What is Social Relations?
Social Relations, takes as its focus, the relationships between people and their social world.It assumes that people are engaged in and shaped by multiple relationships, events and influences. Human experience and behaviour is therefore explored, not only by taking a range of social and psychological factors into account but also, importantly, by paying close attention to the meanings and interpretations that people attach to their diverse experiences.
The concept of ‘the individual’ can, by definition, exist only in relational terms. A person constructs a sense of identity in relation to family, other people, cultural practices, gender, social class, social/political systems, sexuality, geographic location and physical and mental abilities. It is therefore necessary to engage in learning as a cultural activity and to appreciate connections between individuals and the social, political and cultural structures that impact upon them.
Significantly, Social Relations foregrounds people’s lived experience and recognises that this experience is in continual process. In this way, it invites engagement with relevant topical issues and relationships. Similarly, the experiences and meanings that ‘the learner’ has (and therefore brings to any human interaction) also become a valuable resource for exploration and insight into the dimensions of human relationships.
Social Relations is a multi disciplinary approach that draws on several theoretical methodologies in its analysis. While all of the disciplines that have typically contributed to the ‘humanities’ offer important insights about human beings and their behaviours and needs, those that primarily concern themselves with the complexities of human behaviour are psychology, sociology and anthropology. These are therefore especially important within a Social Relations framework, as they each focus from different angles on how people organise and make meaning of their world and their relationships within it.
Exploring the ways in which such relationships are produced, sustained and transformed is vitally important in establishing meaningful communication with groups and individuals. Social Relations provides a dynamic framework within which to gain rich insight and understanding about people and the social and emotional landscape of their lives.
Social Relations has particular relevance for people whose professional careers require a broad understanding of human behaviour and social relationships. Learning undertaken within this framework enhances people’s personal relationships; their workplace relations with peers, managers and customers; and their engagement and sense of belonging with the community. It is an approach that is extremely useful for promoting understanding of particular social and cultural issues and local contexts.