Social Relations As Processes of Configurations of Events

Tuesday, 17 July 2018: 17:45
Oral Presentation
Andre ARMBRUSTER, University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany
With its focus on actors, Relational Sociology (RS) has not developed a general account of social relations. Even the radical RS (Powell) regards (observable) relations as between social actors. To resolve these theoretical shortcomings of RS, I conceptualize social reality as consisting of events: “The world is a world of events” (Mead). A social event is not a substance, rather it is an observable social phenomenon that is shaped and gets meaning by other events. For example, events are actions, organizational decisions or historical events like the French Revolution. According to Abbott (1992), events differ in duration, may overlap and are moving at different speeds. With Abbotts eventful sociology, I propose a definition of a social relation as a configuration of at least two events. Relying also on processual sociology, these connections of events are dynamic processes; they are embedded in a (structured or interactional) context and are influenced by the number, shape, and duration of the elements. Essential to the dynamics of processes are turning points, understood as intense changes that affect the direction of the ongoing processes (Bidart et al. 2013). Therefore, processes that connect events are whether determinable nor predictable. In my paper, I will show that several benefits arise from conceptualizing social relations as dynamic processes of configurations of events: First, it is a throughout relational approach without any essentialism. Second, I offer a general definition of relations that can operate at any scale and is in line with other forms of relations (e.g. figurations or agency [Emirbayer/Mische]). Third, the temporal dimension of events and turning points of processes contradict a “general linear reality”; “time matters” within a dynamic process of configuration of events.