Evolution as a Key to Process Sociology: Relational Sociology According to History

Erika Summers-Effler

Taking Up an Evolutionary Approach to Relational Sociology

In this chapter, I illustrate how we can use Turners insights into social evolution to augment relational perspectives. Relational sociology is concerned with social relations and the social conditions generated by relations. Evolutionary theory is concerned with the ways in which history builds on itself in specific and patterned ways. The primary difference between current relational sociology and an evolutionary approach is that the focus in relational theory is on the structure of relations at a given time or given points in time. In an evolutionary approach, the relations highlighted are the ones between the past, present, and future. Theorizing the temporal aspects of relations has been a challenge to the field of relational sociology (Bender- DeMoll and McFarland 2006; McFarland 2004; Moody 2002; Moody, McFarland, and Bender-DeMoll 2005), and an evolutionary approach adds temporal dimensions to relations in a fundamental and elegant way. Relational sociology has generally made more abstract claims about social relations than evolutionary theory, although Turner and Abrutyn have begun to develop general insights (Abrutyn 2015, 2016b; Abrutyn and Van Ness 2015; Turner 2000, 2003, 2018; Turner and Abrutyn 2017; Turner and Machalek 2018; Turner, Machalek, and Maryanski 2015; Turner and Mary- anski 2008); thus, the relational addition facilitates abstraction and general theory development in evolutionary thinking. Thus, I suggest combining the two approaches enhances both.

Specifically, Turner provides evolutionary elements that, when combined with relational and ecological theory, provide a heuristic for thinking about relations in evocative ways. As I will depict in this chapter, attending to both relationships and evolution provides us with a heuristic of cycles of social organizing that spiral into the future. This theoretical development is useful in a number of ways. For example, combining the two schools of thought points towards a logic for casing in historical sociolog)'

 
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