Ekaterina Nemenko 1
  • 1 Ural Federal University, 19 Mira str., Yekaterinburg, 620002, Russia

Friendship as a Practice in Distinction (an Example of the Intellectual Milieu of Yekaterinburg)

2017, vol. 16, No. 3, pp. 66–86 [issue contents]
The paper examines specific manifestations of friendship relationships in the contemporary Russian intellectual milieu. It aims to re-conceptualize the notion of friendship as a social-aesthetic phenomenon, that is, as an ensemble of practices of distinction guided by social tastes. The goal of this reconceptualization is to separate friendship from a powerful theoretical tradition where it is related to the idea of the common good, social integration, and the public sphere, and to offer an alternative view of friendship as a selective practice. The selective and exclusive aspects of friendship are not articulated in the discourse, but are widely present at the level of everyday practices. Based on deep semi-structural interviews with a number of intellectuals of Yekaterinburg, such practices as rapprochement/keeping a distance, building and protecting symbolic boundaries, and emotional involvement in communication have been analyzed. Friendship relations in the intellectual milieu differ by the degree of openness/closeness, and by the degree of the instrumentality/symbolic functions. The analysis allows for the questioning of the uncritical usage of the concept of “community” and for replacing it with the model of “web of friends” or “circles of friends”, with more or less stable symbolic borders that separate different social styles. The solidarity that emerges during the communication between friends is a result of the sensible recognition of the others, and does not refer to a higher level of communities (such a gender, class, profession, and so on). In this context, friendship can be understood both critically, as an exclusive social practice, and positively, as a unique good that has an antidemocratic nature and can not be reduced to any sort of common good.
Citation: Nemenko E. (2017) Druzhba kak praktika razlicheniya (na primere intellektual'noy sredy Ekaterinburga) [Friendship as a Practice in Distinction (an Example of the Intellectual Milieu of Yekaterinburg)]. The Russian Sociological Review, vol. 16, no 3, pp. 66-86 (in Russian)
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