Harold Garfinkel

Harold Garfinkel was a pioneering American sociologist who played a key role in developing the field known as ethnomethodology. For many years a professor in the Sociology Department at UCLA, Garfinkel’s early work was influenced by Talcott Parsons, although he soon moved away from Parsons’ theoretical outlook and began to emphasize the need to study empirically the everyday attitudes and practices of ordinary people and their role in producing social order. This ‘ethnomethodological’ approach, initially developed through an empirical study of a jury, challenged some of the founding assumptions of sociology and proved to be enormously controversial and influential: it has given rise to a rich body of empirical research in fields ranging from social anthropology and science and technology studies to communication and information science and the study of education. His thought was given its fullest expression in his magnum opus Studies in Ethnomethodology, published by Polity.