UZH-Logo

Maintenance Infos

Social, The: History of the Concept


Terrier, Jean (2015). Social, The: History of the Concept. In: Wright, James D. International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences (Second Edition). Amsterdam: Elsevier, 827-832.

Abstract

This article describes the history of the concept of ‘the social’ as a substantivated adjective. Despite the growing use of the terms ‘society’ and ‘social’ in the eighteenth and nineteenth century, it is only at the beginning of the twentieth century that ‘the social’ started being used as an independent concept. In its simplest and most general meaning, ‘the social’ is the ensemble of phenomena involving a relation between human beings, and thus distinct from the individual and the natural. Emile Durkheim and Marcel Mauss used the expression in this sense. In the 1950s, Hannah Arendt gave a more limited meaning to the expression: she spoke of ‘the rise of the social’ to describe and criticize the development of modern industrialized societies; in these societies, economic activities (the production and consumption of goods) have become the primary concern of individuals, and the distribution of benefits the central activity of governments, resulting in a loss of political freedom. In the last decades of the twentieth century, the importance of the concept of ‘the social’ has steadily grown, thereby becoming one of the fundamental notions of the social sciences, central to many social theorists. ‘The social’ has thereby acquired a meaning of its own, independent of ‘society’: a more abstract term applicable to the macrolevel, as well as to the microlevel and with less connotations of homogeneity and boundedness, it is even often described, instead of ‘society,’ as the proper object of the social sciences and social philosophy.

This article describes the history of the concept of ‘the social’ as a substantivated adjective. Despite the growing use of the terms ‘society’ and ‘social’ in the eighteenth and nineteenth century, it is only at the beginning of the twentieth century that ‘the social’ started being used as an independent concept. In its simplest and most general meaning, ‘the social’ is the ensemble of phenomena involving a relation between human beings, and thus distinct from the individual and the natural. Emile Durkheim and Marcel Mauss used the expression in this sense. In the 1950s, Hannah Arendt gave a more limited meaning to the expression: she spoke of ‘the rise of the social’ to describe and criticize the development of modern industrialized societies; in these societies, economic activities (the production and consumption of goods) have become the primary concern of individuals, and the distribution of benefits the central activity of governments, resulting in a loss of political freedom. In the last decades of the twentieth century, the importance of the concept of ‘the social’ has steadily grown, thereby becoming one of the fundamental notions of the social sciences, central to many social theorists. ‘The social’ has thereby acquired a meaning of its own, independent of ‘society’: a more abstract term applicable to the macrolevel, as well as to the microlevel and with less connotations of homogeneity and boundedness, it is even often described, instead of ‘society,’ as the proper object of the social sciences and social philosophy.

Altmetrics

Additional indexing

Item Type:Book Section, not refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Institute of Philosophy
Dewey Decimal Classification:100 Philosophy
Language:English
Date:2015
Deposited On:15 Oct 2015 14:01
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 19:27
Publisher:Elsevier
ISBN:978-0-08-097087-5
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-08-097086-8.03116-0
Related URLs:http://www.recherche-portal.ch/ZAD:default_scope:ebi01_prod010515530 (Library Catalogue)

Download

Full text not available from this repository.View at publisher

TrendTerms

TrendTerms displays relevant terms of the abstract of this publication and related documents on a map. The terms and their relations were extracted from ZORA using word statistics. Their timelines are taken from ZORA as well. The bubble size of a term is proportional to the number of documents where the term occurs. Red, orange, yellow and green colors are used for terms that occur in the current document; red indicates high interlinkedness of a term with other terms, orange, yellow and green decreasing interlinkedness. Blue is used for terms that have a relation with the terms in this document, but occur in other documents.
You can navigate and zoom the map. Mouse-hovering a term displays its timeline, clicking it yields the associated documents.

Author Collaborations