Harold Garfinkel

  • John Heritage


One of the chief sociological innovations of the post-war era has been the discovery of the world of everyday social life. This discovery was made during a period — the 1950s — in which much sociological analysis was highly abstract and divorced from real events. The sociology of that period was almost entirely concerned with the limits that social organization places on human activities, with no concern at all with how those activities were possible in the first place. Sociologists were content to sketch abstract constraints that ‘box in’ human action without ever addressing what actually happened in the conduct of action itself. Left out were the details of how people actually reasoned and acted, what they did inside the ‘box’ of constraint, indeed whether or in what sense there was a ‘box’ at all.


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Further Reading

  1. A. Cicourel, The Social Organization of Juvenile Justice (New York: Wiley, 1968 ). A classic study of how police beliefs about juvenile offenders are transformed into objective statistics about juvenile offenses and the kind of people who commit them.Google Scholar
  2. P. Drew and J. Heritage (eds), Talk at Work ( Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992 ). A set of papers using conversation analysis to study how people work in everyday and professional contexts.Google Scholar
  3. H. Garfinkel, Studies in Ethnomethodology (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1967). This is a fundamental reference point. The book is complicated to read but, oddly, very clear. Bear in mind when you read it that the author was anthologized in a collection of the best American short stories of 1941: he is not a bad writer!Google Scholar
  4. J. Heritage, Garfinkel and Ethnomethodology (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1984 ). An introduction to Garfinkel’s ideas.Google Scholar
  5. M. Lynch, Scientific Practice and Ordinary Action: Ethnomethodology and Social Studies of Science (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996 ). A very sophisticated account of ethnomethodology in relation to the analysis of science.Google Scholar
  6. M. Pollner, Mundane Reason (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987 ). A beautifully written analysis of how our sense of reality is methodically sustained.Google Scholar
  7. H. Sacks, Lectures on Conversation (Oxford: Blackwell, 1992 ). The originating ideas behind conversation analysis.Google Scholar
  8. E. Schegloff and H. Sacks, ‘Opening up closings’, Semiotica 8 1973, 289–327. A classic paper in conversation analysis. This gives a good idea of how conversation analysts reason about conversational interaction.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© John Heritage 1998

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  • John Heritage

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