Development of Society

Society – holistic character and dynamic


Formation, historical block, (super-)structure …


Action, change, …

1) No society sets itself tasks for whose accomplishment the necessary and sufficient conditions do not exist

2) no society breaks down and can be replaced until it has developed all the forms of life which are implicit in its internal relations

Necessary to find the correct relation between what is organic and what is conjunctural

Dialectical and material and historical relationships


Other ideologies are non-organic creations because they are contradictory, because they aim at reconciling opposed and contradictory interests; .. The philosophy of practice … does not tend towards the peaceful resolution of the contradictions existing within history. It is itself the theory of those contradictions.

(Gramsci, Antonio: Political Ideologies; in: David Forgacs [ed.]: A Gramsci Reader. Selected Writings 1916-1935; London: Lawrence&Wishart, 1988: 197)



Taken together arrive at an analytical pattern that allows to look at societal development in different dimensions.


Differentiation with the two dimensions (technical and social), going hand in hand with the constitution of the fundamental contradiction in capitalist societies (private appropriation of socially produced wealth – a contradiction with an antagonist character) is the foundation of development of capitalist societies and their «maintenance».

Broadly taken, we are concerned with the transition from an agricultural economy based on feudal social relations to an industrial economy based on capitalist wage relations.

The basic 4 formations are


primitive communities


ancient communism






As general process of «socialisation» we find the pattern of increasing freedom and the dialectical «Aufhebung» as simultaneity of


sublation and



What had been frequently issued in social science under headings as «from status to contract» etc. and what had been tackled with regard to its different dimensions (Maine: legal; Durkheim: social; Toennies: economic; Elias: behavioural) can be summarised with the following graph:

The «societal stage» is appropriated by society, i.e. by the people living in the society, becoming a «second[1] social nature», and making subsequently further societal development (a) possible and (b) necessary.

To (a)

Simply speaking of the possibility is following more the idealistic perspective of looking at an enhancing «space» in which the individual can freely develop, according to «independent choices». This can be seen in bourgeois economy for example when we see the theses of increasing wealth by individuals pursuing their own, individual interests (Smith’s «invisible hand») and as well in sociological approaches à la Beck and the theses of individualisation as increasing independence of individuals from society that – this is the proposal by Beck – paradoxically emerges from socialisation.

Still, as a matter of growing freedom (see the definition of freedom by Hegel in section on «Basis – Superstructure»)  and as material condition (and the development of material conditions) the possibility is as well an important  factor in a materialist perspective. However, it is important to distinguish between the fundamental approach of/presumption of «harmonic equilibria» in bourgeois thinking and «dialectic conflicts» on the other side in Marxist thinking.

NB: Mind that there are conflictual elements in idealist dialectic thinking as well.

To (b)

Looking at «possibility» as well as a moment in Marxist perspective (as just said before), societal development is as well (and first and foremost) a matter of necessity. As being fundamentally concerned with the analysis of dialectical processes in form of «Aufhebung» (sublation and supersession) Marxist thinking can be seen as «conflictual approach», defining development as a matter of setting and solving conflicts.

One crude aspect of socialisation in form of societalisation can be seen in the necessity of regulatory forms to control social conflicts. In relatively late stages of historical development this is the development of the state as «ideal collective capitalist» and institution of political control.


It follows from here that we can explain – in conjunction with the economic analysis of the capitalist formation

a) the development of specific

Ø      accumulation regimes

Ø      modes of regulation

Ø      life regimes

Ø      modes of life (see the definitions provided on this site – mind: these are not formations)

b) the development of «social problems» and challenges that require societal answers as «social», let alone individual answers fall short of providing solutions.

    Mind: the recognition of certain problems as «social» in character does not mean that they do not have an individual dimension to it (a) and that they are not «individualised» in terms of politically dealing with them (e.g. via blaming the victim …)

c) subsequently with the recognition of certain problems as social in character (rather than being simply and solely individual problems) the development of a «social infrastructure» as response.

With regard to the last two aspects, the analysis of both the development of «social problems» and the «welfare state» –  although very much a political process has to be recognised as a fundamentally economic process.


[1]          And third, and fourth ….