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The horizontal society.

Friedman, Lawrence M.

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ISBN 10: 0300075456 / ISBN 13: 9780300075458
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New Haven : Yale University Press , c1999. Hardbound. Dustjacket. x,310 pp. 25 cm. Condition : very good copy. ISBN 9780300075458[KEYWORDS: SOCIOLOGY*. Buchnummer des Verkäufers 197657

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Bibliografische Details

Titel: The horizontal society.

Einband: Hardcover

Zustand des Schutzumschlags: Dust Jacket Included

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Modern technology has radically and irretrievably altered our sense of identity and hence our social, political, and legal life, argues Lawrence M. Friedman in this bold new book. In traditional societies, he explains, relationships and identities were strongly vertical: there was a clear line of authority from top to bottom, and identity was fixed by one’s birth or social position. But in modern society, identity and authority have become much more horizontal: people feel freer to choose who they are and to form relationships on a plane of equality.
Friedman examines how modern life centers on human identity seen in terms of race, gender, ethnicity, and religion, and how this new way of defining oneself affects politics, social structure, and the law. Our horizontal society, he says, is the product of the mass media―in particular, television―which break down the isolation of traditional life and allow individuals to connect with like-minded others across barriers of space and time. As horizontal groups blossom, loyalties and allegiances to smaller groups fragment what seemed to be the unity of the larger nation. In addition, the media’s ability to spread a global mass culture causes a breakdown of cultural isolation that leads to more immigration and heavy pressure on the laws and institutions of citizenship and immigration.


In the past, says Lawrence M. Friedman, society was essentially vertical: that is, everybody understood his or her identity as it existed within hierarchical relationships--husbands outranked their wives, parents outranked their children, kings outranked peasants, and so on. But the modern world, particularly through the spread of a global mass culture, makes it possible for people to engage in more horizontal relationships, creating affiliations with other people with whom they interact as equals, and thereby creating an individual identity for themselves.

The Horizontal Society is something like The Lexus and the Olive Tree by Thomas L. Friedman (no relation): focused on sociopolitics rather than economics and drained of the New York Times columnist's snappy prose. Lawrence Friedman does try for a certain casualness, yet his constant use of phrases such as as we shall see and of course do not convey intimacy so much as the sense of a teacher delivering a lecture. To be sure, Friedman is a distinguished law professor, and The Horizontal Society does have its uses as an introduction to a certain way of thinking about the intersection of global mass culture with regional communities, whether organized by nationality, ethnicity, or some other characteristic. But one finds oneself wishing for more details.

Friedman mentions intermittently, for example, that the coming together of gays and lesbians as a "virtual subnation" takes place, and that it is controversial. But how does it take place? And how does that controversy inform the identity of the community and its members? Likewise, he has little more to say about the Internet other than that "it constitutes a forum where people talk to each other across great distances." Well, yes, this is, of course, true, but there is perhaps something more to be said. Ultimately, The Horizontal Society would perhaps best be considered as a starting point for the reader's inquiry into the book's concerns, rather than an answer in and of itself. --Ron Hogan

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