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Harold Garfinkel (born 29 October 1917) is Professor Emeritus in sociology at the University of California, Los Angeles. Garfinkel studied the works of Aron Gurwitsch and Alfred Schütz[1] and is one of the key developers of the phenomenological tradition in American sociology.

His own development of this tradition (which he terms ethnomethodology) is widely misunderstood. In contrast to the social constructionist version of phenomenological sociology, he emphasises a focus on radical phenomena, rather than on the various ways they are interpreted. His recommendation that sociologists suspend their assumption of social order is often wrongly taken to mean that he believes social life to be chaotic, or that members of society are free agents. However, this suspension (bracketing in the phenomenological jargon) is merely an analytic move designed to bring the existing social order more clearly into focus. He emphasises the indexicality of language and the difficulties this creates for the production of objective accounts of social phenomena. This means that such accounts are reflexive to the settings in which they are produced (they depend upon that setting for their meaning).

Ethnomethodological studies come in a wide variety of forms, including: the sequential analysis of conversation (Conversation Analysis); the study of social categorization practices (membership category analysis); studies of workplace settings and activities (studies of work).

Selection of works by Harold GarfinkelEdit

  • 1946 "Color trouble." in Primer for white folks. Edited by B. Moon, 269-286. Garden City, NY: Doubleday Doran
  • 1956 "Conditions of successful degradation ceremonies." American Journal of Sociology 61: 420-424.
  • 1956 "Some sociological concepts and methods for psychiatrists." Psychiatric Research Reports 6: 181-198.
  • 1963 "A conception of, and experiments with, 'trust' as a condition of stable concerted actions." in Motivation and social interaction. Edited by O.J. Harvey, 187-238. New York: The Ronald Press
  • 1967 Studies in ethnomethodology . Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall
  • 1967 "Practical sociological reasoning: Some features in the work of the Los Angeles suicide prevention center." in Essays in self-destruction. Edited by E. Shneidman, 171-186. New York: Science House
  • 1968 "Discussion: The origin of the term 'ethnomethodology'." in Proceedings of the Purdue Symposium on Ethnomethodology. Edited by R. Hill and K. Grittenden, 15-18. Institute Monograph Series #1
  • 1970 (with Harvey Sacks) "On formal structures of practical actions." in Theoretical sociology: Perspectives and developments. Edited by J. McKinney and E. Tiryakian, 337-366. New York: Meredith
  • 1972 "A Comparison of Decisions Made on Four 'Pre-Theoretical' Problems by Talcott Parsons and Alfred Schultz" in . Edited by, . ms.. [first published in 1960]
  • 1972 "Studies in the routine grounds of everyday activities." in Studies in social interaction. Edited by D. Sudnow, 1-30. New York: The Free Press. [first published in 1964]
  • 1972 "Conditions of Successful Degradation Ceremonies." in Symbolic Interactionism. Edited by J. Manis and B. Meltzer, 201-208. New York: Allyn and Bacon
  • 1976 "An introduction, for novices, to the work of studying naturally organized ordinary activities." in . Edited by, . ms.
  • 1981 "The Work of a Discovering Science Construed with Materials from the Optically Discovered Pulsar." Philosophy of the Social Sciences 11: 131-158.
  • 2002 Ethnomethodology's program: Working out Durkheim's aphorism . Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, (Abstract)
  • 2005 "Seeing Sociologically: The Routine Grounds of Social Action," Garfinkel, Harold. November 2005.
  • 2008 "Toward a Sociological Theory of Information," Garfinkel, Harold. December 2008.
  • 2010 "Studies in Ethnomethodology: Expanded and Updated Edition," Garfinkel, Harold. August, 2010.


Psychiatrist R. D. Laing cited Garfinkel's "Conditions of Successful Degradation Ceremonies" in several of his books; he considered the psychiatric interview to be an example of a degradation ceremony. This meant, in Garfinkel's terms, that the psychiatrist officially denounces (labels) a patient as mentally ill, which ipso facto reduces the patient to a lower level in the scheme of social types, i.e., "separated from [and opposed to] a place in the legitimate [social] order."

An excerpt from Studies in Ethnomethodology was included in the Penguin Books 1973 anthology Rules and Meanings: The Anthropology of Everyday Knowledge, edited by Mary Douglas.

See also Edit

References Edit

  1. Liberman, Kenneth (2007). Husserl’s criticism of reason : With ethnomethodological specifications. Lanham/MD: Lexington Books. S. 89

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