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The Relational Gaze on a Changing Society

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Edited By Paolo Terenzi and Elisabetta Carrà

Relational sociology is coming increasingly to the fore on the international academic stage. As it invariably happens in such circumstances, when a new paradigm attracts a growing number of scholars, researchers and practitioners, it is almost inevitably interpreted and identified in many different ways. This book aims to highlight the specific nature of relational sociology, disseminates knowledge about the relational approach which has been developed in Italy and in Europe starting from the work of Pierpaolo Donati, and confronts this approach with issues which are currently much debated in social theory, social research and social work. The authors try to consolidate the directions taken in the research field in order to distinguish relational sociology from other approaches which are not relational, or are only so to a certain degree.

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Relations, Trust, Actualisation: Postmodern Short Circuits

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1 The “question” of actualisation

“It is typical of modernity that self-actualisation is essential to achieve self-identity” (Giddens 1990, It. transl. 1994: 155). This statement by Giddens “sounds” so natural to our ears that it is hard for us to imagine that a process other than that described could occur, or could ever have done so. In practice, it is difficult, if not impossible, for us to imagine a “self-identity” that is not inexorably linked to a process of “self-actualisation”. A non-actualised identity would be practically equivalent to the social ideal type of the “failure”.

But has this always been so? We could quite reasonably claim that “yes, it has always been so”. How, then, can it be argued that this process is “typical of modernity”? What was it like before? If we are not to find an unduly facile solution to this contradiction, we need to proceed very cautiously. Alternatively, we may be unable to nail down the discriminating factor in a reversal of perspectives that we might today find difficult even to conceive. The keystone lies in understanding the authentic “mutation”, the “change of nature”, that the term “actualisation” has undergone in recent centuries (those of modernity and post-modernity). A mutation both of its “etymological sense” and –especially – of the processes that bring it about.

These, clearly, are processes that can never be exhaustively analysed in all their complexity. The clash between subjective, social, psychological, cultural and relational pressures involves...

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