The Meaning of "Relationship" in Interpersonal Communication

By Richard L. Conville; L. Edna Rogers | Go to book overview

5
Giddens' Conception of Personal Relationships and Its Relevance to Communication Theory

Robert D. McPhee

Anthony Giddens' sociological writings are widely respected for many reasons, not least their utility as an assumptive frame for the study of interactional dynamics. Giddens has created a metatheory explicating basic assumptions and concepts crucial for valid social theorizing and research (mainly 1976, 1979, 1984) and a substantive social theory analyzing the unique and constitutive features of the modern era (mainly 1990, 1991, 1992, 1994; cf. 1981, 1985). In both lines of work, Giddens aims to elaborate a concept of social agency that is complex enough to cohere with theories of complex social dynamics and to demonstrate the continuity between explanations of social interactive processes and of broad social structural characteristics.

Their broad and foundational intent implies that Giddens' theories should be valuable resources for theorists dealing with interpersonal relationships, and Giddens himself has devoted a good deal of recent attention to the subject of personal relations (especially 1992). My aim here is to summarize some of Giddens' ideas that are most relevant to the study of relationships and, especially, to examine some of the limitations of his approach to relationships and to suggest revisions in Giddens' conceptual substructure.

A continuing theme of my analysis will be that Giddens' treatment of relationships is undersocialized. By this, I mean that Giddens approaches relationships as outcome-oriented repetitive interchanges between

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