A Sociology of the Absurd (2nd Edition)
Stanford M. Lyman, Marvin B. Scott
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This work provides a crystallization and particularization of a school of sociological thinking variously called "creative sociology," "existential sociology," "phenomenological sociology," "conflict theory," and "dramaturgical analysis." The result is a methodological synthesis of the "dual" visions of Erving Goffman and Harold Garfinkel.
This book equips the reader with a framework for providing adequate descriptions of those face-to-face encounters that make up everyday life. This edition includes essays not found in the first edition, as well as a new introduction that locates it in the spectrum of contemporary theorizing.
bewildered - social-scientist-in-spite-of-himself, Everyman-and-woman, goes about the daily tasks of living life. The dramaturgic approach proceeds in the spirit of the warning that Rom Harre has given to social scientists: "Everyone is, in a certain sense, a fairly com- A Sociology of the A bsurd Revisited: An Extroduction 1 87 petent social scientist, and we must not treat his (or her) theory about the social world and his place in it with contempt. "2 6 Specifically, A Sociology of the A
quies cence or anxious inaction until something expected occurs . For those who believe that earthly existence is but a prelude to a more meaningful afterlife, life itself may be experienced as nothing more than a linear waiting period. Some of the problems and processes of linear waiting are exemplified in the attitudes and actions of those who expect a millenium. The problem of the meaning of innerwordly life and historical events for those awaiting a millenium is dramaturgicaly depicted in
have a variety of functions beyond that of saving the performance. They can in dicate an actor's poise under pressure, a test of his or her sang-!roid ("coolness, " to use a contemporary idiom) . 4 5 In this sense, ad libs and im provisations on the stage can be a cause for as well as a rescue from slips and errors. And the actor who must anticipate a personal ability to present or respond to the unexpected onstage, can suffer stage fright therefrom. The actor knows he or she must put on a
can look up from the valley to perceive the mountain or down into the plain from a high peak to see the valley, the social theorist must have an optimum distance from the subj ect in order to see it accurately. 4 2 It is not dispirited "objectivity, " as the term today is vulgarly employed, that Machiavelli advocates, but rather a pas sion chastened by the perspective of unalloyed clarity. His social theorist is neither king nor commoner, but something in between - an observer who adopts the
of travellers 1 4 and immigrants, 1 5 and in the accounts of persons held captive in a totally unfamiliar society. 1 6 A lesser state of anxiety, but of the same general type, sometimes occurs when persons of different ethnic, class, or status groups find themselves in situations where they must interact. 1 7 Even a state of anxiety, however, can lend itself to a game strategic outlook as when a player determines that, whatever happens, he will not lose his composure, 1 8 or when he decides that