Friendship: A Sociological Approach

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  • Friendship: A Sociological Approach
    Friendship: A Sociological Approach
    Lecture outline
    1. Friends, friendship and friendly relations
      Words in context: friends, friendship and friendly relations
      Semantic conflation and the need to differentiate
      Love vs friendship
    2. Friendship and the problem of ‘institution’
      Friendship and trust: anthropology
      Thinking about institutions: norms and connectivity
      Friendship’s institutional deficit as relational freedom
    ¡Friendship in the everyday context of intimacy and in relation to love
    ¡Everyday intimacy: the mostly unreflected upon modes of thinking about and doing intimacy; the ‘natural attitude’ (Alfred Schutz), the ‘practical consciousness’ (Anthony Giddens), the take-for-granted ‘just so’ of love and friendship
    ¡Love as ‘ordinary’ love/coupledom: everyday joys and dilemmas embedded in the promise of something extraordinary
    ¡Intimate friendship as a form of love
    ¡Compare and contrast what’s typical in the everyday repertoires of attitudes and practices in love and friendship
    ¡Words in context:
    friends, friendship and friendly relations
    ¡History of English language use
    ¡Friends vs friendship = weak ties/all-encompassing vs strong (intimate) specific
    ¡Friendship as intimate relationship = dyadic (relationship between two ‘best’ friends)
    ¡Friendly relations: acquaintances, comrades, colleagues (Kracauer, Alberoni)
    ¡Acquaintances: held together not by intimacy, but by discretion (Goffman)
    ¡Comrades and colleagues: centre on external purpose (work, war); are interchangble

    “Where the world of my dreams, my memories, my yearning, my love begins, there also ends the relationship between me and my colleague. A subtle feeling holds close watch so that no mixing of both realms eventuates. Every transgression of the separating line will, consciously or unconsciously, be repudiated” (Kracauer).
    ¡Semantic conflation and the need to differentiate
    ¡We are supposed to defamiliarise the familiar
    ¡But: we often mirror rather than interpret everyday assumptions.
    ¡Friends, friendship, friendly relations (colleagues, neighbours, FB friend 456) but also family are treated as the same.
    ¡Mirroring = taking at face value what people say.
    ¡E.g. ‘he’s my bro’ = family and friendship are becoming indistinguishable.
    ¡Interpretation = family is an organization that includes legal           obligations, etc.
    ¡Typical differences: Love vs Friendship
    ¡ Friendship and the problem of ‘institution’
    ¡Friendship as (more or less institutionalized) trust relationship
    ¡Sociology: friendship – family, ‘love’
    ¡Anthropology: friendship – kinship
    ¡Trust is distributed differently according to culture
    ¡Examples:  Ndendeuli (Tanzania)
      Bangwa (Ghana)
      Pushtuns (N. Pakistan)
    Ndendeuli   friendship rare, considered unimportant
      non-kin untrustworthy
      friends thus considered kin by audiences

    Bangwa      friendship valued above kin
      life-long friends assigned
      friendship is ‘institutionalised’ in ritual

    Pushtun  general distrust of kin and friends
      trust reserved for outsiders
      friendship idealised
    ¡Modern friendship
    …. is private and personal

    … voluntary

    …. and only insufficiently integrated into the range of institutions

    …. but what’s an institution?
    ¡Thinking about institutions 1
    One definition:

    Institutions are socially defined rules with societal validity that are anchored in actors’ expectations, and from which a binding character of action is deduced.

    ¡ rules (norms)
    ¡ validity (legitimacy)
    ¡ expectations (normativity)
    ¡ binding character (orientating capacity)
    ¡Thinking about institutions 2
    Normative infrastructure + institutional connectivity

    Normative infrastructure: formal and informal norms

    Connectivity: how institutions connect to one another

    Example: Love

    ¡Normative infrastructure: contract, law, culture of romance
    ¡Connectivity to law, religion, therapy culture, the market
    ¡Thinking about institutions 3
    But what about friendship?
    Normative infrastructure / informal norms: trust, reciprocity, equality …
    Norms: ???
    Connectivity: ???
    Friendship: A Sociological Approach
    = institutional deficit = relational freedom (from cultural prescription, to shape the relationship according to friends’ ideas and practices)
    ¡Thinking about institutions 4
    Love (as institution) connects to the nexus Capitalism-romance-therapy
    Friendship connects to heteronormativity(next lecture)
    Friendship lacks normative infrastructure and connectivity (Institutional deficit)
    Friendship’s institutional deficit is central to its relational freedom
    ¡Friendship’s relational freedom
    ¡Weakly prescribed in the culture (compared to love)
    ¡Takes its cues from the other (situated practice)
    ¡Therefore provides us with a relatively greater terrain of ‘relational freedom’
    ¡But: that freedom is ‘embedded’ in a given time and place/society
    ¡E.g. ‘modern’ society
    ¡E.g. Capitalism
    ¡E.g.’ Gendered society’
    ¡Critique of the similarity thesis
    ¡Similarity in difference
    ¡Friends see things in us we may not see ourselves
    ¡Can open new horizons
    ¡‘generate’ new life trajectories
    ¡…. next lecture:
    ¡How friendship’s relational freedom is limited
    ¡It’s freedom is limited because friendship is embedded in society
    ¡That society is – amongst other things – a gendered society
    ¡Because friendship connects to heteronormativity that embeddedness is strongly anchored in social expectations
    ¡These social expectations are normative barriers to cross-sex friendships (between men and women)
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    Friendship: A Sociological Approach