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Traditional and UtilitarianThe Origins Of Utilitarian Modernity, Modern Societies, Conclusion, Bibliography

A primary distinction separates sequential (or utilitarian) time, which has to do with the relations of before and after, from traditional time, which has to do with the relation of the present to both the past and the future. For Émile Durkheim (1858–1917), traditional societies were based on solidarities in traditional time, and they relegated to the margins of social life practical concerns emanating from sequential time, such as whether to do A before doing B. These latter (utilitarian) concerns typify, in Durkheim's view, magic on the peripheries of traditional societies and utilitarian thinking about means and ends, or causes and effects, central to the ordering of modern societies. For Max Weber (1864–1920), charismatic leaders introduced radical disruptions in social orders based on traditional times, but in order to survive, these movements had to become preoccupied with sequential or utilitarian time, with lines of success, and with logical or practical forms of thinking and action. Thus for Weber, charismatic authority, which is initially disdainful of practical concerns, defeats itself by its own successes, which dictate concern with means and ends, and causes and effects. Durkheim remains critical of such utilitarian concerns, even when they dominate the social order, because they are inadequate as bases for authority and social control. Thus in the disagreements between Weber and Durkheim one can find the roots of contemporary conflict in the field over whether utilitarian time is derived from, a side effect of, or opposed to traditional time and whether utilitarianism in various forms is typical of all social orders or primarily of modernity alone.

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