The emergence of a new research paradigm: Relationalism?

I remember how excited I was to read Emirbayer’s 1997 “Manifesto for a Relational Sociology.”  I was in grad school, and I was eager for a manifesto to inspire me to academic arms.  The essay did just that.  But, as I tried to work it into PhD papers and a dissertation, I didn’t cite it as much as I might have.  It was too big, too bold, too general for a dissertation.  And I had the feeling that it was too “out there.”

One of the things I liked especially was the way it seemed to leave behind a debate about networks as method or networks as theory.  Network analysis is a method, of course, but to ask the right questions, to understand the implications, requires a relational perspective.  Borgatti and others have since started their power points on networks, I’ve noticed, with an intro to a “network perspective.”

Now I see this book over at Edward Elgar called :

Relational Perspectives In Organizational Studies

Not only that, but I was put onto it because of a review of the book in AMR.

Three quick observations

1) It seems that relationalism as a rallying point has emerged and my early reading of Emribayer was part of many schoalrs picking up on those ideas and beginning a process of importng them into org studies and management schoalrship.

2) The Above volume draws heavily form work done on identity, inequality, and feminist theory.  The influence of feminist theory on relationalism is new to me, but makes sense.

3) there was not much on the study of networks and relationalism in the TOC.  Maybe that is a niche that can continue to be exploited/developed? Or is network analysis simply a tool that is appropriated differently by scholars depending on your prior interest.  if you are focused on how to strategically manage alliances, you use networks one way, and if you are interested in the way interdependence leads to emergence of inequality, you use network analysis a different way.  The use of the suite of network analysis tools does not imbue the scholarship with a particularly relational and there fore challenging or radically different epistemology to normally static and atomistic social science.

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Filed under Books, organization studies, organization theory, social theory, sociology

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