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Social Relationship

For Weber individual social action is sociologically significant since it is oriented toward others and involves subjective meaning on the part of the actor. Cohen argues that the concept of social relationship Weber expands the meaning of social action by connecting actions of one individual with actions of others; the result is to move beyond the study of individual social action to defining and analyzing social relationships. According to Weber the term social relationship will be used to denote the behavior of a plurality of actors in so far as in its meaningful content, the action of each takes account of that of the others and is oriented in these terms. The social relationship thus consists entirely and exclusively in the existence of a probability that there will be a meaningful course of social action irrespective for the time being of the basis for this probability. Weber expands on the meaning of social relationship providing examples and showing the range of following social relationships that can occur. Weber notes many forms of content- friendship, exchange, competition, conflict and economic exchange. Meaning is not true or correct in any absolute or theoretical sense. That is each social relationship is associated with some meaningful action that is appropriate to the relationship. Again Weber is more concerned with what defines the social aspect of the relationship rather than arguing that it results from some formal aspect such as church or marriage.

In each case the social relationship is not the institution but the meaningful conduct of people involved in the institution. An institution such as marriage is likely to be associated with a meaningful social relationship.Weber does not want to reify the concept of social relationship to make it more fixed and having a distinct status of its own. While Marxists make note of reification of economic concepts in that exploitative relationships are hidden, Weber makes a similar point about social institutions and structures. Here he argues that it makes sense to discuss concepts such as the state but only so long as there are actual social relationships associated with this, it is these relationships that constitute the institution and make it more meaningful. If such relationships disappear then it no longer exists sociologically. Relationships may be asymmetrical so this would appear to be the case in many relationships of consumers and sellers. The understanding many not be the same for different individuals in the relationship. Such asymmetrical relationships may be more prone to dissolution or misunderstanding than are symmetrical one. Varying degrees of permanence of a relationship exist. While Weber argues that a fleeting relationship may be a social relationship, repeated occurrence or continued and regular social relationships appear to be more socially significant for the social patterns, maxims or customs to develop. Weber notes that relatively constant social relationships are associated with maxims or commonly expected and understood forms of action by the partners to the relationship. This is especially the case for rational relationships whereas the scope and types of more emotional relationships can vary more widely i.e a marital relationship may vary from love and affection to violence and distrust and back again. Rational relationships in business or bureaucracy cannot generally with stand such wide swings. Weber comments on consent, loyalty and duty.