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gangs Gans, Herbert J. (1927– )


media and culture in Popular Culture and High Culture

(1974), Deciding What’s News (1980), and Democracy

and the News (2003). Gans’s basic argument is

that news is top-down, favoring high-ranking government

officials over low-ranking officials, government

agencies over opposition groups, and

organized groups over unorganized individual

citizens. The concentration of the ownership of

the news and the pressure to increase profitability

compromises the independence of journalism and

corrodes audience confidence. Finally, Gans has

been an important critical observer of American

life in Making Sense of America (1999). Finally, he

published a collection of essays in honor of David

Riesman in On the Making of Americans (1979).


Garfinkel, Harold (1917– )

The originator of ethnomethodology, Harold Garfinkel

has made original contributions to how

sociologists understand the production of social

action. Along with George Herbert Mead, John

Dewey (1859–1952), and Erving Goffman, Garfinkel

was one of the initiators of the shift from

definitions of social action in terms of subjective

consciousness and existential meaning to definitions

in terms of enacted social practices.

Ethnomethodology, a neologism Garfinkel coined,

refers to the methods people use to produce conduct

in local settings. As demonstrated by essays

in his two major books, Studies in Ethnomethodology

(1967) and Ethnomethodology’s Program (2002),

Garfinkel investigates the accomplishment of

social action in minute and pains-taking detail.

His investigations reveal a realm of what he

terms seen but unnoticed practices that contribute

to the constitution of local action. Garfinkel

is also famous – many would say notorious – for

his convoluted narrative voice. Once one masters

his style, Garfinkel appears to be profoundly selfconscious

about the precision of his prose. However,

even his staunchest supporters admit to

being daunted by their first encounters with his

works. All stylistic matters notwithstanding,

Garfinkel’s contributions remain fertile ground

for new developments, and his writings on ethnomethodology

will influence sociological theory

for many years to come.

Garfinkel was born in 1917 and raised in

Newark, New Jersey, where his father owned a

small furniture business. He graduated from the

University of Newark (unaccredited then but now

a large campus of Rutgers University) in 1939. He

completed his master’s thesis in sociology at the

University of North Carolina in 1942. After serving

in the military for several years, Garfinkel enrolled

at Harvard University from which he

received his PhD under the nominal supervision

of Talcott Parsons in 1952. Garfinkel, however,

was already an original thinker and he was inclined

to follow a non-Parsonian position from

the start. His main influences were social phenomenologists,

including two internationally wellknown

scholars, Aron Gurwitsch (1901–73) and

Alfred Schutz, who provided Garfinkel with

intellectual support. In 1954 Garfinkel took a position

at the University of California, Los Angeles

(UCLA), and this became his base for the rest of his


Garfinkel has never acted as a solitary, inimitable

thinker in the manner of Georg Simmel or

Goffman. At UCLA he has been blessed with successive

cohorts of loyal, gifted graduate students,

including many who are now senior scholars of

distinction in their own right. This list includes

Aaron Cicourel, Harvey Sacks, David Sudnow, and

Emmanuel Schegloff. Sacks and Schegloff are well

known for conversational analysis, which is a

semiautonomous offshoot of Garfinkel’s original

program. Over the half-century since Garfinkel

moved to UCLA, ethnomethodology has grown

into an international movement with centers

in Great Britain and elsewhere, as well as across

many departments of sociology in the United

States, including Boston University and the University

of California, Santa Barbara. Garfinkel’s

writing style demands clarification and it

has been Garfinkel’s good fortune to have fine

exegetes such as John Heritage in Garfinkel and

Ethnomethodology (1984), and Anne Rawls.


gay rights movement

– see social movements.

gay studies

The study of the culture, history, and character of

gay sexuality and gay identity, this is associated

with the social movement for gay and lesbian

liberation. The gay rights movement was influenced

by the riots that followed the police

raid on the Stonewall Inn in New York in 1969,

when the New York Gay Liberation Front was

formed. The Front rejected the conventional social

roles and gender definitions of mainstream or

“straight” society. The first Gay March took place

in 1970 and was quickly imitated in other countries,

from European capitals to Sydney, Australia.

The self-recognition of homosexuality came to be

known as “coming out,” an expression taken from

Garfinkel, Harold (1917– ) gay studies


the American notion of “coming out of the closet”

or rejecting the stigma of hidden or concealed

sexual identity. This process of coming out was

given its definitive expression in Eve Kosofsky

Sedgwick’s Epistemology of the Closet (1990).

Gay studies eventually emerged in university

curricula where they were modeled on lesbian

studies, gender studies, and women’s studies.

There are many journals related to gay culture

and experience, such as GLQ – A Journal of Lesbian

and Gay Studies (1994– ), Sexualities (1998– ), and

Journal of Homosexuality. The diversity and depth

of journals, conferences, study programs, and

institutions relating to gay studies were explored

in Ken Plummer’s Modern Homosexualities (1992).

The development of gay politics in Britain from

the nineteenth century to modern times was

described by Jeffrey Weeks in Coming Out (1977).

In 1991 the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies

was founded in the Graduate Center of the City

University of New York to study the cultural and

political issues that are important for lesbian, gay,

bisexual, and transgender individuals.

Professional mainstream sociology has somewhat

neglected the study of human sexuality.

There are of course some classic illustrations of

research on same-sex behavior and practice, such

as Laud Humphrey’s Tearoom Trade (1975). There

has also been some research on sex re-assignment

surgery, for example Frank Lewin’s Transsexualism

in Society (1995), but we know relatively little

about the long-term health-care needs of transsexuals.

Sociology became heavily involved in

the study of the HIV/AIDS epidemic mainly

through the study of networks. Because gay men

often have friends and lovers who have predeceased

them, they are often in a chronic state

of grieving or “bereavement overload” and may

experience “survivor guilt.” These traumatic

experiences have contributed to a variety of selfhelp

movements and have generated a new gay

consciousness, as documented in, for example,

R. A. Isay’s Becoming Gay: The Journey of Self-acceptance

(1996) and E. Rofes’s Reviving the Tribe: Regenerating

Gay Men’s Sexuality and Culture in the Ongoing

Epidemic (1996).

In British sociology, the work of Ken Plummer

on narratives such as Telling Sexual Stories (1995)

has represented an innovative approach to human

sexuality. The Handbook of Lesbian & Gay Studies

(2002), edited by Diane Richardson and Steven

Seidman, is a valuable guide to this diverse field

of research. Jeffrey Weeks also produced a series of

influential studies, such as Coming Out, Sex Politics

and Society (1990), and Against Nature (1991).

Some gay activists have, however, come to the

conclusion that gay studies was merely a strategy

for co-opting a more radical aspect of gay politics,

thereby making gayness a dimension of more conventional

sexual identity. In addition, the gay

movement came to be stigmatized once more by

the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the 1980s. In response to

these changing circumstances, queer theory

emerged, in which a stable homosexual identity

was rejected in favor of the notion that gay was

really an epistemological critique of stable categorization,

and hence queer theory adopted

elements of postmodernism and postcolonial

theory. One example of these developments is

Queer Theory / Sociology edited by Steven Seidman

(1996). The work of Michel Foucault played a major

part in rethinking sexual identity as an aspect of

the struggle over the relationships between power

and knowledge in different historical settings.

Foucault demonstrated that homosexuality was a

building block of male friendship in classical

Greece in The Use of Pleasure (1984 [trans. 1985]).

Foucault, who died of an AIDS-related illness in

1984, became an icon of politics relating to men’s

health and his role has been defended and celebrated

by David Halpern in Saint Foucault. Towards

a Gay Hagiography (1995).

In sociology, queer theory and Gay Studies have

influenced the ways in which masculinity as a

sexual identity is conceptualized. In particular,

social constructionism rejected essentialism and

claimed that, while homosexual feelings or practices

had always existed, “the homosexual” was

a construct of a particular time and place. These

approaches rejected the conventional psychological

view that homosexuality was an illness or

a form of social deviance. Gay studies are therefore

concerned to reject these negative labels and

to explore the complex historical manifestation of

homosexual identity, culture, and institutions.


Geertz, Clifford (1926– )

Among the most eminent American anthropologists

of the latter half of the twentieth century,

Clifford Geertz has made many contributions to

diverse areas of anthropology and to the social

sciences more broadly. These contributions include

the ethnography of Java, Bali, and Morocco,

and, as much outside anthropology as within it, to

the theorization of religion, of politics, and of

culture itself. Though a student of Talcott Parsons,

he gradually moved away from a merely functionalist

treatment of culture and, by the middle

1960s, had begun to piece together, from the

gay studies Geertz, Clifford (1926– )


thought of Max Weber, Ruth Benedict, Bronislaw

Malinowski, Gilbert Ryle, Suzanne Langer, and

Ludwig Wittgenstein, among others, an “interpretive

anthropology” of “the native’s point of view”

that cast culture as a loosely integrated totality of

institutionally and perspectivally specific systems

providing models of and models for the world and

life within it, whose constituent symbols acquire

their meanings from the contextually specific

occasions of their use. Geertz followed many of his

American predecessors in presuming the diverse

expressions of culture to be sufficiently bounded

for any one of them to be readily distinguished

from the next. He shared their tendency to privilege

the broadest collective themes of a culture over

their more idiosyncratic refractions. He departed

from them, however, in arguing that the key to

human nature lay not in the cross-culturally

universal but, instead, in cross-cultural diversity

itself. His major works include Peddlers and Princes

(1963), Islam Observed (1968), Negara (1980), and two

volumes of essays, The Interpretation of Cultures

(1973) and Local Knowledge (1983).


Gehlen, Arnold (1904–1976)

A member of the Nazi movement in Germany,

Gehlen was a philosopher, anthropologist, and

sociologist whose work was influenced by Hans

Driesch, Nicolai Hartmann, and Max Scheler. He

joined the Nazi party in 1933, and his career benefited

from opportunities for advancement created

by the removal of Jewish and anti-Nazi academics

from universities in the Third Reich. His work

during this time attempted to create a “National

Socialist philosophy” (Der Idealismus und die Gegenwart,

1935). Hismajor work was Man: His Nature

and Place in this World (1940 [trans. 1980]) in which

he developed a philosophical anthropology based

on Nietzsche’s idea that humans are “not yet finished

animals”: they are dependent on society and

culture for a long period of maturation; they have

“world-openness” because of a lack or deficit of

instincts; thus modern life is precarious and

humans require a secure political and social environment

to provide discipline. Human dependence

on social institutions and culture creates ontological

frailty and existential precariousness. A meaningful

life can be lived only through conformity to

institutions; thus emancipatory efforts (such as

those of Enlightenment critique) are risky because

institutions are easily destroyed but difficult to

establish. Gehlen was therefore highly critical of

the radical social movements of 1968. The ideas

of ontological frailty and precariousness have

been influential in sociology, for example in the

work of Peter Berger and Thomas Luckmann (Social

Construction of Reality, 1966). LARRY RAY


– see human sciences.

Gellner, Ernest (1925–1996)

Formerly Professor of Anthropology at Cambridge

University, Gellner made significant contributions

to the study of Islam and nationalism. In his Saints

of the Atlas (1969), Gellner contrasted the puritanical

religion of the towns, in which the authority

of the Qur’an was paramount, and the mystical

religion of the Sufi saints in the countryside,

where their personal charisma (or baraka) was

sought after by their disciples. While urban religiosity

stressed the equality of believers, the Islam

of the Sufi saints was hierarchical. Gellner

employed this model of religion in his subsequent

work on the political structure of North African

societies. He developed a theory of elite circulation,

which he adopted from Ibn Khaldun. The

tribal groups of the countryside have greater

social solidarity (assabiya) than the towns, and

they periodically replace the urban elites that

have become weak, fragmented, and corrupted.

This circulation of elites explains the periodic intrusion

of nomadic tribes into urban civilization.

This pattern has, however, been transformed by

modern technology which has allowed the towns

to control the hinterland more effectively, and has

also allowed the spread of puritanical, Quranic,

egalitarian Islam into the interior. Gellner thus

developed, in Muslim Society (1982), an early appreciation

of the importance of fundamentalism in

modern politics.

Gellner was also concerned, in Thought and

Change (1964), to understand the force of nationalism

in modern societies. He regarded nationalism

as a product of modern societies, arguing that

nations are invented. In modern democracy, there

is a demand to be ruled by our own ethnic group

(see ethnicity and ethnic groups), and hence national

identity becomes a major issue of modern

democratic politics.

Gellner was, in Legitimation of Belief (1974), a

critic of trends in cultural anthropology, because

he was hostile to cultural relativism. He defended

the idea of rational criticism against relativism,

which Gellner thought was self-defeating. He

was consequently, in Postmodernism, Reason and

Religion (1992), critical of the impact of postmodernism

on modern anthropological theory,

and defended traditional ethnographic methods

Gehlen, Arnold (1904–1976) Gellner, Ernest (1925–1996)


against postmodern emphasis on narrative

deconstruction. In The Psychoanalytic Movement

(1985) he brought his critical perspective to

bear on Freudian (see Sigmund Freud) therapy,

which he dismissed as incoherent and ineffective.


Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft

– see Ferdinand To¨nnies.


For many students of society, gender is the most

important form of social division, far more important

than social class or race and ethnicity in

the impact that it makes on individual lives. Yet

the history of the concept of gender is not a long

one; unlike the concept of class, the idea of gender

does not have roots in the nineteenth-century

origins of sociology, and it is since the mid-1960s

that the question of gender has come to be central

to discussions of social life. In large part, the

emergence of the concept of gender owes much

to second-wave feminism, which drew attention to

sexual divisions in society and to the patterns of

social difference and inequality that arose. But

what differentiated the concept of gender from

the concept of sex was work by feminists in the

1970s that took issue with the idea of essentialist

explanations of sexual difference. These interventions,

for example by sociologists such as Ann

Oakley, pointed out that biological sex differences

did not in themselves lead to differences in behavior

between the sexes. Oakley, in common with

other sociologists and anthropologists, pointed

out that across cultures and historical periods

there were very considerable differences in the

ways in which women and men were expected

to behave. What persisted were biological differences

of sex, but what differed were social constructions

of masculinity and femininity, namely

constructions of gender. Gender, it became

accepted, was the articulation of social expectations

about how a person of a particular biological

sex should behave, but that performance

of gender could differ significantly across time

and space.

What this separation of gender and sex did was

to establish the idea that there was no such thing

as naturally male or female behavior. Simone de

Beauvoir had famously written in The Second Sex

(1949 [trans. 1972]) that women are “made and not

born” and it is precisely this view which is at the

heart of contemporary understandings of gender.

De Beauvoir argued that feminine behavior has

numerous aspects to it; there is no one condition

of femininity, but diverse conditions relevant to the

particular situation of an individual woman. But

in all cases, for de Beauvoir, the specific femininity

which women display places them as the other

in human society. The male, and masculinity, constitute

the norm and it is from this that women

deviate. De Beauvoir’s view has been hugely

influential because it challenges the assumption

that the categories of women/femininity and men/

masculinity are fixed and static. Although much

recent work on gender has been initiated by feminist

debates and feminist writers, it is also

the case that the challenge of the idea of gender

has made a considerable impact on conventional

assumptions about men and masculinity.

Although de Beauvoir was critical of much of

Sigmund Freud’s work and was skeptical about his

theories of sexual development, one similarity in

the work of both these writers is the acknowledgment

that sexual identity is not fixed but can be

changed by circumstance and even, on occasion,

by choice. But what both Freud and de Beauvoir

are working with is the post-Enlightenment recognition

of the difference between male and female

biology. To modern students of gender, this is now

a taken-for granted assumption, but a crucial part

of the history of the idea of gender is the recognition

that it was not until the eighteenth century

that the physical differences between the sexes

were fully recognized, and even then it was not

until the twentieth century that the extent of

hormonal differences between male and female

were more fully investigated. Thomas Laqueur in

Making Sex (1990) has pointed out that it is only

recently that sex, as a stable biological attribute,

has existed. Laqueur argues that human biology,

that is the stable, ahistorical, and sexed body, has

to be understood as the “epistemic foundation”

for prescriptive rather than descriptive claims

about the social order. Before this agreement

about biology, the social identity of being a

woman or a man depended on social factors and

the division between male and female was not a

binary division but one in which “maleness” and

“femaleness” could be greater or lesser according

to the particular situation of women.

But by the nineteenth century most of Europe

had come to accept a division between male and

female, a division which, in the majority of

human beings, was visible at birth and which

was then made the basis for social divisions.

Women in the nineteenth century were expected,

in order to meet middle-class norms of femininity,

to show distinct patterns of behavior from those

of men. The social reality of nineteenth-century

Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft gender


Europe was such that this norm was meaningless

for the majority of women who spent their lives in

agricultural and/or domestic work, but social

expectations about biology had been established.

It was those norms which women such as de Beauvoir

challenged: forced by economic circumstance

to provide for herself, de Beauvoir lived out the

contradictions of gender and indeed protested

against them.

In her own life, and in her writing, de Beauvoir

demonstrated an iron determination to claim for

herself the same rights to an intellectual life as

those of men. In this sense, much of her work is

not about claiming a different form of femininity

but about being allowed to occupy the same space

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