This book is an attempt to formulate a social theory appropriate to our age, based on the primacy of what Donati terms ‘social relations’. In defending the primacy of social relations, two concerns animate the book. The first is to rethink our conception of society which has become divorced from our humanity. And the second is an extended critique of some of the most prominent social theories that have led to this state of affairs. Donati insists on the primacy of social relations as a ‘first general presupposition in the metaphysical environment of theory’ . Social relations provide the key to understanding social reality, expressed as follows: ‘in the beginning there is the relation’ and society is understood as a net or web of relations. The relation does not eliminate the subjects or terms which it connects; instead, it ‘reclaims, explores and expresses them’. Donati offers an account of why widespread social transformation or morphogenesis is more and more likely in today’s circumstances. He takes issue with advocates of the ‘reflexive modernisation’ thesis who believe that the modernity’s progress has brought about unforeseen risks which have proven difficult to control and a ‘heightened awareness that mastery is impossible’. Donati considers that these advocates do not distinguish adequately between system reflectivity and social reflexivity. He wants to apply the notion of social reflexivity to networks so that we come upon a kind of reflexivity that is not a personal mental activity but a mixture of social and system reflexivity. On this basis, social networks would not only provide the context in which personal reflexivity takes places but would also have their own distinctive kind of reflexivity. In an earlier chapter, he gives the example of a corporation which has to relate itself to its environment and has to modify its own relations between its values, norms, goals and means. If it operates in a purely self-referential way, according to the tenets of functionalist thought, it finds itself ‘maladjusted to its environment’. If the organization is guided by relational concerns, the reflection is on how relationships can reshaped to help pursuit of ends; if the organization continues to operate in a manner dictated by its own interests, reflection is absorbed by the task of seeking the most appropriate means to these ends. For Donati, much of the current economic and social crisis can be laid at the door of corporations which were unable to relate themselves to their environment and modify themselves according to it by taking cognisance of the outcomes they produced, thus generating ‘social pathologies’. This example is indicative of a broad change in how societies order themselves, what he terms ‘relational differentiation’. This book has been written to shed a new light on this world. In order to see it, we need an adequate framework, which has not been developed until now. Sociology has failed in exploring it with appropriate means. This book is a proposal to adopt a new way to perceive, represent and deal with it. Within the framework of critical realism, the book suggests a way to analyse the configuration of the social relation as an interlacing between subjective and objective elements, which exists in a complex environment, so to describe, understand and explain social phenomena as ‘relational facts’.

Relational Sociology. A New Paradigm for the Social Sciences

DONATI, PIERPAOLO
2011

Abstract

This book is an attempt to formulate a social theory appropriate to our age, based on the primacy of what Donati terms ‘social relations’. In defending the primacy of social relations, two concerns animate the book. The first is to rethink our conception of society which has become divorced from our humanity. And the second is an extended critique of some of the most prominent social theories that have led to this state of affairs. Donati insists on the primacy of social relations as a ‘first general presupposition in the metaphysical environment of theory’ . Social relations provide the key to understanding social reality, expressed as follows: ‘in the beginning there is the relation’ and society is understood as a net or web of relations. The relation does not eliminate the subjects or terms which it connects; instead, it ‘reclaims, explores and expresses them’. Donati offers an account of why widespread social transformation or morphogenesis is more and more likely in today’s circumstances. He takes issue with advocates of the ‘reflexive modernisation’ thesis who believe that the modernity’s progress has brought about unforeseen risks which have proven difficult to control and a ‘heightened awareness that mastery is impossible’. Donati considers that these advocates do not distinguish adequately between system reflectivity and social reflexivity. He wants to apply the notion of social reflexivity to networks so that we come upon a kind of reflexivity that is not a personal mental activity but a mixture of social and system reflexivity. On this basis, social networks would not only provide the context in which personal reflexivity takes places but would also have their own distinctive kind of reflexivity. In an earlier chapter, he gives the example of a corporation which has to relate itself to its environment and has to modify its own relations between its values, norms, goals and means. If it operates in a purely self-referential way, according to the tenets of functionalist thought, it finds itself ‘maladjusted to its environment’. If the organization is guided by relational concerns, the reflection is on how relationships can reshaped to help pursuit of ends; if the organization continues to operate in a manner dictated by its own interests, reflection is absorbed by the task of seeking the most appropriate means to these ends. For Donati, much of the current economic and social crisis can be laid at the door of corporations which were unable to relate themselves to their environment and modify themselves according to it by taking cognisance of the outcomes they produced, thus generating ‘social pathologies’. This example is indicative of a broad change in how societies order themselves, what he terms ‘relational differentiation’. This book has been written to shed a new light on this world. In order to see it, we need an adequate framework, which has not been developed until now. Sociology has failed in exploring it with appropriate means. This book is a proposal to adopt a new way to perceive, represent and deal with it. Within the framework of critical realism, the book suggests a way to analyse the configuration of the social relation as an interlacing between subjective and objective elements, which exists in a complex environment, so to describe, understand and explain social phenomena as ‘relational facts’.
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9780415567480
P. Donati
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/11585/108144
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