Wednesday, January 8 , 2014
Everyday Life in Sociological Inquiry
Rita Felski, “The Invention of Everyday Life: Habit.”, Susie Scott, Making Sense of Everyday Life.,
Anthony Giddens “Social Interaction and Everyday Life.”
INTRO: Review Ideas from first term:
The main concepts
− context − social interaction − the social self
− social actors as meaning makers − social action as oriented − social institutions
Other important concepts we collected along the way:
social interaction, inter-subjective reality, shared understandings, tacit knowledge, the-world-taken-
WHAT WE HAVE LEARNEDABOUT THESE CONCEPTS? (Have to be included in a social order)
1) Context – surfing context, cow tipping point etc..
2) Social actors are interpreters of the world they inhabit – interpretive actor, trying to read and
understand the situation they are confronted with
3) Social interaction as the means of creating and participating in inter-subjective social reality –
means to create the social world that we are a part of, dyadic interaction betweenAand B..
4) Social Self – (social self) social actor creates a social self, discovering meaning and creation
meaning, as we interact with one another we develop the social self
5) Social action as oriented to other – what makes a human act, a social act? It is oriented towards
others, tries to convey a meaning. Weber says action is always social action because it involves
6) Social institutions – how a pattern that may be spontaneously developed between two actors
over time becomes a pattern and is then passed on and because the way it is done.
INTERPRETIVE SOCIOLOGYAND THE EVERYDAY LIFE PERSPECTIVE:
1. These ideas come together in sociological studies of social order/organization.
− micro-sociologies: groundup approach, looking at interactions between actors and move up
− ground up approach because you look at the two social actors' interactions and how they
influence institutions and how the institutions influence how they interact
2. We will focus on sociologists who identify themselves as interpretive sociologists. (Susie Scott's
and Stephen Katz' first term reading)
− suzie scottt said the social world cant be studied in the way natural science is, must
understand that humans develop understandings of their behaviour
− if we want to understand human behaviour we need to take into account human beings
understanding of their own behaviour
− human's act on their own understandings of the world
3. Interpretive sociologists believe that the social world can't be studied in a scientific manner
because unpredictable human beings are the focus of study. (Scott)
4. Interpretive sociologists tend to build their analysis of social order from the bottom up. (Felski)
5.Interpretive sociologists build on Max Weber’s definition of social action. (Scott)
− interpretive sociologists usually draw from weber's work: social action is oriented in nature
“If men [sic] define situations as real, they are real in their consequences.” W. I. Thomas
− doesn't matter if there isn't a fire, if people believe it they will evacuate
6. Interpretive sociologists also draw from George Herbert Mead’s conception of the social self. (Scott, Katz)
− theory of how social self's develop... the social self is always a work in progress (Katz)
7. Adistinctive feature of interpretive sociology is an emphasis on “everyday life.” (Katz)
− Katz says looking at the way people live everyday allows us to see how the social world
shapes our close at hand experiences and how we shape the social world
8. The sociology of everyday life focuses on how the social world is continually reproduced and
transformed in mundane and routine (quotidian) everyday experiences. (Giddens, Felski)
− Felski said because we spend most of our lives doing these mundane tasks they are key and
we must observe and understand a persons mundane routines and tasks
9.Rita Felski offers some important cautions about approaching the study of everyday life:
− Felski is conducting a critical analysis of the concept of “every day life” -- is the focus of
some fiction novels, is in political and feminist studies, etc.
− The concept of everyday life is used in various areas of study and from various
− Different disciplines have different forms and views on everyday life, but one
commonality is that "Everyday life" as short-form for boring and unimportant areas of life.
− Why is it categorized as boring and unimportant.
− Very often women's lives are categorized and referred to as everyday life (feminist scholars
− The very idea of everyday life as unimportant is JUST ONE NOTION of everyday life.
− Others view everyday life as THE primary location of social life.
− Contrarily... Felski also warns against over-valorizing everyday life.
− Avoid both extremes, that is, assuming that the everyday life world is either boring or
− Everyday we feel the affect and produce the effect of bigger forces
− we must see everyday life as it is as an area for sociologists to analyze etc
10. Why focus on everyday life?
(a) it makes us more consciously aware of our “selves” and of the social life we create
− how much you can learn by watching people interact
(b) that human interaction involves our whole selves;
− For example, non-verbal as well as verbal means of communication.
(c) that events in everyday life do not “just happen.”
“Weber says ... the world could be almost anything, it is infinite in its possibilities, but human
beings ensure that it is always something and thus produce its stability by defining it and thus
exercising control over it. So by defining a situation, an actor generates his or her own possibilities,
and by so defining, that same actor is also exercising control and creating and reproducing the social
conditions of control in interaction with other actors.” (From Chris Jenks “Active Passive” in Core
Sociological Concepts (1998) p. 268)
− it is by naming things that we exercise control, the actor generates possibilities, and
exercises control over the other person
− not only creating a world but also putting boundaries
“If men [sic] define situations as real, they are real in their consequences.” W.I. Thomas as quoted by Monica Morris, in Morris, Monica B. (1977). “Why ‘Creative’sociology? The Difference
Between ‘Creative’and ‘Natural Science’Approaches to Social Behaviour.” In Morris, Monica. An
Excursion into Creative Sociology. New York: Columbia University Press, 1977.
Interpretive sociology mundane, quotidian interaction
The definition of the situation everyday life as a gendered saving face
Social self as a work-in- concept betrayed by gestures
progress critical analysis of concepts, interactional work
everyday life, everyday life context of concepts
world verbal and non-verbal
Wednesday, January 15 , 2014
LECTURE 11 Negotiating Order in Public Spaces
Part One: Erving Goffman, an American twentieth century sociologist
1. Goffman associated with symbolic interactionism and Mead’s theory of the social self.
− often referred to as a symbolic interactionist
2.Tries to answer the question, how does everyday life acquire its orderliness?
− for example how we navigate with many other people present (malls, schools)
− try to understand the nature of the social world and the influence it has on us and vice versa
− orderliness is not simply there, it takes work and gets done.
− Things we think are natural but have a lot contributing to it, sociologists interested in the
3.Goffman developed the dramaturgical perspective
− a perspective that likens social life, all things occurring, to the theatre
− applies concepts of theatrical productions to the social scenes we are a part of (role, the
stage, props, performance, script, audiences etc)
− wanted to use these term to look at social life and see if the terms helped him to see what
actors are doing and how they are
− some aspects similar to life, help us see what people are doing in the world when they
interact and maintain and create order
− we are engaged in these acts, caught up with playing the roles we play (parent, student,
− how social life gets orderly
4. Goffman’s starting proposition is that social actors are fundamentally oriented to impression
5. Goffman argues that social actors share a mutuality of concern with impression management
and they collectively produce “the interaction order.”
− impression management -> showing that we are competent as social actors, don't want to
display ourselves as not competent
− embarrassing ourselves, losing face, doing things that discredit us, how we are seen by them
− what social actors do is tailor their actions (their performance) to their audience
− presentation of self in everyday life
− this concern is something that we all share
− because of this awareness, we each play our part to maintaining the right, the orderly, and
the appropriate kind of social scene with each other − cooperative endeavour, to protect from shame and embarrassment
− what we do in public life as we are oriented in maintaining an image of ourselves, we are
producing the interaction order
6. Goffman’s developed an extensive set of concepts to analyze how social actors negotiate this
order in everyday life. (Four Conventioned)
− civil inattention
− you can observe this anywhere out there where people are out there together
interacting, device people use when they are in public
− to not purposely interact with a individual and pretending you are not, yet you are
interacting just by coexisting
− being civil, acknowledging that others are present but not giving them specific
attention – it is a practice used in social life for people to be with many others and be able
− unfocused interactions
− kind of interacting with who we are with but not interacting with anybody in particular
− i.e the way people dress to go out.. wear clothing where the acknowledge that they are
dressing for others to see, not to lose face, but not aiming for anybody in particular
− focused interactions
− focused and intending social action oriented to someone – gesture or saying
− an encounter.
− Asingle focused focused interaction (one of these focused interactions)
7. Encounters don’t just happen.
− We do things to make it possible to start a conversation and end one
8. Goffman’s three types of information:
− information given: what is given through speech, what we say about ourselves, or how we
talk and what it says about us
− information given off: gestures, body language etc.. the way we are conveying some other
things about ourselves but not through words
− information flow: how does information in this interaction move, from the actor to the
audience and back again
PART TWO: Case STUDIES OF NEGOTIATED ORDER
Goffman’s approach as reflected in Cahill et.al.’s study of the social order of the bathroom.
− I am going to illustrate how this study uses several of Goffman’s descriptive and analytical
concepts to show how a social order is negotiated by social actors in public bathrooms; and
what that social order reveals about social life more generally,
1. Introducing the study: public bathrooms are “backstage” regions as understood in Goffman’s
dramaturgical approach to social analysis.
− “the vital secrets of our public shows are often visible in those settings that serve as
backstage regions relative to our public performances.” Cahill et. al., p. 33.
− “it is here that illusions and impressions are openly constructed …. Here the performer can
relax; he can drop his front, forgo speaking lines, and step out of character.” Goffman quoted in Cahill et.al, p. 34.
− front stage: audience had access to it, actors worried about maintenance about perception
of themselves via other actors
− back stage: behind the scene work, managing impressions
− some areas we occupy in everyday life that are front stage and some are back stage
− front stage relative to something and backstage relative to something else
− as they study the public washroom, they find it is a backstage, but it may have a backstage
within it and a front stage in it as well
2. The sociological properties of the setting.
− what is the context
− what kind of setting this is – physical side of the space
− what the “set up” is – what are we expecting to see happen here
− the overall interactive challenge (situations where we may lose face, or a problem to
deal with in the social order – two people walking to the door, who goes through first?) of the
setting – why would this be an interesting place?
− Normative boundary of not talking between the stalls
− Public bathrooms are distinctive place to save face while doing discreditable activities
(a) Public bathrooms are divided into two kinds of spaces that help people to deal with this
(b) Thus public bathrooms are sociologically dual:
NOTE: Goffman’s concepts of front-stage and backstage regions are ways of conceptualizing
social spaces relative to each other
(c) The sociologically dual nature of public bathrooms is reinforced, first by physical
boundaries and second by normative boundaries enforced by users of public bathrooms.
- private stalls, and public space – helps people deal with interactive actions
3. When the open areas of public bathrooms work like front stage regions.
− actors have to negotiate around this conduct because there are two sociological spaces
(a) For example, when actors encounter someone they know while in a public bathroom.
(b) These patterns of interaction enable social actors in public bathrooms to deal with the
interactive challenge of performing “discrediting activities”, while also saving
face/managing impression with those who they meet there.
(c) Two distinct types of interaction take place in this open area of the bathroom: one type
(ritual) allows actors to not violate other people's space – boundaries, locking the door,
behavioural recognition; the other allows actors to retain an acceptable degree of sociability
toward people, especially people they know.
− Obligation to maintain face on both people's parts: to prevent a person from invading your
space (locking door), and not walking in on someone
− … the cultural expectation is that no one will violate another human being’s personal
boundaries; but at the same time, the highest value is for human beings to be with each other
– that is, for them to commune.
4. Public bathroomsAS AWHOLE are back-stage regions.
(a) Managing personal fronts: Public bathrooms are social spaces where people prepare
themselves, and repair themselves, for performances in front-stage regions.
(b) “Going out of play” - social actors temporarily “vacate the social” realm − Reasons for “going out of play”: drunk at a party going out of play on the front stage
− ideally front stage in play, out of play backstage
− Performance teams”
(c) “Staging talk”
5. What takes place in public bathrooms as back-stage regions not only negotiates the social order
of public bathrooms but also of the wider social world.
− It reinforces what is expected in terms of appropriate behaviour outside bathrooms.
− What people must not do in public
− Display our loyalty to the central values and expectations of our society.
− it is in the “tight little rooms” (of back-stage regions) that the central values of our
society itch the most and are most in need of scratching”.
Lecture 11: Concepts
symbolic interaction, Unfocused interaction Interpersonal rituals
Dramaturgical perspective Focused interaction discrediting activities
Impression management Encounters, opening to Sociologically dual
Saving face encounters, markers and brackets Faculties in readiness
mutuality of concern with Information given Managing personal fronts
impression management Information given off Going out of play
Stage; props; script; audience; Information flow Staging talk
front-stage/backstage etc. The set up/the setting Performance teams
Self-presentation of the actor Interactive challenges
ProtectiveAction protect someone else from saving face
DefensiveAction protect yourself from saving face
“it is here that illusions and impressions are openly constructed …. Here the performer can relax; he
can drop his (sic) front, forgo speaking lines, and step out of character.” Goffman quoted in Cahill et.al,
“it is in the ‘tight little rooms’(of back-stage regions) that the central values of our society itch the
most and are most in need of scratching”
January 22, 2014
Lecture 12 – Negotiating Order in the Family
Case Study Two: Amy Best “Freedom, Constraint, and Family Responsibility: Teens and Parents
Collaboratively NegotiateAround the Car, Class, Gender, and Culture.”
− Generally speaking, this case study focuses on the family as a social site in which a social order
is ongoingly created, maintained, and changed through social interaction.
− Specifically,Amy Best shows how teenagers’access to the family car becomes the occasion for
re-negotiating the social order of the family.
− Study done in south carolina suburb where access to the car may be crucial as it is the only
access to transportation
− One of the ideas/concepts to which we are introduced in this article is “cultural object.” − also an occasion for self-development, sense of themselves as parents
− children pressing for more economy, freedom and control
− Family producing itself based on its beliefs about each other
− what the family is and how it shapes and has influence on its members and vice versa is
something that is ongoingly happening and gets renegotiated
− more than the issue of gaining access to a car, family dynamic is being renegotiated
1. This article is part of a larger study that addresses two general questions:
(a) how do young adults interactionally manage the “push and pull” of freedom from, and
responsibility to, family;
(b) how gender, class, and culture shape freedom and responsibility.
− Does this interactionally managing, this process, does it look the same for you, regardless
of whether you are male or female, or your class etc
2. Interpretive approach to doing sociology.
− This study is done from an interpretive sociologists' approach
− looks at “car talk” rather than just talk like garfinkel
3. Limitations of the conventional “socialization” model of child/youth social development.
− Families are not cookie cutter versions of some recipe that society presses onto them
− ever evolving set of relationships, acquires a form but it changes. -- amy best
− Different at teens than at toddler age
− it is very common for studies to be done of families, and children and teenagers -- non
adults.. assumes that children and teenagers are passive
− assumes parents and schools are socializers and impact children and that they themselves
have very little to do with it
− Amy disagreed and said children had their own effects on the family
4. In the interpretive sociological tradition, children/teenagers are seen as meaningful, engaged,
independent social actors
5. “Self” development:
− as they move to adulthood, they are increasing in independence and autonomy, and also
assuming a greater degree of responsibility
6. Contradictory pulls
7. The car as a “cultural object?”
− what makes it cultural?
− an object can have a meaning beyond just its use
− a car is not just a source of technology a transport,Amy states that it is a cultural object
because it is used in relationships and interactions to symbolize things
− allows us to reveal our class (through expensive cars) and reflect our independence
− used in our engagement and interaction with others
− an object that means different things to different sets of people
8. For Best, the car becomes a site for expressing, maintaining, and changing the social order of the
9. Best makes this argument by focusing on teens’“car talk.”
− how they talk about kids gaining the car and parents giving. − The meaning of these negotiations means something different for teens than to parents
10. Talk about “The Car”:
(a) To the teenagers, what is the meaning of getting the License and getting access to a car …
− freedom from supervision
− exercise own independence
− gain experiences, in the family, within the family
(b) To parents, what is the meaning of getting a license and access to a car
− how to give up control while still maintaining supervision over the youth
− issue of safety, placing and enforcing rules restricting the teen
− relinquishing some of their own power and responsibilities
− parents are glad for the paced licensing
11. The negotiations over access to the car are not equal.
− Because the parents own the car they have power over the negotiations
− trading begins to take place (have the car one day if you run errands on another day)
12. Best shows that this inequality in power varies in some interesting a complicated ways,
depending upon class, race, and gender.
− Immigrant parents – how the immigrant parents worry the child will lose culture through
− Female versus male teens – boys have more freedom and its a way for boys to show off,
parents more worried about the safety of their daughters.
− Affluent versus poor families – in the affluent family may not be required to share car
access, maybe more responsibilities in the poor family, more freedom in the affluent family,
expecting vs receiving car and be expected to do stuff in return
14. But through these negotiations, teenagers also acquire more adult-like responsibilities and roles
within the family,
(a) Exposure to the family’s place in the world
(b) Increasing levels of responsibility for family care and concerns.
15. Wider implications of “over the car” negotiations
− Best places “car talk” in the broader context of globalization. The negotiations are both
shaped and constrained by a broader context and also, help to reproduce that larger context.
− the role of cars in a consumerist culture in helping people to communicate their social
status to each.
− access of people from different back grounds to resources that reflect status
− engagement of males versus females in public life.
− Family negotiating place in greater context of society – being able to buy a certain type of
− Consumerist culture – feel need to buy, keep buying and consuming because we are told
we should be
− people use car to gain status in a consumerist culture
− race for status causes constant struggle, effects certain people more than others because
some are able to participate in the race for status than others
− family being enacted – when people gather around the idea of a family (holidays etc)
− social order becomes active – idea of the social order becoming active, becoming obvious, revealing itself to us
16. Negotiations over cars – i.e. car talk- reveals ....
Lecture 12 Concepts/Ideas
Negotiating the social order of the family Cultural objects
The push and pull of teenagers' freedom and Car talk
th Consumerist culture
Lecture 15 – February 12 , 2014
Foundational Theories of Social Order/Organization 1
Part One: Where we are now.
1. We have been exploring the contributions of interpretive, sociologists focused on everyday life
who begin their analysis of social order/organization from “below.
− Building of social order from the ground level
− interpretive sociology take seriously max weber's definition of social action
− how social order can be created, kept and changed
− not just interested in looking at a small social world – life on a street or a family,
− want to connect small social worlds to a whole context – ground level up
− how is social order constituted on a societal level?
2. We have looked at the distinctive set of concepts and research methods that these sociologists
3. These sociologists are interested in making visible how close at hand social worlds are linked to
broader and broader social worlds
4. Now we focus on this wider “context.”
5. We will explore some of the theories and theorists that have influenced sociological thinking
about this wider context (Context as a whole).
7. Murray Knuttila describes the context of their thinking.
− What was going on in the world at the time of their writing that shaped their writing
Part Two: The Context of Foundational Sociological Theory:
1. Sociology was importantly shaped by, the context of European societies in the 18 and 19h th
− this is why sometimes when people from other parts of the world are curious about their
own world must think about how relevant our studies are to their own world
− criticism for being eurocentric, male-centric bases of sociology
− keep in mind that there are these issues, but their ideas and thinking are embedded in many
of the articles and pieces in the course
− attempts to influence sociology from other cultural perspectives
− must understand context of europe during the 18 and 19 centuries so we can understand
how they came to be
− influence on thinking about society and how our theorists formulated ideas about society
− The Industrial Revolution (economy)
− pull of people from country life into city life, to become a part of the new industrial
system of work (steam engines, mass-productions etc)
− The French Revolution (politics) − the overthrowing of the monarchy in france
− violent revolution, challenging of the whole aristocratic system and gain more equality
− result of people thinking of a different way of being organized
− one of those signal events that brought about or even the result of a new way of thinking
of political order – people's sense of their place changed
− The Enlightenment (thinking)
− move from god-centred thinking to reason-based thinking – science, order and reason
− not subject to the divine; we as members of a society have the reasoning to figure out
what a new world would be like and use it to shape the world
− had a lot to do with those people who began to talk about how society works, what is society
and so on
− understanding society and social worlds you are a part of and how to make them better
through reason became a science
− began to formulate a set of ideas about how the social world is organized
− sociology began to take its own particular path and challenge prevailing ideas
2. Sociology as a reaction to some of the prevailing intellectual developments of the
− that human nature is fixed,
− that social phenomena could and should be accounted for in terms of the human nature of
− These matching ideas led to ideas about the social and political arrangements needed to hold
human nature in check.
3. The response to these ideas from sociologists was:
− that human nature is variable and changing.
− That social phenomena are entities unto themselves.
− Thus, human nature and social forms can be investigated, changed, and reformed through
applying the principles and methods of science.
− August Comte saw sociology as a vehicle for managing chaos and turmoil of the times
4. The three classical social theorist we are going to consider lived through the significant changes
that were taking place in Western European societies in the 19 century.
LECTURE 15: CONCEPTS/KEY IDEAS
Eurocentric thought – thinking centred from the french revolution
european, idea that the european experience was
the global experience cultural diversity
the enlightenment emergent properties -when you put something
the industrial revolution together, something new emerges
Lecture 16 Outline
Foundational Theories of Social Order/Organization 2
Introduction: − As classical social the