of development of its structure and method that is parallel to the critical philosophy of Kant. Consequently, according to Münch (1981: 713), the deficiency in historical contextualization that Parsons’ work exhibits can be rectified by utilizing Kantian philosophical perspective for the sake of various concretizations of the theoretical framework of Parsons’ sociology.
Previous attempts at assessing correspondences between theories of Parsons and Kant (Bershady 1973) have committed the error of conceiving of Parsons’ action theory in narrowly functionalist, evolutionist, and historicist terms. In contrast, Parsons’ work stresses the “interpenetration between categories of […] understanding and sense data, between the categorical imperative and hypothetical imperative, between the teleological principle and concrete judgments” (Münch 1981: 713). These contributions form the underlying conceptual structure that informs without undergoing a major change its expansion in Parsons’ subsequent writing career.
In contrast to Kant, Hume’s (1739; 1740; 1978;  1902) empiricism and skepticism reduce knowledge to sense perceptions that bear no intrinsic connection to causal laws formulated by science. The latter finds support for its claims of necessary correspondence between its generalizations and regularities of experience in belief. For Kant, the possibility of scientific knowledge has as its transcendental condition the interaction between theory and experience that reciprocally verify intellection by empirical data and perception by universal categories without reducing the one to Descartes’ rationalism or the other to Hume’s empiricism (Münch 1981: 715). The hallmark of the interpenetration of abstract knowledge and empirical data is the rational experiment of Western science developed from the Italian renaissance and the English scientistic movement. Central to the critical philosophy of Kant is the transcendental argument that only established connection between a priori categories of judgment and sensory experience grants universal validity (Kant  2001: 22, 61-68). Kant’s Critique of Practical Reason ( 2003) rejects utilitarian moral theories on the basis of the impossibility of deriving the objective necessity of moral law from individual calculations of utility. Thus, he concludes that a judgment founded upon general rules though producing on average correct practical decisions cannot make claims for the universal validity necessary for the formulation of practical laws (Kant 1956: 37).
For Kant, binding moral laws only derive from the “linking of abstract categories and empirical ethical problems” (Münch 1981: 717) since practical validity cannot approximate universal validity. The former are not falsifiable on particular grounds. Consequently, the recourse to theoretical categories is indispensable should universally valid and order-producing laws be established (Kant 1956: 30). The philosophical foundations of the Kantian categorical imperative allow it to organize particular rules according to their universal validity. Through the interpenetration of logical abstraction and practical utility, the categorical imperative leads to a universal moral order. Such an order is impossible unless the incommensurability of conceptual systems is mutually reconciled (Münch 1981: 717). However, social development does not inevitably end in such an interpenetration, as Weber ( 1972: 435-38;  1972: 143-46) has demonstrated, since whereas the concept of natural law has consistently evolved in the West, both in China and in India abstract moral theory and practical regulation were kept in isolation from one another (Münch 1981: 717). In Münch’s (1981) opinion, Kant’s philosophy providing the presuppositions of modern scientific and moral judgment allows for a reassessment of the Parsons’ treatment of Durkheim, Weber and Freud. The integrative conceptual approach resulting from Münch’s systematization of Parson’s sociology sheds light on unexplored possibilities of social theory building.
Drawing upon Kant’s transcendental conditions of judgment, Parsons ( 1968) developed his theory of action with the aim of establishing its universal validity. This concern Parsons shared with Durkheim, Weber, Marshall, and Pareto, as he recognized that social ordering directly links to the level of human action. Seeking to arrive at an adequate theory of action, Parsons recognized human agency as conforming to the criteria of transcendental judgment as much as the conceptual foundations of social theories do (Parsons 1978b: 370-71). Enlarging upon the works of Pareto, Marshall, Weber, and Durkheim, since his earliest attempts at sociological theory Parsons sought to reconcile the general theory of action with particular social systems in their interrelationship. Parsons’ contribution to the theory of action is not unlike Kant’s development of critical philosophy. One of the earliest philosophical theorists of the action underpinnings of social order, Hobbes (1651; 1966) anchors social order in the shared patterns of behavior that form a system of rational expectations to prevent a war of all against all. Individual calculations of utility can neither rule out nor minimize the possible negative effects of anarchy in situations where a ‘prisoner’s dilemma’ applies. Social order is only achievable when a certain distribution of rights is universalized (Münch 1981: 719). For Parsons ( 1968: 89-94), utilitarian action not only does not prevent but is also socially conducive to irrational and destructive consequences. The normative distribution of rights and duties prevents these negative consequences by putting the principle of adherence to norms above utility calculation, should a normative order become a reality.
In Hobbes’ (1651; 1966) view, a consistent utilitarianism has as its own limit the rational realization by actors that, should lasting security be achieved, only a sovereign rule can guarantee the common order to which their individual power should be transferred. Parsons ( 1968: 93) contests Hobbes’ position on the grounds that rationality is limited to the individual rather than the collective level. The circumstances of action by multiple individuals are impossible to calculate on a collective level in utilitarian terms. As long as normative limitations to their utility calculations do not obtain, a normative order is impossible to establish through the force of agreement alone. For this reason, the Hobbesian conception of sovereignty makes authority unconditional as a guarantor of legal accountability (Münch 1981: 720). Therefore, utilitarian calculations cannot provide a basis for social order. Hobbes (1651; 1966) demonstrates this when he opposes the state of nature, when trust is absent, and social order, when the latter is arrived at through external sanctions. For Coleman (1971; 1973; 1974), social exchange fails to produce social order other than via collective resources. For Vanberg (1978), social order is impossible, when centralized power to make binding decisions collapses norms into decisions supported by force. Even though, according to utilitarian models, the individual motivation to accept a social order based on centralized decision-making can come from an ability to impose sanctions, the limitless field of purely utilitarian calculations undermines the possibility of a stable order. Changes in the distribution of power resources can undermine an institutionalized hierarchy of power unless a normative limit to utilitarian calculation is posed to prevent an “unlimited struggle for power” (Parsons  1968: 94).
Arguing that utilitarianism does not explain social order, Parsons follows the Kantian critique of skepticism in postulating that even an incomplete realization of social order requires an explanation of its existence. This is the case especially once utilitarian solutions to the problem of order (Ellis 1971; Schütte 1977; Vanberg 1975; 1978) prove to not give an adequate account of its conditions of possibility, as is argued by Münch (1981: 721-22). Neither a utilitarian nor a normativist, Parsons’ solution to the problem of order is a voluntarist one that makes it possible to represent society as not “a completely causally determined factual order” (Münch 1981: 722) but as one where voluntary consent requires a rational justification of the norms that interpenetrate with means-ends rationality (Parsons  1968: 82). This interpenetration means, just as it does for Kant, the existence of a normative boundary to the calculation of utility. Consequently, together they form the necessary structure that makes a rational action possible. In parallel to Kant’s treatment of universal validity, logical consistency, and causal laws as following from structured perception, cognitive boundedness, concept formation, and logical conclusions, Parsons examines action as consisting of ends, available means, given conditions, and selection principles (Parsons  1968: 77-82). These he considers to be systemically generative of social order or lack thereof (Münch 1981: 724).