International Social Theory Consortium 2018

Activity: Participating in or organising an event typesParticipation in conference


International Social Theory Consortium 2018

Rethinking Social Roles: Conflict and Modern Life

How can we explain the complexity of modern social experience? This paper argues that rethinking the concept of social roles through the lens of neo-pragmatist and critical theory allows the connections between agents and normative structures to be more fully grasped. A new-pragmatist critique of the recent tendency in sociology to focus on identities and social positions rather than roles is advanced, arguing that this overlooks the normative expectations and relations of authority embedded in social institutions, as they are encountered by agents. Consequently, the evaluative quality of role performance is obscured, namely that process whereby agents respond to perceived normative expectations and authority relations through their interpretations, enactments and reconfigurations of specific roles.

Secondly, the paper examines the non-determined character of the role concept, arguing that a critical, non-behaviourist conception of social roles will allow for a focus on complex and conflicting norms and interests characteristic of modern social institutions. The paper argues that rethinking the concept of a role in these terms offers a promising route to both analysing status struggles under conditions of complexity and uncertainty, and theorising wider processes of social change.
Period17 May 201819 May 2018
Event typeConference
LocationChicago, United States, Illinois
Degree of RecognitionInternational


  • modernity
  • social roles
  • conflict
  • critical theory
  • pragmatism