as a Human Product
be clear from the foregoing that the statement that man produces himself
in no way implies some sort of Promethean vision of the solitary individual.
Man's self-production is always, and of necessity, a social enterprise.
Men together produce a human environment, with the totality of its
socio-cultural and psychological formations. None of these formations
may be understood as products of man's biological constitution, which,
as indicated, provides only the outer limits for human productive
activity. Just as it is impossible for man to develop as man in isolation,
so it is impossible for man in isolation to produce a human environment.
Solitary human being is being on the animal level (which, of course,
man shares with other animals). As soon as one deserves phenomena
that are specifically human, one enters the realm of the social. Man's
specific humanity and his sociality are inextricably intertwined.
Homo sapiens is always, and in the same measure, homo socius.
Peter Berger and Thomas Luckmann
The human organism
lacks the necessary biological means to provide stability for human
conduct. Human existence, if it were thrown back on its organismic
resources by themselves, would be existence in some sort of chaos.
Such chaos is, however, empirically unavailable, even though one
may theoretically conceive of it. Empirically, human existence takes
place in a context of order, direction, stability. The question
then arises: From what does the empirically existing stability of
human order derive? An answer may be given on two levels. One may
first point to the obvious fact that a given social order precedes
any individual organismic development. That is, world-openness,
while intrinsic to man's biological make-up, is always preempted
by social order. One may say that the biologically intrinsic world-openness
of human existence is always, and indeed must be, transformed by
social order into a relative world-closedness. While this reclosure
can never approximate the closedness of animal existence, if only
because of its humanly produced and thus "artificial"
character, it is nevertheless capable, most of the time, of providing
direction and stability for the greater part of human conduct. The
question may then be pushed to another level. One may ask in what
manner social order itself arises.
The most general
answer to this question is that social order is a human product.
Or, more precisely, an ongoing human production. It is produced
by man in the course of his ongoing externalization. Social order
is not biologically given or derived from any biological data in
its empirical manifestations. Social order, needless to add, is
also not given in man's natural environment, though particular features
of this may be factors in determining certain features of a social
order (for example, its economic or technological arrangements).
Social order is not part of the "nature of things," and
it cannot be derived from the "laws of nature." Social
order exists only as a product of human activity. No other ontological
status may be ascribed to it without hopelessly obfuscating its
empirical manifestations. Both in its genesis (social order is the
result of past human activity) and its existence in any instant
of time (social order exists only and insofar as human activity
continues to produce it) it is a human product.
While the social
products of human externalization have a character sui generis as
against both their organismic and their environmental context, it
is important to stress that externalization as such is an anthropological
necessity. Human being is impossible in a closed sphere of quiescent
interiority. Human being must ongoingly externalize itself in activity.
This anthropological necessity is grounded in man's biological equipment.
The inherent instability of the human organism makes it imperative
that man himself provide a stable environment for his conduct. Man
himself must specialize and direct his drives. These biological
facts serve as a necessary presupposition for the production of
social order. In other words, although no existing social order
can be derived from biological data, the necessity for social order
as such stems from man's biological equipment.
the causes, other than those posited by the biological constants
for the emergence, maintenance and transmission of a social order
one must under take an analysis that eventuates in a theory of institutionalization.
All human activity
is subject to habitualization. Any action that is repeated frequently
becomes cast into a pattern, which can then be reproduced with an
economy of effort and which, ipso facto, is apprehended by its performer
as that pattern. Habitualization further implies that the action
in question may be performed again in the future in the same manner
and with the same economical effort. This is true of non-social
as well as of social activity. Even the solitary individual on the
proverbial desert island habitualizes his activity. When he wakes
up in the morning and resumes his attempts to construct a canoe
out of matchsticks, he may mumble to himself, "There I go again,"
as he starts on step one of an operating procedure consisting of,
say, ten steps. In other words, even solitary man has at least the
company of his operating procedures.
actions, of course, retain their meaningful character for the individual
although the meanings involved become embedded as routines in his
general stock of knowledge, taken for granted by him and at hand
for his projects into the future. Habitualization carries with it
the important psychological gain that choices are narrowed. While
in theory there may be a hundred ways to go about the project of
building a canoe out of matchsticks, habitualization narrows these
down to one. This frees the individual from the burden of "all
those decisions," providing a psychological relief that has
its basis in man's undirected instinctual structure. Habitualization
provides the direction and the specialization of activity that is
lacking in man's biological equipment, thus relieving the accumulation
of tensions that result from undirected drives. And by providing
a stable background in which human activity may proceed with a minimum
of decision-making most of the time, it frees energy for such decisions
as may be necessary on certain occasions. In other words, the background
of habitualized activity opens up a foreground for deliberation
In terms of
the meanings bestowed by man upon his activity, habitualization
makes it unnecessary for each situation to be defined anew, step
by step. A large variety of situations may be subsumed under its
predefinitions. The activity to be undertaken in these situations
can then be anticipated. Even alternatives of conduct can be assigned
of habitualization precede any institutionalization, indeed can
he made to apply to a hypothetical solitary individual detached
from any social interaction. The fact that even such a solitary
individual, assuming that he has been formed as a self (as we would
have to assume in the case of our matchstick-canoe builder), will
habitualize his activity in accordance with biographical experience
of a world of social institutions preceding his solitude need not
concern us at the moment. Empirically, the more important part of
the habitualization of human activity is coextensive with the latter's
institutionalization. The question then becomes how do institutions
occurs whenever there is a reciprocal typification of habitualized
actions by types of actors. Put differently, any such typification
is an institution. What must be stressed is the reciprocity of institutional
typifications and the typicality of not only the actions but also
the actors in institutions. The typifications of habitualized actions
that constitute institutions are always shared ones. They are available
to all the members of the particular social group in question, and
the institution itself typifies individual actors as well as individual
actions. The institution posits that actions of type X will be performed
by actors of type X. For example, the institution of the law posits
that heads shall be chopped off in specific ways under specific
circumstances, and that specific types of individuals shall do the
chopping (executioners, say, or members of an impure caste, or virgins
under a certain age, or those who have been designated by an oracle).
further imply historicity and control. Reciprocal typifications
of actions are built up in the course of a shared history. They
cannot be created instantaneously. Institutions always have a history,
of which they are the products. It is impossible to understand an
institution adequately without an understanding of the historical
process in which it was produced. Institutions also, by the very
fact of their existence, control human conduct by setting up predefined
patterns of conduct, which channel it in one direction as against
the many other directions that would theoretically be possible.
It is important to stress that this controlling character is inherent
in institutionalization as such, prior to or apart from any mechanisms
of sanctions specifically set up to support an institution. These
mechanisms (the sum of which constitute what is generally called
a system of social control) do, of course, exist in many institutions
and in all the agglomerations of institutions that we call societies.
Their controlling efficacy, however, is of a secondary or supplementary
kind. As we shall see again later, the primary social control is
given in the existence of an institution as such. To say that a
segment of human activity has been institutionalized is already
to say that this segment of human activity has been subsumed under
social control. Additional control mechanisms are required only
insofar as the processes of institutionalization are less than completely
successful. Thus, for instance, the law may provide that anyone
who breaks the incest taboo will have his head chopped off. This
provision may be necessary because there have been cases when individuals
offended against the taboo. It is unlikely that this sanction will
have to be invoked continuously (unless the institution delineated
by the incest taboo is itself in the course of disintegration, a
special case that we need not elaborate here). It makes little sense,
therefore, to say that human sexuality is socially controlled by
beheading certain individuals. Rather, human sexuality is socially
controlled by its institutionalization in the course of the particular
history in question. One may add, of course, that the incest taboo
itself is nothing but the negative side of an assemblage of typifications,
which define in the first place which sexual conduct is incestuous
and which is not.
In actual experience
institutions generally manifest themselves in collectivities containing
considerable numbers of people. It is theoretically important, however,
to emphasize that the institutionalizing process of reciprocal typification
would occur even if two individuals began to interact de novo. .
. . A and B alone are responsible for having constructed this world.
A and B remain capable of changing or abolishing it. What is more,
since they themselves have shaped this world in the course of a
shared biography which they can remember, the world thus shaped
appears fully transparent to them. They understand the world that
they themselves have made. All this changes in the process of transmission
to the new generation. The objectivity of the institutional world
"thickens" and "hardens," not only for the children,
but (by a mirror effect) for the parents as well. The "There
we go again" now becomes "This is how these things are
done." A world so regarded attains a firmness in consciousness;
it becomes real in an ever more massive way and it can no longer
be changed so readily. For the children, especially in the early
phase of their socialization into it, it becomes the world. For
the parents, it loses its playful quality and becomes "serious."
For the children, the parentally transmitted world is not fully
transparent. Since they had no part in shaping it, it confronts
them as a given reality that, like nature, is opaque in places at
Only at this
point does it become possible to speak of a social world at all,
in the sense of a comprehensive and given reality confronting the
individual in a manner analogous to the reality of the natural world.
Only in this way, as an objective world, can the social formations
be transmitted to a new generation. In the early phases of socialization
the child is quite incapable of distinguishing between the objectivity
of natural phenomena and the objectivity of the social formations.
To take the most important item of socialization, language appears
to the child as inherent in the nature of things, and he cannot
grasp the notion of its conventionality. A thing is what it is called,
and it could not be called anything else. All institutions appear
in the same way, as given, unalterable and self-evident. Even in
our empirically unlikely example of parents having constructed an
institutional world de novo, the objectivity of this world would
be increased for them by the socialization of their children, because
the objectivity experienced by the children would reflect back upon
their own experience of this world. Empirically, of course, the
institutional world transmitted by most parents already has the
character of historical and objective reality. The process of transmission
simply strengthens the parents' sense of reality, if only because,
to put it crudely, if one says, "This is how these things are
done," often enough one believes it oneself.
world, then, is experienced as an objective reality. It has a history
that antedates the individual's birth and is not accessible to his
biographical recollection. It was there before he was born, and
it will be there after his death. This history itself, as the tradition
of the existing institutions, has the character of objectivity.
The individual's biography is apprehended as an episode located
within the objective history of the society. The institutions, as
historical and objective facticities, confront the individual as
undeniable facts. The institutions are there, external to him, persistent
in their reality, whether he likes it or not. He cannot wish them
away. They resist his attempts to change or evade them. They have
coercive power over him, both in themselves, by the sheer force
of their facticity, and through the control mechanisms that are
usually attached to the most important of them. The objective reality
of institutions is not diminished if the individual does not understand
their purpose or their mode of operation. He may experience large
sectors of the social world as incomprehensible, perhaps oppressive
in their opaqueness, but real nonetheless. Since institutions exist
as external reality, the individual cannot understand them by introspections.
He must "go out" and learn about them, just as he must
to learn about nature. This remains true even though the social
world, as a humanly produced reality, is potentially understandable
in a way not possible in the case of the natural world.
It is important
to keep in mind that the objectivity of the institutional world,
however massive it may appear to the individual, is a humanly produced,
constructed objectivity. The process by which the externalized products
of human activity attain the character of objectivity is objectivation.
The institutional world is objectivated human activity, and so is
every single institution. In other words despite the objectivity
that marks the social world in human experience, it does not thereby
acquire an ontological status apart from the human activity that
produced it. The paradox that man is capable of producing a world
that he then experiences as something other than a human product
will concern us later on. At the moment, it is important to emphasize
that the relationship between man, the producer, and the social
world, his product, is and remains a dialectical one. That is, man
(not of course, in isolation but in his collectivities) and his
social world interact with each other. The product acts back upon
the producer. Externalization and objectivation are moments in a
continuing dialectical process, which is internalization (by which
the objectivated social world is retrojected into consciousness
in the course of socialization), will occupy us in considerable
detail later on. It is already possible, however, to see the fundamental
relationship of these three dialectical moments in social reality.
Each of them corresponds to an essential characterization of the
social world. Society is a human product. Society is an objective
reality. Man is a social product. It may also already be evident
that an analysis of the social world that leaves out any one of
these three moments will be distortive. One may further add that
only with the transmission of the social world to a new generation
(that is, internalization as effectuated in socialization) does
the fundamental social dialectic appear in its totality. To repeat,
only with the appearance of a new generation can one properly speak
of a social world.