Howard S. Becker

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The Art of Comparison. Lessons from the Master, Everett C. Hughes

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Keywords: E.C. Hughes, comparison, method, industry, colonialism.

Everett Hughes made use of his extensive knowledge of the structure of industry, both in the countries where it had originated and in the colonies to which those countries then exported it, as the basic material for a comparative analysis of the relations between industry and society. He focused on ethnic divisions of labor arising from the necessity to import labor for the more intensive styles of work industry makes use of, on how industry mixes peoples but also segregates them and is an agent of ethnic discrimination. From these considerations he produces interesting and unexpected generalizations about such topics as the relation between industrial organization and community structure. His comparative method has inspired many other essays in the same genre, notably Goffman's Asylums. Hughes' analysis suggests answers to deep questions of comparative method (how to choose cases and dimensions to study, for example).

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