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Sociologist Harold Garfinkel: Biography



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    Harold Garfinkel is a sociologist who had recently passed away in the year 2011. He was born in October of 1917 on the Eastern coast of the United States in New Jersey. Garfinkel’s interest in the study of human behaviors did not come to be until sometime shortly after his college years. Harold Garfinkel was going to University of Newark, majoring in accounting. Classes he attended there were taught by teachers who brought a more theoretical approach to learning, which in turn would help Garfinkel create his own theories.

    After graduating college, Harold took up a small job at a Quaker work camp in Georgia. This is where the spark of interest ignited his theoretical fuel. Meeting and working with many people of different backgrounds, interests, and perspectives fascinated Harold; and while working out in Georgia, he heard of the sociology program at University of North Carolina. In the following years, he went on to complete his Masters in Sociology in 1942. He went to to complete his Doctorate at Harvard, and began work in 1954 at UCLA as a part of the Sociology faculty.

    Garfinkel was interested in the ideas of social order, and sought a different approach to understanding this ‘phenomena’ which he now called ‘principle. ’ All of this background brought him to an American Sociological Association meeting where he created the term “Ethnomethodology. ” Ethnomethodology, created by Garfinkel, was simply the way people use different types of methods to gain an understanding of the society that they live in. A key discovery in his idea of ethnomethodology was the discovery that the methods people use to understand their society are fixed within their natural attitudes.

    Garfinkel’s theoretical perspectives stemmed greatly from his idea of Ethnomethodology, and the idea of rationality was tested and described using his Ethnomethodology. “Studies of Ethnomethodology” was a book in which Garfinkel authored and published in 1967; in this book, he explains how there are different ideas of what rationality means when in relation to have society behaves. From his list of rationalities and explanations, most noted is that most of the time, to most people, rationality is considered “the ersons feelings that accompany his conduct. ” Garfinkel adds to interest, the fact that a “person uses his feelings about his environment to recommend the sensible character of the thing he is talking about. ” In other words, not focusing on the feelings that accompany the action, but seeing how the feelings CAUSE the action. A large portion of Garfinkel’s writings weren’t official publications, but rather small scholarly articles here and there, as well as various reports of his, combined to make Chapters of a “book”.

    For example, some of Garfinkel’s early theories on ethnomethodology were republished as “Studies of Ethnomethodology” which is well known among today’s sociologists. Harold Garfinkel’s fascination with social order and reasoning behind why humans do what humans do, fueled his studies after college, and got him where he is today. He is definitely a strong shoulder to lean on, and his creation of Ethnomethodology brought a whole new chapter to the table of Sociology.

    Sociologist Harold Garfinkel: Biography. (2016, Dec 24). Retrieved from

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