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Title: Lectures on Relational Sociology: basics


1
Lectures onRelational Sociology basics
advancements
Pierpaolo Donati University of Bologna
2
Basic texts
  • P. DONATI, Sociologia della relazione, il Mulino,
    Bologna, 2013
  • P. DONATI, Sociologia relazionale. Come cambia la
    società, La Scuola, Brescia, 2013.

3
Foundations of the relational paradigm(social
ontology, epistemology and methodology)
  • 1. SOCIAL ONTOLOGY
  • REALISM characterized by being
  • - Critical (vs positivist, materialist or
    naïve/direct realism)
  • - Analytical (vs empiricist ontologies,
    ontological empiricism)
  • - Relational (vs essentialist ontologies)
  • (Its main adversary is radical constructionism,
    which claims that The real is what knowledge
    indicates as real or reality is the same
    observation)
  • (substance and relation are
    co-principles of all that exists)

4
Foundations of the relational paradigm
  • 2. EPISTEMOLOGY
  • Knowledge is achieved with/through relations
  • (in parallel to the fact that we do not
    see the light, but we see the world
    with/through the light)
  • This epistemology follows the ontological
    assumption according to which
  • At the beginning (of every social fact)
    there is a relation
  • (not self-standing entities or aggregates
    of single factors, be they individuals or
    systems)
  • Individuals systems (structures) are
    relationally constituted (by mediating relations)

5
Foundations of the relational paradigm
  • 3. METHODOLOGY
  • Neither holism
  • (because it reduces the human person to a
    product of
  • structures the whole ? the parts),
  • nor methodological individualism
  • (because it reduces the human person to the
    individual,
  • whereas the agent (s/he) is an
    individual-in-relation)
  • But RELATIONAL ANALYSIS (rules, research design,
    relational tools)
  • (cf. P. Donati, Lanalisi relazionale
    regole, quadro metodologico, esempi, in Id.
    (ed.),
  • Sociologia. Una introduzione allo studio
    della società, Padova, 2006, 195-251).

6
The epistemic gain
  • By means of RS, we gain insight into some of
    the crucial sociological issues that underpin
  • the micro/macro link (because we can introduce
    the meso level)
  • For instance we can see social capital
    neither as an individual endowment
  • (e.g. an instrumental means), nor as a
    cultural system (e.g. civic culture),
  • but as a quality and property of a social
    network (generating trust, cooperation,
  • reciprocity, i.e. social capital as a sui
    generis social relation)
  • the structure/agency dialectics (because we can
    see how this dialectics
  • is mediated by the social networks that are
    responsible for the
  • morphostasis/morphogenesis of both
    structure agency)
  • For instance structure and agency change
    not because they are directly
  • enmeshed (see Giddens central conflation
    criticized by Archer), but because they
  • both operate via/through their relations,
    which constitute a different
  • order of reality (the order of social
    relations, different from the structural
  • and agential orders)
  • On morphostasis/morphogenesis, see M.S. Archer,
    Realist Social Theory The Morphogenetic
    Approach, CUP, Cambridge, 1995

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8
.. more on epistemic gains
  • We can see social change in a different mode
    neither as a
  • product of individuals factors (motivations,
    attitudes, values,
  • etc.), nor as a product of systemic factors
    (mechanisms
  • pertaining to the whole), but as a product
    of the
  • differentiation of social relations
  • (cf. Viviane Zelizer (2012), How I Became a
    Relational Economic Sociologist
  • and What Does That Mean?, Politics Society,
    vol. 40, no. 2 145-174)
  • We can see why and how relations have their own
    internal
  • logic and operations
  • So we can see how social relations produce new
    forms of
  • social differentiation (beyond the segmentary,
    stratified
  • functional forms) in terms of relational
    differentiation

9
What is the relational turn
  • it is a view of contemporary (networking)
    society
  • that changes the classical and modern logics.
  • The relational paradigm changes
  • 1) the principle of identity (Aristotle)
  • 2) the dialectic of distinction (in its different
    guises Hegelian,
  • system/environment and Spencer Brown logics)

10
The three semantics of identity with which
social theory can work
  • Basic semantics
  • classical modern
    after-modern
  • monistic dualistic
    relational
  • A A A not (notA) A R
    (A, notA)
  • More extensively (the identity of A in a
    networks of relations)
  • A R ri (A, notA)
  • Rrelation to the ri relations that A has with
    its external world
  • It can be conceived in terms of relational
    reflexivity of A

11
What is a social relation?(how can we define R?)
  • 1 semantics) Re-ligo (bond or structural
    connection Emile Durkheim)
  • 2 semantics) Re-fero (simbolic reference Max
    Weber)
  • 3 semantics) Emerging phenomenon (relation as an
    emergent Simmels Wechselwirkung or effect of
    reciprocity, the Third created by the exchange
    or, better, reciprocal action between Ego and
    Alter)

12
Relational sociology combines the three
semantics together(relation at the micro level)
  • Legenda
  • A means of the relation
    first semantics
  • G target/goal
    (refero)
  • I norms of coordination
  • L (latent cultural) value
  • (worth of the relation)


  • EMERGENT


  • (third semantics)


  • second semantics


  • (religo)

G R E F A R E L I G O
I E R O L
13
At the macro (meso) levels
  • G
  • State
  • (apparatuses)
  • A
    I
  • Market
    Civil society
  • (firms)
    (associations)
  • L
  • Culture
  • (life worlds)

14
What can we see with/through this definition of
the social as a relation?Four empirical
examples
  • 1 example) We can see new social goods
    (relational goods) which are neither private nor
    public
  • 2 ex.) We can see new citizenship rights
    (relational rights) that are not civil, political
    or social rights
  • 3 ex.) We can identify a new area of welfare
    policies (civil welfare) beyond the compromise
    between market state
  • 4 ex.) We can see the emergence of
    differentiated social forms of free giving beyond
    charities

15
1 ex.) The existence of social goods which are
neither public nor private (in the modern sense
of these categories)
  • Antonine Wagner has presented
  • a theory of social goods that lacks the L
    dimension

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17
2 ex.) The complex of citizenship rights
  • T. H. Marshalls theory on citizenship rights
  • (which were supposed to develop in indian
    file/linear sequence A-gtG-gtI, but lack the L
    dimension)

G Political rights A
I Civil
rights
Social rights
(welfare) L (?)
18
The relational theory can fill the (unseen,
under-conceptualized) L dimension and redefine
the emergent complex of rights
G Political rights A
I
Civil rights
Social rights (free market)
(social
welfare) L Human rights (life-worlds) (these
are relational rights, i.e. rights to human
relations, since the human person is an
individual-in-relation)
19
3 ex.) Relational theory can see a fourth kind
of welfare policies (civil welfare) beyond the
classical typology by Titmuss
  • Richard Titmuss classical theory on welfare
    policies
  • identifies types 1,2,3 (G,A,L)
  • but obscures the social integration dimension
    (I)
  • Institutional Welfare (G) is up to the state
  • Acquisitive-Meritocratic Welfare (A) is up to the
    market
  • Residual Welfare (L) is up to families informal
    networks
  • Anything else? What about welfare in the social
    integration
  • dimension (I)? Up to whom?

20
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21
4 ex.) The relational theory can see the
emergence of free giving in differentiated social
forms
  • Classical theory (M. Mauss) views free giving
  • (i) in primitive societies, as an archaic form of
    social exchange
  • (ii) in modern times, as a form of charity by the
    state or by voluntary organizations to the poor
  • BUT, in contemporary society, free giving emerges
    as a highly differentiated form of feeding new
    social relations ? (next)

22
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23
In order to capture the reality and the
making of new social relations we need an
adequate relational analysisrules, research
design, methodological toolsto see social
relations as generative mechanisms and targets
for applied (professional) sociology Cf. P.
Donati, Lanalisi relazionale regole, quadro
metodologico, esempi, in Id. (ed.), Sociologia,
Cedam, Padova, 2006, pp. 195-251.
24
Two basic points first1) Relational analysis
looks at social networks as networks of social
relations, not only as networks of nodesNotice
the difference
25
Two basic points second2) The observation
should be relational, which means that the
social relation should be seen as a generative
mechanism
         
  O (observer)   O (observer)   O (observer)    
socio-cultural structures in which A is embedded     (AGIL of As action) A B (AGIL of Bs action)          socio-cultural structures in which B is embedded
    Y (AGIL of the relation between A and B)    
For the analysis of the matrices of the
bond-indicators (in both personal and full
networks) according to the AGIL scheme, see L.
Tronca, Sociologia relazionale e social network
analysis. Analisi delle strutture sociali,
FrancoAngeli, Milano, 2013.
26
The generative mechanism which transforms
society lies in the added (or subtracted) value
of the emerging social relations (Y)(precisely
because it produces emergents in the networks
ex. more/less social capital)
  T1 - Starting network Social capital as dependent variable (explanandum) T2 - Interactions within the network the dynamics of the network of relations produces interactions (more or less reflexive) which generate or consume social capital - T3 Social capital as indipendent variable (explanans) T4 - Emergent network with its properties, qualities and effects social capital has changed (increased or decreased, having Time produced relational goods or relational evils, etc.)
  • On the morphogenetic process see M.S. Archer
    (ed.), Social Morphogenesis, Springer, 2013

26
27
In the phase T2-T3, social relations change
the value of social capital, which may be
increased (value added) or decreased (subtracted
value) in so far as the order of relations has
been changed by the order of interactionsin the
cycle (T1-T4)
28
Comparing relational and relationistic sociologies
Relationistic (transactional) sociologies do
not see the emergent (Y in the previous
figure) - maintain that relations generate
structures that have no power (Emirbayer,
Dépelteau)
Relational (emergentist) sociologies see the
emergent reality (Y in the previous
figure) - claim that relations (as structures)
have peculiar causal powers (Archer, Donati)
29
The molecular structure of social relation as
a generative mechanism(a molecule is what
specifies the qualities and properties of a
stuff/entity/matter)
30
The perspective by M.S. ArcherEvery social
phenomenon comes in a SAC interplay(Structure,
Agency, Culture) - which I share - can be
WRITTEN in the following way (micro level)
  • Social order (SAC)
  • (relational
    interactional) ORDER OF

  • RELATION
  • Conditioning
  • structure


    Conditioning structure
  • Agent1
    Agent2
  • (agency1)

    (agency2)
  • Legenda (composition

    ORDER OF
  • of the relation)

    INTERACTION
  • Structure means ?? norms
  • Culture value ? ? goal


  • BLACK BOX

  • EMERGENT

C U L T U R E
S T R UC T U R E
31
as a social molecule (elaborated
structure), the social relation is formed when
a peculiar molecular bond between the elements
is realized(by pure analogy with the molecular
bond in water H2O)This bond is the form of the
social relation
32
  • examples
  • the relation employer-worker
  • the relation teacher-pupil
  • the relation doctor-patient
  • the couple relation
  • the relation producer-consumer
  • the relation seller-buyer
  • voter-elected
  • etc.

33
The basic reason for the peculiarities of the
relational paradigm lies in the fact that it
brings into play the latent reality of the social
and therefore it makes the relation a matter of
emergence and instantiation (Peirce)
G (political) A-G Area of interests
(representable) A
I (economic)
(social)


L-I area of
identities

(only appresentable) L (values)
(here are the boundaries with the human,
i.e. the latent reality which should be
represented and appresented)
34
The social molecule of the modern relation(or
the modern relational organization of social
relations)? nextThe social molecule of the
after-modern relation(or the after-modern
relational organization of social relations)?
next
35
The social molecule produced by modern society
is constituted by four base-elements that are
combined togetherG) the target or goal of the
social relation is to pursue any new achievement
by freeing the individuals from all ascriptive
constraints (agency should be made maximally
contingent through functional social
differentiation)A) the means is money
(currency) as the tool which can produce variety
by exchanging anything with anything else
(universal equivalent)I) the norms regulate the
production of variety through competitionL) the
value of the relation is its in-difference toward
unconditional values (i.e., its polytheism of
values) the relation assesses reality on the
basis of values that are always negotiable and
fungible, i.e. functionally equivalent to other
values
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37
The social molecule of the after-modern society
is constituted by four base-elements that are
combined togetherG) the social relations
target/goal is to select variations according to
the type and degree of relationality that they
entailA) the means for achieving the goal must
be such as to allow for the production of
relational goods (they must promote a network of
social exchanges that confer a relationally
satisfying identity upon the agents/actors)I)
The logic (norms) is relational, which means that
it promotes meta-reflexivity in so far as the
rules involve the search for a non-fungible
quality in social relations (these are relations
that cannot be exchanged for other relations)
L) the value of the relation working as guiding
principle lies is its difference in terms of
what value it represents (the selection of the
variety to be chosen is evaluated on the basis of
the meaningful experiences that the agent can
obtain in contrast to what can be offered by
other types of relations)
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40
Introducing the distinction between
Structural effects (constraints on
actors and their relations)for instance the
functional division of labour forces work and
private/family life to separate and specialize
Relational effects (outcomes of
networks dynamics) for instance by networking
the labour marketand family life a relational
division of labour can link and balance i.e.
reconcile them
41
An example of recent advancements is the
understanding of a new form of social
differentiation
  • Beyond the three well known types of social
    differentiation (segmentary, stratified and
    functional)
  • What emerges is the relational differentiation
  • (ex. The birth of new family forms by
    reorganizing the division of labour between the
    market and family life)

42
Relational sociology is based upon a social
ontology and epistemology (including
methodology), but it asserts also a pragmatics
(applied sociology)
  • Pragmatics consists in networking,
  • or network interventions for solving social
    issues
  • on the basis of the following assumptions
  • Since social issues (in a specific context) stem
    from a
  • peculiar dynamics of social relations and
    their outcomes,
  • Then the remedial interventions must be sought
    in the modification of social relations (the
    social network),
  • by relying upon the natural potentials of
    social groups (i.e. relational networks), through
    indirect (not direct) interventions called
    relational steering

43
Examples
  • Relational social work (F. Folgheraiter,
    Relational Social Work. Toward Networking and
    Societal Practices, J. Kingsley, London, 2004
  • F. Powell, The Professional Challenger of
    Reflexive Modernization, Social Work in Ireland,
    in British Journal of Social Work, vol. 28,
    1998, pp. 311-28)
  • Reflexive teams (T. Andersen (ed.) (1991), The
    Reflecting Team Dialogues and Dialogues About
    the Dialogues, W. W. Norton Company, New York).
  • Family group conferences (J. Seikkula and
    T.M.Arnkil (2006), Dialogical Meet Social
    Networks, Karnac Books, London)
  • Peer-2peer production (M. Bauwens)
  • Co-production (V. Pestoff, Co-production The
    state of the Art in Research and Future Agenda,
    Voluntas. 23 (4), 2012).
  • Relational services/relational social policies,
  • Relational State,
  • Etc.

44
An example of how to apply the scheme
45
The emergence of co-production
  • Network 1
    Network 2
  • (traditional delivery of services)
    (co-production)
  • Individual feedback
    Relational feedback
  • Networks with relations based
    Networks with relations based
  • upon positive/negative feedbacks
    upon relational feedbacks
  • (personal reflexivity)
    (relational reflexivity)

co
Communities of citizens
Regular producer
consumer
Public services
46
The analytical dimensions of the Value of
something/someone (the added value can be
measured as the enhancement obtained in various
dimensions A) in the economic exchange G) in
using something/someone to meet needs I) in the
social relation that is activated or stimulated
as an active bond that offers new relational
opportunities and resources L) in enhancing the
dignity of something/someone.
47
Conclusions
  • The relational paradigm is susceptible of wider
    developments.
  • . on the condition that the social sciences can
    enter into the social relation (its structure
    dynamics)
  • what makes society more and more complex is the
    emergence of social relations (the future depends
    on the dialectic between virtual vs real
    relations, see digital or smart cities, web 3.0,
    etc.)

48
Further readings P. Donati, Relational
Sociology. A New Paradigm for the Social
Sciences, Routledge, London and New York,
2011 P. Donati, Morphogenesis and Social
Networks Relational Steering not Mechanical
Feedback, in M.S. Archer (ed.), Social
Morphogenesis, Springer, New York, 2013, pp.
205-231. P. Donati, Morphogenic Society and the
Structure of Social Relations, in M.S. Archer
(ed.), Late Modernity. Trajectories towards
Morphogenic Society, Springer, New York, 2014,
pp. 143-172.
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