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Micro-situational Foundations of Social Structure: An Interactionist Exploration of Affective Sanctioning



Micro-interaction dynamics of affective sanctioning have been widely acknowledged but rarely related to the emergence of social phenomena. This paper aims to highlight the constitutive force of interaction activity by critically analysing two sociological models, Bourdieu's theory of practice and Barnes's Performative Theory of Social Institutions (PTSI). Such a comparison allows me to reveal two differing models of social phenomena currently operating in sociological debates: an extrinsic structuralist model which tacitly conveys macro-structural phenomena as prior and determinant of individuals and their micro-interactions, and an intrinsic structuralism model which prioritizes individuals’ interactions and conceives them as constituting both the individual and the structural. I argue that the latter's emphasis on the dynamics of mutual susceptibility to affective sanctioning as underpinning consensus among inherently heterogeneous individuals provides a platform to further support the tenets of Interactionism and helps to expose Bourdieu's over-deterministic methodological individualism prevalent in most sociological theory. I conclude that by conceiving emotions as causal, rather than the effect of social forces, sociological theory can provide an explanation of both individual practices and systemic phenomena which resolves macro-structural tensions. In doing so, I suggest an ontological understanding of the “social” which supports the Interactionist central tenet that the local takes priority over wider structural phenomena.

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