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Chapter 4 INTERACTION MARKETS AND MATERIAL MARKETS INDIVIDUALS MOVE through their everyday lives encountering other people with whom they carry out some degree of interaction ritual, ranging from the barest utilitarian encounters and failed rituals to intensely engaging ritual solidarity. Who each person will interact with and at what degree of ritual intensity depends on who he or she has the opportunity to encounter and what they have to offer each other that would attract them into carrying out an interaction ritual. Not everyone is going to be attracted to everyone else, and these patterns thus take on the character of a market for interaction rituals. Sociologists have long made use of particular versions of interpersonal markets: the marriage market; the dating market; in recent history, the evolution of the latter into a market for various kinds of shorter or longer-term sexual liasons—or set of markets, subdivided for example into heterosexual , gay, bisexual, etc. (Waller 1937; Laumann et al. 1994; Ellingson and Schroeder 2000). By extension, we can conceive of a friendship market, which among other things accounts for the tendency for people to find their friends in the same social class and culture group (Allan 1979; McPherson and Smith-Lovin 1987). With a further generalization , we arrive at a view of the entire macro-distribution of social encounters across time and space as a market for interaction rituals of varying degrees of intensity. The market for interaction rituals provides a way of conceptualizing the connection between micro and macro. As critics of radical microsociology have pointed out, situations do not stand alone: any particular situation is surrounded by other situations that the participants have already been in; they may look ahead to other situations in the future, some of which are alternatives to interacting with the person one happens to have in front of him or her at the moment, like people at a cocktail party looking over the shoulder of their boring conversation partner to see who else they might talk to. This is just what makes interactions market-like. It also explains the quality that situations have: a degree of emergence, where things can happen that have not happened before and that an individual could not anticipate from his or her own experience alone; but also a degree of constraint or even coercion, such as in the feeling of being trapped because there are only certain people available whom one can talk with (or be friends with, 142 CHAPTER FOUR have sex with, marry, etc.) and only certain ways of carrying out the talk (the sex, etc.) that will work. Because of such emergence, it is sometimes claimed that situations are entirely unpredictable. Anyone who has ever been to a reception at a professional meeting, or struck up an acquaintance while traveling , or attended a party or a job interview, knows that this is far from true, down to the details of what people are going to say. But these are situations in which the individuals involved have a relatively limited stock of similar social symbols and therefore things to talk about, and so that is what comes out of their mouths—what do you do, where are you from, what are the differences between east coast and west coast, do you know so-and-so. If the situations are more wide open, and you as a participant do not know in advance much about what kind of people are going to be there—that is, you know nothing about their previous IR chains—the possibilities for what might happen appear to be an immense blank horizon. That is only to say, situations are sometimes very unpredictable from a single participant’s viewpoint. Situational action is predictable to a sociological observer who knows the individuals’ IR chains, and hence what emotional energy and stock of membership symbols each has coming into the interaction. In a rough way, this is just what an old-fashioned dinner hostess did in deciding who to seat next to whom. With more analytical refinement, a sociologist can examine the ingredients for making rituals that individuals have accumulated, and thereby predict what their combination of ingredients will bring about. The market for interaction rituals gives us several insights. It gives us a theoretical model of how individuals will be motivated, not just in a single situation, but in the longer-run trajectories of their lives; and it shows how cultural symbols are passed along in chains, sometimes acquiring greater emotional resonance...


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