In recent years the social sciences and the humanities have drawn closer to each other in thought and method. This rapprochement has led to new perceptions of human behaviour by sociologists, as well as new methodological orientations. Sociologist Joseph R. Gusfield draws upon drama and fiction to show how human action is shaped by the formal dimensions of performance.
Gusfield first defines the concept of behaviour as artistic performance. He then analyses routine and classic social research reports as literary performances in qualitative and quantitative terms. Next he moves to social movements and public actions, demonstrating how objects and events are products of the interpretation and reflection of individuals. He draws upon literary and artistic conventions to deal with issues of representation and meaning. In the first and last chapters, Gusfield provides a conceptual summary examining the relation between sociology as science and art, arguing that sociological methods are neither science nor art, but partake of both.
Following the philosopher Paul Ricouer, Gusfield shows how human behaviour can be read as a text, always telling the participant or observer "something about something." Performing Action will be of interest to sociologists, psychologists, and students of aesthetics and critical theory.
1. Introduction: Human Behaviour as Performance
Part 1: Rhetoric
2. The "Double Plot" in Institutions
3. The Literary Rhetoric of Science: Comedy and Pathos in Drinking-Driver Research
4. Two Genres of Sociology: A Literary Analysis of The American Occupational Structure and Tally's Corner
5. Sport as Story: Form and Content in Agonistic Games
Part 2: Reflexivity
6. The Modernity of Social Movements: Public Roles and Private Parts
7. Social Movements and Social Change: Perspectives of Linearity and Fluidity
8. The Reflexivity of Social Movements: Collective Behaviour and Mass Society Theory Revisited
9. The Social Construction of Tradition: An Interactionist View of Social Change
Part 3: Symbolism
10. Secular Symbolism: Studies of Ritual, Ceremony, and the Symbolic Order in Modern Life
11. Nature's Body and the Metaphors of Food and Health
12. The Social Symbolism of Smoking and Health
13. The Social Meanings of Meals: Hierarchy and Equality in the American "Potluck"
14. Conclusion: "Buddy, Can You Paradigm?": The Crisis of Theory in the Welfare State