Relational Sociology and Emergent Community

  • Kenneth C. Bessant
Chapter

Abstract

The recent “relational turn” in the social sciences is bringing much needed attention to the study of social relations. This chapter discusses relational sociologists’ efforts to reconnect, in more deliberate terms, with the primacy of relations and process thinking. For some theorists, all is social relations insofar as interdependent actors, transactions, and emergent patterns exist always-already in constant motion. This avidly anti-essentialist view of lived experience differs notably from the critical realist notion that relations can give rise to sui generis social effects, events, or phenomena. Notwithstanding different streams of thought on such matters, there is general agreement concerning the relational embeddedness of human activity. There is considerable theoretical value in thinking about community as a confluence of multifaceted relations and as an emergent phenomenon that possesses distinct properties.

References

  1. Archer, M. S. (1982). Morphogenesis versus structuration: On combining structure and action. The British Journal of Sociology, 33, 455–483.  https://doi.org/10.2307/589357 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Archer, M. S. (1995). Realist social theory: The morphogenetic approach. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Archer, M. S. (2000). Being human: The problem of agency. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Archer, M. S. (2010a). Critical realism and relational sociology: Complementarity and synergy. Journal of Critical Realism, 9, 199–207.  https://doi.org/10.1558/jcr.v9i2.199 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Archer, M. S. (2010b). Routine, reflexivity, and realism. Sociological Theory, 28, 272–303.  https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9558.2010.01375.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Aspers, P., & Kohl, S. (2013). Heidegger and socio-ontology: A sociological reading. Journal of Classical Sociology, 13, 487–508.  https://doi.org/10.1177/1468795X13480647 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bakhtin, M. M. (1986). Speech genres and other late essays (C. Emerson & M. Holquist, Eds. and V. W. McGee, Trans.). Austin, TX: University of Texas Press. (Original work published 1979).Google Scholar
  8. Bakhtin, M. M. (1990). Art and answerability: Early philosophical essay by M. M. Bakhtin (M. Holquist & V. Liapunav, Eds. and V. Liapunov, Trans.). Austin, TX: University of Texas Press.Google Scholar
  9. Bakhtin, M. M. (1993). Toward a philosophy of the act (V. Liapunov & M. Holquist, Eds. and V. Liapunov, Trans.). Austin, TX: University of Texas Press. (Original work published 1986).Google Scholar
  10. Barad, K. (2007). Meeting the universe halfway: Quantum physics and the entanglement of matter and meaning. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Berger, P. L., & Luckmann, T. (1966). The social construction of reality: A treatise in the sociology of knowledge. New York, NY: The Penguin Press.Google Scholar
  12. Bessant, K. C. (2014). The relational genesis of community: Self-other dialogue. Journal of Community & Applied Social Psychology, 24, 467–478.  https://doi.org/10.1002/casp.2185 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Bottero, W. (2009). Relationality and social interaction. The British Journal of Sociology, 60, 399–420.  https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-4446.2009.01236.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Bourdieu, P. (1985a). The genesis of the concepts of habitus and of field. Sociocriticism, 2, 11–24.Google Scholar
  15. Bourdieu, P. (1985b). The social space and the genesis of groups. Theory and Society, 14, 723–744. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/657373 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Bourdieu, P., & Wacquant, L. J. D. (1992). An invitation to reflexive sociology. Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  17. Buber, M. (1965). The knowledge of man: A philosophy of the interhuman (M. Friedman, Ed. and M. Friedman & R. G. Smith, Trans.). New York, NY: Harper & Row, Publishers.Google Scholar
  18. Buber, M. (2002). Between man and man (R. G. Smith, Trans.). New York, NY: Routledge. (Original work published 1947).Google Scholar
  19. Burkitt, I. (2016). Relational agency: Relational sociology, agency and interaction. European Journal of Social Theory, 19, 322–339.  https://doi.org/10.1177/1368431015591426 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Coole, D. (2005). Rethinking agency: A phenomenological approach to embodiment and agentic capacities. Political Studies, 53, 124–142.  https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9248.2005.00520.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Crossley, N. (1996). Intersubjectivity: The fabric of social becoming. London, UK: Sage Publications, Ltd.Google Scholar
  22. Crossley, N. (2011). Towards relational sociology. London, UK: Routledge.Google Scholar
  23. Crossley, N. (2013). Interactions, juxtapositions, and tastes: Conceptualizing “relations” in relational sociology. In C. Powell & F. Dépelteau (Eds.), Conceptualizing relational sociology: Ontological and theoretical issues (pp. 123–143). New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Crossley, N. (2015). Relational sociology and culture: A preliminary framework. International Review of Sociology, 25, 65–85.  https://doi.org/10.1080/03906701.2014.997965 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Dépelteau, F. (2008). Relational thinking: A critique of co-deterministic theories of structure and agency. Sociological Theory, 26, 51–73.  https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9558.2008.00318.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Dépelteau, F. (2013). What is the direction of the “relational turn”? In C. Powell & F. Dépelteau (Eds.), Conceptualizing relational sociology: Ontological and theoretical issues (pp. 163–185). New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Dépelteau, F. (2015). Relational sociology, pragmatism, transactions and social fields. International Review of Sociology, 25, 45–64.  https://doi.org/10.1080/03906701.2014.997966 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Donati, P. (2011). Relational sociology: A new paradigm for the social sciences. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge.Google Scholar
  29. Donati, P. (2013a). Social engagement: The viewpoint of relational sociology. International Journal of Sociology and Anthropology, 5, 84–99.  https://doi.org/10.5897/IJSA10.099 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Donati, P. (2013b). The added value of social relations. Italian Journal of Sociology of Education, 5, 19–35. Retrieved from http://ijse.padovauniversitypress.it/2013/1/2 Google Scholar
  31. Donati, P. (2014). Relational sociology, critical realism and social morphogenesis. Sociologia e Politiche Sociali, 17, 9–26.  https://doi.org/10.3280/SP2014-001002 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Donati, P. (2015). Manifesto for a critical realist relational sociology. International Review of Sociology, 25, 86–109.  https://doi.org/10.1080/03906701.2014.997967 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Donati, P., & Archer, M. S. (2015). The relational subject. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Durkheim, É. (1938). The rules of sociological method (G. E. G. Catlin, Ed. and S. A. Solovay & J. M. Mueller, Trans.). New York, NY: The Free Press. (Original work published 1895).Google Scholar
  35. Elder-Vass, D. (2008). Integrating institutional, relational and embodied structure: An emergentist perspective. The British Journal of Sociology, 59, 281–299.  https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-4446.2008.00194.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Elias, N. (2001). The society of individuals (M. Schröter, Ed. and E. Jephcott, Trans.). New York, NY: Continuum. (Original work published 1987).Google Scholar
  37. Emirbayer, M. (1997). Manifesto for a relational sociology. American Journal of Sociology, 103, 281–317.  https://doi.org/10.1086/231209 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Erikson, E. (2013). Formalist and relationist theory in social network analysis. Sociological Theory, 31, 219–242.  https://doi.org/10.1177/0735275113501998 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Fish, K. (2013). Relational sociology and historical materialism: Three conversation starters. In C. Powell & F. Dépelteau (Eds.), Conceptualizing relational sociology: Ontological and theoretical issues (pp. 27–44). New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Fushe, J. A. (2015). Theorizing social networks: The relational sociology of and around Harrison White. International Review of Sociology, 25, 15–44.  https://doi.org/10.1080/03906701.2014.997968 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Gergen, K. J. (2009). Relational being: Beyond self and community. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  42. Giddens, A. (1984). The constitution of society: Outline of the theory of structuration. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  43. Hosking, D. M., & Pluut, B. (2010). (Re)constructing reflexivity: A relational constructionist approach. The Qualitative Report, 15, 59–75. Retrieved from http://nsuworks.nova.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1140&context=tqr Google Scholar
  44. Kaipayil, J. (2009). Relationalism: A theory of being. Bangalore: JIP Publications.Google Scholar
  45. King, A. (1999). Against structure: A critique of morphogenetic social theory. The Sociological Review, 47, 199–227.  https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-954X.00170 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Liu, S., & Emirbayer, M. (2016). Field and ecology. Sociological Theory, 34, 62–79.  https://doi.org/10.1177/0735275116632556 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Matarrita-Cascante, D., & Brennan, M. A. (2012). Conceptualizing community development in the twenty-first century. Community Development, 43, 293–305.  https://doi.org/10.1080/15575330.2011.593267 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. May, V. (2011). Self, belonging and social change. Sociology, 45, 363–378.  https://doi.org/10.1177/0038038511399624 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. McNamee, S., & Gergen, K. J. (1999). Relational responsibility: Resources for sustainable dialgoue. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.Google Scholar
  50. Mead, G. H. (1934). Mind, self, and society: From the standpoint of a social behaviorist (C. W. Morris, Ed.). Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  51. Murphy, M. (2011). The ties that bind: Distinction, recognition and the relational. International Journal of Interdisciplinary Social Sciences, 5, 103–116. Retrieved from http://iji.cgpublisher.com/product/pub.88/prod.1294 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Nancy, J.-L. (1991). The inoperative community (P. Connor, Ed. and P. Connor, L. Garbus, M. Holland, & S. Sawhney, Trans.). Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.Google Scholar
  53. Nancy, J.-L. (2000). Being singular plural (R. D. Richardson & A. E. O’Byrne, Trans.). Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. (Original work published 1996).Google Scholar
  54. Piiroinen, T. (2014). For “central conflation”: A critique of Archerian dualism. Sociological Theory, 32, 79–99.  https://doi.org/10.1177/0735275114537632 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Porpora, D. V. (2013). Morphogenesis and social change. In M. S. Archer (Ed.), Social morphogenesis (pp. 25–37). New York, NY: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Powell, C. (2013). Radical relationism: A proposal. In C. Powell & F. Dépelteau (Eds.), Conceptualizing relational sociology: Ontological and theoretical issues (pp. 187–207). New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Powell, C., & Dépelteau, F. (2013). Introduction. In C. Powell & F. Dépelteau (Eds.), Conceptualizing relational sociology: Ontological and theoretical issues (pp. 1–12). New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Prandini, R. (2015). Relational sociology: A well-defined sociological paradigm or a challenging “relational turn” in sociology? International Review of Sociology, 25, 1–14.  https://doi.org/10.1080/03906701.2014.997969 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Selg, P. (2016). Two faces of the “relational turn”. PS: Political Science & Politics, 49, 27–31.  https://doi.org/10.1017/S1049096515001195 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Somers, M. R. (1998). “We’re no angels”: Realism, rational choice, and relationality in social science. American Journal of Sociology, 104, 722–784.  https://doi.org/10.1086/210085 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Tsekeris, C. (2010). Relationalism in sociology: Theoretical and methodological elaborations. Facta Universitatis, 9, 139–148. Retrieved from http://facta.junis.ni.ac.rs/pas/pas2010/pas2010-12.pdf Google Scholar
  62. Weber, M. (1978). Economy and society: An outline of interpretive sociology (G. Roth & C. Wittich, Eds. and E. Fischoff et al., Trans.). Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  63. Wilkinson, K. P. (1970). The community as a social field. Social Forces, 48, 311–322.  https://doi.org/10.2307/2574650 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Wilkinson, K. P. (1991). The community in rural America. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kenneth C. Bessant
    • 1
  1. 1.Brandon UniversityBrandonCanada

Personalised recommendations