Ethnomethodology and the Contribution of Garfinkel

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Ethnomethodology and the Contribution of Garfinkel

By | April 2013
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Ethnomethodology is sociological perspective, founded by the American sociologist Harold Garfinkel in 1954. According to his book "Studies on Ethnomethodology," ethnomethodology simply means the study of the ways in which people make sense of their social world, display this understanding to others, and produce the mutually shared social order in which they live. Ethnomethodology is a descriptive discipline and does not engage in the explanation or evaluation of the particular social order undertaken as a topic of study. In this way it differs from other sociological perspectives.

Garfinkel was influenced by phenomenology of Edmund Husserl and Alfred Schutz. Garfinkel's particular aim was to show that social order was locally produced. Common sense is biographical - in seeing the social world as stable as experience of it has developed over time from the individual's point of view. Reciprocity of perspectives and suspension of doubt is assumed by social actors.

The view of Schutz was that whereas scientists know so much of the world is not as it commonly appears, ordinary people assume that things are as they appear and that others as well as they will behave accordingly. For Garfinkel too there were two recommendations that the social settings were already practically accomplished and that people were practical enquirers. The practicality means people do not separate the action and the explanation: they are intertwined. Nor is there any covert motivation to be uncovered by sociologists, as the action is the meaning as involved.

Schutz saw that there are different rationalities, and in this he follows Weber. Not unlike Weber, scientific rationality leads to anomie, here because it undermines the given stock of knowledge and assumptions of reciprocity between people. Certainly sociologists should not try to impose a science of sociology on to the world, though this is because it misses meanings and because meanings and the social world as well as derived...

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