Sociological Theory 11 (2):212-229 (1993)

Douglas Porpora
Drexel University
This paper attempts to synthesize the Winchian stress on constitutive rules with the Marxian stress on material relationships by developing the concept of emergently material social relations. Such relationships, it is argued, arise from the constitutive rules that constitute a group's way of life. Although such relationships thus are derivative from the conscious rule-following behavior of actors, nevertheless they have an objective existence independent of actors' specific awareness. It is argued that such material relations are an important mechanism beyond the cultural rules through which our behavior is constrained, enabled, and motivated. Yet the Winchian tradition in general and contemporary structuration theory in particular have tended to peripheralize the notion of material relations, treating them largely as epiphenomenal abstractions. This, it is argued, is a mistake and the source of an important lacuna in structuration theory. In particular, because structuration theory decenters the actor, conflates the distinction between regulative and constitutive rules, and peripheralizes social relations, it lacks an adequate explanation of motivation, as symptomized by its inordinate appeal to the unconscious. The concept of emergently material social relations overcomes this problem and offers a reintegration of the Marxian and the Winchian traditions
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DOI 10.2307/202143
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