Sociology Index

Harold Garfinkel

Among distinguished sociologists, Harold Garfinkel was a Professor Emeritus at the University of California. Harold Garfinkel established and developed ethnomethodology as a field of inquiry in sociology. According to Harold Garfinkel 'The demonstrably rational properties of indexical expressions and indexical actions are an ongoing achievement of the organized activities of everyday life.' Harold Garfinkel substituted ‘phenomenon’ for ‘principle’, signaling a different approach to sociological inquiry. Harold Garfinkel analysed the methods used by people in everyday life to describe and make sense of their own activities. Harold Garfinkel drew on the work of theorists like David Emile Durkheim and Max Weber, and postulated that all social action could be understood in terms of an "action frame" consisting of a fixed number of elements.

Harold Garfinkel is best known for his classic book, Studies in Ethnomethodology, which was published in 1967, a collection of articles some of which had previously been published. Seeing Sociologically and Toward a Sociological Theory of Information was written while Garfinkel was a student.

Harold Garfinkel went to study at Harvard and met Talcott Parsons at Harvard University. While Parsons studied and emphasized abstract categories and generalizations, Garfinkel's work was more focused on detailed description. Parsons sought to offer a solution to the problem of social order and provided a disciplinary foundation for research in sociology.

When Garfinkel was asked to talk at a 1954 American Sociological Association meeting and the term "ethnomethodology" was created. Ethnomethodology became his main focus of study. Ethnomethodology is "the investigation of the rational properties of indexical expressions and other practical actions as contingent ongoing accomplishments of organized artful practices of everyday life." Alfred Schütz him to emerging ideas in social theory, psychology and phenomenology. Alfred Schütz, like Parsons, was concerned with establishing a sound foundation for research in the social sciences.