Goffman is credited with enriching our understanding of the details of interaction, but not with challenging our theoretical understanding of social organization. While Goffman's position is not consistent, the outlines for a theory of an interaction order sui generis may be found in his work. It is not theoretically adequate to understand Goffman as an interactionist within the dichotomy between agency and social structure. Goffman offers a way of resolving this dichotomy via the idea of an interaction order which is (...) constitutive of self and at the same time places demands on social structure. This has significant implications for our understanding of social organization in general. (shrink)
In this original and controversial book Professor Rawls argues that Durkheim's The Elementary Forms of Religious Life is the crowning achievement of his sociological endeavour and that since its publication in English in 1915 it has been consistently misunderstood. Rather than a work on primitive religion or the sociology of knowledge, Rawls asserts that it is an attempt by Durkheim to establish a unique epistemological basis for the study of sociology and moral relations. By privileging social practice over beliefs and (...) ideas, it avoids the dilemmas inherent in philosophical approaches to knowledge and morality that are based on individualism and the tendency to privilege beliefs and ideas over practices, both tendencies that dominate western thought. Based on detailed textual analysis of the primary text, this book will be an important and original contribution to contemporary debates on social theory and philosophy. (shrink)
This article discusses ‘Notes on Language Games’, written by Harold Garfinkel in 1960 and never before published, one of three distinct versions of his famous ‘Trust’ argument, i.e., that constitutive criteria define shared events, objects, and meanings. The argument stands in contrast to an approach to cultural anthropology that was becoming popular in 1960 called ‘ethnoscience’. In this previously unknown manuscript, Garfinkel proposes that cultural events and language events are the same, in that both are created through constitutive commitments to (...) interactional systems. The best-known version of the Trust argument (Garfinkel, 1963) emphasizes Schutz, while other versions build on Parsons (Garfinkel 2019). In this third version, the Trust conditions are elaborated in terms of Wittgenstein’s language games. Various strands of Garfinkel’s thinking about culture, language and interaction are interwoven. That Garfinkel was working with Parsons in 1960 to document a contractual basis for social events and their assembly practices in ‘systems of interaction’, a constitutive practice argument with roots in Durkheim’s work, is yet another strand. The article highlights how the Trust argument is the key to everything, not only ethnomethodology, but also Garfinkel’s attempt to develop a general sociology of culture, language and interaction. (shrink)
This paper proposes an approach to the question of meaning and understanding based on the idea of constitutive rules and their relationship to the social objects they are used to create. This approach implicates mutual attention as an essential aspect of the social processes constitutive of social objects and mutual intelligibility. Social objects as such include the meaning, perception and coherence of things, identities and talk, etc. There is a relatively unexplored but important line of argument in sociology that has, (...) from the beginning, explained the coherence and mutual intelligibility of social objects and associations in terms of constitutive practices and social facts. This line of argument begins with Emile Durkheim (1893) and carries through the work of Harold Garfinkel to current studies of work and interaction, human computer interaction and talk. The argument is that we use constitutive practices (Constitutive rules or constitutive background expectancies) to create social objects and make coherent and shared meanings. To act is in this sense for Garfinkel (2006) to “mean”. Explaining the consistency of social objects and orders in terms of constitutive orders, rules, or practices is an approach that meets the challenges posed to social science and philosophy by Ludwig Wittgenstein (1953), Peter Winch (1958) and Paul Grice (1989). (shrink)
The first part of this paper makes five points: First, the problem of Otherness is different and differently constructed in modern differentiated societies. Therefore, approaches to Otherness based on traditional notions of difference and boundary between societies and systems of shared belief will not suffice; Second, because solidarity can no longer be maintained through boundaries between ingroup and outgroup, social cohesion has to take a different form; Third, to the extent that Otherness is not a condition of demographic, or belief (...) based, exclusion in modern societies, but rather something that happens to people otherwise available to one another in interaction, othering is a processthat occurs over the course of interaction, turn by turn, not a set of beliefs or a state of mind; Fourth, othering may be supported by accounts and narratives, and these may exist before the fact – or be articulated after the fact. But, over the course of an ongoing interaction, beliefs and narratives do not explain what goes wrong with practices; Fifth, practices require reciprocity and trust. Therefore, practices require a morestringent form of morality – not a less stringent form – and moresocial cohesion – not less – than traditional society.The second part of the paper illustrates these five points with an extended analysis of a cross-race interaction in which accounts are invoked, reciprocity breaks down, and participants are rendered as Accountable Others. (shrink)
The existentialism of Jean-Paul Sartre is critiqued from the point of view of Goffmanian sociology of everyday life. Despite many parallels between the two positions, the philosophical viewpoint should not be taken as necessarily more sophisticated than the sociological. Meaning, self, and institutional order are interactional achievements, and thus studies in conversational analysis and ethnomethodology become the basis for a critique of epistemology.
This is an article about the history of US sociology with systematic intent. It goes back to World War II to recover a wartime narrative context through which sociologists formulated a ‘trauma’ to the discipline and ‘blamed’ qualitative and values-oriented research for damaging the scientific status of sociology. This narrative documents a discussion of the changes that sociologists said needed to be made in sociology as a science to repair its status and reputation. While debates among sociologists about theory and (...) method had always been contentious, the wartime narrative insisted for the first time that sociology be immediately unified around quantitative approaches. The narrative of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ science that developed during the war not only undermined the efforts of social interactionists to theorize social action and social justice, but also derailed Parsons’ pre-war effort to bridge differences. The moral coding that is the legacy of the narrative stigmatized important approaches to sociology, leading to a ‘crisis’ in the 1960s that still haunts the discipline. Disciplinary history has overlooked the wartime narrative with the result that the role played by World War II in effecting this crisis has gone unrecognized. (shrink)