The "sociological citizen" relational interdependence in law and organizations

Susan Silbey, Ruthanne Huising, Salo Vinocur Coslovsky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In this paper we describe three examples of what we call "the sociological citizen", environmental health and safety workers, law enforcement officers, and firm managers who see their work and themselves as links in a complex web of interactions and processes rather than as offices of delimited responsibilities and interests. Instead of focusing closely and only sporadically taking account of the larger connections and reverberations of their actions, these actors view their organizations or states as the outcome of human decisions, indecisions, trial and error, rather than rationally organized action. In this dynamic entity, they reconceive their own role as insignificant by itself yet essential to the whole. We locate this observation first within Durkheim's notion of social facts and later hypothesize that twentieth century social science may have contributed to reified conceptions of social relations unnecessarily obscuring this ground level everyday work of social construction. We offer this conception of the sociological citizen as a hypothesis with which to explore more systematically variations in organizational performances and outcomes. We suggest, first, that actors'perceptions of the structure of social action and relational interdependence will vary in perhaps predictable ways. Second, apprehension of relational interdependence will, in turn, affect role performances.

Original languageFrench
Pages (from-to)201-229
Number of pages29
JournalAnnee Sociologique
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 6 2009


  • Attorneys general
  • Compliance
  • Environmental regulation
  • Organizational change
  • Regulatory innovation
  • Transactional perspective

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences

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