Social systems: the shared attention

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UDivided loyalty is a term that the German-American sociologist Lewis Alfred Coser has introduced to describe the comprehensive claim that some groups make to their members. Above all, simple and undifferentiated communities are jealous that all their relatives are guided by their own ideas of good and evil. Therefore, contacts to non-group members, which could unsettle the group member, are prevented as far as possible.

But even more intense twosome relationships with other group members should not be allowed under these circumstances, according to Lewis Coser. In the couple who wants to secede, the others see only a presumption of the group, and as punishment for the two then monitored at every turn. Positive vocabulary for love or friendship may also exist in such a closed society. But they mean then a socially inclusive attitude that should exist to actually all group members. Who wants to exclude others, is easily suspected of being a traitor.

Only undivided is polite

In the earliest societies, one does not have to look far for examples of such possessive thinking. Many tribal societies were already, as Coser would call it, “greedy institutions”. They feared the possible enemy in the stranger – and within the familiar the potential allies for forming opinions against group ideology. In modern society, on the other hand, only the political or religious sects seem to be disposed to this kind of collective jealousy. The cult leaders then preach, for example, that free love merits preference over the relationship, because they want to prevent too close ties with certain people.

In a recently published study, concepts for undivided attention are now appearing in quite unusual places. Namely they should designate expectations of interlocutors. This is initially surprising and then convincing. It is surprising because you can live in one and only one group, but not in one and only one conversation. All participants in the conversation have to deal with other presently absent persons before and after. And all those present know each other and show understanding of each other – for example, if one of them has to leave prematurely because they are waiting for him elsewhere.

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