No theory forbids me to say "Ah!" or "Ugh!", but it forbids me the bogus theorization of my "Ah!" and "Ugh!" - the value judgments. - Theodor Julius Geiger (1960)

Understanding Society: Time, Space and Power

Anthony Giddens analyzes the history of human society through the lens of three key factors—time, space, and power.

Time and space are constitutive elements of social organization. Human societies have evolved, structured by their organization of time and space, which in turn influenced communication systems and forms of power, including violence.

Claude Lévi-Strauss described small hunting-and-gathering societies as living in reversible time, characterized by cycles and intervals rather than linear progression. Giddens contrasts this with linear time, which emerges with the advent of agriculture, writing, and larger civilizations—what Lévi-Strauss termed hot cultures. Writing, as a form of storage, enabled these societies to record and manage resources, thereby expanding their power across time and space.

These organizational changes in time and space facilitated the development of complex social structures, historical consciousness, and the capacity for coordinated actions such as military operations. These themes are connected to major transformations in human history, including the rise of the modern state and global order.

The advent of the modern state and nation-state, fueled by printing and mass literacy, became crucibles of power and violence. Printing enabled mass literacy, which, in turn, facilitated unprecedented time-space transcendence. Modern nation-states depended on detailed information collection, empowering them in various functions, including taxation and violence propagation.

Samuel Morse's first electronic communication in 1844 revolutionized communication and warfare. The invention of the telegraph permitted coordination across distances, paving the way for mass warfare.

The standardization of time zones in the late 19th century further transformed societal organization. The launch of the first satellite system around 1970 initiated the global age, characterized by profound changes in communication and societal interaction. The internet is a pinnacle of this transformation, which redefines time, space, identity, and individuality. The internet is also infused with emotional currents, both positive and negative.

Our current civilization poses unprecedented challenges and opportunities. Our civilization’s risks regarding climate change and nuclear weapons have significantly increased in recent times. These risks, amplified by human intervention, have global implications, affecting phenomena like earthquakes.

We need to accept the reality of these risks and take proactive measures, rather than relying solely on technological innovation. Global action is needed and our current response is not enough. A concerted effort of science and technology is needed to understand and mitigate these risks. Societal progress depends on it. Present generations are responsible to shape the future positively.