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Znaniecki's Theory of Society vs Mills and Gerth's Theory

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Sociology is simply the study of human behavior. In general, sociology evaluates the way people live and what they are involved in. Theories have been conceptualized to explain human behavior.

Such theories are the Mills and Gerth's theory of society and Znaniecki's theory of society. These theories bear some similarities and differences which are the main focus of this article.

To begin with, both of the theories are exhibit elements of analytical sociology. This is due to the manner in which the theories are constructed by the authors. In particular, both Mills and Znaniecki take some primary elements of social relations and they build on them in a systematic way. These elements are part of the larger social systems.

For instance, Mills and Gerth take up the political, economic, military, kinship, and religious orders which are tied to the social roles of individuals to come up with the social structure of a society (Mills and Gerth). On the other hand, Znaniecki takes up social actions and agents to build his social theory. These elements became the basis of their theories.

The other similarity is that both theories do not provide a clear distinction between micro and macro situations of social life. In particular, Mill and Gerth's theory is based on an individualistic continuum although the authors do not deny the idea of collectivism.

In regard to Znaniecki's theory, a lot of emphasis is still put on individual relations although churches, local communities, and even nations are mentioned. This isolates the whole idea of a micro-macro continuum.

Additionally, both theories treat social relations as a system. However, their definition of a system is different. According to Znaniecki sociology is a science that is defined by social systems. In particular, the systems are further subdivided into subsystems. These are social relations, social actions, social groups, and social persons.

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From these subdivisions, Znaniecki deduces that sociology is concerned with one type of system, the social, which he also calls a cultural system. For Mills and Gerth, a system is defined by the roles played by the actors in institutions. Furthermore, mill and Gerth propose that for a system to work, the social action of an actor is met by the reaction of another.

In this model the social relations are between individuals and thus can be said to be symmetrical. In Znaniecki's theory, social relations are unsymmetrical; they can be between groups, individuals, or even between a group and an individual.

One of the key contrasts is that Znaniecki deals primarily with social actions and social agents while Mill and Gerth's theory is based on roles taken by individuals in institutions. As per Znaniecki's theory, individuals in society such as family members are the social agents. Thus the forms of interactions with the people in the immediate environment determine the relationship which develops (Znaniecloi).

Ultimately, they influence the behavior which Znaniecki refers to as social action. Therefore, social action is dependent on social agents. On the other hand, Mills and Gerth interpret social constructions from the role played by an individual.

They believe that the behavior of an individual will develop in accordance with the interactions with the role they play. For example, a politician will develop behaviors compatible with his role.


Mills, C. Wright, and Hans Gerth. "Character and social structure." NY: Harcourt, Brace & World Inc (1953).
Znaniecki, Florian. Modern nationalities: a sociological study. University of Illinois Press, 1952.
Znaniecloi, Florian. Method of sociology. Rinehart and Co, New York, 1934.

In conclusion, both Znaniecki's theory and mill and Gerth's theory define and structure society differently. However, both are analytical theories of sociology.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2022 Uriel Kushiel

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