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PREFACE THIS BOOK ARGUES for the continuity of a chief theoretical pathway from classic sociology to the present. Durkheim launched sociology on a high theoretical level by providing an explanation for some of the most central questions: what produces social membership, moral beliefs , and the ideas with which people communicate and think. The key is that these are linked together by the same mechanism: ideas are symbols of group membership, and thus culture is generated by the moral—which is to say emotional—patterns of social interaction. But whereas Durkheim is usually interpreted, and subjected to criticism, as a global theory of the moral integration of an entire society, I interpret the theory through the eyes of Erving Goffman and the microsociological movement; that is to say, in the spirit of symbolic interaction, ethnomethodology, social constructionism, and sociology of emotions. In their spirit, however, not the letter, since I put the ritual mechanism at the center and try to show how it makes maximal explanatory power out of the insights of these micro-sociological perspectives. Starting with a Durkheimian mechanism, we can see how variations in the intensity of rituals lead to variations in social membership patterns and the ideas that accompany them; all this takes place not on the global level of a “society” in the large sense but as memberships that are local, sometimes ephemeral, stratified, and conflictual. I do not insist on the letter of Durkheim or Goffman either, but on the fruitfulness of what we can do with these ideas for theorizing a social world of flux and variation. Chapter 1 sketches the intellectual history of the social theory of ritual, with an eye to disencumbering what is most useful in the Durkheim tradition, from interpretations that have grown up around it like vines upon old trees in the jungle. Once having disentangled it, I amalgamate it with what is most useful in radical microsociology. Here Goffman is a pathbreaker, but I do some disentangling, too, to separate out what parts of Goffman are most useful for the current project. Chapter 2 presents my formulation of the theoretical model, which I call by Goffman’s term, interaction ritual (for short, IR). Since terminological accretions are hard to slough off, we are not necessarily confined to calling it by this term. We could call it, more generically, the mutual-focus / emotional-entrainment mechanism. It is a model of interactional situations varying along those two dimensions—how much xii PREFACE mutual focus of attention occurs, and how much emotional entrainment builds up among the participants. Where mutual focus and entrainment become intense, self-reinforcing feedback processes generate moments of compelling emotional experience. These in turn become motivational magnets and moments of cultural significance, experiences where culture is created, denigrated, or reinforced. I illustrate the process of creating symbols by analyzing a first-hand video recording of the creation of new national symbols during the catastrophe of 9/ 11/2001. Rituals create symbols in first-order, face-to-face interaction, which constitutes the starting point in an array of further second- and third-order circuits in which symbols can be recirculated. Once infused with situational emotion, symbols can be circulated through networks of conversation, and internalized as thinking within the individual circuits of the mind. Ultimately the intensity of human concern with symbols , ranging from enthusiastic and obsessive to bored and alienated, depends upon periodic repetition of IRs; how meaningful these recirculated symbols are depends on what level of emotional intensity is reached in the first-order social encounters in which those symbols are used. Since we are often confronted with symbols apart from the interactional context that determines how alive they are, I offer some rules for unraveling symbols by tracing them back to the interactional situations in which they acquire what emotional significance they have, and then through their recycling in conversational networks and solitary experience. Chapters 3 through 5 examine the implications of the IR mechanism. Chapter 3 presents an interactional theory of emotions. It emphasizes the differences among the specific emotions as conventionally recognized —anger, joy, fear, etc.—and the social emotion par excellence that I call emotional energy, or EE. Durkheim noted that a successful social ritual makes the individual participant feel strong, confident, full of impulses to take the initiative. Part of the collective effervescence of a highly focused, emotionally entrained interaction is apportioned to the individuals, who come away from the situation carrying the grouparoused emotion for a time in their bodies...


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