School of
Social Sciences
___Introduction to Sociology
Button1
Button1
Button1
Button1
 
Button1
Button1
Button1
Button1
Button1
Button1
Button1
Button1
 
Button1
Button1
Button1
Button1
Button1
Button1
Button1
 
Button1
Button1
Button1
Button1
 
Meaning And Everyday Life

 

"Everyday conversation sometimes contains a more elaborate philosophy of life and a greater sense of the problems which the future holds in store than many academic discussions"
(Blackwell Dictionary of 20th Century Social Thought: 211, 1993)

"In contrast to the perspectives that view human behaviour in terms of external causal factors or internalised motivations, ethnomethodology stresses the active, reasoned and knowledgeable character of human conduct" (Blackwell Dictionary of 20th Century Social Thought: 206, 1993)


'Ethnomethodology' seems like one of those ridiculously long words sociologists invent to make it look like they are doing something, and it is. Like Chris Evans, it makes sense when you take it apart, so:
ethno-people-method-means-ology-study of
Hence, the study of the means by which people maintain the social order.

Like all successful American inventions, ethnomethodology is something that started in Europe and has now been repackaged by the Yanks and sold back to us at twice the price. Ethnomethothingy developed from the work of the phenomenological philosopher Edmund Husserl. Phenomenology opposed scientific positivism, for whose sociological representatives see Emile Durkheim and Talcott Parsons. It sought to restore the conncetion between knowledge and our everyday understanding of the world.

Fast forward a century, and Garfinkel, one half of the pop duo Simon and Garfinkel, was establishing the school of ethnomethodology in opposition to the dominant, positivist, structural-functionalism which ruled the roost in sociology in the 1960s. The latter has society as existing outside and above individuals, as some greater law to which they adhere in day to day interaction In contrast ethnomethodology claims that the social order is constructed out of the everyday interactions and common-sense understandings of individuals. The crucial thing is that these common sense understandings are inherently unstable, are not fixed and certain, and have to be recreated in each everyday interaction.

The way Harold Garfinkel illustrated this was with a series of 'breaching' experiments whereby the accepted rules of a social situation would be broken. For example he got his students to cheat at knots and crosses (or tic-tac-toe as he irritatingly calls it). Convetional rule-book sociologists would assume that the social order would break down in such a situation. In fact, the other participants incorporated the beaking of the rules into the game - usually by breaking the rules themselves. Precisely because it is to such a great extent a direct creation of its members, society is more robust than conventional, positivist, sociologists allow for.



Work By Garfinkel  
Some Essential Features Of Common Understandings  


These pages were originally written by: Angus Bancroft and Sioned Rogers
Redesigned and updated by: Pierre Stapley - 2010