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How To Cope With Parallel Challenges: The Analytical Theory of Modernity and Second Modernity

How To Cope With Parallel Challenges:
The Analytical Theory of Modernity
and Second Modernity
Hanno Scholtz
ABSTRACT: Somewhat tired and perplexed that was how in 2015 the Western world commemorated
the end of World War II seventy years ago. Challenges as terror, war, and migration, being complex
and puzzling no less than those of the 1930s, shatter the former complacency of having built a sustain-
able world order on the ruins of 1945. This text provides in condensed version an explanation for this
parallel. Since the transition crisis towards industrial society finally ended with industrial society,
hence with a mid-term sustainable and more just and peaceful set of institutions built on group-based
responsible linkage, this explanation includes predictions about elements that will allow to find a sus-
tainable and more just and peaceful order of institutionsin the near future.
1, University of Zurich, Sociological Institute, Andreasstr. 15, CH 8050 Zurich,
Somewhat tired and perplexed that was how in 2015 the Western world commemorated the end of World
War II seventy years ago. Challenges as terror, war, and migration, being complex and puzzling no less
than those of the 1930s, shatter the former complacency of having built a sustainable world order on the
ruins of 1945. Even commemoration has changed its face: Over decades, ever new groups of former
victims have been included into remembrance. This year, the usual rituals suddenly reminded how many
people currently die.
This parallel of challenges should be, however, more a stimulus than a hindrance. It opens the perspec-
tive towards changes necessary to cope with the current problems. Instead of seeing the current challenges
as signs of an end of modernity, they can be read as signs for a current transition to a second step of moder-
nity far beyond what Ulrich Beck discussed thirty years ago. Parallel problems result from two steps of
modernity, each in a stage of transition when organization already follow new rules while societies and
their institutions did not have implement the new logic. Between 1813 and 1930, the modern principles of
rationality and deliberation were implemented around organizations as household, firms or parties. But it
took a long, bad period until the macro-social acceptance of collective bargaining provided a stable base for
industrial society after 1945 at least in societies that were used to the European (and Japanese, and partly
Indian) tradition of stable group bargaining structures under generally accepted institutions. The introduc-
tion of the modern principles of rationality and deliberation within these organizations, however, started
only in 1968, and the related macro-social arrangements are not yet established. This is where the current
problems come from: Democracy based on organizing society in groups works less and less in Western
societies and did never work as well in societies outside group-related traditions and on the supra-national
level. Labor relations based on organizing society in groups excludes more and more people in Western
societies and did never work as well in Non-Western societies.
Currently, societies‘ power positions are occupied by cohorts that grew up in times of industrial socie-
ty stability and hence tend to attribute stability to the group-based institutions which in between have
turned from being the solution to being part of the problem. The speed of generational sequence has more
or less stayed the same, so, starting in both cases with a terrorist attack, the time from June 28, 1914 to
1949 may relate to a time from September 11, 2001 to 2036, until power positions will be filled by „mille-
nials“. The latter do no longer attribute social stability to group affiliations but to individual social net-
works. What is being perceived as normal is already changing, and in about 20 years this process will be
But what kind of specific institutions will emerge in this process? Which changes will result to cope
with the more individualistic setting of these days and of the Non-Western (and Non-Japanese and Non-
Indian) world? To understand this, we have to step back a bit to a more general understanding.
Generally, the increasing complexity of society means that less is fixed. Modern rationality and delib-
eration imply more decisions. Efficient decision-making needs the creation of responsibility, co-operation
of individuals and organizations to make use of the mutual advantages of both levels, and hence a linkage
between both levels (to make inter-level co-operation possible), and competition (to assess the performance
of organizations).
In the crisis of the 1930s, competition was the crucial point. From the past, people were used to un-
questioned authority, and first experiences with competition violated stability images that had been shaped
against the background of the Thirty Years‘ war and other case of collapsing order. The answer was the
fascist attempt to eliminate competition in politics and labor relations. After its abysmal end, Churchill
ironically described democracy as „the worst form government, except all that have been tried“ and
surprisedly, everyone nodded: As unexpected matter of course, industrial society was now tied to a com-
mitment to democracy and workers‘ rights, since appropriately regulated campaigns and labor disputes
efficiently transmitted information about scarcity relations and power relations in a world that had become
more complex. Compared to this, the linkage between individuals and organizations was rather trivial,
because the combination of modern competitive relations between organizations and traditionally stable
relations between organizations intensified the occidental assignment of individuals to groups, so that
organizations (parties, unions, schools) needed to address only groups.
Currently, this situation has turned: Although currently critique of competition is en vogue again, peo-
ple are used to it. But the linkage between individuals and organizations has become problematic. Respon-
sible linkages between individuals and organizations collide with images of privacy that have been shaped
against the totalitarian background of the 1930s but have gathered momentum in a way that currently
hinders social development. This is where efficiency is hidden, and it will be used, simply because this is
the only way out of the current crisis. The individual linkages between people and their organizations will
become more efficient, and with a newly appropriate regulation they will allow the provision of infor-
mation transmission and responsibility allocation as efficient as necessary for today’s increased complexity
With regards to politics, the problem is vote detachment: We fear violations of ballot secrecy, set a ta-
boo, throw our vote into the ballot and take back our hand. And hence we deprive ourselves of all possibili-
ties which are included in keeping that linkage. Although the responsibility of last resort for every decision
is with people, the people is always kept away of most of these decisions, and although in most areas other
groups apart from parties have much more knowledge than parties, these advocacy organizations are
completely excluded from formal decision-making and relegated to informal lobbying processes. But when
the taboo is tackled, liquid democracy will be possible that stores trust assignments encrypted, hence
extensively secure, but of course never perfect safe agaignst possibele insight. But that allows to make
more decisions subject of a ‚liquid‘ flexible direct democracy where those who do not want to the cognitive
investment in an own opinion can be represented through their stored trust assignments and the positions of
the supported groups. This allows to integrate specialized organizational competence, most legitimacy
problems of current votes cease, and even the danger of a tyranny of the majority can be banned.
With regards to skills and work, the problem is leaving school: We fear violations of independence, set
a taboo, and leave school, university, and every coach and career counseler on our way, pay the bill (or
others pay it for us) and go our way. And hence we deprive ourselves of all possibilities which are included
in keeping that linkage. The appropriate incentive for all these organizations on our way should not be to be
paid when we leave but to add to economic autonomy, performance and development over our trajectories.
But when the taboo is tackled, economically responsible support becomes possible that pays education,
training and coaching for their factual contribution to individual human capital, including liabilities in the
opposite case. This eliminates the problem of being left on one’s own that is, as stated by either inequality
or unemployment figures, or both, overwhelming for an increasing part of populations even in the advanced
economies, not to speak of other parts of the world.
Currently, these taboos are still valid. They are so valid that even related research is difficult. Universi-
ties, funding institutions and even journals and publishers focus on research that is directly applicable and
questions current institutions at most in single aspects. And for the sketched institutions, a lot additional
knowledge is needed.
But in only ten to twenty years from now, such knowledge will be available, and institutions as
sketched (or along similar lines) will structure the political and economic world distinctly different than it
is today, and help solving the current problems plus the global environmental problems that are here to
stay anyway, with an unprecedented increase in relevance and a complete impossibility to be solved within
the current institutional framework.
As example take a small sketch of how different would the world look like with the future institutions
with reference to the current migration problems. Migration arises in countries where neither of the indus-
trial-era dichotomy of group-oriented Western democracy and old-style dictatorship does any longer fit and
the false friends (or inappropiate attempts to cling to one of these old alternatives) have created political or
economic chaos and in many cases both. Liquid democracy allows true democracy based on individualized
trust relations and hence sets a framework in which individuals will re-gain the perspective to understand
their polities as their own and hence develop the norms to respect the other and the guts to be responsible
for that. Responsible coaching on the other hand develops the much-needed individual skills to convert a
stable political framework into growth and development.
But will these developments emerge by themselves? Eventually, we may just expect them, sit by the
side and observe how they will happen. But this is rather improbable. In comparison to the 1940s, this time
co-ordination between many actors is necessary to deviate from the current course of escalating violence.
The current situation is both more comfortable and more complicated than that of the 1940s. Numbers of
victims rise, but are far below former figures mainly because people, so far, more easily flee where
aggression converts into mass murder. But current institutions will not allow to come back to stability as in
the 1950s or 1980s, and the escalation of problems will continue. The situation is more comfortable only
insofar as there is more information available and we can learn especially from the 1940s. It is however
more complicated at the same time: In the 1940s, escalating violence led into an apokalypse, but into
catharsis, as well. After the deep cultural crisis of the 1930s, fifty million people were killed, but the
surviving populations of Europe and their organizations learned some necessary lessons, and with this
foundation, during and after World War II a few politicians were able to create the institutional constraints
that allowed for the stability of Western societies for the rest of the century. Today, however, serial pro-
cesses are not enough. Parallel processes are needed, and the definition of new institutional contraints
involves many more people. The micro and meso levels of individuals and organizations on the one and the
macro level of institutional change have to be linked much more intensely. Both in politics and work,
organizational responsibility and the interaction of individuals and organizations have to emerge at the
same time as institutional systems that use, link, and nurture responsibility.
Actors who do not sit by the side but see responsible linkage as a possible and perhaps the only good
and realistic way to newly sustainable institutions, will have to unite with strategy and organization.
Strategically, we talk about starting a social movement with emergence, coalescence, structuration and
institutionalization as steps over time. The appropriate organizational form will be three-dimensionally
differentiated, with the first dimension between the institutional fields of politics and of skills and work, the
second between communication with other actors and answering the many remaining questions of institu-
tional design, and the third between further research and practical action, funded in a loop that starts with
foundations and proceeds via citizens and organizational actors back to the macro-level of institutíonalized
decision support. In being related to the full fields-levels matrix, the research side will further study the
mechanisms already elaborated in the book and especially those new findings that are derived from its
argumentation, in the politics-actors cell the link between differentiation and democracy, in the skills-actors
cell the superiority of debate orientation to disciplinary orientation, and, just as an additional argument, the
internediate high of divorce probabilities in the household-actors and hence finally in the the skills-actiors
cell, was well.
Due to remaining open questions, the fears described, and some false friends along the way, this way
will not be easy. But a first path is sketched.
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