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Ethnomethodology is a study concerned with the methods used by people to construct, account for and give meaning to their social world. Ethnomethodology means a study of the methods used by people.

Ethnomethodologists such as Schutz believe there is no real social order, as other sociological perspectives assume. Social life appears orderly to members of society only because members actively engage in making sense of social life. Societies have regular and ordered patterns only because the members within that society perceive them in this way, therefore leading social order to become a convenient fiction.

The point of ethnomethodology, according to Zimmerman and Wieder, is to explain how members of society go about the task of seeing, describing and explaining order in the world in which they live.

Ethnomethodologists are highly critical of other branches of sociology. They argue that conventional sociologists have misunderstood the nature of social reality. They have treated the social world as if it has an objective reality that is independent of member's accounts and interpretation. Thus they have regarded aspects of the social world such as suicide and crime as facts with an existence of their own. They have then attempted to provide explanations for these facts.

By contrast, ethnomethodologists argue that the social world consists of nothing more than the constructs, interpretations and accounts of its members. The job of the sociologist is therefore to explain the methods and accounting procedures that members employ to construct their social world. According to ethnomethologists this is the very job that mainstream sociology has failed to do.

Courtesy of Lee Bryant, Director of Sixth Form, Anglo-European School, Ingatestone, Essex


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