Social milieu

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In the present day, the term social milieus describes social groups with similar values, mentalities and lifestyle principles . In older definitions, criteria such as level of education , occupation and income are given greater consideration when assigning individuals and small groups to a social milieu.

Scientific concepts

In the middle of the 19th century, Hippolyte Taine already counted objective characteristics of a person or group as well as their inner spiritual environment (e.g. mentalities and attitudes) as distinguishing characteristics of social milieus. These characteristics affect the mere subsistence , but also the possibilities for development ( socialization , that is, learning and maturation processes) and unfolding (that is, social action ) of members of a milieu. These conditions are also called milieu factors . In addition to Taine, Auguste Comte also used the term milieu , before it became popular with Émile Durkheim and finally became a central term in sociology (slowly establishing itself at universities).

Émile Durkheim differentiated conceptually between an external and an internal social milieu . For him, both are social subsystems, with the external milieu comprising the socially established modes of behavior and experience as well as the social structures as a whole. The internal environment consists of the modes of fixing of behavior and experience and from the structural principles of construction social structures, which act within a company. Durkheim sequentially defines the inner social milieu as the relationship between a definable social structure and all objects and products of social activities that preceded it. With the term social volume he describes the number of social units that make up a social structure . Under social density he summarizes the number of interactions or contacts of related individuals or groups within a social volume.

The “ positivist ” term did not flow into the German (scientific) language in the 19th century , but the politically tinged word juste milieu did . In Germany around 1900, however, the term milieu became an established term in the art theory of naturalism .

The older Danish word environment has been used as a term for describing the factors influencing people since the late 18th century in the German language. Since the biologist Jakob Johann von Uexküll used the term environment differently from its common meaning at the beginning of the 20th century (in the sense of an environment both recorded and designed by living beings, i.e. not just people), from his point of view it was necessary to use the The term must be clearly distinguished from the term milieu . Together with the psychologists William Stern and Willy Hellpach , Uexküll introduced the term milieu in scientific language, in the context of an increasing interest in social and cultural conditions in the course of research on talent , intelligence and socialization. Above all through Uexküll's work, the term environment in the German language was given a more natural scientific character, while the term milieu was more social-scientific.

Aloys Fischer (in the educational field) and Theodor Geiger (in the sociological field) received great recognition for their attempts to typify the population and to examine the relationships between groups and individuals with and to one another. In this environment, an interdisciplinary science, pedagogical sociology , emerged in the Weimar Republic, albeit not necessarily intended , and which had already established itself at universities in the USA in the 1910s

Although researchers identified a so-called milieu theory in the Weimar Republic, there is no general definition or school of milieu theory at the time. But - in contemporary literature and in today's research - main representatives of a theory of the milieu can be identified: the psychologist Adolf Busemann (1887–1967), the pedagogue Walter Popp (1882–1945?) And the theologian Max Slawinsky (1897–1967) 1940).

After the "reorientation" of sociology and pedagogy / educational science in Germany after 1945, (historical science) research initially neglected this legacy. The scientific term milieu only experienced a renaissance as a scientific term in Germany in the 1960s - based on medicine - and became one of the central terms across various scientific disciplines.

Social history and historical election research

Class -based societies had milieus that were very different from one another (in Germany, for example, monastery inmates or Protestant parsonages , court or manor nobility , officers , scholars , craftsmen , actors and even the traveling people ), which are still scattered today (2007).

Since the 1960s, the term found its way into political cultural research in Germany through Mario Rainer Lepsius and, in particular, into historically oriented research into culturally reshaped voting behavior . Lepsius justifies the relatively permanent voter preferences during the German Empire and the Weimar Republic with membership of socio-moral milieus , which he defines as “social units that result from the coincidence of several structural dimensions such as religion, regional tradition, economic situation, cultural orientation and class-specific composition of the intermediaries Groups to be formed ”. He differentiates between four such social milieus for the period in question:

The concept grew in importance, especially since the 1980s. In social and societal history in particular , it has gained significantly in importance. It became a successor paradigm for approaches that were too materialistic. Last but not least, Karl Rohe contributed to this with an interpretation based on Max Weber .

Both the creation and the dissolution of the great historical milieus were heavily dependent on certain social or political processes. In the case of the Catholics, milieu formation was largely determined by the Kulturkampf and in the case of the Socialists by the consequences of the socialist laws.

In research it is of course controversial whether one can speak of a liberal or conservative milieu at all. There is broad agreement on the existence of a social democratic and a Catholic milieu. Their structures influenced the lives of those belonging to them "from cradle to grave" to a great extent during the German Empire and the Weimar Republic.

The question of when the great historical milieus had passed their peak of importance is partly controversial in research. Some see the first erosion tendencies already during the Weimar Republic, others emphasize the equalizing effect and the terror of the National Socialist rule, still others see the break in the SED dictatorship in the east and the consequences of the " economic miracle " in the west. New leisure activities or general processes of secularization have increasingly limited the importance of the milieus. Since the 1960s and no later than the 1970s, the old milieu structures have hardly played a role.

Lifestyle typification and choice analysis of contemporary society

They were replaced by many different lifestyles and other features of social differentiation. Somewhat confusing for outsiders is that lifestyle and inequality research has also been relying more and more on the term milieu since the 1980s , although it means something completely different from “historical milieus”.

Lifestyle research assumes that the increasing pluralization of societies and the individualization of lifestyles have decoupled the previously close connection between social situation and milieus, even if social milieus can still be hierarchically classified according to status and income.

Social milieus in Munich

The concept of social milieus was taken up and further developed in election research and market research . Here, different, empirically obtained milieu typologies are used and associated with attitudes that produce certain consumer orientations and voting behavior.

Here, social milieus describe people with characteristic attitudes and life orientations. Generally speaking, they bring together social groups , i.e. people whose value orientations, goals in life, lifestyles - and thus also their central consumption patterns - are similar.

The milieu analysis aims at the whole person, so it does not try, e.g. B. the conventional social analysis to condense a single or a few objective characteristics (e.g. social class, occupational group) typifying. Conversely, it does not isolate a single or a few subjective characteristics of everyday life, taste or lifestyle in order to make the market and society appear as a structureless agglomeration of short-lived fashions and taste cultures.

Rather, milieu research tries to make accessible all those - subjective and objective - characteristics of empirical analysis that constitute the socio-cultural identity of the consumer (value orientations, social situation, goals in life, work attitudes, leisure motives, different aspects of lifestyle, everyday aesthetic inclinations, consumer orientations, etc.).

Sinus / Sigma milieus

In 1980, Jörg Ueltzhöffer , today managing director of the SIGMA Institute , presented an expert opinion entitled "Lifeworld Analysis: Explorations on Everyday Consciousness and Everyday Action", which for the first time presented a completely new target group model for market and social research, which he and the market psychologist Berthold Bodo Flaig presented (today managing director of the Sinus Institute ) developed: the “model of social milieus”. In the following two decades, this model established itself under various names ( Sinus-Milieus , SIGMA Milieus,) in market, media, communication and social research.

The milieu landscape of the 1980s in West Germany was structured as follows:

  • Conservatively upscale milieu
  • Petty-bourgeois milieu
  • Traditional working class environment
  • Workers' environment without tradition
  • Promotion-oriented milieu
  • Technocratic-liberal milieu
  • Hedonistic milieu
  • Alternative milieus

The Typo were technologies of the social sciences adopted, setting off in the "new in the 1990s Social structural research of" a wave of lifestyle studies. Since 2012, the SIGMA Institute has divided German society into the following milieus:

  • Established milieu
  • Traditionally bourgeois milieu
  • Traditional working class environment
  • Consumer materialistic milieu
  • Promotion-oriented milieu
  • Liberal-intellectual milieu
  • Modern middle-class milieu
  • Modern worker milieu
  • Hedonistic milieu
  • Postmodern milieu

The Sinus Institute in Heidelberg adapted its ten Sinus Milieus in 2010 and 2015 .

  • Conservative-established milieu ( proportion of the population in Germany 2017: 10% )
  • Liberal-intellectual milieu ( 7% )
  • Performers' milieu ( 8% )
  • Expeditive milieu ( 8% )
  • Middle class ( 13% )
  • Socio-ecological milieu ( 7% )
  • Adaptive-Pragmatic Milieu ( 10% )
  • Traditional milieu ( 13% )
  • Precarious milieu ( 9% )
  • Hedonistic milieu ( 15% )

Integral, the Austrian partner of the Sinus Institute, remodeled the Austrian milieu landscape in 2011. In Austria, society is divided as follows:

  • Conservative ( population share in Austria 2015: 6% )
  • Established ( 9% )
  • Performer ( 9% )
  • Digital individualists ( 8% )
  • Middle class ( 14% )
  • Post-material ( 9% )
  • Adaptive-Pragmatic ( 12% )
  • Traditional ( 13% )
  • Consumption-oriented base ( 9% )
  • Hedonists ( 11% )

Environment model by Gerhard Schulze

Another milieu model that has gained considerable popularity in the past ten years is the model by Gerhard Schulze , which he represents in his book Die Erlebnisgesellschaft . At Gerhard Schulze, the aforementioned milieus are replaced by comparable milieus, which, however, are characterized and named more through leisure activities and the chosen lifestyle:

  • Level environment
  • Harmonious environment
  • Self-realization milieu
  • Entertainment environment
  • Integration milieu

Gender division of labor and milieu

Individual approaches assume a connection between the social milieu and the gender division of labor within the family. Cultural models of “masculinity” and “femininity” are integrated into the logic of milieu-specific life contexts. According to this approach, there are differences in this regard between a traditional milieu , a familistic milieu and an individualized milieu . In the traditional milieu, the gender difference is largely unquestioned and creates identity, in the familial it is emotionalized and maternal love is valued as the epitome of the feminine and natural, and in the individualized milieu the idea of ​​equality prevails, in everyday practice housework and gainful employment are but divided unequally.

See also


  • Helmut Bremer and Andrea Lange-Vester: Social milieus and change in social structure. Springer Fachmedien, Wiesbaden 2007.
  • Stefan Hradil: Social milieus - a practice-oriented research perspective. In: From Politics and Contemporary History. 44/45 (2006): 3-10.
  • Stefan Hradil: Social milieus and their empirical investigation. In: Wolfgang Glatzer (Ed.): Development tendencies of the social structure. Campus, Frankfurt am Main 1992: 6–35.
  • Gangolf Hübinger: “Social-moral milieu”. A basic concept in German history. In: Steffen Sigmund et al. (Ed.): Social constellation and historical perspective. Festschrift for M. Rainer Lepsius. VS Verlag, Wiesbaden 2008, pp. 207-227.
  • Marcel Kabaum: Milieu theory of German educators (1926-1933). Pedagogical sociology with Walter Popp, Adolf Busemann and Max Slawinsky. Ergon, Würzburg 2013.
  • Gerhard Schulze: The transformation of social milieus in the Federal Republic of Germany. Life situations, résumés, lifestyles. In: social world. Sonderband 7, 1990, pp. 409-432.
  • Michael Vester among others: New social milieus and pluralized class society. Research report, Hanover 1992 (manuscript).
  • Michael Vester among others: Social milieus in social structural change. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 2001.

Individual evidence

  1. Federal Agency for Civic Education : Special issue “Social Milieus” . From politics and contemporary history . Issue 44–45 / 2006
  2. ^ GH Müller: Environment. In: Joachim Ritter, Karlfried founder and Gottfried Gabriel, ed .: Historical dictionary of philosophy. Volume 11. Basel: Schwabe, 2001, p. 100.
  3. Baggesen: Poet. w. 2, quoted in UMWELT, f., The world surrounding people. In: Jacob Grimm , Wilhelm Grimm (Hrsg.): German dictionary . 16 volumes in 32 sub-volumes, 1854–1960. S. Hirzel, Leipzig ( ).
  4. Cf. Aloys Fischer: Psychologie der Gesellschaft . Munich: Reinhardt, 1922.
  5. Cf. Theodor Geiger: The social stratification of the German people. Sociographic experiment on a statistical basis . Stuttgart: Enke, 1932.
  6. See Wilhelm Brinkmann: On the history of educational sociology in Germany. Dogma-historical studies on their origin and development. Würzburg: Neumann, 1986. See also Aloys Fischer: Pedagogical Sociology. In: Alfred Vierkandt, Hrsg .: Concise Dictionary of Sociology . Stuttgart: Enke, 1959, pp. 405-425, which distinguishes this from sociological pedagogy , ie a socialist-oriented pedagogy. However, this delimitation was not common.
  7. Cf. for example Bernd Dollinger: The pedagogy of the social question. (Social) educational theory from the beginning of the 19th century to the end of the Weimar Republic. Wiesbaden: VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, 2006, ISBN 3-531-15097-9 , p. 388; Jürgen Reyer: A short history of social education. Individual and Community in Modern Education . Baltmannsweiler: Schneider Verlag Hohengehren, 2002, ISBN 3-89676-432-2 , p. 166f.
  8. See the description provided with biographical information on the three theorists in Marcel Kabaum: Milieutheorie deutscher Pädagogen (1926–1933). Pedagogical sociology with Adolf Busemann, Walter Popp and Max Slawinsky (= Education - School - Society, Volume 65). Würzburg: Ergon, 2013, ISBN 978-3-89913-948-8 , pp. 13-28. Above all, Busemann and Popp are often quoted in contemporary research - across disciplines - or are references in contemporary specialist lexica or popular scientific reference works.
  9. Cf. Martina Löw: Introduction to the Sociology of Education and Upbringing. 2nd, revised edition. Opladen: Leske + Budrich, 2006, pp. 28-33.
  10. Marcel Kabaum: Milieu theory of German pedagogues (1926–1933) . Würzburg 2013, p. 80.
  11. ^ M. Rainer Lepsius: Party system and social structure. On the problem of the democratization of German society. In the S. Democracy in Germany. Sociological-historical constellation analyzes. Selected essays. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 1993, ISBN 3-525-35763-X , pp. 25–50, here p. 38 ( digitized versionhttp: //vorlage_digitalisat.test/ SZ% 3D ~ double-sided% 3D ~ LT% 3D ~ PUR% 3D ).
  12. Cf. Karl Rohe: Election Analysis in a Historical Context. On continuity and change in voting behavior. In: Historical magazine . Volume 234, 1982, pp. 337-357, here p. 352 f.
  13. ^ SINUS Milieus Germany. Retrieved June 22, 2017 .
  14. Integral market research. Retrieved June 22, 2017 .
  15. Cornelia Koppetsch: Milieu and gender. A context-specific perspective. In: Anja Weiß u. a. (Ed.): Class and Classification. The symbolic dimension of social inequality. Westdeutscher Verlag 2001, pp. 109-137 (PDF)
  16. Cornelia Koppetsch, Günter Burkart: The Illusion of Emancipation. On the effectiveness of latent gender norms in a milieu comparison. UVK, 1999. Quoted from Manuela Sauer Working worlds and gender difference. Incentives for social deconstruction in political future concepts , Herbert Utz Verlag, dissertation, University of Augsburg, 2004, ISBN 3-8316-0415-0 (online)