Coming together: New taxonomies for the analysis of social relations

Karen A. Cerulo, Janet M. Ruane

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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In previous work, we have noted a certain rigidity in sociology's approach to the topic of social relations (Cerulo 1997; Cerulo and Ruane 1997; Cerulo, Ruane, and Chayko 1992). With few exceptions, literature on the subject dichotomizes social relations with reference to the scope of the interaction (small group versus large group) and the mode by which social actors connect (direct connections versus mediated connections). Further, many researchers implicitly rank the social value of each relational form. Sociologists typically identify a society's primary and most valuable relations as the result of direct, physically copresent exchange, exchange involving relatively few interactants. In contrast, secondary relations often are characterized as faceless, impersonal, ingenuous, and fleeting - the result of large-group exchange established via mediated or mechanized connections. Cerulo (1997) suggested the need to reformulate any definition of social relations built upon the small group/large group or the direct/mediated dichotomies. She presented several critical elements upon which new definitions could be built. In this piece, we configure those elements, building six new analytic taxonomies - tools we hope will provoke a richer discussion of connecting, interacting, and resulting forms of social relations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)398-425
Number of pages28
JournalSociological Inquiry
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1998


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