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The Relational Subject


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  • Date Published: June 2015
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781107513952

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About the Authors
  • Many social theorists now call themselves 'relational sociologists', but mean entirely different things by it. The majority endorse a 'flat ontology', dealing exclusively with dyadic relations. Consequently, they cannot explain the context in which relationships occur or their consequences, except as resultants of endless 'transactions'. This book adopts a different approach which regards 'the relation' itself as an emergent property, with internal causal effects upon its participants and external ones on others. The authors argue that most 'relationists' seem unaware that analytical philosophers, such as Searle, Gilbert and Tuomela, have spent years trying to conceptualize the 'We' as dependent upon shared intentionality. Donati and Archer change the focus away from 'We thinking' and argue that 'We-ness' derives from subjects' reflexive orientations towards the emergent relational 'goods' and 'evils' they themselves generate. Their approach could be called 'relational realism', though they suggest that realists, too, have failed to explore the 'relational subject'.

    • Justifies treating 'the relation' between people as real and possessing properties and powers which enables us to regard relational 'goods' and 'evils' as having causal effects upon agents and their subsequent actions
    • Contrasts the 'relational subject' approach with the 'plural subject' of analytical philosophers
    • Conceptualizes the history of relationships, their current workings and their future transformation over time
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    • Joint Winner of the 2015 Cheryl Frank Memorial Prize

    Reviews & endorsements

    'The Relational Subject by Pierpaolo Donati and Margaret Archer is something new under the sun … what Donati and Archer have produced seems to me distinctly new both to standard Western sociology and the standard Western philosophy of social science. The theory articulated in The Relational Subject is certainly distinctly different from the varieties of relational sociology that precede it …' Douglas V. Porpora, Journal of Critical Realism

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    Product details

    • Date Published: June 2015
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781107513952
    • length: 356 pages
    • dimensions: 228 x 152 x 20 mm
    • weight: 0.52kg
    • contains: 27 b/w illus.
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    Part I:
    1. Introduction: relational sociology: reflexive and realist
    2. The plural subject versus the relational subject
    Part II: Prologue: the sources of relational subjects and their resources
    3. The relational subject and the person: self, agent and actor
    4. Socialization as relational reflexivity
    5. Culture reproaches to relationist sociology
    Part III: Prologue: the range of relational subjects: where and how they emerge
    6. When relational subjects generate relational goods
    7. The emergence of collective relational subjects and their societal impact: beyond the market/state binary code
    8. Relational subjects and the ravages of globalized markets: the need for subjects with relational ethics
    9. Conclusions: collective subjects and the added value of social relations.

  • Authors

    Pierpaolo Donati, Università di Bologna
    Pierpaolo Donati is Professor of Sociology and Director of the Centre of Studies on Social Innovation (CESIS) at the University of Bologna, Italy.

    Margaret S. Archer, University of Warwick
    Margaret S. Archer is Professor of Sociology and Director of the Centre for Social Ontology at the University of Warwick.


    • Joint Winner of the 2015 Cheryl Frank Memorial Prize

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