Tada, Mitsuhiro, 2015, “From Religion to Language: The Time of National Society and the Notion of the 'Shared' in Sociological Theory,” The Annuals of Sociology (Shakaigaku Nenshi), 56: 123-154.

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The aim of this article is to clarify the position of language in sociological theory, analyzing the discourses of a sociological phenomenologist of the so-called “meaning school,” notably Thomas Luckmann. Since the mid-1960s, a field called “sociology of language” has emerged as an attempt to focus on linguistic heterogeneity in society and deal with social problems such as discrimination and disparity in terms of language. In contrast, sociological theories represented by Luckmann’s sociology of knowledge conceived language to be the “social a priori” that is intersubjectively shared among people. This idea replaced the problem of understanding subjective meaning in Max Weber’s interpretative sociology with linguistic meaning. Language was regarded not as a problem but as a solution to the problem. In this sense, the view on language in sociological theory should not be called “sociology of language” but rather “linguistic sociology.”
While Talcott Parsons believed that a normative value of religion is shared in society, Luckmann pointed out that religion became privatized with the rapid industrialization after the war. Thus, for Luckmann, language assumed the role of religion: people are born into their own linguistic community, not religious community. In this way, the “shared” among people that sociological theory presumes shifted from religion to language.
However, the sharing of language was actually a product of national society, correlated to the change in the employee structure and the rise in educational standards. Hence, we are unable to naively admire common language as the life-worldly foundation. Especially in today’s global society, language is causing problems such as linguistic conflicts to reemerge. The sharing of language therefore cannot be presupposed. What we genuinely share is rather the situation that we share nothing.

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