Japanese Sociological Review
Online ISSN : 1884-2755
Print ISSN : 0021-5414
Anonymity and Genesis of Society
An analysis of Alfred Schutz's concept of anonymity
Hiroshi Ogawa
Author information

1980 Volume 31 Issue 3 Pages 17-30


Anonymity is the concept which shows the problem of “man and society, ” for a society generates when a man with his proper name becomes anonymous. Alfred Schutz's concept of anonymity is helpful in considering this problem.
Schutz supposes a “we-relation” as a virtual source of light which projects the degrees of anonymity. The “we-relation” is based on a reciprocal “thou-orientation, ” in which one grasps the “Other” (fellow-man) in temporal and spatial immediacy. The more we approach the mediate experience of the “Other” (contemporary), the smaller is the degree of immediacy and the higher is the degree of anonymity. (Alfred Schutz and Thomas Luckmann, The Structures of the Life-World, Heinemann, 1974, p.73.) It should be noted that temporal and spatial immediacy is not a sufficient condition for the “we-relation, ” but it is a necessary condition.
Schutz's concept of anonymity is made up four phases.
1. Anonymity as Typicality
We can see this phase when the “Other” is experienced as a functional type (eg. postman) through typification or anonymization.
2. Anonymity as an Unknown
In the second phase the “Other” cannot be identified as a special person and biographical knowledge about him is not stocked.
3. Anonymity as a Principle of Construction of the Social World
4. Anonymity which Pregiven Social Structure Holds
Institutions, language and artifacts are highly anonymous spheres. They are on the one hand constructs by typification or anonymization, and on the other hand they are the elemental parts in setting the scene for the “we-relation.” I believe that in Schutz's theory construction (the third) and pregiveness (the fourth) of society are bound with the key terms-“we-relation” and anonymity. “Generalized others” (G.H. Mead), “self” and “das Man” (Heideggar) are related to these two phases.
I think that this articulation of anonymity will be useful in analyzing various problems of modern and contemporary society.

Information related to the author
© The Japan Sociological Society
Previous article Next article