Turning Points and the Space of Possibles: A Relational Perspective on the Different Forms of Uncertainty in Applying Relational Sociology : Relations, Networks, and Society, François Depelteau Christopher Powell (Eds.) Palgrave (2013)
Identities, which can be defined as “any source of action, any entity to which observers can attribute meaning not explicable from biophysical regularities” (White, 2008, p. 2), seek to reduce the turmoil of social and biophysical life through control, which includes, but is not limited to, domination or coercion. Identities, which can be of any level, scale, or scope, are triggered by their ever-changing and uncertain environment (Corona and Godart, 2010). The search for control thus originates from a need for footing in a context of uncertainty that, following Knight (1921), we distinguish from risk: while risk can be dealt with through insurance mechanisms, uncertainty can never be fully insured against. Amid chaos, social formations of all kinds—for example, institutions or regimes—emerge and give lasting footing to identities (Corona and Godart, 2010; Fuhse, 2009; Godart and White, 2010; White, 1992, 2008; White, Godart and Corona, 2007). Arguably, the task of sociology is to look at the dynamics of social formations. It requires taking into account the evolution of meanings. A conceptual distinction is drawn by participants and observers between social networks—that is to say, networks of relations—and networks of meanings. Although social relations and meanings are necessarily intertwined (Kirchner and Mohr, 2010; Pachucki and Breiger, 2010), as second-order constructs they can be analytically distinguished, and in some circumstances decoupled (Godart and White, 2010).