Beyond Micro and Macro: Is There Anything to Gain from Ethnomethodology?

Monday, 11 July 2016: 09:45
Location: Hörsaal 26 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Jakub MLYNAR, Charles University in Prague, Czech Republic
Considering the traditional sociological tension of micro- and macro-level, as well as allegedly unjustified nature of such dichotomy, one should not overlook the ambitious and radical attempt to overcome (or dismiss) the micro/macro duality, namely the ethnomethodological sociology. Ethnomethodology is usually misunderstood and refused precisely because its substantial incompatibility with other ways of “doing” and “thinking” sociology. The project of ethnomethodology, although strictly empirical in nature, is built upon specific epistemological and methodological foundations. The main epistemological puzzler of ethnomethodology grows from its programmatic modesty and immediacy, for all the necessary knowledge is not to be produced (by the experts in sociology) but it is already and readily there (in the social reality). The method, then, is a “bare” identification and description achieved through detailed observation. To achieve this goal, some inevitable conceptual steps have to be taken. There is the presupposed trichotomy of social actors (members), settings (situations) and activities (interaction). The central conceptual instrument, however, in ethnomethodological transgression of the micro/macro duality, seems to be the “respecification”. This concept is employed to transpose the issues of “macro” dimension into the immediately observable social practices of members of society. Respecification is a process by which the social structure, perceived as an objective phenomenon, manifests itself in the commonplace and routine activities of the members of society. My conclusion is that ethnomethodology remains an inspirational approach to the practice of sociology, in that it stays true to the phenomena and to the observable orientations of social actors in real world. Nevertheless, to answer the question in the title: it is perhaps impossible to “gain” anything from ethnomethodology (apart from doing ethnomethodology itself); because taking out some of its elements into different strands and contexts of sociology leads—inescapably, by the nature of things—to fundamental distortion and impairment of these elements.