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Self-reference, mutual identification and affect : the Parsonsian problem of order reconsidered
Journal of Classical Sociology
  • Hon Fai CHEN, Chinese University of Hong Kong
Document Type
Journal article
Publication Date
  • affect,
  • Confucianism,
  • double contingency,
  • human condition,
  • mutual identification,
  • self-reference,
  • social order

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.

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Copyright © 2004 SAGE Publications

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Citation Information
Chen, H.-F. (2004). Self-reference, mutual identification and affect: The Parsonsian problem of order reconsidered. Journal of Classical Sociology, 4(3), 259-288. doi: 10.1177/1468795X04046968