Parallel society

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Parallel society is a sociological term. He describes the social self-organization of a segregated , social milieu that " isolates itself from the majority society and follows an alternative value system". It “can be shaped ethnically or religiously or by both at the same time”, does not correspond to the traditional rules and moral concepts of the majority society and is sometimes perceived as negative by them. The meaning of the term overlaps with counterculture and subculture . Since the 1990s, it has increasingly been included in the academic and public integration debate and is controversial.

The term in the media

Word origin and distribution

The word parallel society was introduced into the debate on migration and integration by the Bielefeld sociologist Wilhelm Heitmeyer in the early 1990s , although the word initially received little attention. In 1996 it was used occasionally, but still hesitantly. The word only became popular in 2003 and 2004.

After the murder of the Islam-critical filmmaker Theo van Gogh on November 2, 2004, attacks were carried out on a Koran school as well as on mosques, Islamic schools and churches in the Netherlands in the course of November . In the public controversy that followed, the catchphrase “parallel society” was popularized in the mass media , first in the Netherlands and then in the rest of Europe . It has often been combined with the view that the multicultural society has failed and that the threatening division of society requires political action. In 2004, the Society for German Language (GfdS) chose the expression parallel societies in the words of the year in 2nd place, based on the social discussion about the integration of mostly Muslim foreigners. After the terrorist attack on July 7, 2005 in London and the unrest in France in 2005 , the word was used again more and more in the discourse.

Comments in the press

In January 2007, the cultural scientist Wolfgang Kaschuba addressed the debate on parallel societies in a comment in the Berliner Tagesspiegel . He emphasizes that new fears become clear through the term parallel society and that this also represents a new concept of foreignness. “There are two images in particular that are currently shaping public perception. On the one hand, migrants are increasingly identified as ethnically foreigners. As strangers who therefore do not belong to the majority society. On the other hand, Islamist groups are receiving increasing public attention. Since September 11th, they seem to have formed the breeding ground for a terrorism that, in the name of jihad , has already left its bloody traces in Europe from London to Madrid. "Kashuba mentions the public and media drama and discrimination of migrants, which would promote a new alarmism, “(...) who sees foreign threats everywhere and bears xenophobic features. This also includes the talk of the parallel society. (...) [T] he term itself produces a cultural difference which it allegedly diagnoses. It draws an inner cultural boundary into society, which homogenizes and essentializes 'us' and 'the others' ”.

Scientific discourse

Historical research

In November 2004 the editorial team of Spiegel Online published an interview with the historian Klaus J. Bade . In it, Bade expressed that the term parallel society shows characteristics of populism . He said:

“There are no parallel societies in the classic sense in Germany. Several points would have to come together for this: a monocultural identity, a voluntary and conscious social withdrawal also in settlement and everyday life, extensive economic demarcation, a duplication of the institutions of the state. In our country, the immigrant quarters are mostly ethnically mixed, the withdrawal is social, and there is no duplication of institutions. The parallel societies exist in the minds of those who are afraid of it: I am afraid and believe that it is the other's fault. If the simple and dangerous talk about parallel societies continues, the situation will get worse. So this talk is not part of the solution, but part of the problem. "

Sociological classification

The conflict between society and parallel society is about the clash of interests between a long-established majority with little experience of social decline and an immigrant lower class with already competitive, although weak chances of social advancement . At the same time, it is a social conflict between a secularized majority and a minority “modernizing” the religious traditions they have brought with them.

In 1964, the sociologist Lewis A. Coser described the dispute over a conflict front that had been shifted from economics to morality as an unrealistic conflict .

Political science research

In the spring of 2006, the Federal Agency for Civic Education published a collection of articles in the political science journal Aus Politik und Zeitgeschichte under the heading “Parallel Society?” The results of the respective studies can be summarized as follows:

  1. There are indications that the more religious Muslims are, the more distance is built up from non-Muslims.
  2. The idea associated with the debate about parallel societies that Turkish migrants might build up clan- like structures and tend to isolate themselves could not be confirmed.
  3. Data analyzes that were carried out between 1999 and 2004 show that the allegation of retreats by strata of the population of Turkish origin into their own ethnic group and the associated idea of ​​a most pressing integration problem has little empirical substance.
  4. With regard to the question of equality between men and women, “at least half” of the Turks living in Germany would cling to Turkish-Muslim traditions, which is why German and Turkish democrats would have to insist on equality, the rule of law and the protection of the implementation of fundamental rights for the individual.
  5. The migration debate in the German media was shaped by simplifications, distortions and generalized statements.


Historical approaches

  • Jean Delumeau: Fear in the Occident. The history of collective fears in Europe from the 14th to 18th centuries (=  Rowohlt's Encyclopedia . Volume 503 : Cultures and Ideas ). Rowohlt, Reinbek bei Hamburg 1989, ISBN 3-499-55503-4 (Original title: La peur en occident . Translated by Monika Hübner).
  • Bassam Tibi : Islamic Immigration. The failed integration . Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, Munich 2002, ISBN 3-421-05633-1 .
  • Iman Attia (Ed.): Orient and Islam images. Interdisciplinary contributions to orientalism and anti-Muslim racism. Unrast, Münster 2007, ISBN 978-3-89771-466-3 .
  • Karl Besemer: The Germans' Fear of Islam . Shaker, Aachen 2007, ISBN 3-8322-6492-2 .
  • Martin Biersack, Teresa Hiergeist and Benjamin Loy, eds., Parallel societies : instrumentalizations and stagings in politics, culture and literature , Romance studies: supplements 8 (Munich: Akademische Verlagsgemeinschaft München, 2019), 200 pages, http: //www.romanischestudien. de / index.php / rst / issue / view / parallel .

Philosophical Approaches

Sociological Approaches

  • Werner Köster (Ed.): Parallel societies. Discourse analyzes on the dramatization of migration . Klartext, Essen 2009, ISBN 978-3-89861-822-9 .
  • Lewis A. Coser : Theory of social conflicts (Original title: Sociological Theory , 1964). Neuwied am Rhein 1965 DNB 363436715 .
  • Kien Nghi Ha: Ethnicity and Migration Reloaded . Cultural Identity, Difference and Hybridity in the Post-Colonial Discourse. Münster 1999; Revised and expanded new edition, Berlin 2004, ISBN 3-86573-009-4 .
  • Hito Steyerl, Encarnación Gutiérrez Rodríguez (ed.): Does the subaltern speak German? Migration and Post-Colonial Criticism. Unrast , Münster 2003, ISBN 3-89771-425-6 .
  • María do Mar Castro Varela, Nikita Dhawan: Postcolonial Theory . A critical introduction. Bielefeld 2005, ISBN 3-89942-337-2 .
  • Rauf Ceylan : Ethnic Colonies. Origin, function and change using the example of Turkish mosques and cafes. VS Verlag, Wiesbaden 2006, ISBN 3-531-15258-0 (Dissertation University of Bochum 2006, 272 pages).
  • Kien Nghi Ha , Nicola Lauré al-Samarai, Sheila Mysorekar (eds.): Re-, visions . Postcolonial Perspectives of People of Color on Racism, Cultural Politics and Resistance in Germany. Unrast, Münster 2007, ISBN 978-3-89771-458-8 .

Political science approaches

  • Barbara Pfetsch: Thematic careers and political communication . On the relationship between politics and the media in the emergence of the political agenda. In: APuZ , B 39, Bonn 1994.
  • Jürgen Nowak: Leading culture and parallel society . Arguments against a German myth . Brandes & Apsel, Frankfurt am Main 2006, ISBN 3-86099-831-5 .
  • Marie N. Loewe: The open society and its new enemies . The new threats to the open society-terrorism and counter-terrorism as enemies of freedom. Saarbrücken 2007, ISBN 3-8364-2253-0 .
  • Gerda Heck: ›Illegal Immigration‹. A contested construction in Germany and the USA. Münster 2008, ISBN 978-3-89771-746-6 .


Web links

Wiktionary: parallel society  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Scientific papers

Scientific essays


Online editorial offices

Individual evidence

  1. Ralph Ghadban : "Arab Clans", Econ Verlag 2018, p. 114
  2. Ghadban, ibid.
  3. a b c d e Wolfgang Kaschuba: How foreigners are made . In: Der Tagesspiegel from January 14, 2007. Available online: Tagesspiegel archive
  4. Wilhelm Heitmeyer : Islam plays an important role for Turkish youth in Germany . In: Die Zeit , No. 35/1996.
  5. ^ "Parallel societies" in second place. "Hartz IV" is word of the year 2004. In: December 10, 2004, accessed February 2, 2018 .
  6. culture mirror. Spiegel Online , November 24, 2004.
  7. ^ Lewis A. Coser : Theory of Social Conflicts . Neuwied am Rhein 1965. DNB (Orig. Sociological Theory , 1964.)
  8. a b From Politics and Contemporary History . Edited by the Federal Agency for Civic Education, Issue 1–2 / 2006. (PDF; 1.1 MB)
  9. Interview