Self-reference, Mutual Identification and Affect: The Parsonsian Problem of Order Reconsidered

Citation data:

Journal of Classical Sociology, ISSN: 1468-795X, Vol: 4, Issue: 3, Page: 259-288

Publication Year:
Usage 205
Abstract Views 202
Link-outs 3
Captures 17
Readers 13
Exports-Saves 4
Citations 2
Citation Indexes 2
Repository URL:;
CHEN, Hon Fai
SAGE Publications
Social Sciences; affect; Confucianism; double contingency; human condition; mutual identification; self-reference; social order; Sociology
article description
In this article I argue that in Parsons’ later works there is an implicit alternative to his normative solution to the problem of order. Luhmann’s theory of self-reference and Pizzorno’s notion of mutual identification are firstly invoked to recast the Parsonsian problematic in a ‘post-normative’ light. On the basis of Parsons’ later theory of societal solidarity, ritual and myth, I propose further that his concept of symbolic communication of affect delineates the process through which individuals recognize each other and thereby constitute social order. Mediated with symbols that are grounded in the human condition, communication of affect may substitute institutionalization of value to be the condition of possibility of social order. I also demonstrate that the significance of affect is a theme shared by the Chinese tradition of Confucianism, which is introduced to refine the humanistic intent of Parsons’ theory and broaden its scope of applicability outside the Western context. © 2004, SAGE Publications. All rights reserved.