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was destroyed by the French Revolution (1789–98),

but a militarized and conservative nobility (known

as the Junkers) survived in Germany and was an

important aspect of Weber’s analysis of the political

and cultural rigidity of Germany at the beginning

of the twentieth century. The German nobility

was shattered by the crisis of World War I, but the

political system based on authoritarian “statism”

survived much longer, according to G. Kvistad in

The Rise and Demise of German Statism (1999). An

estate system also existed in Russia until the

Bolsheviks came to power after the October Revolution

of 1917, whenmilitary defeats, food shortages,

and revolutionary conflict brought an end

to autocratic Tsardom. Given the strength of the

Russian estate system, Weber remained pessimistic

about the possibilities of social change in Russia in

his The Russian Revolutions (1917 [trans. 1995]). In

conclusion, the rigidity of the system of estates –

the survival of the nobility and the peasantry into

modern times – has often been seen as an obstacle

to the development of democracy, for example in

essentialism estates

173


Barrington Moore’s Social Origins of Dictatorship and

Democracy (1966). BRYAN S. TURNER

ethnic group

– see ethnicity.

ethnic mosaic

This expression is a euphemism used by dominant

ethnic groups to represent their political and

economic intentions towards ethnic minorities

as benign or, even, well-intentioned. Similar expressions

include “melting pot,” “salad bowl,”

and “multiculturalism.” From the late twentieth

century, terms like “melting pot,” which convey

the cultural ideal that ethnic differences will in

time melt away, have been replaced by terms that

serve to respect the differences as reconcilable if

unbridgeable. Thus, after the 1960s in the European

diaspora, popular groups tended to speak of

the national society as a salad bowl, in which the

differing vegetables contribute to the cultural

taste of the whole without relinquishing their

differences. Evidently multiculturalism is a somewhat

more abstract version of the same well-intentioned

theory that different ethnic groups can

achieve a state of peaceful coexistence – as in

fact they occasionally do, for example between

the French and the English in Canada and the

Walloons and Flemish in Belgium. Ethnic mosaic

is a somewhat more scientific term used in the

social sciences to lend an analytic legitimacy to

what is otherwise a historical incongruity. The

ethnic mosaic, like the metaphorical salad bowl,

connotes the ideal that ethnic conflicts are aberrations

limiting the social good which can be

achieved when groups set aside differences to

work together for the common good. In real history,

the ethnic mosaic ideal strains against

ethnocentrism, which seems to be a deeper structural

feature of ethnic groups. The disposition to

consider one’s own group as superior aggravates,

even in the most stable of ethnic mosaics, the

potential for affirmation of differences that the

dominant culture may be unable to suppress.

CHARLES LEMERT

ethnic nationalism

– see nationalism.

ethnicity and ethnic groups

These concepts are intended to define social differences

associated with, but theoretically distinct

from, racial ones. It is common, thereby, for social

analysts to link race and ethnicity to suggest that

ethnic differences go beyond, while including,

racial ones. The distinction is not entirely arbitrary

owing to the predominance of biological

theories of race in late modern European diasporic

cultures. Among the most notable modern

examples of the confusion wrought by race and

ethnicity is the United States, where racism has

long been a structural feature of its status in the

capitalist world-system. It is necessary to distinguish

race from ethnicity when there is reason to

justify a national or regional economy’s reliance

on slavery or other pre-modern forms of feudal

or despotic production. West African people captured

and transshipped to the Americas from

the long sixteenth century until the nineteenth

century, were defined as a race as opposed to

an ethnic group for two reasons: one, they had

lost their ties to their original ethnic cultures in

Africa; two, the shame of economic reliance

on slave labor called for a pseudo-scientific justification

in the form of the racial attribution being

offered as a sign of an inherent biological difference

that stipulated the mental, even categorical,

inferiority of blacks. Today, it is very well known

that racial differences are biologically insignificant

and that ethnicity must be considered quite

apart from its assumed associations with race.

The word ethnic descends from the Greek

noun ethnos, which has entered into modern languages,

including English, variously as “people”

and “nation.” Yet, the somewhat awkward derivative

“ethnicity” did not come into play until relatively

late in the nineteenth century when

sociology and other academic social sciences, still

immature institutionally, were forced to account

for the social conflicts arising from the presence

of immigrant groups in European and North

American cities. It was then that “heathen” or

“barbarian,” a third but already archaic sense of

ethnic differences, may be detected in analytic

usages. Ethnic differences are thus most severe

in host societies when groups considered foreign

come to live in close proximity. Their languages,

customs, religions, cuisines, and other cultural

practices appear strange to established citizens

of the host nations — even when their own ancestries

can be traced to groups whose social habits

were once alien.

Simply put, ethnicities are of analytic importance

when differing peoples are forced to live

close by each other in an established region or

political territory such as the modern nation-state.

Ethnic differences are most acute when the prevailing

nation-state is unable to manage the

ethnic group ethnicity and ethnic groups

174


conflicts that inevitably ensue when established

groups of the region depend on the aliens to satisfy

their need for cheap and plentiful labor. In

the United States, for example, in the nineteenth

century, European groups were recruited to the

eastern and middle states, as Asian groups had

come to the western states, to relieve the acute

shortage of workers for hard labor in industry,

farming, and mining. In times of rapid economic

expansion, industrializing areas necessarily suffer

labor shortages. Whatever scruples the dominant

group may have as to the cultural habits of foreigners,

they must embrace them if the economic

growth is to continue. The embrace is almost

always false and short-lived. Very often, the foreign

labor is recruited from among the most stigmatized

groups in the host nation, as when, in the

United States after 1914, World War I cut off

access to European immigrant labor, forcing the

northern industrial centers to recruit blacks from

the rural South.

Usually, ethnic groups are invited as (in the

European expression) “guest workers” to work in

low-end service, manufacturing, or agriculture

sectors. Yet, ethnic differences can also rise to

perplexing visibility when immigrant workers

are needed for highly skilled labor, as when,

from the last quarter of the twentieth century,

South Asian peoples came to play a major role in

technological and financial sectors throughout

the European diaspora.

Ethnicities, thus, are most salient when the host

nations are unable to manage the conflicts that

inevitably arise between the new ethnic groups

and the assimilated dominant groups or among

the ethnic groups themselves. Ethnic conflicts can

break into open warfare and civil discord when

the political sovereignty of the national or regional

authorities weakens, as, after 1989, when

the collapse of the Soviet Union led to ethnic

violence in regions once under the control of

the Warsaw Pact — Chechnya and the Balkans,

among others. The extremes of ethnic violence

are realized when ethnic conflicts occur in regions

where there is little or no legitimate political

authority — as in Rwanda, Burundi, Congo, and

Uganda. Late in the twentieth century, ethnic

conflict between the Hutu and Tutsi led to the

slaughter of hundreds of thousands of innocents,

and early in the twenty-first century ongoing

violence, mainly against women and children, is

laying waste to villages in the Darfur region of the

Sudan. The fact that the global powers, notably

the United States, largely ignored these ethnic

wars while simultaneously seeking to manage

similar ones in Iraq among the Shi’a, Sunni,

and Kurds illustrates the role of economic and

geo-political interests in ethnic conflicts. A dominant

ethnic group with the power to do so will

intervene in conflicts among other groups

only when its perceived interests are at stake.

Ethnocentrism seems, therefore, to be a naturally

occurring attribute of ethnic groups who will

engage rival groups with unusual ferocity when

their sense of ethnic privilege is threatened.

The artificiality of the analytic distinction between

race and ethnicity is evident, thus, in the

degree to which the ethnic differences interact

with political realities. In the United States, for

example, people of the African diaspora were recognized

as a legitimate ethnic group, African-

American, only after 1965 when the American

Civil Rights Movement forced the dominant

whites of European extraction to accept the civic

(if not social) legitimacy of blacks who, to that

point, had been defined narrowly as an excludable

racial minority. After the Voting Rights Act of

1965 in the United States, descendants of slaves

captured from West Africa as long as three centuries

before increasingly claimed an African ethnic

identity of which most were necessarily ignorant.

Thus, ethnic practices can occasionally be latterday

inventions intended to connect people to

a lost ancient tradition, as in the case of the

African-American Kwanzaa, a holiday introduced

in 1966 to celebrate the ancient traditions of West

Africa. At the same time, when the dominant

ethnic group or groups are forced, in times of

relative domestic or regional peace, to accept formerly

obnoxious cultural differences, they will

themselves invent cultural ideals celebrating their

own civility, as in the case of expressions like

ethnic mosaic or melting pot, which serve to cover

their own history of incivility and cruelty towards

ethnic minorities.

In short, ethnicity is a sociological concept

meant to disentangle the complex historical

ties between cultural differences and political

and economic power. CHARLES LEMERT

ethnocentrism

The seemingly universal cultural habit of considering

one’s own ethnicity unique, and thus in

some sense – or several senses – special, the most

striking instance of ethnocentrism in the modern

world is that of the North American peoples in

the United States who, over more than two centuries

of history, thought of “America” as exceptional

for the purity and goodness of its values.

American “exceptionalism,” like most forms of

ethnicity and ethnic groups ethnocentrism

175

ethnocentrism, has shown itself to be a plastic



cultural attitude equally capable of reference to

religious culture (as in America as the New Israel

in the seventeenth-century Puritan theory of

divine providence) as to secular principles (as in

the doctrine of manifest destiny, an expression

used to justify the appropriation of lands from

Mexico in the 1840s). More often, if less accurately,

ethnocentrism is used to describe the evident unwillingness

of foreign and domestic ethnic groups

to yield their distinctive cultural practices in

order to assimilate to those of the more powerful

dominant groups in control of state or regional

power.

Analytically, ethnocentrism describes the vicious



cycle of inter-group relations by which

differing ethnicities respond to contact with

each other by claiming a natural superiority for

their own cultural practice, hence for themselves

as a people. CHARLES LEMERT

ethnography

Involving the first-hand exploration and immersive

participation in a natural research setting to

develop an empathic understanding (Verstehen)

of the lives of persons in that setting, ethnography

has its origins in the nearly simultaneous emergence

in the early twentieth century of social

anthropological studies of the cultures of native

peoples and the social ecology studies of city

dwellers by sociologists of the Chicago School

(Ernest W. Burgess, Robert Ezra Park, and William

I. Thomas). The Chicago School wedded Thomas’s

appreciation of the theoretical insights of Charles

Horton Cooley and George Herbert Mead to Park’s

practical experience as a journalist. Once symbolic

interactionism emerged from Chicago, it found a

natural partner in ethnographic methods,

adapted to the study of organizations and other

settings as constituted by the interactions of the

participants. Likewise, it is difficult to see how

Erving Goffman’s dramaturgical perspective could

have been developed except in the explication of

ethnographic data.

Ethnography as a method retains a commitment

to naturalistic enquiry, that is, a commitment to

richly contextualized, extended, participant-eyed

description of the setting (alias the “thick description”

recommended by Clifford Geertz in The Interpretation

of Culture, 1973), with a minimum of

pre-existing hypotheses and a determination to

represent the phenomena at hand faithfully.

Thick description is an outcome of the sustained

immersion in the research field alongside the

writing of detailed reflective fieldnotes, which

enable the researcher to represent the culture in

a multi-layered richness that is broader and more

comprehensive than schematic grand narratives.

The ethnographic tradition does not commit

itself to a specific data collection protocol, rather

it comprises a number of different methods, the

main components being interviews, participant

observation, and documentary analysis. Indeed,

some commentators distinguish ethnography, as

the written report and interpretation of a culture,

from fieldwork, as the modes of observing the

culture. The importance of the written ethnography

has led some to observe that the ethnographer’s

task is story-telling through personal

narrative, alongside other tasks of theory or typology

development. Participant observation is

generally considered to be central to the ethnographic

method. Participant observation involves

collection of data by participating in the social

world of those being studied, and interpreting

and reflecting upon the actions, interactions,

and language of individuals within that social

group. Fieldnotes are used to record observations

and fragments of remembered speech. The use of

multiple methods within an ethnographic project

enables different insights to emerge. For example,

interviews provide access to subjects’ descriptions,

rationalizations, and reflections about their behavior,

while observation provides insights, both

into non-rational behaviors that may remain

undisclosed in an interview, and into the mundane

everyday activities of the habitus, frequently

taken for granted and unarticulated within

subjects’ usual reportage.

The level to which ethnographers may choose to

integrate themselves into cultures can vary considerably,

from fully participating in the interaction

to remaining on the periphery of the

action as an observer. Participation of the ethnographer,

and engagement in (or withdrawal from)

some activities in the fieldwork setting, places the

ethnographer within certain categories used by

participants (friend, confidant, guest, and outsider).

Social distance between the ethnographer

and members of the culture being studied can

result in lack of trust, a lack of understanding,

or not knowing enough about the phenomena

under study to ask the right questions.

Good fieldwork relations are crucial and ethnographers

will need to consider how best to

manage their personal identity accordingly (dress,

speech, and behavior). Field relationships may also

be facilitated by the skills, knowledge, and abilities

of the ethnographer, which may range from

giving advice on medical or legal problems to

ethnography ethnography

176


helping with daily chores. Maintaining a reflexive

awareness will also enable the ethnographer to

assess the impact of field relationships on the

data collected.

Analysis of ethnographic data should start at

the piloting stage, continuing throughout data collection

where the purpose of the research is progressively

focused, and into the process of writing.

Indeed, the progressive focusing that occurs as a

consequence of continual analysis and reflection

often results in a significant shift of focus in terms

of the original aims of the study. During this inductive

process, the ethnographer will make analytic

notes in which are recorded ideas about

emerging features and patterns (whether they be

surprising or mundane), along with ideas of how

such patterns might be explained. While some ethnographies

remain mainly as descriptions or accounts

of the way of life in a particular setting,

other ethnographies are more theorized accounts

which focus on specific phenomena, or aspects of

the culture.

Traditionally, ethnography has been criticized for

its lack of objectivity, scientific rigor, and generalizability,

and its relevance to social and political

practice. Thus, there have been many insightful

ethnographies of drug use, from Howard S.

Becker’s Becoming a Marihuana User (1953) onward,

but their contribution to the formation of national

policies on drug misuse has been minimal. More

recently, ethnography has been subject to more

varied criticisms. Thus, ethnographers have experienced

“the revolt of the subject,” challenged as to

whether s/he who is not a party can ever be a judge:

persons with disabilities, for example, have questioned

whether those without disabilities have the

capacity to conduct disabilities research. Furthermore,

doubts have been raised about realist claims

of the author’s authority to represent the truth

about the social world. Geertz himself is among

those who have condemned the production of

“author-evacuated texts” as an implicit denial of

the necessary dependence of all ethnographic

writing on particular discursive practices for establishing

their verisimilitude. These relativist challenges

have allowed multiple interpretations of

social phenomena and encouraged ethnographers

to demonstrate a reflexive awareness of the researcher’s

constitutive contribution at all stages

of the research – including ethnographic writing.

The resulting tension between ethnographers’ commitment

to realism and their recognition of relativism

has been addressed by Martyn Hammersley’s

advocacy of “subtle realism” in What’s Wrong with

Ethnography? (1992). Subtle realism acknowledges

that different and competing accounts of social

worlds may be offered by ethnographers but requires

that competing claims to knowing about

social worlds must be assessed for their plausibility

and credibility. MICK BLOOR AND F IONA WOOD

ethnomethodology

Originally developed by Harold Garfinkel during

the 1950s and 1960s in theory-laden empirical

studies subsequently published in his Studies in

Ethnomethodology (1967), ethnomethodology is an

original approach to what Garfinkel terms the

seen but unnoticed aspects of social practices.

The term ethnomethodology also refers to the

sociological community of scholars who have refined,

extended, and, in one case, refashioned

Garfinkel’s theoretical position.

The ethnomethodological community came

into being with the first generation of Garfinkel’s

students, notably including Harvey Sacks, who

founded conversational analysis (commonly

called CA) as a semiautonomous theoretical position.

New centers of ethnomethodological research

subsequently emerged in California, on

the East Coast, and in the Midwest in the United

States, and in England and Scotland as well.

Ethnomethodologists tend to maintain deep loyalties

to their position and they build their intellectual

networks through ties that are stronger than

is often the case in other intellectual communities

in sociology. Though ethnomethodologists themselves

often prefer to work within the boundaries

of Garfinkel’s and Sacks’s founding principles, the

ethnomethodological view of social practices has

shaped a variety of other sociological projects and

programs as well. This is especially true of the socalled

strong program in the sociology of science,

which analyzes the social construction of scientific

knowledge and of Anthony Giddens’s structuration

theory. Neither are ethnomethodological

in the strict sense of the term, but neither would

look quite the same in the absence of Garfinkel’s

original insights.

Ethnomethodology begins with an extremely

prosaic insight: social action in context is an actively

produced accomplishment. From a distance

this may seem to put Garfinkel in the company

of philosophers such as John Dewey (1859–1952),

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