The Temporality of Socientalization

Liv Egholm, Jason Mast

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperResearch


Alexander introduces the concept of societalization to explain how and why constellations of practices and sets of everyday occurrences in non-civil spheres become perceived as dangerous and threatening to the civil sphere (2018, 2019). Conceptualized as “events,” such dramatic transformations of public understanding are experienced as ruptures in the social order. Alexander argues that it is not the substance or inherent grievousness of the strains that cause societalization but how the conflicts are represented, debated, and reconstructed in public (2019: 9). He emphasizes that such events are precipitated foremost by agents of (and adjacent to) communicative institutions (journalists) using their performative capabilities to draw to the public’s attention the extraordinary damage a noncivil sphere’s particular set of practices may visit upon the civil sphere. However, the theory pays scant attention to the question of why particular constellations of practices are more likely to precipitate eventness than others.

We contend that temporality plays a central role here. Recent research suggests that previously societalized constellations of practices (e.g., antisemitism) become embedded in waves of societalization and continue to produce new iterations of the process today (Lo & Hsieh, 2020; Egholm, 2022; Adams & Alexander, 2023; Zuckerman & Feldt, 2023). Others have noted that temporality shapes how ruptures become societalized, yet they have restricted their analysis to the future-oriented dimensions of societalization narratives (Tavory and Wagner-Pacifici 2022). There remains a need for a more precise conceptualization of how earlier waves of societalization impact its contemporary forms, one that does not resort to deterministic or straightforward, sequential modeling.

Introducing the conceptualization of reiterated problem-solving (Haydu, 2010; Dewey,1938) and “sites of causation” (Egholm, 2023) to the process of societalization, this paper develops a conceptual framework for explaining why some events become societalized and why some forms of societalization keep reiterating while others do not.
Original languageEnglish
Publication date2023
Publication statusPublished - 2023
Event2nd CST Conference - Heidelberg, Germany
Duration: 18 Oct 202319 Oct 2023
Conference number: 2


Conference2nd CST Conference
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