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The Range of Social Relationship

 Weber notes many possible forms of content – friendship, exchange, competition, conflict and economic exchange. Meaning is not true or correct in any absolute or theoretical sense. Each social relationship is associated with some meaningful action that is appropriate to the relationship. Weber is more concerned with what defines the social aspect of the relationship rather than arguing that it results from some formal aspect such as church or marriage. In each case the social relationship is not the institution but the meaningful conduct of people involved in the institution. An institution such as marriage is likely to be associated with a meaningful social relationship.

Weber does not want to reify the concept of social relationship –i.e to make it more fixed and having a distinct status of its own. While Marxists make note of reification of economic concepts in that exploitative relationships are hidden, Weber makes a similar point about social institutions and structures. Here he argues that it makes sense to discuss concepts such as state but only so long as there are actual social relationships that constitute the institution and make it meaningful. If such relationships disappear, then it no longer exists sociologically.

Relationships may be asymmetrical so this would appear to be the case in many relationships of consumers and sellers. The understanding may not be same for different individuals in the relationship. Such asymmetrical relationships may be more prone to dissolution or misunderstanding that are symmetrical one although not necessarily in the case of duty or loyalty.

Varying degrees of permanence of a relationship exist. While Weber argues that a fleeting relationship may be a social relationship repeated occurrence or continued and regular social relationships appear to be more socially significant for the social patterns, maxims, usage or custom to develop. Weber notes that relatively constant social relationships are associated with maxims or commonly expected and understood forms of action by the partners to the relationship. This is especially the case for rational relationships whereas the scope and types of more emotional relationships can vary more widely. Weber comments on consent, loyalty and duty. For understanding legitimacy and authority these are important for Weber.

Some of these examples show the variety of ways that social relationships can occur and continue. By refusing to reify the relationships, Weber also points out the flexible nature of each social relationship. That is while we may label situations as institutions such as workplace or family. Weber argues that these are not set, predetermined form rather the social relationship is defined by how individuals in this relationship develop and use meaning in their actions that maintain the social relationship.

Weber does not consider this interaction in the same manner as symbolic interactionist theorists. He admits that there is mutual orientation of actors to each other but does not raise the possibility that how others see you will affect this action or how the potential response of others is part of what determines a social action or how mutual interaction involves processes of interpretation and accommodation. Weber focuses on each actor pursuing action for himself or herself and orienting this action to others.

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