The Meaning of "Relationship" in Interpersonal Communication

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

the space of social relationships is as much a ground of ontological security and a dimension along which integration works as is spatiotemporal routine. The final dimension noted above, systemic-functional complexity, is harder to think of as fundamental to interpersonal relationship, but aspects of J. Habermas' ( 1987) analysis of the life world and the relations of the institutionalized system to it might be useful elaborations of a theory that seeks to characterize modern relationships.

These changes would empower Giddens to deal with the central problem in his theory of personal relationships: that it is undersocialized and, so, leaves no room for a committed relationship between the instrumentally pure relationship and the unhealthy codependent one. Analyses of modernity or other social problems inevitably would implicate the agent's capacity, not just to act but also to relate. Additionally, the changes would enable him to discuss personal relationships within a more usual range of relational contexts: the family, the circle of friends, and so on, and they would lead to a focus of attention on the problem of commitment without codependence or domination -- a plaguingly important one in our times.


NOTES
1.
Banks and Riley ( 1992) and L. Putnam ( 1992) have criticized use of the term "metatheory" by McPhee and Poole ( 1980) on grounds that I think involve a misunderstanding. They seem to think that, by metatheory, we mean a substantive theory that synthetically arrays a variety of other theories. On the contrary, we consistently use metatheory to refer to a level of theorizing that is more abstract than substantive theory and that covers broad conceptual, ontological, normative, and methodological issues that ground and constrain substantive theory. Aristotle Metaphysics initiated this usage, and, in my experience, it is standard. I find it more accurate than "ontology of potentials," because ontology ignores Giddens' very important contributions to theory building and methodology (including his methodological postulate that ontological concerns should and do have priority over epistemological ones) and potentials misdescribes such inescapable conditions of social life as the duality of structuration and stratified agency.
2.
The distinction among "elements" is actually one dimension of a two- dimensional grid of distinctions; I have drawn from two different rows in composing my list of dimensions. The two rows involve Giddens' distinction between interaction and "modalities." To be brief, I consider the modalities to be incoherent with Giddens' theoretic emphasis on duality and definition of structure, trying to capture irremediably dual notions of process and structure in single, rulelike terms.

-106-

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