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The Meta-Power Paradigm

Impacts and Transformations of Agents, Institutions, and Social Systems-- Capitalism, State, and Democracy in a Global Context

Edited By Tom R. Burns and Peter M. Hall

This work presents, elaborates, and illustrates what is arguably the most important concept in the social sciences: power. It focuses particularly on a major class of power phenomena, meta-power, that is, power over power, transformative and structuring power. This encompasses powers to establish, reform, and transform social systems (institutions, power hierarchies, cultural formations, and socio-technical and infrastructural systems). Understanding meta-power is essential to the effective analysis of the formation of societal structures, their dynamics and evolution. This collection presents numerous illustrations and case studies at local, meso, and macro levels, showing how meta-powering is mobilized and operates in different contexts. The book should be of particular interest to business and management researchers, anthropologists, historians, legal scholars, political scientists, and, of course, sociologists.


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C H A P T E R 3: Peter M. Hall: Interactions and the Study of Social Organization


107 C H A P T E R 3 Interactions and the Study of Social Organization Peter M. Hall This article presents a set of six analytic categories—collective activity, network, conventions—practices, resources, processuality—temporality, and grounding—collectively as a paradigm for studying social organization. A review of recent interactionist scholarship generated these categories. The article focuses on the meso domain, where situated activity, history, and structure converge. Some theoretical, methodological, and substantive implications are suggested. Introduction Everett C. Hughes (1955) insisted that, while every social phenomenon was worth studying, proper study necessitated close and sensitive observation in situ. At the same time, he asserted that no phenomenon could be understood in terms of itself: it had to be articulated with the larger society. He challenged his students to explore the frontiers and peripheries of research topics to find relationships between and connections with the social environment. Making linkages between situated activity and broader and larger social forces and forms remains a critical and pressing sociolog- ical problem. Resolving it is the core and essence of the nature and dynamics of social organization. Interactionists recently have been exhorted to develop a unified theory of social structure which will bridge the macro-micro gap and seriously tackle issues of class, power, and inequality (Shalin 1986). The materials, tools, and infrastructure for such an endeavor are already in place. The task here is to make them explicit, provide an integration, and present an interactionist paradigm for studying social organization. Bringing the strengths...

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