Sociology of: childhood · culture
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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 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.
These divisions are illustrated in the table below:
|Physical movement||Meaning||Directed towards others||Await response||Unique/rare interaction||Interactions||Accidental, not planned, but repeated interaction||Regular||Interactions described by law, custom or tradition||A scheme of social interactions|
Social interaction is a dynamic, changing sequence of social actions between individuals (or groups) who modify their actions and reactions according to those of their interaction partner(s). In other words, they are events in which people attach meaning to a situation, interpret what others are meaning, and respond accordingly.
Social interactions can be differentiated into:
In sociological hierarchy, social interaction is more advanced than behavior, action, social behavior, social action and social contact, and is in turn followed by more advanced concept of social relation. In other words, social interactions, which consist of social actions, form the basis for social relations.