Boundaries and Distinctions

Boundaries and Distinctions

 

 

Distinctions create cultural diversity.

If you value diversity, you value distinctions

If you value networks, you value boundaries

 

 

Key Terms

  • Social Class
  • Social Status
  • Distinction
  • Boundaries
  • Borders
  • Difference
  • Division
  • Diversity
  • Power
  • Inclusion and Exclusion
  • Networks as Boundaries
  • Inequality
  • Taste
  • Symbolic Boundaries
  • Social Boundaries
  • Spatial Boundaries
  • Social Processes
  • Collaboration
  • Communication
  • Confrontation
  • Ethnic Groups
  • Gender
  • Race
  • Samaj
  • Community
  • Social Stratification
  • Identity
  • Emile Durkheim
  • Max Weber
  • Pierre Bourdieu
  •  Fredrik Barth
  • Charles Tilly
  • Harrison White
  • Michèle Lamont
  • Relational Sociology
  • Cultural Sociology
  • Many Levels of Development
  • Spiral Dynamics
  • Values
  • Culture
  • Holons
  • Holarchy
  • Integral Theory

 

Symbolic Boundaries

 

Symbolic Boundaries (General)

Michèle Lamont
Department of Sociology
Princeton University
Princeton New Jersey 08540
U.S.A.

Article #: 20851A4/8/007
Symbolic Boundaries (General)

1. Definition and Intellectual Context

“Symbolic Boundaries” are the lines that include and define some people, groups and things while excluding others (Epstein 1992, p. 232). These distinctions can be expressed through normative interdictions (taboos), cultural attitudes and practices, and more generally through patterns of likes and dislikes. They play an important role in the creation of inequality and the exercise of power. The term “symbolic boundaries” is also used to refer to the internal distinctions of classification systems and to temporal, spatial, and visual cognitive distinctions in particular (Wagner-Pacifici 2000; Zerubavel 1997; see the entry cognitive schemata and expressive forms). This article focuses on boundaries within and between groups.It discusses the history, current research, and future challenges of work on this topic.

The literature on symbolic boundaries has gained importance since the sixties due to a convergence between research on symbolic systems and indirect forms of power. Writings by Pierre Bourdieu, Mary Douglas, Norbert Elias, Erving Goffman, and Michel Foucault on these and related topics have been influential internationally across several disciplines, but particularly in anthropology, history, literary studies, and sociology. In North America, a renewed cultural sociology has produced wide-ranging empirical research agendas on symbolic boundaries and inequality. In other fields including community, cognition, deviance, gender, immigration, knowledge and science, nationalism, professions, race and ethnic studies, and social movements, issues of boundaries have gained analytical prominence, although some authors analyze boundary work without using the language of symbolic boundaries.

2. History

Two of the founding fathers of sociology played central roles in shaping the literature on symbolic boundaries: Emile Durkheim and Max Weber. I review their contributions before turning to the “neo-classical” writings of Mary Douglas, Norbert Elias, and Thornstein Veblen, which illustrate the lasting influence of Durkheim and Weber on this literature up to the sixties. While Durkheim brings attention to classification systems and their relationship with the moral order, Weber is more concerned with their impact on the production and reproduction of inequality. (For a more encompassing historical overview which includes a discussion of the work of Claude Lévi-Strauss and Victor Turner, see Schwartz 1981).

One of the most widely used examples of symbolic boundaries is taken from Durkheim’s later work, Les formes élementaires de la vie religieuse (The Elementary Forms of Religious Life 1965[1911]).In this book, Durkheim arguesthat the distinctiveness of the religious experience from other types of experiences rests in the fact that it involves a symbolic distinction between the realms of the sacred and the profane (p. 234, 250). The meanings of these realms are mutually exclusive and are defined relationally, through interdictions and rituals that isolate and protect the former from the latter (e.g., a Roman-Catholic sinner cannot receive communion until he is purified through confession) (p. 271).

The distinction between the sacred and the profane extends to the whole universe of objects and people in which it takes place. For instance, the status of members of a community is defined by the types of relationship they have with sacred objects (e.g., Roman Catholic women cannot celebrate mass). In this sense, religious systems provide a cosmology, i.e., a general interpretation of how the world is organized and how its elements relate to one another and to the sacred. This cosmology acts as a system of classification and its elements are organized according to a hierarchy (counterpoising for instance the pure with the impure). The belief invested in this “order of things” structures people’s lives to the extent that it limits and facilitates their action. In Durkheim’s words, “the power attached to sacred things conducts men with the same degree of necessity as physical force.” (p. 260).

Moving beyond the religious realm, Durkheim points to the existence of a moral order, i.e., a common public system of perception of reality that regulates, structures, and organizes relations in a community. This system operates less through coercion than through inter-subjectivity (p. 238). In fact, Durkheim defines society by its symbolic boundaries: it is the sharing of a common definition of the sacred and the profane, of similar rules of conducts and a common compliance to rituals and interdictions that defines the internal bonds within a community. Hence, he posits that the boundaries of the group coincide with those delimitating the sacred from the profane.

Unlike Durkheim, Max Weber is more concerned with the role played by symbolic boundaries (honor) in the creation of social inequality than in the creation of social solidarity. In Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft (Economy and Society, 1978[1922]), he describes human beings as engaged in a continuous struggle over scarce resources. In order to curb competition, they discriminate toward various groups on the basis of their cultural characteristics, such as lifestyle, language, education, race, or religion (chap. 2). In the process, they form status groups whose superiority is defined in relation to other groups. They cultivate a sense of honor, privilege relationships with group members, and define specific qualifications for gaining entry to the group and for interacting with lower status outsiders (e.g., opposing miscegenation). They invoke their higher status and shared rules of life to justify their monopolization of resources. Hence, cultural understandings about status boundaries have a strong impact on people’s social position and access to resources.

Thornstein Veblen’s The Theory of the Leisure Class (1979[1899]) parallels Weber’s writings on status group. Veblen is also concerned with the mechanisms that produce boundaries between status groups. This American economist suggests that habits of thought (“classifying and demarcating”) are central to these mechanisms and are often organized around notions of superiority and inferiority concerning employment, consumption, and leisure. In his words, “the concept of dignity, worth, or honor, as applied either to persons or conduct, is of first-rate consequence in the development of class and class distinctions” (p. 15). For instance, idleness symbolizes status because it signifies pecuniary status. It is a way for “successful men to put their prowess in evidence”. Evidence of non-productive consumption of time includes “quasi-scholarly or quasi-artistic accomplishments”. Also, “refined tastes, manners, and habits of life are useful evidence of gentility because good breeding requires time, application, and expenses” (p. 49) and are therefore not available to those “whose time and energies are taken up with work.”

Veblen also developed the concept of “conspicuous consumption” in the context of an acerbic critique of the excesses of the business class. He argues that the possession and display of wealth confers honor: as an invidious distinction, it symbolizes ranking within a group. This way of manifesting superiority is more common when predatory aggression or war are less frequent. Veblen’s analysis assumes that there is a usual tendency to change standards of sufficiency as one’s pecuniary situation improves, so that one becomes restless with creating “wider and ever-widening distance” between herself and the average standard.

Also paralleling Weber’s work, is the work of German sociologist Norbert Elias, Uber Den Prozess der Zivilisation (The Civilizing Process, 1982[1939]). Elias analyzes the historical emergence of a boundary between civilized and barbarian habits by using evidence from Western manner manuals written between the late middle ages and the Victorian period. His attention centers on “natural” bodily functions such as spiting, defecating, eating, and blowing one’s nose to show an “advance in the threshold of self-control,” over time. He demonstrates the growing centrality of shame and embarrassment in instituting norms of behavior in public and private. At a more general level, he shows transformations in standards of behavior and feelings and in personality structures (what he calls “habitus,” or habits emerging from social experience). He argues that these vary across hierarchical groups in society and that these variations are key to pacification and the exercise of power.

Elias’ The Established and the Outsiders (1994[1965], with John L. Scotson) is another benchmark in the study of boundaries. This community study analyzes the causes for the difference in status between residents of two parts of a town (“the Village” and “the Estate”). The former group has more cohesion, in part because it is older and more established than the latter. Its residents see themselves as having higher status because they have been able to gain control of strategic positions and channels of communication over time, which allows them to stigmatize the outsiders and impose their own definition of self. Conversely, the “outsiders” are not in a position to impose an alternative self-definition.

To turn now to the lasting influence of Durkheim’s work, in Purity and Danger(1966), Mary Douglas is concerned with the order-producing, meaning-making and form-giving functions of classification systems and the role of rituals in creating boundaries grounded in fears and beliefs. In Natural Symbols (1970), she takes on the idea of a correspondence between classification systems and social organization advanced by Durkheim and Mauss (1963[1903]). She describes the structure of binary symbolic systems as “reflecting” that of group structures. Like Elias, she is also concerned with the moral order and centers her attention on the system of social control as expressed through the body and through the observable artifacts of everyday life (food, dirt, and material possessions). She argues that the very basis of order in social life is the presence of symbols that demarcate boundaries or lines of division.

One of Douglas’s main concerns is how communities differentiate themselves from one another and how they are internally differentiated. She distinguishes groups on the basis of their degree of social control and of the rigidity of their grid (by which she means the scope and coherent articulation of their system of classification or the extent to which it is competing with other systems). In societies with high social control and great cultural rigidity (i.e. what she calls high grid and group), there is a concern to preserve social boundaries; the role structure is clearly defined; and formal behavior is highly valued and well-defined in publicly insulated roles. Through “the purity rule“, formality screens out irrelevant organic processes, “matters out of place”. Douglas suggests that “the more complex the system of classification and the stronger the pressured to maintain it, the more social intercourse pretends to take place between disembodied spirits” (1966, p. 101), i.e., the more the purity rule applies.

3. Current Theory and Research

In the contemporary literature on symbolic boundaries, both the neo-Weberian and neo-Durkheimian heritage remain strong. The question of how boundaries intersect with the production of inequality has attracted great interest in recent years, following the publication of Pierre Bourdieu’s impressive corpus. In the United States in particular, cultural sociologists have been working to assess some of Bourdieu’s theoretical claims and to use his work as a stepping stone for improving our understanding of the cultural aspects of class, gender, and racial inequality. Other important developments concern the study of identity through boundary work, and research on moral order, community, and symbolic politics. As I argue in the final section of this article, social scientists will soon face the challenge of integrating work from a wide range of fields that have used the concept of boundaries to various ends.

3.1 Culture and Inequality

In the last twenty years, a large neo-Weberian literature emerged around the study of processes of closure, as illustrated most notably by the work of Frank Parkin and Randall Collins. Parkin (1979) drew on Weber to propose an analysis of class relationship that focuses on the distributive struggle for monopolizing or usurping resources within and across classes – with an emphasis on the right of ownership and credentialism, i.e., the use of educational certificates to monopolize positions in the labor market. Equally inspired by Durkheim, Collins (1998) extended his earlier work on credentialism and interaction rituals to analyze how intellectuals compete to maximize their access to key network positions, cultural capital, and emotional energy, which generates intellectual creativity. These authors’ contributions intersect with those of Pierre Bourdieu and his collaborators, although their ideas followed an independent path of development.

In Reproduction (1977[1970]), Pierre Bourdieu and Jean-Claude Passeron proposed that the lower academic performance of working class children cannot be accounted for by their lower ability but by institutional biases against them. They suggest that schools evaluate all children on the basis of their familiarity with the culture of the dominant class (or cultural capital), thus penalizing lower-class students. Extensive vocabulary, wide-ranging cultural references, and command of high culture are valued by the school system and students from higher social backgrounds are exposed to this class culture at home. Hence, children of the dominated classes are over-selected by the educational system. They are not aware of it, as they remain under the spell of the culture of the dominant class. They blame themselves for their failure, which leads them to drop out or to sort themselves into lower prestige educational tracks.

This work can be read as a direct extension of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels’ (1979) “dominant ideology thesis”, which centers on the role of ideology in cementing relations of domination by camouflaging exploitation and differences in class interests. However, Bourdieu and Passeron are more concerned with classification systems than with representations of the social world itself, i.e., with how representations of social relationships, the state, religion, and capitalism contribute to the reproduction of domination. Implicitly building on Gramsci (1971), they made inroads in analyzing the subjective process of consolidation of class domination, focusing on the shaping of cultural categories. The control of subjectivity in everyday life through the shaping of common sense and the naturalization of social relations is the focus of their attention. They broaden Marx and Engels by suggesting that crucial power relations are structured in the symbolic realm proper, and are mediated by meaning. They de facto provide a more encompassing understanding of the exercise of hegemony by pointing to the incorporation of class-differentiated cultural dispositions mediated by both the educational system and family socialization.

In Distinction (1984[1979]), Bourdieu applies this analysis to the world of tasteand cultural practice at large. He shows how the logic of class struggle extends to the realm of taste and lifestyle, and that symbolic classification is key to the reproduction of class privileges: dominant groups define their own culture and ways of being as superior. Thereby they exercise “symbolic violence,” i.e., impose a specific meaning as legitimate while concealing the power relations that are the basis of its force (Bourdieu and Passeron 1977[1970], p. 4). They define legitimate and “dominated” cultures in opposition: the value of cultural preferences and behaviors are defined relationally around binary oppositions (or boundaries) such as high/lower, pure/impure, distinguished/vulgar, and aesthetic/practical (p. 245). The legitimate culture they thereby define is used by dominant groups to mark cultural distance and proximity, monopolize privileges, and exclude and recruit new occupants to high status positions (p. 31). Through the incorporation of “habitus” or cultural dispositions, cultural practices have inescapable and unconscious classificatory effects that shape social positions.

A large American literature applying, extending, assessing, and critiquing the contributions of Bourdieu and his collaborators developed in the wake of their translation in English (for a review, see Lamont and Lareau 1988.) For instance, DiMaggio (1987) suggests that boundaries between cultural genres are created by status groups to signal their superior status. DiMaggio and Mohr (1985) found that levels of cultural capital significantly influence higher education attendance and completion as well as marital selection patterns in the United States. Lamont (l992, chap.7) critiqued Bourdieu (1984) for exaggerating the importance of cultural capital in upper-middle class culture and for defining salient boundaries a priori, instead of inductively. By drawing on interviews with professionals and managers, she showed that morality, cultural capital, and material success are defined differently and that their relative importance vary across national contexts and by subgroups. Lamont also showed variations in the extent to which professionals and managers are tolerant of the lifestyles and tastes of other classes, and argued that cultural laissez-faire is more important feature of American society than French society. High social and geographic mobility, strong cultural regionalism, ethnic and racial diversity, political decentralization and relatively weak high culture traditions translate into less highly differentiated class cultures in the United States than France.

Other sociologists also argue that cultural boundaries are more fluid and complex than cultural capital theory suggests. In particular, in his study of group variation in home decoration, Halle (1993) suggests that art consumption does not necessarily generate social boundaries. He finds that the meaning attached to living room art by dwellers is somewhat autonomous from professional evaluations, and is patterned and influenced by a wide range of factors beyond class — including neighborhood composition. He also finds that cultural consumption is less differentiated than cultural capital theory suggests – with landscape art being appreciated by all social groups for instance. Finally, he suggests that “the link between involvement in high culture and access to dominant class circles . . . is undemonstrated.” (p. 198). For his part, Hall (1992) emphasized the existence of heterogeneous markets and of multiple kinds of cultural capital. He proposes a “cultural structuralism” that addresses the multiplicity of status situation in a critique of an overarching market of cultural capital. Finally, Crane (2000) analyzes how social change disrupts the relationship between cultural capital and social class strata during nineteenth and twentieth century France and the United States.

Bryson (1996), Erikson (1996), and Peterson and Kern (1996) suggest that cultural breadth is a highly valued resource in the upper and upper-middle classes, hence contradicting Bourdieu’s understanding of the dominant class which emphasizes exclusively the boundaries they draw toward lower class culture. Bryson (1996) finds that musical exclusiveness decreases with education. She proposes that cultural tolerance constitutes a multicultural capital more strongly concentrated in the middle and upper classes than in the lower classes. Erikson (1996) suggests that although familiarity with high status culture correlates with class, it is useless in coordinating class relations in the workplace. She writes that the “Culture useful for coordination is uncorrelated . . . with class, popular in every class.” (p. 248) and that “the most useful overall cultural resource is variety plus a well-honed understanding of which [culture] genre to use in which setting.” (p. 249). For their part, Peterson and Kern (1996) document a shift in high status persons from snobbish exclusion to “omnivorous appropriation.” These studies all call for a more multidimensional understanding of cultural capital as a basis for drawing boundaries, and counter Bourdieu’s postulate that the value of tastes is defined relationally through a binary or oppositional logic.

3.2. Identity and Boundary Work

The growing literature on identity is another arena where the concept of symbolic boundaries has become more central. In particular, sociologists and psychologists have become interested in studying boundary work, a process central to the constitution of the self.

Social psychologists working on group categorization have been studying the segmentation between “us” and “them”. Brewer’s (1986) social identity theorysuggests that “Pressures to evaluate ones’ own group positively through in-group/out-group comparison lead social groups to attempt to differentiate themselves from each other.” This process of differentiation aims “to maintain and achieve superiority over an out-group on some dimension.” (Tajfel and Turner 1985, pp. 16-17). While these authors understand the relational process as a universal tendency, sociologists are concerned with analyzing precisely how boundary work is accomplished, i.e. with what kinds of typificationsystems, or inferences concerning similarities and differences, groups mobilize to define who they are.

The concept of boundary work was proposed originally by Gieryn in the early eighties to designate “the discursive attribution of selected qualities to scientists, scientific methods, and scientific claims for the purpose of drawing a rhetorical boundary between science and some less authoritative residual non-science.”(1999, pp. 4-5). In recent years, sociologists have become interested in analyzing this process by looking at self-definitions of ordinary people, while paying particular attention to the salience of various racial and class groups in boundary work. For instance, Newman (1999) analyzes how poor fast-food workers define themselves in opposition to the unemployed poor. Lamont (1992) studies the boundary work of professionals and managers while Lamont (2000) examines how workers in the United States and France define worthy people in opposition to the poor, “people above”, blacks, and immigrants, drawing moral boundaries toward different groups across the two national context. Lichterman (1999) explores how volunteers define their bonds and boundaries of solidarity by examining how they articulate their identity around various groups. He stresses that these mappings translate into different kinds of group responsibility, in “constraining and enabling what members can say and do together.” Binder (1999) analyzes boundaries that proponents of Afrocentrism and multiculturalism build in relation to one another in conflict within the educational system. Becker (1999) studies how religious communities build boundaries between themselves and “the public.” Finally Gamson (1992) analyzes how the injustice frames used in social movements are organized around “us” and “them” oppositions.

Jenkins (1996)’s study of social identity provides useful tools for the study of boundary work. He describes collective identity as constituted by a dialectic interplay of processes of internal and external definition. On the one hand, individuals must be able to differentiate themselves from others by drawing on criteria of community and a sense of shared belonging within their subgroup. On the other hand, this internal identification process must be recognized by outsiders for an objectified collective identity to emerge. Future research on the process of collective identity formation may benefit to focus on the dynamic between self-identification and social categorization.

3.3. Moral Order, Community, and Symbolic Politics

A third strand of work on symbolic boundaries presents more palpable neo-Durkheimian influences. Several empirical studies have centered on moral order and on communities. Wuthnow (1987, p. 69) writes “Order has somehow to do with boundaries. That is, order consists mainly of being able to make distinctions-of having symbolic demarcations – so that we know the place of things and how they relate to one another.” A recent example of this neo-Durkheimian line of work is Alexander’s (1992) semiotic analysis of the symbolic codes of civic society. The author describes these codes as “critically important in constituting the very sense of society for those who are within and without it.” He also suggests that the democratic code involves clear distinctions between the pure and the impure in defining the appropriate citizen. His analysis locates those distinctions at the levels of people’s motives and relationships, and of the institutions that individuals inhabit (with “honorable” being valued over “self-interested” or “truthful” over “deceitful” in the case of the democratic code).

It should be noted that the last decades have produced several studies of status politics that documented precisely how groups sharing a lifestyle made such distinctions, engaged in the maintenance of the moral order, and simultaneously bolstered their own prestige. Particularly notable is Gusfield (1963) who analyzed the 19th century American temperance movement in favor of the prohibition and the Eighteenth Amendment to the constitution. Gusfield understands this movement as a strategy used by small-town Protestants to bolster their social position in relation to urban Catholic immigrants. Along similar lines, Luker (1984) describes the worldviews of anti-abortion and pro-choice activists. She shows that they have incompatible beliefs about women’s careers, family, sexuality, and reproduction, and that they talk passed one another and define themselves in opposition to one another. More recently, Beisel (1997) has studied Anthony Comstock’s 19thcentury anti-pornography movement to protect the morality of children in the context of important social changes that threatened the reproduction of upper class privileges. However, she argued against the distinction between symbolic and class politics and showed how the two often operate hand in hand, particularly in the drawing of moral boundaries. The literature on social movements includes numerous additional studies that focus on the process by which categories of people are turned into categories of enemies (Jasper 1997, chap. 16).

4. Challenges and Future Directions

Two main challenges concerning the study of boundaries are pointing at the horizon of sociological scholarship. They concern 1) a necessary synthesis of the various strands of work that speak to boundary issues across substantive areas; and 2) the study of the connection between objective and subjective boundaries.

The concept of boundaries is playing an increasingly important role in a wide range of literatures, beyond those discussed above. For instance, in the study of nationalism, citizenship, and immigration, scholars have implicitly or explicitly used the boundary concept to discuss criteria of membership and group closure within imagined communities (e.g., Anderson 1983; Brubaker l992; Somers 1993; Zolberg and Litt Woon l999). Some of these authors are concerned with the established rules of membership and boundary work.. Yet others study national boundary patterns, i. e., the ways in which nations define their identity in opposition to one another (Lamont and Thévenot 2000; Saguy 2000).

The concept of boundary is also central in the study of ethnicity and race. The relational process involved in the definition of collective identity (“us” versus “them”) has often been emphasized in the literature on these topics. The work of Barth (1969) and Horowitz (1985) for instance concerns objective group boundaries and self-ascription, and how feelings of communality are defined in opposition to the perceived identity of other racial and ethnic groups. Along similar lines, Bobo and Hutchings (1996), understand racism as resulting from threats to group positioning. They follow Blumer (1958) who advocates “shift[ing] study and analysis from a preoccupation with feelings as lodged in individuals to a concern with the relationships of racial groups . . [and with] the collective process by which a racial group comes to define and redefine another racial group” (p. 3).

Finally, gender and sexual boundaries are also coming under more intense scrutiny. For instance, Epstein (1992) points out that dichotomous categories play an important part in the definition of women as “other” and that much is at stake in the labeling of behaviors and attitudes as feminine or masculine (also Gerson and Peiss 1985). Those who violate gender boundaries in illegitimate ways often experience punishment in the workplace. Stein (1997) analyzes how the boundaries around the lesbian category changed over the course of the feminist movement. More recently, Tilly (1997) argues that dichotomous categories such as “male” and “female” (but also “white” and “black”) are used by dominant groups to marginalize other groups and block their access to resources. He extends the Weberian scheme by pointing to various mechanisms by which this is accomplished, such as exploitation and opportunity hoarding. He asserts that durable inequality most often results from cumulative, individual and often unnoticed organizational processes.

Because these various literature all deal with the same social process, boundary work, it may be appropriate at this point to begin moving toward a general theory of boundaries by, for instance, identifying similarities and differences between boundaries drawn in various realms — moral, cultural, class, racial, ethnic, gender, and national boundaries. This could be accomplished by focusing on a number of formal features and characteristics of boundaries, such as their visibility, permeability, boundedness, fluidity, and rigidity. We may also want to compare embedded and transportable boundaries; explicit and taken-for-granted boundaries; positive and negative boundaries; and the relationship between representations of boundaries and context. Social scientists should also think more seriously about how different types of boundaries can combine with one another across local and national contexts (e.g., how cultural or moral boundaries combine with race, gender, or class boundaries) (Lamont and Thévenot 2000).

A second challenge will be to understand the connection between objective boundaries and symbolic boundaries. Students of objective boundaries have focused on topics such as the relative importance of educational endogamy versus racial endogamy among the college-educated (Kalmijn 1991); racial hiring and firing (Silver and Zwerling 1992); the extent of residential racial segregation (Massey and Denton 1993); the relative permeability of class boundaries (Wright and Cho 1992); and the process of creation of professional boundaries (Abbott 1988). Lamont (1992) has argued that symbolic boundaries are a necessary but insufficient condition for the creation of objective boundaries. More empirical work is needed on the process by which the former transmutes into the latter.

Other relevant entries include: expressive forms as generators, transmitters, and transformers of social power; culture and resistance; networks and linkages; collective identity and expressive forms; discourse and identity; class and expressive forms; gender and expressive forms; race and expressive forms; community and locality, nationalism and expressive forms; leisure and cultural consumption.

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Lamont, M, and Thévenot, L, eds. Rethinking Comparative Cultural Sociology: Polities and Repertoires of Evaluation in France and the United States, Cambridge University Press, New York and Presses de la Maison des Sciences de l’Homme, Paris

Lichterman, P 1999 “Civic Culture Meets Welfare Reform: Religious Volunteers Reaching Out.” Paper presented at the annual meetings of the American Sociological Association, Chicago, August

Luker, K 1984 Abortion and the Politics of Motherhood. Berkeley: University of California Press

Marx, K, Engels F 1848/1960 Deutsche Ideologie. Kritik der neuesten deutschen Philosophie in ihren Repr asentanten Feuerbach, B. Bauer und Stirner, und des deutschen Sozialismus in seinen verschiedenen Propheten Dietz, Berlin [1979, The German Ideology, Lawrence and Wishart, London]

Massey, D, Denton, N A l993 American Apartheid: Segregation and the Making of the Underclass. Cambridge University Press, New York

Newman, K 1999 No Shame in My Game: The Working Poor in the Inner City. Knopf and the Russell Sage Foundation, New York

Parkin, F 1979 Marxism and Class Theory: A Bourgeois Critique. Columbia University Press, New York

Peterson R A, Kern R 1996 “Changing Highbrow Taste: From Snob to Omnivore.” American Sociological Review. 61: 900-907.

Saguy, A C 2000 “Sexual Harassment in France and the United States: Activists and Public Figures Defend their Positions.” In: Lamont, M Thévenot, L (eds.) Rethinking Comaparative Cultural Sociology: Polities and Repertoires of Evaluation in France and the United States. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Schwartz, B1981 Vertical Classification. A Study in Structuralism and the Sociology of Knowledge. University of Chicago Press, Chicago

Silver, H, Zwerling, C 1992 “Race and Job Dismissals in a Federal Bureaucracy.” American Sociological Review. 57: 651-60.

Somers, M R 1993 “Citizenship and the Place of the Public Sphere: Law, Community, and Political Culture in the Transition to Democracy.” American Sociological Review.

58: 587-620

Stein, A 1997. Sex and Sensibility: stories of a Lesbian Generation. University of California Press, Berkeley

Tajfel, H, Turner, J C l985 “The Social Identity Theory of Intergroup Behavior.” In: Worchel S, Austin W G (eds.) Psychology of Intergroup Relations, Nelson-Hall, Chicago

Tilly, C 1997 Durable Inequality. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass

Veblen, T 1899/1979 The Theory of the Leisure Class. Penguin, New York

Wagner-Pacifici, R 2000 Theorizing the Standoff: Contingency in Action. Cambridge University Press, New York

Weber, M 1922/1956, Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft. Grundisse der Verstehenden Soziologie, Hohrn, Tubingen. [l978 Economy and Society, Vol. 1. University of California Press, Berkeley]

Wright, E O, and Cho D 1992 “The Relative Permeability of Class Boundaries to Cross-Class Friendships: A Comparative Study of the United States, Canada, Sweden, and Norway.” American Sociological Review. 57: 85-102.

Wuthnow, R l987 Meaning and Moral Order: Explorations in Cultural Analysis. University of California Press, Berkeley

Zerubavel, E 1997 Social Mindscapes: An Invitation to Cognitive Sociology. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass

Zolberg, A R and Woon L L 1990 “Why Islam is Like Spanish: Cultural Incorporation in Europe and the United States.” Politics and Society 27 (1): 5-38.

Michèle Lamont

Department of Sociology

Princeton University

 

 

Click to access m.lamont-v.molnar-the_study_of_boundaries.pdf

 

Boundaries as Social Processes: Territoriality in the World of Flows

Anssi Paasi

Click to access 54eb963f0cf2ff89649dfd55.pdf

 

Boundaries and connections

 

 Fredrik Barth

 

Click to access Kog_Ant_11_B.pdf

THE ROLE OF IDENTITIES AND BOUNDARIES IN THE CONTEMPORARY WORLD

Prof. Anssi Paasi

http://www.geo.ut.ee/nbc/paper/paasi.htm

 

HOW STRATIFICATION WORKS

 

Click to access Massey_Chap1_2.pdf

Boundary processes: Recent theoretical developments and new contributions

Mark A. Pachucki *, Sabrina Pendergrass, Michele Lamont (Guest Editors)

 

Click to access Pachucki%20Pendergrass%20Lamont%202007%20Boundary%20Processes.pdf

Status distinctions and boundaries

Murray Milner, Jr.

 

Click to access MilnerOnStatusDistinctionsandBoundariesPUBVERS.pdf

 

Moments of Boundary Research: A Long-Term Perspective

 

Jean Terrier

Click to access 43730496-d82a-4a70-b788-a891d52832e0.pdf

Social Distinction and Symbolic Boundaries in a Globalized Context:

Leisure Spaces in Istanbul

http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.424.9863&rep=rep1&type=pdf

Rural America in an Urban Society: Changing Spatial and Social Boundaries

Daniel T. Lichter1,2 and David L. Brown3

Click to access 0deec522689d8d5926000000.pdf

Cultivating Differences: Symbolic Boundaries and the Making of Inequality

edited by Michèle Lamont, Marcel Fournier

 

 

 

FLOWS, BOUNDARIES AND HYBRIDS: KEYWORDS IN TRANSNATIONAL ANTHROPOLOGY

Ulf Hannerz

Click to access s04_faist.pdf

 

 

 

Symbolic Boundaries

Michèle Lamont

 http://educ.jmu.edu/~brysonbp/symbound/papers2001/LamontEncyclo.html

Boundaries and Networks

Boundaries and Networks

 

Boundaries precede Networks.

It is the difference which makes the difference.

Boundaries in

  • Regionalism, Globalization, Multinational Firms (Trade/Economics)
  • Social Networks Theory/Relational Sociology (Sociology)
  • Complex Systems Theory – Micro/Macro Links (System Sciences)
  • Autocatalysis, Autopoiesis and Relational Biology (Biology)
  • System and Its Environment (Strategic Planning/Management)
  • Functional Silos (Supply Chain Management/Operations Management)
  • Individual and the Collective (Philosophy)
  • Self, Nature, Culture (Meta Integral Theories – Ken Wilber/Roy Bhaskar)
  • Fractal/Recursive/Holographic Paradigm (Cosmology)

 

 

Key Terms:

  • Order
  • Class
  • Identity
  • Culture
  • Meaning
  • Difference
  • Boundaries
  • Networks
  • Hierarchies
  • Heterarchy
  • Control
  • Power
  • System/Environment
  • Inside/Outside
  • Interior/Exterior
  • Included/Excluded
  • Multi-Level
  • Fractals
  • Scale
  • Multiplex
  • Ties
  • Chains
  • Silos
  • Connections
  • Links
  • Netchains
  • Operational Closure
  • Inequality
  • Information Asymmetry
  • Categories
  • Domain
  • Social Structure
  • Interaction
  • Interlocks
  • Institutions
  • Memory
  • Agency
  • Limits
  • Relational
  • Intra/Inter
  • Process
  • Subjective/Objective

 

Chapter 2
The Relational Turn in Social Sciences

Recent times have witnessed relational sociology, as arguably the major form of relational scholarship, gain considerable scholarly momentum. There is a forthcoming major handbook (Dépelteau, 2018), significant edited collections such as Conceptualizing relational sociology (Powell & Dépelteau, 2013), Applying relational sociology (Dépelteau & Powell, 2013), and in the broader leadership literatures Advancing relational leadership research (Uhl-Bien & Ospina, 2012).  In addition, there have been key texts from Crossley (2011), the work of Donati (1983, 1991, 2011) has become more accessible in English (to which he thanks Margaret Archer for, stating she “greatly encouraged and assisted me in presenting my theory to an international audience (Donati, 2011, p. xvii)), and – although less engaged with by English-speaking audiences—Bajoit’s (1992) Pour une sociologie relationnelle.

The Canadian Sociological Association has established a research cluster for relational sociology, with regular symposia, meetings, and events. Significantly, in 2015 the International Review of Sociology/ Revue Internationale de Sociolgie published a special section on relational sociology. Edited by Prandini (2015) and with contributions from Crossley (2015), Dépelteau (2015), Donati (2015), and Fuhse (2015), this special section sought to ascertain whether an original and international sociological paradigm entitled “relational sociology” could be identified. Prandini (2015) argues:

A new and original social paradigm is recognizable only if it accedes to the world stage of the global scientific system constituted and structured by networks of scientific scholars, scientific contributions published in scientific journals, books, internet sites, etc., fueled by a vast array of international meetings, seminars, conferences, and so on. It is only at this global level that we can decide if a new paradigm is gaining a global stage or not. Put in other words: are we really witnessing a new and emergent sociological ‘school’, or are we observing only a sort of ‘esprit du temp’ which is able to catalyse similar intuitions and sociological insights? (pp. 1–2)

At the end of his paper, Prandini (2015) contends that there is less a paradigm (in its precise Kuhnian meaning) and instead it is better to speak of a “relational turn” in sociology. Built on a strong and clear convergence toward a common critique of classic sociological theories, it is possibly the early stages of an emerging paradigm but such a label is currently premature. The real breakthrough of this turn is in forcing social scientists to specify “accurately the ontology of society and social relation and to discover new methods and research techniques well suited to study it” (Prandini, 2015, p. 13).

Relational theory is, as Emirbayer (1997) declares, beyond any one disciplinary background, national tradition, or analytic and empirical point of view. Outside of the major centers of Europe and the USA, Yanjie Bian hosted the International Conference on Relational Sociology at the Institute for Empirical Social Science of Xi’an Jiaotong University, and Jan Fuhse hosted the international symposium Relational Sociology: Transatlantic Impulses for the Social Sciences at Humboldt University of Berlin. Donati (2011) claims that interest in social relations can be found in philosophy (from the metaphysical point of view), psychology (from the psychic point of view), economics (from the resource perspective), law (control by rule), and even biology (bioethics). The interest is also not limited to the social sciences, with Bradbury and Lichtenstein (2000) noting:

The interdependent, interrelated nature of the world has also been discovered by physicists in their study of quantum reality. In their quest to identify the basic building blocks of the natural world, quantum physicists found that atomic particles appeared more as relations than as discrete objects (Capra 1975; Wolf 1980), and that space itself is not empty but is filled with potential (Bohm 1988). Heisenberg’s discovery early this century that every observation irrevocably changes the object being observed, further fueled the recognition that human consciousness plays an irreversible role in our understanding of reality (Bachelard, 1934/1984; Wilber 1982; Jahn & Dunne 1987). (p. 552)

Apart from its widespread contemporary appeal, relational thinking has a long history. The North American stream arguably finds its roots in the New York School, European scholars such as Karl Marx, Georg Simmel, Gabriel Tarde, Norbert Elias, Niklas Luhmann, Pierre Bourdieu, Bruno Latour, among others, have long argued for various relational approaches (even if not using that label), and Emirbayer traces the tradition of privileging relations rather than substances to pre-Socratic Greek philosopher Heraclitus. What is consistently germane across these various scholars is a critique of substantialism in classic sociological accounts. This also arguably speaks to the proliferation of relational scholarship in the past few decades as globalized forces are causing a rethink of spatio-temporal conditions (e.g., the nation state and geographic borders). In breaking down the substantialist approaches, and their underlying analytical dualisms, relational scholarship asks questions of the ontological and epistemological as much as the empirical.

Contemporary thought and analysis in social theory is overrun with “turns.” In this chapter, rather than be seduced by contemporary attention to a relational turn in the social sciences, I seek to highlight some major events, trajectories, or streams of relational thought. In doing so, I am critically aware of the difficulty of arguing for relational understanding and then constructing significant events as though they are entities in and of their own right. Within the confines of a single chapter, and mindful of the role that this chapter is playing the book (e.g., setting some context/trajectory for developing my argument), my goal is to cite key developments and how they relate to one another and my argument. Given my particular interest in organizing activity, my focus is on the Human Relations Movement of the early twentieth century, the New York School of relational sociology, and then contemporary developments in sociology, leadership, and to a lesser extent, the natural sciences. While I concede that there is increasing interest in what has come to be known as “relational sociology” (see also the following chapter), relational scholarship has a long and diverse intellectual history. Importantly though, as Powell and Dépelteau (2013) note, relational sociology is not a heterogeneous label and as a collection of scholars, is still quite some way from achieving any form of  consensus. Whether consensus is required, or even desirable, for relational scholarship is questionable. The diversity of ontological and methodological starting points allows scholars to investigate a wide range of phenomena. This diversity, complexity, depth, and vitality enable dialogue and debate without requiring consensus. What binds them together is their scholarly focus on relations rather than alignment with a specific empirical object and/or method of inquiry

 

CALL FOR PAPERS

The Relational Turn in Sociology: Implications for the Study of Society, Culture, and Persons

Special issue of the academic journal Stan Rzeczy [State of Affairs]

The relational approach, which has a long tradition, has re-emerged and strengthened, forming a new, vital movement of divergent variants in sociology. Initiated and systematically developed by Pierpaolo Donati, it has grown into what is called the Italian relational turn, later followed by a proliferation of relational sociologies of various origins, including the works of Harrison C. White, Charles Tilly, Mustafa Emirbayer, Pierre Bourdieu and others. After the postmodern diffusion and beyond the stagnation of interpretative against normative conceptualizations of social life, relational sociology offers new conceptual tools and plays a leading role in reconstructing sociology both on theoretical and applied planes.

Modern sciences are founded on the study of relations, rather than essences or substances. From the outset, the relational approach has had to pave its way in sociology against holistic (“science of society”) and nominalistic (“science of individuals”) orientations. Social relations are among the key sociological concepts and have been studied as constitutive for social bonding. On the micro-level, interpersonal relations have been in the center of attention in the area where sociology and social psychology overlap. The relational turn consists not only of focusing on social relations; it also involves introducing relational categories of analysis.

The category of social relations is certainly not new in social theory. What is new is the way of looking at them. Contemporary relational thinking assumes radical changes in the ontological, epistemological, and phenomenological status of social relations. Refocusing on social relations, on their constitution and emergent effects leads us to a new way of describing, understanding and explaining social and cultural phenomena as relational facts.

A particularly significant feature of relational sociology resides in its capacity to broaden the theory of the human subject not only as a self, agent, and actor, but also through the development of the concept of the person; more precisely, through deeper research on the relational constitution of the human person as a social subject emerging from relational reflexivity (dialogue between ‘I’, ‘Me’, ‘We’, ‘You’ in a situated social context) – in other words, a view of the human person as homo relatus. Analyzing these processes leads to a sui generis relational theory of agency.

Various or divergent theories of contemporary social and cultural processes evoke relationality, but relational analysis differs from “relationistic” positions. Most existing approaches, both historical and modern, cannot be considered relational sociology in a true sense unless the social relation is conceived as a reality sui generis and society is conceptualized as a network of social relations.

“Turn” refers to a gradual transformation of the field of scientific theories, rather than to a scientific revolution. Several characteristic features of a “turn” appear to correspond well with significant traits of the relational turn: an epistemological rupture, which is brought about by introducing an innovative vocabulary that opens up new analytic perspectives;  an attempt to reconstruct the scientific domains of knowledge under conditions of their growing fragmentation; introduction of a novel perspective that shows existing knowledge in a new light; moving on from the research object to the category of analysis. These are the features of a genuine new intellectual movement that enters into debates and polemics, particularly as regards various ways of understanding relations and relationality.

The synergetic effect of a creative exchange of ideas between the founders of theories that have been independently pursued – the relational theory of society developed by Pierpaolo Donati and the theory of morphogenic society, developed on the basis of critical realism by Margaret S. Archer – proves particularly fruitful for the study of the after-modern and the new possibilities of a morphogenic society, in which the challenge of re-articulating social relations remains of central importance.

The aim of this special issue is to reflect upon the innovative potential of contemporary relational theorizing of society, culture, and persons and to go beyond superficial statements on relational sociology by addressing these issues through in-depth investigations. We invite authors to take on problems of relational sociology by discussing its main assumptions, by conceptual clarifications, by re-articulating the concepts pertinent to understanding social phenomena in relational terms, and by empirical studies guided by methodological rules of relational analysis.

http://www.stanrzeczy.edu.pl

 

 

Please see my related posts:

Boundary Spanning in Multinational and Transnational Corporations

Relational Turn in Economic Geography

Networks and Hierarchies

Boundaries and Relational Sociology

Autocatalysis, Autopoiesis and Relational Biology

Society as Communication: Social Systems Theory of Niklas Luhmann

Art of Long View: Future, Uncertainty and Scenario Planning

 

Key Sources of Research:

 

 

BOUNDARIES/NETWORKS

Chapter of Book ME++

Click to access 9780262633130_sch_0001.pdf

 

 


Relational Sociology: Transatlantic Impulses for the Social Sciences

International Symposium, Berlin, September 25/26, 2008

http://www.relational-sociology.de

 

 

 

Symposium on Relational Sociology

https://sozlog.wordpress.com/2008/09/29/symposion-on-relational-sociology/

 

Relational sociology

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Relational_sociology

 

 

 

Networks and Boundaries

Athanasios Karafillidis

RWTH Aachen University
Correspondence: atha@karafillidis.com

Paper presented at the International Symposium
„Relational Sociology: Transatlantic Impulses for the Social Sciences“,
Berlin,

September 25-26, 2008

Click to access Netbound.pdf

 

 

Theorising Borders as Mechanisms of Connection

Anthony Cooper

Click to access 2013cooperaphd.pdf

 

 

Boundaries, Hierarchies and Networks in Complex Systems

PAUL CILLIERS

2001

Click to access Cilliers-2001-Boundaries-Hierarchies-and-Networks.pdf

 

Fractal Boundaries of Complex Networks

Jia Shao, Sergey V. Buldyrev, Reuven Cohen
Maksim Kitsak1, Shlomo Havlin, and H. Eugene Stanley

Click to access boundaries.pdf

 

Rethinking the Financial Network

Speech given by
Andrew G Haldane, Executive Director, Financial Stability, Bank of England

At the Financial Student Association, Amsterdam

28 April 2009

Click to access speech386.pdf

 

 

 

Knowledge, limits and boundaries

Paul Cilliers

Click to access cilliers%202005%20knowledge%20limits.pdf

 

 

On the Status of Boundaries, both Natural and Organizational: A Complex Systems Perspective

Kurt A. Richardson & Michael R. Lissack

Click to access 6b5711dc6782e451ad32078b799cd487cb3b.pdf

Exploring System Boundaries: Complexity Theory and Legal Autopoiesis

Thomas Edward Webb

Click to access T.E._Webb_Exploring_System_Boundaries_accepted_version_.pdf

 

 

The Role of Leaders in Managing Organisation Boundaries

Click to access v10286-012-0001-0.pdf

 

 

 

Managing Boundary Spanning Elements: An Introduction

Sunil Sahadev, Keyoor Purani, and Neeru Malhotra

https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Michel_Rod/publication/272733714_Sahadev_S_Purani_K_and_Malhotra_N_eds_Boundary_Spanning_Elements_and_the_Marketing_Function_in_Organizations_Springer/links/5566139008aec22682ff167f/Sahadev-S-Purani-K-and-Malhotra-N-eds-Boundary-Spanning-Elements-and-the-Marketing-Function-in-Organizations-Springer.pdf#page=8

 

 

 

 

Boundary-Spanning in Organizations: Network, Influence and Conflict

Edited by Janice Langan Fox, Cary Cooper

 

https://www.routledge.com/Boundary-Spanning-in-Organizations-Network-Influence-and-Conflict/Langan-Fox-Cooper/p/book/9780415628839

A Borderless World and Nationless Firms?

Click to access prism_chapter.pdf

 

 

 

 

ADAPTATION AND THE BOUNDARY OF MULTINATIONAL FIRMS

Arnaud Costinot
Lindsay Oldenski
James E. Rauch

January 2009

Click to access w14668.pdf

http://economics.mit.edu/files/6456

 

The Boundaries of Multinational Enterprises and the Theory of International Trade

James R. Markusen

http://pubs.aeaweb.org/doi/pdfplus/10.1257/jep.9.2.169

 

Incomplete Contracts and the Boundaries of the Multinational Firm

Nathan Nunn

Daniel Trefler§

June 2008

Click to access NunnTreflerPaper.pdf

 

 

Complexity and Philosophy

Francis HEYLIGHEN

Paul CILLIERS,

Carlos GERSHENSON

Click to access 0604072.pdf

 

 

 

Complexity, Deconstruction and Relativism

Paul Cilliers

http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.466.6144&rep=rep1&type=pdf

Click to access The_importance_of_a_certain_slowness.pdf

 

 

Towards an Economy of Complexity: Derrida, Morin and Bataille

Oliver Human

Stellenbosch University, South Africa

Paul Cilliers

Click to access Human_Complexity.pdf

 

 

 

The architecture of complexity

Herbert Simon

Click to access Thearchitectureofcomplexity.pdf

 

 

 

 

Complexity and postmodernism

Understanding complex systems

Paul Cilliers

Click to access Paul-Cilliers-Complexity-and-Postmodernism-Understanding-Complex-Systems-1998.pdf

 

 

Complexity, Difference and Identity
An Ethical Perspective

Paul Cilliers, Rika Preiser (Eds.)

http://www.springer.com/us/book/9789048191864

 

Introduction to Critical Complexity. Collected Essays by Paul Cilliers

Click to access Introduction-to-Critical-Complexity-Collected-Essays-by-Paul-Cilliers.pdf

 

 

Chapter 2
The Relational Turn in Social Sciences

Beyond Leadership
A Relational Approach to Organizational Theory in Education

Authors: Eacott, Scott

http://www.springer.com/us/book/9789811065675

http://scotteacott.com/reading-list/

 

 

Relational Sociology: A New Paradigm for the Social Sciences

By Pierpaolo Donati

 

 

 

Conceptualizing Relational Sociology: Ontological and Theoretical Issues

edited by C. Powell, F. Dépelteau

 

Applying Relational Sociology: Relations, Networks, and Society,

edited by Francçois Depélteau and Christopher Powell.
Hampshire, UK: Palgrave Macmillan,

 

 

 

Birth and development of the relational theory of society:
a journey looking for a deep ‘relational sociology

Click to access donati_birth_and_development_of_the_relational_theory_of_society.pdf

 

 

 

Beyond the Manifesto: Mustafa Emirbayer and Relational Sociology

Lily Liang Sida Liu

Click to access Working-Paper-2017-02.pdf

 

 

 

 

Towards Relational Sociology

By Nick Crossley

 

 

 

 

Manifesto for a Relational Sociology

Mustafa Emirbayer

The American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 103, No. 2. (Sep., 1997), pp. 281-317

Click to access Mustafa%20Emirbayer_Manifesto%20for%20a%20Relational%20Sociology.pdf

 

 

 

TOWARDS A CONCEPTUALIZATION OF BORDER: THE CENTRAL EUROPEAN EXPERIENCE

by Josef Langer (Klagenfurt)

Click to access JLanger3.pdf

 

 

 

 

THE STUDY OF BOUNDARIES IN THE SOCIAL SCIENCES

Michele Lamont and Vira ́g Molnar

Click to access m.lamont-v.molnar-the_study_of_boundaries.pdf

 

 

 

Beyond “the relationship between the individual and society”: broadening and deepening relational thinking in group analysis

Sasha Roseneil

Click to access 11305548.pdf

 

 

 

The Relational Turn in Sociology: Implications for the Study of Society, Culture, and Persons

Special issue of the academic journal Stan Rzeczy [State of Affairs]

https://calenda.org/385129?file=1

Click to access relational_turn_speakers.pdf

 

 

NETWORKS IN THE SOCIAL SCIENCES: COMPARING ACTOR-NETWORK THEORY AND SOCIAL NETWORK ANALYSIS

LILLA VICSEK1 – GÁBOR KIRÁLY – HANNA KÓNYA

Boundaries and Relational Sociology

In the age of globalization, our analysis should focus on Networks/Linkages and Boundaries.  There are several important issues:

  • Relations
  • Networks
  • Culture
  • Identity
  • Control
  • Meaning
  • Boundaries
  • Hierarchy

Mathematical Analysis of social and economic networks currently popular in economics ignore many of the above issues.

Two prominent Scholars:

  • Charles Tilly
  • Harrison White

 

From Theorizing social networks: the relational sociology of and around Harrison White

 

Relational sociology provides a substantial account of social networks, conceptualizing them as real social structures interwoven with meaning. Forms of meaning connected to network configurations (as part of their ‘domains’) include stories, identities, social categories (including role categories), and institutions. Recent advances lead to a network perspective on culture, and to an emphasis on communicative events in networks. In contrast to other strands of relational sociology, the approach aims at a close connection between empirical research and theoretical reflection. Theoretical concepts and arguments are geared at empirical applicability in network research, rather than mainly providing a theoretical description of the social world. 

 

From Relational Sociology, Culture, and Agency

 

While disagreement remains among network analysts regarding this issue, a broader “relational perspective” within sociology has been simmering for the past three decades, often involving scholars who themselves do not use formal network methodology, or who use it only marginally in their research. Inspired by such eminent figures as Harrison White and Charles Tilly, this perspective has taken some of the broader theoretical insights of network analysis and extended them to the realms of culture, history, politics, economics, and social psychology. Fundamental to this theoretical orientation (if it can be called that) is not merely the insistence that what sociologists call “structure” is intrinsically relational, but also, perhaps more deeply, that relational thinking is a way to overcome stale antinomies between structure and agency through a focus on the dynamics of social interactions in different kinds of social settings.

 

From Relational Sociology: Transatlantic Impulses for the Social Sciences

 

Coming from the structuralism of network analysis, Relational Sociologists began to model social structures as networks filled with meaning. White’s Identity and Control (1992) triggered a chain of empirical studies, like Peter Bearman’s Relations into Rhetorics, Roger Gould’s Insurgent Identities, Charles Tilly’s Contentious Politics in Great Britain, 1758-1834, and Ann Mische’s Partisan Publics. Many of these today rank as milestones of Relational Sociology.

Over the past 20 years, Relational Sociology has become probably the most important and innovative research perspective in American sociology. In the social sciences in Germany, however, Relational Sociology is still little known and rarely applied. Few Relational Sociologists feature in academic references or in seminar reading lists.

In general, Relational Sociology aims at the theoretical modelling and empirical analysis of social networks as socio-cultural formations – network structure is conceived of as interwoven with cultural patterns. With this approach, Relational Sociology supersedes the pure structuralism prevalent in most network research. The central figure of Relational Sociology is Harrison White. White has shaped the work of many of the most important network researchers (from Mark Granovetter and Paul DiMaggio to Roger Gould and Ann Mische).

All of these works start from similar theoretical propositions:
The very identities of social entities (individuals or corporate actors like social movements or firms) come from the manyfold roles these entities occupy in their various networks. Accordingly, Relational Sociology focuses on the formation of meaning and identities in social networks.

 

 

Key Sources of Research: 

 

Chains and networks, territories and scales: towards a relational framework for analysing the global economy

PETER DICKEN, PHILIP F. KELLY, KRIS OLDS and HENRY WAI-CHUNG YEUNG

Click to access DKOY_2001.pdf

 

Theorizing social networks: the relational sociology of and around Harrison White

International Review of Sociology: Revue Internationale de Sociologie

Volume 25, Issue 1, 2015

 

THE STUDY OF BOUNDARIES IN THE SOCIAL SCIENCES

Miche`le Lamont and Vira ́g Molna ́r

 

Click to access 568bd4cd08ae8f6ec752350e.pdf

 

Networks and Boundaries

Athanasios Karafillidis

 

Click to access Netbound.pdf

 

Globalization and Borders: Theorising Borders as Mechanisms of Connection

Anthony Cooper

 

Click to access 2013cooperaphd.pdf

 

Relational Sociology, Culture, and Agency

Ann Mische

 

Click to access mische_relational_sociology_2011.pdf

 

Networks and Institutions

Jason Owen-Smith and Walter W. Powell

Click to access SAGE.pdf

 

Networks, Diffusion, and Cycles of Collective Action

Pamela Oliver Daniel J. Myers

Click to access NetworksDiffusionCycles.pdf

 

The Strength of Weak Ties

Mark S. Granovetter

Click to access the_strength_of_weak_ties_and_exch_w-gans.pdf

 

The Meaning Structure of Social Networks

JAN A. FUHSE

Click to access FuhseMeaningNetworks.pdf

 

Network Analysis, Culture, and the Problem of Agency.

Mustafa Emirbayer; Jeff Goodwin.

The American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 99, No.

Click to access ais94.pdf

 

Manifesto for a Relational Sociology

Mustafa Emirbayer

Click to access Emirbayer%20Manifesto%20for%20a%20Relational%20Sociology.pdf

 

Systems, Network, and Culture

Dirk Baecker

2008

 

Click to access baecker4.pdf

 

Relational Sociology: Transatlantic Impulses for the Social Sciences

International Symposium, Berlin, September 25/26, 2008

http://www.janfuhse.de/relational-sociology/program.html

 

Networks out of Systems

Boris Holzer

 

Click to access holzer.pdf

 

Tilly, Charles.

Identities, boundaries and social ties.

Routledge, 2015.

 

Social Boundary Mechanisms

CHARLES TILLY

2004

Click to access 2004_SocialBoundary.pdf