Belonging and isolation: exploring social sanctioning

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper

273 Citations (Scopus)


The profound social significance of our relationship with others is seldom acknowledged in sociological debates. In this paper rather than viewing belonging and isolation as individual ventures they are presented as the very bases of the constitution of society. Drawing on some of the tenets of the Strong Program, little known within sociological debates, I explore belonging and isolation from a collectivist point of view. Following Bloor's meaning finitism and Barnes' performative theory of social institutions, social life and knowledge are presented as the result of the interactive communicative dynamics in which individuals adjust themselves to others' beliefs or practices. Normative standards for all knowledge are constituted and maintained by the collective monitoring, controlling and sanctioning of differing individual tendencies. This is a view which conceives individuals as fundamentally interdependent and mutually susceptible, constantly modifying their behaviour in alignment with changing collective requirements. Thus both consensus and deviation are seen as part of the same process of knowledge production. A political dimension is explored by drawing on the notion of productive power mechanisms underlying identity formation. Following Butlerian and Foucadian notions I will present sanctioning mechanisms as a form of constituting conformity through the notion of the 'abject'. This clarifies how despite weak systems of sanctions there is a tendency to 'belong' rather than to 'diverge'. Scheff's work on the emotion-deference system is used to show the powerful, significant, and constitutive impact of emotional sanctioning.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2003
Externally publishedYes
EventBritish Sociological Association Annual Conference: Social Futures: Desire, Excess and Waste - University of York, York, United Kingdom
Duration: 11 Apr 200313 Apr 2003


ConferenceBritish Sociological Association Annual Conference
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


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