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George Herbert Mead, Ludwig Wittgenstein (in

his later works), John Austin (1911–60), and

Garfinkel’s fellow sociologist Erving Goffman.

This is not entirely a false impression. All of these

theorists reject the centrality of consciousness

in any form as the pivot of social behavior (via

such things as conscious motivation, existential

ethnography ethnomethodology


meaning, rational interest, emotional reactions,

or personal attitudes) and all make social practices

in local contexts the center of their concern.

All of them thus break with both longstanding

utilitarian views of interest-driven action and

Immanuel Kant’s (1724–1804) views of meaning

in action, such as those adopted by Max Weber

and Alfred Schutz. Yet, on closer inspection, Garfinkel

discovered a dimension of social action as

an active human accomplishment that bears little

resemblance to the moral dimension in Goffman’s

analyses of facework and other interaction rituals,

Austin’s performative analyses of speech acts, and

Dewey’s and Mead’s efforts to decenter consciousness

from social praxis without losing sight of

consciousness altogether.

Garfinkel’s distinction is to be the only leading

sociologist to concentrate exclusively on how local

action is accomplished or produced. One of his

fundamental insights concerns the central role

of reflexivity in the production of action. Reflexivity,

a term that has several other sociological

denotations that are irrelevant here, refers to the

fact (demonstrated in many of Garfinkel’s early

studies) that every move in a social action or interaction

takes its significance from the context that

has been produced by previous moves, and, reflexively,

each move sustains or alters the local context

that shapes the significance of the next move.

For example, if I open an interaction by saying

“hello” in a friendly way, then this move creates

a context in which whatever my interlocutor says

will be regarded as a reply to my specific greeting.

My interlocutor may say, for example, “I have

been sick, but I am better now.” The context

has now changed and my next remark will be

significant in light of my friend’s response to my

initial greeting. I could say, for example, that a

mutual friend of ours has been sick as well, which

changes the context of conversation once again.

Even if I altogether omit the slightest allusion to

my friend’s illness, that very omission will be significant

in the contextual light of the report of

illness that preceded my remark. Each move in an

action or interaction is thus constructed within

the locally produced context, and every move advances

that context so that the entire sequence

unfolds as a reflexive series of contextualized

and context-producing moves.

There is a sense in which Garfinkel’s key insight

into reflexivity and contextuality invites sociologists

to give careful, fine-grained consideration

to the minutiae of everyday life. For example,

the timing of responses, as measured in fractions

of a second, may make a big difference to the

significance of a reply. If, to provide one illustration,

I greet my friend with a rapidly enacted set

of words and gestures and my friend pauses for,

say, three seconds before responding to my rapidfire

greeting in any way, then this pause becomes

part of the context just as surely as if my friend

had responded instantaneously, but with a different

effect on it. Ethnomethodologists typically

investigate these minute yet significant aspects

of social praxis by using video transcriptions of

interaction, which they break down into small

segments for purposes of analysis. There is now a

standardized set of ethnomethodological symbols

to record pauses, vocables (meaningless sounds

uttered during conversations), episodes of people

talking over one another, and more. Though not

as central to current ethnomethodological studies,

other aspects of locally produced conduct

such as tone of voice, static and shifting body

postures, and even changes in perspiration, respiration,

and eye-blink rates are open to ethnomethodological

investigation insofar as they add

reflexive significance to a complex practice.

But if Garfinkel’s basic insights into reflexivity

and contextuality lead in one direction into the

minutiae of everyday life, in another direction

they lead to some of the most profound issues

not only in the sociology of action, but in the

philosophy of action as well. Consider the question

of the nature of human reason, which has

been at the top of the philosophical agenda since

Rene´ Descartes (1596–1650) famously declared, “I

think, therefore I am,” and which Talcott Parsons

used as the template for his analyses in The Structure

of Social Action (1937). These and other views

conceive reason as a logically structured form of

thought, replete with tightly constructed models

of means and ends in action, or axioms, deductions,

and hypotheses in science. For Garfinkel,

rationality does not arise in practice as an abstract

and universally applicable form, which structures

social action. Instead, rationality is produced locally

as actors reflexively produce chains of reasoning

that make sense only in and through the

development of the local contexts. Can local interactions

in context be logical in the more formal

sense of the term? On occasion, perhaps, say, in

the shop talk of mathematicians. But these instances

in no way epitomize how other sorts of

contextual reasoning proceed. One of Garfinkel’s

early studies demonstrates how local reasoning

operates through the analysis of discussions of jurors

deliberating about the case they are charged to

decide. Though the judge has instructed jurors to

reach a verdict by strict rules of reasoning based

ethnomethodology ethnomethodology


on a given set of legal principles, the jurors actually

created a form of reasoning on their own that

did not necessarily correspond to the legal statutes

prescribing how jurors are supposed to reach

a verdict.

The contextually constructed nature of reason is

matched by a deeper understanding of how a

theory-laden scientific fact is constructed. In 1981,

Garfinkel was senior author on a study of conversations

between scientists, taped on the eveningwhen

they pieced together for the first time the notion of

an optical pulsar through conversations regarding

observations made by telescopes and electronic

data. Unlike others in the strong program in the

sociology of science, Garfinkel and his junior colleagues

specifically affirm that physical objects

somehow are exhibited in the flow of observations.

However, it is also essential to the construction

of scientific discovery that scientists make sense of

these facts in their conversations through the reflexively

unfolding process whereby participants take

turns in talking. In fact, the scientific article

reporting the results of the observation of the optical

pulsar is republished as an appendix to the

ethnomethodological analysis, allowing readers to

compare how the empirical scientific discovery

was produced in conversation with the very different

and far more logical way it was reported to

the astronomical community. A second study of

empirical discovery appears in Garfinkel’s reconstruction

of how Galileo constructed his inclined

plane demonstration of the real motion of free-falling

bodies. This study is published in Garfinkel’s

Ethnomethodology’s Program (2002).

Garfinkel writes in a profoundly idiosyncratic

narrative voice replete with etymologically obscure

neologisms, technical usages of commonplace

American English terms, and lengthy

cascading lists of conceptual synonyms and variations

in place of a single term. Whatever Garfinkel’s

motivation for writing in this way, his style

has had two consequences for ethnomethodology.

First, it has injected a certain gnostic quality into

the ethnomethodological community, making

many practitioners believe that they possess rare

insights unavailable to the uninitiated. Second,

it has confused outsiders who sometimes grotesquely

misinterpret ethnomethodology’s insights

and often end up feeling estranged from

not only Garfinkel’s writings but his insights as

well. It is therefore Garfinkel’s good fortune to

have had two fine exegetes, John Heritage and

Anne Rawls, who have done much to clarify

Garfinkel’s work and build original bridges to

other classical and contemporary theories.

In her perceptive and accessible introduction to

Garfinkel’s Ethnomethodology’s Program and in her

more technical theoretical essays elsewhere, Anne

Rawls derives from well-known works by E´mile

Durkheim an emphasis on enacted social practices,

and via this interpretation demonstrates that

Garfinkel’s basic ethnomethodological insights

are not only consistent with Durkheim’s thought,

but expand upon some of Durkheim’s classical

themes. In Garfinkel and Ethnomethodology (1984),

John Heritage grounds Garfinkel’s insights in his

reactions to Talcott Parsons, with whom Garfinkel

trained, and Alfred Schutz, with whom he studied.

Heritage also makes a significant independent

contribution. In an early essay, Garfinkel reported

a series of experiments in trust (technically not

experiments), which demonstrated the intense attachment

actors have to the enacted practices

through which they collaboratively generate their

contextually situated social reality. His strategy

was to disrupt the normal course of enactment;

his findings indicated that these disruptions produced

profound reactions amounting to an implicit

struggle to avoid anomie. Heritage observes

that these studies point to a cognitive problem

of order. This problem concerns not what constrains

the behavior of actors outside the immediate

context such that they produce social order

in society, but rather how actors produce and

sustain social order in everyday life. In developing

this theme, Heritage indicates how Garfinkel

both borrowed from and departed from Schutz’s

social phenomenology. However, though Heritage

never explicates the point, Garfinkel’s experiments

in trust further demonstrate not only that

Garfinkel discovers a cognitive problem of order

but also that people will engage in sustained

struggles against anomie when order is disrupted.

This indicates a deep subconscious motivation to

produce some sense of order at all times. This

theme is further developed by Anthony Giddens

in his conception of ontological security in

structuration theory.

The branch of ethnomethodology known as conversational

analysis takes the production of order

in a new direction by stressing that the mechanisms

for such conversational practices as turntaking,

opening, closing, and so on have formal

properties (invariant across contexts) that constrain

the production of order. In turn-taking, for

example, a person may be unable to interject

remarks into a conversation at a given point, no

matter how significant their contributions may

be, since they have no immediate access to a

turn at talking.

ethnomethodology ethnomethodology


Despite Garfinkel’s brilliant insights, ethnomethodology

often ends up in a sociological culde-

sac. As it pushes ever deeper into the details of

social praxis, it loses sight of institutional and

psychological dimensions of social life. Anthony

Giddens opens ethnomethodology to the structural

conditions of social life in structuration

theory. However, no one as yet has built theoretical

bridges between the enacted production of

local social order and actors’ existential experience

of meaning and emotion in social life. That

bridge, when it is built, should make ethnomethodology’s

profound insights intuitively more interesting

to wider audiences. I RA COHEN

Etzioni, Amitai (1929– )

Professor at the George Washington University

and Director of the Institute for Communitarian

Policy Studies, and former White House adviser

(1979–80), Etzioni is an American founder of communitarianism.

He was Professor of Sociology at

Columbia University for twenty years and guest

scholar at the Brookings Institution in 1978. He

served as President of the American Sociological

Association in 1994–5, and in 1990 he founded

the Communitarian Network. He was the editor

of The Responsive Community: Rights and Responsibilities

from1991 to 2004. In 1997 Etzioni was awarded the

Simon Wiesenthal Center Tolerance Book Award.

He has championed the cause of peace in a

nuclear age in The Hard Way to Peace (1962), Winning

Without War (1964), and War and its Prevention

(Etzioni and Wenglinsky, 1970). His recent work

has addressed the social problems of modern democracies

and he has advocated communitarian

solutions to excessive individualism in The Spirit of

Community. The Reinvention of American Society (1993)

and New Communitarian Thinking (1996). Etzioni has

been concerned to facilitate social movements

that can sustain a liberal democracy in The Active

Society. A Theory of Societal and Political Processes

(1968) and A Responsive Society (1991). He has been

a critic of the erosion of privacy through modern

surveillance technologies and threats to identity

in The Limits of Privacy (1999). His most recent work

was From Empire to Community. A New Approach to

International Relations (2004).

Etzioni has also contributed significantly to

the sociology of organizations in Modern Organizations

(1964) and A Comparative Analysis of Complex

Organizations (1961). BRYAN S. TURNER


– see genetics.

everyday life

The term everyday was in English usage as early as

the seventeenth century to refer to ordinary or

ongoing ways of life such as work routines and

interpersonal demeanor, as well as to items of material

culture such as clothing and de´cor. The synonymous

term quotidian had appeared in English

in the fourteenth century, with roots in earlier

French and Latin usages. Though many of these

usages imply contrasts with extraordinary situations

(for example, holy days, days of mourning,

war, disaster), in sociological theory the term is

often used to refer to knowledge of ordinary and

routine ways of life. The appropriate contrast

here is with sociological knowledge that selectively

abstracts and reorganizes elements of daily

life based upon theoretical concepts or empirical

methods of research. In this sense, the purest

form of the sociology of everyday life is found

in ethnographies that forgo second-order analysis

for first-order verisimilitude. Clifford Geertz

produces and advocates this way of studying

everyday life.

A second denotation of the sociology of everyday

life refers to the analysis of the interaction

order. The latter term, as defined by Erving

Goffman, refers to forms of activity where participants

are either copresent or in immediate communication

with one another. Everyday life here

contrasts with more encompassing institutional

orders (bureaucracy, markets, and states). Selective

analyses of everyday life are possible in this

sense of the term. Goffman was the master of

sociological metaphors that depend upon sociological

correspondences rather than literary resemblances.

Ethnomethodologists also deal with

the everyday production of ordinary social events,

by focusing on carefully isolated, minute aspects

of it. IRA COHEN


– see social policy.


– see evolutionary theory.

evolutionary psychology

A form of psychology, this claims to explain human

behavior with reference to humanity’s phylogeny,

their evolutionary history. The brain, or mind, is

seen as having evolved to help solve the adaptive

problems encountered by our hunter–gatherer ancestors

on the African savannah between 4 million

and 100,000 years ago. It was during that era,

Etzioni, Amitai (1929– ) evolutionary psychology


according to Steven Pinker in How the Mind Works

(1998), that modern humanity evolved with a

collection of devices which influence behavior to

this day.

The lifestyle enjoyed by our African ancestors

was one of hunting and gathering. The prime

requirement for such people was simply to reproduce

into future generations. Mental “organs,” or

brains and minds, assisted towards that overriding

goal. These early people developed a distinctive

set of motives, conceptual frameworks,

emotions, and even aesthetic preferences to use

and adapt to their environment. These included,

for example, a liking for particular types of physical

landscapes in which they could see potential

aggressors approaching.

Aesthetic predispositions are, however, seen as

one of the less damaging results of humanity’s

evolutionary history. Our inherited mental apparatus

is seen by evolutionary psychology as generating

forms of behavior which are both selfdestructive

and damaging to the social order. A

demand for prestige, property, and wealth, a male

preference for young women as sexual partners, a

division of labor by sex, hostility to other groups,

conflict within groups, and a male predisposition

towards violence, rape, and murder are all damaging

results of inherited predispositions which

are not easily shaken off. Similarly, stepparents

are more likely to murder their stepchildren

because they are not genetically related to them.

Evolutionary psychology therefore offers precise

and seemingly scientific insights into contemporary

society and its disorders. It is a close cousin to

sociobiology, a form of biological analysis that was

extended to the human condition in the mid-

1970s. Two of its main advocates were E. O.

Wilson, who wrote Sociobiology: The New Synthesis

(1975), and R. Dawkins in The Selfish Gene (1976,

1989). The central claim of sociobiology was also

that an organism such as an animal or human

being has evolved to interact and compete for

resources in such a way as to maximize its “success”

in spreading genes to later generations. The

prime explanatory unit in sociobiology was

the gene. Individual animals, including people,

were envisaged as “survival machines,” beings programmed

by their genes towards the expansion of

“inclusive fitness.” This latter concept referred

to the sum of an individual’s fitness plus that of

other blood relatives. The concept is perhaps best

summed up by the distinguished biologist J. B. S.

Haldane who, when asked whether he would lay

down his life for his brother, replied: “not for one

brother. But I would for two brothers or eight

cousins.” Sociobiology was also seen as solving

the puzzling problem of altruism. The reason

why an individual should assist another, apparently

selflessly, is that this is the best way of

getting assistance back at a later date. It is another

unconscious way in which the genes ensure they

are reproduced. Sociobiology captured the spirit

of thrusting individualism in the neoliberalist

era of the 1970s and 1980s, though it finds little

support today.

Evolutionary psychology claims, however, to

have advanced beyond sociobiology. One of the

many criticisms of sociobiology was that it told

“just-so stories,” implying that all traits and behaviors

inherited during the evolutionary process

necessarily result in a better adaptation of organism

to environment. But there is a wide recognition

among evolutionists that this is not the case.

Certain traits and characteristics that are nonadaptive,

for example, are passed on. Some

“junk” genes are doing very little at all. Evolutionary

psychology claims to circumvent these problems

by focusing on what Pinker calls “reverse

engineering.” This entails identifying a goal and

specifying in general terms the kind of design that

would best meet it. The next stage is to examine

how well an organ or organism under study

actually does perform the demands made of it.

The question of “mind” is especially important

to evolutionary psychology. Sociobiology was

also often criticized for reading off “behavior”

from genes, with unsatisfactory attention to complex

mental processes. Evolutionary psychology, in

contrast, focuses on “mental organs” which “generate”

behavior. The mind is equated to a computer

processing incoming information. But the

human computer is “preprogrammed.” It is meeting

the adaptive needs of its owner; on the other

hand, it contains assumptions about the nature of

the physical world, such as the existence of material

objects in three-dimensional space. Evolutionary

psychology also seeks to avoid the

universalism of sociobiology. It recognizes that

behavioral propensities may well be dysfunctional

to people and societies when they encounter new

environmental and social circumstances.

The question arises, however, whether evolutionary

psychology really does avoid the charge

of biological reductionism leveled against sociobiology.

H. Rose and S. Rose consider some of these

criticisms in Alas Poor Darwin (2000). Explanations

of social power and social relations remain

blinkered, still focusing on the unchanged, biologically

based predispositions. And, like sociobiology,

evolutionary psychology systematically

evolutionary psychology evolutionary psychology


ignores forms of biology that give much less attention

to genes (though considering them important

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