The Dimension of Normativity in Informal Social Relations

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The aim of this article is to discuss the character of regularities occurring in informal social bonds, be they friendships, romantic partnerships, competitions or rivalries. Since Simmel’s work is emblematic for the theme of social norms involved in durable informal bonds, I take his original concept of forms of association as my point of reference. The argument I propose challenges several of Simmel’s assumptions, namely his objectivist stance, his formal sociology and the autopoiesis of systems of reciprocal effects. Based on this critical rereading of Simmel, I introduce the concept of “socially constructed typical bonds” as a more dynamic and versatile alternative to the static patterns of forms of association. By bringing a subjectivist turn (inspired by Berger, Luckmann and Butler) to Simmel’s forms of association, I argue for the recognition of the blurry, diverse and contradictory understandings of the typical social bond as the ground for relational normativity.

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