Address correspondence to: Gary Alan Fine, Department of Sociology, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL 60208-1330. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. I thank Charles Camic, Charles Edgley, Corey Fields, Jeffrey Goldfarb, Tim Hallett, Brooke Harrington, Omar Lizardo, Ann Mische, Stephen Vaisey, and Bin Xu for comments on previous versions of this article. I appreciate the comments of the members of the Workshop in Cultural Sociology at the Center for Cultural Sociology at Yale University, and especially the critique of Jeffrey Alexander.
The Sociology of the Local: Action and its Publics†
Article first published online: 17 NOV 2010
© 2010 American Sociological Association
Volume 28, Issue 4, pages 355–376, December 2010
How to Cite
Fine, G. A. (2010), The Sociology of the Local: Action and its Publics. Sociological Theory, 28: 355–376. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9558.2010.01380.x
- Issue published online: 17 NOV 2010
- Article first published online: 17 NOV 2010
ABSTRACT Sociology requires a robust theory of how local circumstances create social order. When we analyze social structures not recognizing that they depend on groups with collective pasts and futures that are spatially situated and that are based on personal relations, we avoid a core sociological dimension: the importance of local context in constituting social worlds. Too often this has been the sociological stance, both in micro-sociological studies that examine interaction as untethered from local traditions and in research that treats culture as autonomous from action and choice. Building on theories of action, group dynamics, and micro-cultures, I argue that a sociology of the local solves critical theoretical problems. The local is a stage on which social order gets produced and a lens for understanding how particular forms of action are selected. Treating ethnographic studies as readings of ongoing cultures, I examine how the continuing and referential features of group life (spatial arenas, relations, shared pasts) generate action and argue that local practices provide the basis for cultural extension, influencing societal expectations through the linkages among groups.