The New Relational Turn in European Sociology – Theoretical and Methodological Perspectives

Thursday, 19 July 2018: 10:45
Oral Presentation
Boris TRAUE, Technical University Berlin, Germany
In the past years, the debate on relational sociology has intensified considerably. After North American network research and pragmatist sociology embraced relational thought, an alternative relational research programme has emerged in European sociology and social theory. It is grounded in philosophical anthropology, the sociology of knowledge, Science and Technology studies as well as qualitative empirical methods.

This approach is fostered by scholars such as Pierpaolo Donati, Margaret Archer, Hubert Knoblauch, Gesa Lindemann and others, with major works having been published in the last five years. Taking leads from Simmel, Schütz, Mead and Plessner as well as media theory, such approaches emphasize the ‚triadic‘ character of social relations and thus deliver a strong critique of substantialist concepts. They seek to integrate micro- and macro-perspectives through the implemementation of qualitative methodologies, which allow us to create thick descriptions of the processuality of social action as well as long-term societal transformations. Such ‚triadic relational thought‘ is articulated through a dialogue between qualitative inquiry (ethnography, discourse analysis, hermeneutics) and a recasting of classical theories – and thus substantially enriches and expands the range of relational theory in sociology and social thought in general. In the contribution, commonalities and differences of this research programme with other forms of relational sociology are pointed out by discussing themes such as communication, technology, power, violence, and democracy. In the conclusion, perspectives for relational sociology which emerge from this new research programme will be proposed.