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In social science, a social relation or social interaction refers to a relationship between two (i.e. a dyad), three (i.e. a triad) or more individuals (e.g. a social group). Social relations, derived from individual agency, form the basis of the social structure. To this extent social relations are always the basic object of analysis for social scientists. Fundamental enquiries into the nature of social relations are to be found in the work of the classical sociologists, for instance, in Max Weber's theory of social action. Further categories must be established in the abstract in order to form observations and conduct social research, such as Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft (lit. "Community and Society") or "collective consciousness".
Disputes over the conduct of investigating social interaction relate to the core debates in sociology and the other social sciences: positivism (quantitative research) against antipositivism (qualitative research), structure against agency, structural functionalism against conflict theory, as well as the philosophy of social science itself.
Forms of relation and interaction
Forms of relation and interaction in sociology and anthropology may be described as follows: first and most basic are animal-like behaviors, i.e. various physical movements of the body. Then there are actions - movements with a meaning and purpose. Then there are social behaviors, or social actions, which address (directly or indirectly) other people, which solicit a response from another agent. Next are social contacts, a pair of social actions, which form the beginning of social interactions. Social interactions in turn form the basis of social relations. Symbols define social relationships. Without symbols, our social life would be no more sophisticated than that of animals. For example, without symbols we would have no aunts or uncles, employers or teachers-or even brothers and sisters. In sum, Symbolic integrationists analyze how social life depends on the ways we define ourselves and others. They study face-to-face interaction, examining how people make sense out of life, how they determine their relationships.
These divisions are illustrated in the table below:
- Max Weber The Nature of Social Action in Runciman, W.G. 'Weber: Selections in Translation' Cambridge University Press, 1991.
- Piotr Sztompka, Socjologia, Znak, 2002, ISBN 83-240-0218-9bg:Обществени отношения
ca:Relació social de:Soziale Beziehung es:Relación social eo:Sociaj rilatoj fr:Rapports sociaux id:Interaksi sosial kk:Әлеуметтік қарым-қатыныстар lt:Visuomeniniai santykiai pl:Stosunek społeczny pt:Relação social ru:Общественные отношения sr:Друштвени односи fi:Yhteisöllisyys uk:Соціальні відносини vi:Quan hệ xã hội zh:社会关系