The Stranger

An Essay in Social Psychology
  • Alfred Schutz
Part of the Phaenomenologica book series (PHAE, volume 15)


The present paper intends to study in terms of a general theory of interpretation the typical situation in which a stranger finds himself in his attempt to interpret the cultural pattern of a social group which he approaches and to orient himself within it. For our present purposes the term “stranger” shall mean an adult individual of our times and civilization who tries to be permanently accepted or at least tolerated by the group which he approaches. The outstanding example for the social situation under scrutiny is that of the immigrant, and the following analyses are, as a matter of convenience, worked out with this instance in view. But by no means is their validity restricted to this special case. The applicant for membership in a closed club, the prospective bridegroom who wants to be admitted to the girl’s family, the farmer’s son who enters college, the city-dweller who settles in a rural environment, the “selectee” who joins the Army, the family of the war worker who moves into a boom town — all are strangers according to the definition just given, although in these cases the typical “crisis” that the immigrant undergoes may assume milder forms or even be entirely absent. Intentionally excluded, however, from the present investigation are certain cases the inclusion of which would require some qualifications in our statements: (a) the visitor or guest who intends to establish a merely transitory contact with the group; (b) children or primitives; and (c) relationships between individuals and groups of different levels of civilization, as in the case of the Huron brought to Europe — a pattern dear to some moralists of the eighteenth century. Furthermore, it is not the purpose of this paper to deal with the processes of social assimilation and social adjustment which are treated in an abundant and, for the most part, excellent literature but rather with the situation of approaching which precedes every possible social adjustment and which includes its prerequisites.


Social World Home Group Social Adjustment Cultural Pattern Group Life 
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Copyright information

© Martinus Nijhoff, The Hague, Netherlands 1976

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alfred Schutz

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