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Thomas J. Scheff

Subject Sociology » Social Psychology, Sociological and Social Theory

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405124331.2007.x


The basic idea of microsociology is to fill in the human detail missing from abstract representations of human beings and their societies. The endeavor begins by describing, second by second, the structure/process of social life. The goal is to show the reciprocal relationship between these events and the nature of the society in which they occur, how each causes the other. There have been three main approaches: ethnographic, experimental, and linguistic. Ethnography fills in some of the details by close observations and reportage of behavior in context. One example is the study by Edwin Lemert of paranoia among executives in business organizations. By interviewing and observing several subjects, Lemert was able to make a signal contribution to the development of labeling theory. Experimental studies by Asch and others provide an important example of the use of the quantitative approach to show fine-grained aspects of context that influence conformity and non-conformity. Perhaps the most surprising result of these studies was a large minority of subjects are easily but inappropriately influenced by their blatant conformity to the behavior of the majority. Finally, discourse and conversation analysis of social interaction has demonstrated lawful regularities in linguistic sequences (such as questions and responses) that usually go unnoticed. Unlike the first two approaches, close ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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