“Two Faces of the ‘Relational Turn’”

Peeter Selg

Hypocrisy“Relational” has become a buzz word. Over the past couple of decades, the talk of “relational” approaches has been growing so rapidly that it is almost impossible to keep track of the very latest developments. Most of the social sciences have had their call for “relational turn” ranging from sociology and psychology to economics and geography. Recently, a “relational turn” in political science was called for in a symposium in PS: Political Science and Politics. The participants perceived a promising path for such a “turn” by introducing social network analysis into political science. This call is informed by a conviction that the central concept of political science — power — is relational. Considering this viewpoint, the current article argues that there are two different understandings of the connection between the qualifier “relational” and the concept of power, referred to as the “Anglo-American” and the “Continental” perspectives. The author contends that the symposium participants viewed the connection only from the Anglo-American perspective and that recognizing the Continental understanding would add extra value for political science. While both perspectives highlight the importance of considering relations when conceptualizing power, the major difference between them is in their diverging views about the nature of those relations.

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PS: Political Science & Politics / Volume 49 / Issue 01 / January 2016, pp 27-31

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