Relational approaches to social theory and the crisis of education

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Only relational, hybrid social theory can offer an effective means of human orientation to guide, explain and verify definite empirical processes in the present. Relational social theory builds selectively on what it inherits from the past rather than begin with a zero-point rupture or break in the present much too preoccupied with the new, topical or spectacular. Nor does it begin from preexisting substances or a rigid division of disciplinary knowledge. Norbert Elias, in some respects the last classical sociologist, outlined some of the interdependent criteria necessary for hybrid, relational social theory. Central to this is what he called the ‘triad of basic controls’ that people exercise - natural, social and psychological – or, in Elias’s (2006: 238) words, ‘the control of humans over extra-human natural events, the control of people over each other, and the control of each person over him or herself’. One side of the triad tends to be unevenly emphasised at the expense of the other two, most usually the technological control of nature or the self-control of the individual habitus,
while highly complex and differentiated social processes are placed largely beyond human control or understanding. An adequate relational model of the triad of human controls could begin to reduce the wish-content and present-centredness of social theory as a means of human orientation.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 9 Jul 2019
EventHybridising social theory in educational research - University of Glasgow
Duration: 9 Jul 20199 Jul 2019


WorkshopHybridising social theory in educational research
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