The purpose of this study is to provide generic insights into the rheology of immersed particulate materials in dense configurations. We focus on a non-Brownian and Stokesian suspension of elastic spheres, as a way to identify the effect on the collective behaviour of two short-range interactions: lubrication and steric repulsion below a tunable range. The response of the material to shear under a prescribed shear rate and a prescribed normal stress is simulated using ‘soft dynamics’, a discrete element method which accounts for the dynamics of such a system. The material exhibits a visco-elastic behaviour, deforming elastically at high shear rates, and viscously at slower shear rates. When steady flow is established, the constitutive law can be expressed, as for dry grains, through a friction law and a dilatancy law, whose numerical constants depend in a non-trivial manner on the equilibrium gap. The analysis of the contribution of each interacting pair as a function of its distance and orientation sheds some light on this collective behaviour. Lubrication, which hinders grain approach, is responsible for a loss of contact and a low repulsion contribution to the stress. In contrast, lubrication viscously connects each grain to as many as 10 neighbours, which all contribute significantly to the shear stress. This forms a robust dynamic connected network controlling the collective resistance to flow. This study should be useful for modelling the rheological behaviour of real materials such as foams, emulsions and blood: beside the specific properties of their particles, these particulate fluids also involve lubrication and repulsion.