The Meaning of Meaning in Sociology. The Achievements and Shortcomings of Alfred Schutz's Phenomenological Sociology
David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour 41 (3):231-246 (2011)
Phenomenological sociology was founded at the beginning of 1930s by Alfred Schutz. His mundane phenomenology sought to combine impulses drawn from Husserl's transcendental phenomenology and Weber's action theory. It was made famous at the turn of 1960s and 1970s by Garfinkel's ethnomethodology and Berger & Luckmann's social constructionism. This paper deals with the notable accomplishments of Schutz and his followers and then proceeds to a shared shortcoming, which is that the phenomenological approach is unable to understand meaning in any other way but as actors's knowledge. Therefore, phenomenological sociologists are forced to describe the actor's interpretations of meaning as transparent to the actor him/herself, even if they sometimes make heroic attempts to escape the limitations of the phenomenological conception. The limitation is apparent in Husserl's and Schutz's definition of meaning as a “reflective intentional act”, Garfinkel's use of the term “accounting” to refer to a signifying effect, and the way Berger and Luckmann describe their social theory as “sociology of knowledge”. Today, similar confusions are present in Michael Polanyi's “tacit knowledge”and in Giddens' structuration theory
|Keywords||social constructionism meaning phenomenological sociology structuration theory action agency etnomethodology culture|
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