The Idea of Social Structure: Papers in Honor of Robert K. Merton

By Lewis A. Coser | Go to book overview

Sociology and the Everyday Life

ALVIN W. GOULDNER

H EREWITH, some notes on the notion of the everyday life in relation to the concerns of sociology. Perhaps the first, most elemental consideration is this. The Everyday Life (EDL) makes references to (focalizes) certain patterns or routines of social existence as a constructed order, as the outcome and product of human work. The concept of the EDL thus resists any idea of social patterns as givens but, rather, seeks to make explicit what is involved in the making and doing, in the constructing, of social patterns. Seen from this standpoint, the EDL is a conceptual effort consistently to dereify the reified concept of "culture," which sees it as something "inherited," on the one side, and as "transmitted," on the other; as if it were a kind of brick that could exist by itself between and apart from transmitter and receiver. In one part, then, the notion of EDL may be seen as a tacit critique of a conventional and reified notion of culture. But as I shall suggest shortly, the concept of an EDL is not only a critique of a technical concept such as "culture," but also has deeper roots in the critique of certain traditional features of ordinary, everyday, Western culture.

The importance of this theme in modern social theory has been conveyed to us most recently by Henri Lefebvre from the standpoint of his own individuated neo-Marxism and also, of course, by ethnomethodologists such as Harold Garfinkel, most profoundly by his teacher Alfred Schütz, as well as by scholars including Aaron Cicourel, Harvey Sacks, David Sudnow,

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