Social Engagement: The viewpoint of relational sociology

  • Donati P
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Modernity understood 'engagement' in individual or collective terms. Weber and Marx offered the best-known and exemplary paradigms. Since then, a great deal of sociologists have tried to combine them and have seen engagement as a co-determination between agency and social structure. Everybody knows that engagement entails acting in and with social relations, but the intrinsically relational character of engagement has remained obscure, largely implicit and unexplored. Engagement has always been a social relation, but nowadays it is taken on an unprecedented morphogenetic connotation. The proposals for devising a new 'relational sociology' of engagement are on the increase. Yet these proposals are very different in their theoretical, methodological and applicative aspects. We have to clarify what 'relational' means. The author believes a distinction needs to be made between relational theories (based on critical and analytical realism) and (relation)istic theories (based on constructivist and relativistic assumptions). The latter perform serious central conflations between subjective and objective factors, between the individual input and the historical configuration of engagement. A new conceptual framework is put forward here in order to understand engagement as a relational reality operating through reflexivity forms, especially focussing on the meta-reflexive one as distinctive of after-modern society.




Donati, P. (2013). Social Engagement: The viewpoint of relational sociology. International Journal of Sociology and Anthropology, 5(4), 84–99.

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