9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN29 Social Theory

2009-09-03 09:00:00 2009-09-03 10:30:00 Thursday, 3 September 09:00 - 10:30 European Society or European Societies? II Building AA, AA.329

A Way out for Europe through the Concept of Societal Community

Sociological concepts can play a relevant role in building Europe as a community beyond state borders and the post-WWII division between East and West. Habermas proposed the concept of constitutional patriotism after abandoning the idea of guiding a communicative reorientation of the Parsonian concept of societal community. This paper sustains that Habermas' abandon was the result of his misunderstanding of Parsons' theory, and a dialogic reorientation of the concept of societal community is able to give a sociological orientation to the building of Europe.
Habermas clearly explains the role of the three revolutions already concluded in Parsons' theory: the industrial, the democratic and the educational revolutions detached the economic, the political and the cultural subsystems from the original community. There is still a fourth revolution, the expressive one, but Habermas argues that one cannot understand what this revolution will detach. He even gets angry with what he considers to be Parsons' mistake: "What we then find vexing is the fact that Parsons introduces the system of the basic conditions of human existence intention recta by way of supplementing the action system with three additional subsystems" (Habermas, 1987, p.255). In some works that not quoted by Habermas, Parsons clarifies that expressive revolution does not detach anything from the community but rather reintegrate economy, polity and culture within a new societal community.
Parsons thinks the societal community is more developed in North America than in Europe. He says, "One possible consequence of the pluralization of religion is reduce moral consensus. Value generalization has been much more important: the underlying moral consensus has persisted, but is defined at a higher level of generality than in the European societies that have institutionalized internal religious uniformity" (Parsons, 1977, p.193). For him, in order to develop its own societal community Europe should create a community identity with common principles among all citizens. But even after 1989, Europe has not been able to find such a common ground. Parsons? concept is useful to understand current difficulties and to provide orientations needed to overcome them, at the same time that a communicative reorientation of this concept is possible.