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Keywords:

  • microsociology;
  • social interaction;
  • Mead;
  • Durkheim

This article develops a comparison between structural approaches to symbolic interaction, as described by Sheldon Stryker (1968, 1980, 2008), and interaction ritual theory, elaborated by Randall Collins (1981, 1998, 2004). The value of this comparison lies in both the similarities and differences between the perspectives: each is committed to developing empirically grounded, general knowledge and emphasizes interaction as an emergent unit of sociological analysis. However, their disparate intellectual heritages lead them to stake out different positions regarding the nature of interaction, the self, and social structure. We suggest that the differences between structural symbolic interaction and interaction ritual theory offer important areas for theoretical innovation, and we highlight a few directions that seem especially promising.