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Schutzian Research

Volume 4, 2012

Ken’ichi Kawano
Pages 65-77
DOI: 10.7761/SR.4.65

Reformulation of “How Is Society Possible?”

“How is society possible?” posed by Georg Simmel has been one of the fundamental problems in sociology. Although various attempts have been made to solve it, I conceive that “society” in the problem remains to be articulated. Simmel provides us with two concepts of society—“society as interaction” and “society as unity”—to be distinguished. Some research traditions in sociology have been concerned with the former, others have dealt with the latter. On the other hand, Simmel maintains continuity between them. In this sense, his concept of “society” has “ambiguous” characteristics. It seems to me that in the ambiguous style Simmel had intended to reveal the secret of “society,” but in the end could not have got to it. In my opinion, in order to unveil the secret, it is required that, drawing on Schutzian phenomenologically oriented sociology, sociologists or social scientists make a differentiation between the society which is realized or brought about by partners with no need of an observer, “the social,” and the society which an observer recognizes by use of the concept. In this article, from a Schutzian point of view, I wish to articulate “society” and to indicate four phases of “society.” These investigations lead to a reformulation of the problem of “how is society possible?” and sociology (or the social sciences) which makes possible the deeper understanding of society.