Anne Rawls

Open access

Situating Goffman’s «Interaction Orders» in Durkheim’s social fact lineage. Grounding an alternate sociology of modernity in heightened awareness of interaction

  • Abstract

Informations and abstract

Keywords: Erving Goffman, Interaction Orders, Ethnomethodology, micro/ macro divide, Durkheim, social fact lineage, social justice, morality, social self, constitutive rules, Parsons, Garfinkel

Goffman devoted his career to developing an alternate interactional sociology: an approach to modernity grounded in a heightened awareness of the fragility of Interaction Orders and Self. The position was built on Durkheim’s «constitutive practice» approach to social facts: centering studies of interaction to demonstrate forms of social solidarity achieved in interaction that are not grounded in and, therefore, can resist consensus. Although transformational, constituting a powerful critique of conventional sociological approaches to modernity, Goffman’s position and its critical focus remain obscure. In the interests of laying foundations for future research, this article addresses a range of issues that have confused the reception of Goffman’s argument. One of the most important involves his relationships with Parsons, Garfinkel, and Sacks: the aim of establishing an alternate interactional sociology was not his alone. Systemic resistance to insights by Black, Jewish, Female, and other marginalized scholars, inspired by their experiences of exclusion, runs a close second. A tendency to dismiss Goffman’s work as «mere description» or as an exercise in «defining concepts» is also problematic. Studies of Interaction Orders are not conceptual. They rely on a close description of features that are constitutive of social coherence. Descriptions of this process have broad theoretical, moral, and research implications

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