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negotiated order


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A theory developed largely within symbolic interactionism by Anselm Strauss to depict social organization occurring in and through people negotiating with each other. Designed in part as a response to the view that inter-actionists had no tools for analysing social structure and were too subjective, the theory attempts to depict social organization as an active achievement of social actors, and not as a static or reified concept. It can be traced back to a number of classic sources: George Herbert Mead's dialectical concept of society; Herbert Blumer's idea of the interpretive process and the joint act; Robert Park's characterization of society as a succession of conflicts, accommodations, and assimilations; and Everett Hughes's concern with institutional flexibility. The term is stated and developed most explicitly, however, in the writings of Anselm Strauss and his colleagues, especially Psychiatric Ideologies and Institutions (1963), and his later book Negotiations (1978). Strauss depicts social order as ‘something at which members of any society, any organization, must work. For the shared agreements…are not binding for all time…review is called for…the bases of concerted action (social order) must be constituted continually, or “worked out”’. The theory highlights emergence, change, and temporality; the embedded and contextual nature of order; the omnipresence of specific power relations; and the constant segmentation and fragmentation of social orders.

Subjects: Sociology.


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