The article looks at divisive forces in contemporary societies and links them to the unfulfilled hopes of the revolutions at the beginning of modernity: the hopes for equality, freedom, and fraternity/solidarity. There are, first, in the twenty-first century situation, persistent inequalities that emerge in all the function systems of society and that become divisive as soon as a discontinuous split arises in the distribution of rewards, a split that makes it improbable that someone might switch from one to the other side of a distribution. There are, second, strong asymmetrical dependencies that are connected to an escalation of controls by which persons and groups control resources wanted by others and furthermore build up controls regarding the actions, communications, exit options, and ways of perceiving the world available to these other ones. The more control dimensions are implied in a specific social relation, the stronger and more pervasive asymmetrical dependencies become and then definitely separate in society those who exercise controls from those who are objects of control. There is, third, as a structure of division, the rise of sociocultural polarization that creates a split between significant subcommunities of a society, on the basis of which communities perceive the members of other communities as strangers and as dangerous for the values and ways of life one regards as essential for one’s own community. The article finally explains these societal divisions by studying them as forms of inclusion and exclusion. Inequalities come from cumulations in the inclusion dynamics of function systems; asymmetrical dependencies emerge in institutions and groups that absorb persons that are being excluded from relevant participations; polarizations are based on reciprocal and totalizing exclusions by which communities define the members of other communities as radical “others.”

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