Ten Function Systems from 1800-2000

This post is a sort of response to Steffen Roth (2014) “Fashionable Functions: A Google Ngram View of Trends in Functional Differentiation.”

Here is a Google Ngram tracking the frequency of the terms government, law, health, education, art, science, economy, religion, media, and sport in digitized books from the year 1800-2000.

tenfunctionsGovernment and Law have been the most frequently mentioned since 1800, with Government overtaking Law in 1960. Religion went from third to ninth.  Health climbed from seventh to third. Interestingly, Science has remained fairly flat since 1800. Here’s a look at just Religion and Science:


Science finally overlook religion in 1966. Let’s see how German compares for just  Regierung, Recht, Religion, Wissenschaft:


Wissenschaft overtook Religion in 1851. Recht and Regierung remain at the top. What about French for those four terms?


Science overlook religion in 1838. Since then, both have been flat. Unlike in English and German, government has never been above law in French.

I pogovernment

Based on the above graph, government, rather than politics or policy or public policy, seems to be the best name for the first function system.


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