Differentiation and Dedifferentiation

A central focus of the research area "Sociological Theory" is the elaboration and further development of an action-based differentiation theory subsequent to Max Weber.

Differentiation is the central concept to understand the structure as well as the developing process towards modern societies. This concept has a long tradition and continuity in the history of sociology. But even today, the theory of differentiation is essential for understanding the historical origins and basic patterns of modern societies. Many aspects, problems and issues that are dealt with in sociology find their theoretical bracket in the concept of differentiation.

Following the ideas of Max Weber and in contrast to systems theoretical conceptions of differentiation, Professor Thomas Schwinn developed a differentiation theory that not only allows us to describe the structural variance of modern institutional configurations, but also to explain their historical genesis in terms of a Weberian action theory.

Dr. Ulrich Bachmann's habilitation project deals with the relationship between differentiation and dedifferentiation in modern societies. In recent years, a series of historical-empirical studies has led to a growing need to revise the notion of a steadily increasing differentiation in modern societies. This raises the question to what extent modern differentiation theories are capable of integrating processes of dedifferentiation, re-differentiation, or hybridization of differentiation patterns into their theoretical framework. The aim is to further develop the analytical and historical-empirical potential of differentiation theory and thus to arrive at a more differentiated differentiation theory.

Recommended literature:

  • Bachmann, U.: Medien und die Koordination des Handelns. Wiesbaden: Springer VS 2017.
  • Schwinn, Th.: Differenzierung ohne Gesellschaft. Umstellung eines soziologischen Konzepts. Weilerswist: Velbrück Wissenschaft 2001.
  • Schwinn, Th./Kroneberg, C./Greve, J. (Hg.): Soziale Differenzierung. Handlungstheoretische Zugänge in der Diskussion. Wiesbaden: VS Verlag 2011.
  • Schwinn, Th.: Differenzierung, in: Wörterbuch der Soziologie, G. Endruweit, G. Trommsdorff, N. Burzan (Hg.), 3. Aufl. Konstanz: UVK 2014.
  • Schwinn, Th.: Wertsphären und Lebensordnungen, in: H.-P. Müller/S. Sigmund (Hg.), Max Weber Handbuch. Leben - Werk - Wirkung. Stuttgart: Metzler 2014.