Navigation: This page '' ---> Main Page. HELP. Contact. About Page.

Dooyeweerd's Social Theory

Dooyeweerd worked out an overall theory of social institutions, published in a book 'A Christian Theory of Social Institutions' post-humously, translated by Magnus Verbrugge. In doing so, Dooyeweerd gave us an example of how an aspect could be 'worked out'.

This page will, when written, explain Dooyeweerd's ideas. In the mean time, there is only one thing on it: a link to an interview with Herman Dooyeweerd in 1974 in which he expanded his ideas on corporations and business institutions. Plus the following copied from the social aspect.

Dooyeweerd's Study of the Social Aspect

The social aspect, an in particular, relating to communal relationships, was one of Dooyeweerd's special interests. According to Witte, 1986, Dooyeweerd attempted exhaustive critical study of:

As Witte says, "Dooyeweerd subjected many of these traditional views and their underlying beliefs to elaborate and exacting criticism, extracting their valuable insights and refining his own views in light of these insights." This is what led him to his views about the proper topics for social science and his taxonomy of human relationships.


There are many and varied types of institution. Dooyeweerd made a study of them, and gave a classification of human relationships (cited by Witte, 1986):

    1. Institutional Communities
      1. Natural Institutions
        1. Marriage and family
      2. Undifferentiated organized institutions
        1. The family as organizing principle; the patriarchal [and matriarchal?] family, primitive domestic communities, sibs, clans, etc.
        2. The political organizing principle; the mediaeval marks, guilds, towns, ethnic and feudal bonds, etc.
      3. Differentiated organized institutions
        1. Church institutions
        2. State institutions
    2. Non-institutional communities
      1. Voluntary organizations
      2. Unilaterally founded organizations
    1. [No breakdown given here in Witte, 1986]

Note the high level of detail to do with communal relationships, one of Dooyeweerd's special areas of study. It would seem that the lack of detail in 'Social Relationships' is because this had not been studied in depth by Dooyeweerd.

Comparison with Ouchi

It it interesting to compare this with other attempts to elucidate the fundamentally distinct organizational forms. Ouchi [1979] has done so, and come up with three forms:

We can recognise that Ouchi's categorization was briefer and, maybe restricted to the 20th century, so that Dooyeweerd dealt with types Ouchi does not, we also note the inclusion of markets. These are certainly organizational forms, but how does Dooyeweerd deal with them?

Answer still to be found.

Differentiation in Human Societies

Dooyeweerd emphasized the importance of the opening process by which aspects are 'opened up' and consequently more deeply understood. In the social aspect this took the form of differentiation of societal structures, from the early undifferentiated ones based on the family-as-social-unit, through to institutions with specialised roles and meanings that we have today. The latter are often qualified by a single aspect, while the former are multiply qualified.

The connotation of writings that explain this is that a differentiated society is somehow superior to an undifferentiated ('primitive') one. I question this connotation. I see it as merely a difference that has come about as an historical process in which we human thinkers have elevated the analytical aspect to the extent where we want to discriminate everything and break everything apart. Things that are multiply qualified, it could be argued, are in fact the superior forms because they fulfil better the original mandate towards the whole creation.

Relating to Work of Others

Here I am collecting a number of links with the work of others. At present, only brief.


Witte, J, (ed.) (1986), A Christian Theory of Social Institutions, The Herman Dooyeweerd Foundation, La Jolla, California, USA.

Ouchi WG, (1979) "A conceptual framework for the design of organizational control mechanisms" Management Science (25:9):833-48.

Robey D, Markus ML (1984) Rituals in system design. MIS Quarterly, 10(1):5-15.

This is part of The Dooyeweerd Pages, which explain, explore and discuss Dooyeweerd's interesting philosophy. Questions or comments are very welcome.

Compiled by Andrew Basden. You may use this material subject to conditions.

Written on the Amiga with Protext.

Created 18 October 2001, with stuff from social aspect page. Last updated: 1 December 2001 Ouchi added. 19 April 2008 Robey+Markus added. 3 September 2015 corrected '../'; rid counter; new .end, .nav; more links to other thinkers.