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Systems of Sociological Refraction

Hutchinson, Phil (2019) Systems of Sociological Refraction. Ethnographic Studies, 16. pp. 225-249. ISSN 1366-4964


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Throughout his career, Wes Sharrock has, following in the footsteps of Ludwig Wittgenstein, Peter Winch and Harold Garfinkel, sought to argue against accounts of the identity of an action which are the products of a social theory, a specific methodology or what Garfinkel termed formal analysis. In contrast, much of contemporary social science and social theory is grounded in a belief that ordinary or competent members of societies are unreliable authorities on the identity of their own and others’ actions because they are subject to systems of sociological refraction. The idea being that ordinary members of society are systematically misled as to the identity of their actions and those of their peers because they—or their perceptions of actions—are subject to the refractive properties of (for example) ideology, or folk theories of action, and so on. In this paper, I subject to analysis this core commitment of much social science and social theory.

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