Interaction Ritual Chains

Interaction Ritual Chains

Randall Collins
Copyright Date: 2004
Edition: STU - Student edition
Pages: 464
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt13x0rs3
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  • Book Info
    Interaction Ritual Chains
    Book Description:

    Sex, smoking, and social stratification are three very different social phenomena. And yet, argues sociologist Randall Collins, they and much else in our social lives are driven by a common force: interaction rituals.Interaction Ritual Chainsis a major work of sociological theory that attempts to develop a "radical microsociology." It proposes that successful rituals create symbols of group membership and pump up individuals with emotional energy, while failed rituals drain emotional energy. Each person flows from situation to situation, drawn to those interactions where their cultural capital gives them the best emotional energy payoff. Thinking, too, can be explained by the internalization of conversations within the flow of situations; individual selves are thoroughly and continually social, constructed from the outside in.

    The first half ofInteraction Ritual Chainsis based on the classic analyses of Durkheim, Mead, and Goffman and draws on micro-sociological research on conversation, bodily rhythms, emotions, and intellectual creativity. The second half discusses how such activities as sex, smoking, and social stratification are shaped by interaction ritual chains. For example, the book addresses the emotional and symbolic nature of sexual exchanges of all sorts--from hand-holding to masturbation to sexual relationships with prostitutes--while describing the interaction rituals they involve. This book will appeal not only to psychologists, sociologists, and anthropologists, but to those in fields as diverse as human sexuality, religious studies, and literary theory.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-5174-4
    Subjects: Sociology, Population Studies

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. List of Figures
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. PREFACE
    (pp. xi-xx)
  5. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. xxi-xxii)
  6. Part I. Radical Microsociology
    • Chapter 1 THE PROGRAM OF INTERACTION RITUAL THEORY
      (pp. 3-46)

      A theory of interaction ritual is the key to microsociology, and microsociology is the key to much that is larger. The smallscale, the here-and-now of face-to-face interaction, is the scene of action and the site of social actors. If we are going to find the agency of social life, it will be here. Here reside the energy of movement and change, the glue of solidarity, and the conservatism of stasis. Here is where intentionality and consciousness find their places; here, too, is the site of the emotional and unconscious aspects of human interaction. In whatever idiom, here is the empirical...

    • Chapter 2 THE MUTUAL-FOCUS / EMOTIONAL-ENTRAINMENT MODEL
      (pp. 47-101)

      At the center of an interaction ritual is the process in which participants develop a mutual focus of attention and become entrained in each other’s bodily micro-rhythms and emotions. This chapter will present the details of this process in an explicit model of processes that take place in time: a fine-grained flow of micro-events that build up in patterns of split seconds and ebb away in longer periods of minutes, hours, and days. Rituals are constructed from a combination of ingredients that grow to differing levels of intensity, and result in the ritual outcomes of solidarity, symbolism, and individual emotional...

    • Chapter 3 EMOTIONAL ENERGY AND THE TRANSIENT EMOTIONS
      (pp. 102-140)

      Emotion is a central ingredient and outcome of IRs. It is time now to examine emotions more closely. Among other benefits of doing so is to highlight the contribution that sociology of emotions makes to macro-sociological theory. And we shall see, via a circuitous route, the emotion-laden view of macro-sociological structure and hence of the place of individuals within it will give us some leads for a sociological theory of differences in personality.

      Emotion implicitly occupies a crucial position in general sociological theory. As we attempt to make sociological concepts more precise and more empirically grounded, we find that many...

    • Chapter 4 INTERACTION MARKETS AND MATERIAL MARKETS
      (pp. 141-182)

      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...

    • Chapter 5 INTERNALIZED SYMBOLS AND THE SOCIAL PROCESS OF THINKING
      (pp. 183-220)

      In IR theory, thinking is the third-order circulation of symbols. It follows upon the first-order creation of symbols in intense IRs, and their second-order recirculation in conversational networks. Thinking is yet another loop, now into imaginary internal conversations, which are themselves IRs taking place in the mind. Perform a gestalt switch: instead of starting with the individual engaged in thinking, start with the overall distribution of symbols among a population of people. Visualize what the pattern would look like if you could see it from the air, through a time-lapse photography in which symbols were marked in colors, so that...

  7. Part II. Applications
    • Chapter 6 A THEORY OF SEXUAL INTERACTION
      (pp. 223-257)

      Is sex a natural biological drive or is it socially constructed? As sociologists, we are inclined to say it is the latter, constructed upon the basis of the former. But this very general, conventionally palatable answer leaves everything dangling. How strong and how constant is the biological component, and by what mechanisms does it become transmuted into the myriad variations of sexual behavior? Can we predict on theoretical grounds who will do what with whom, and in what historical circumstances?

      Let us say that sex is motivated by pleasure in the genitals, and that this physiological mechanism has been evolutionarily...

    • Chapter 7 SITUATIONAL STRATIFICATION
      (pp. 258-296)

      Are received sociological theories capable of grasping the realities of contemporary stratification? We think in terms of a structured hierarchy of inequality. A prominent imagery is Bourdieu’s (1984) field of economic power and a hierarchy of cultural tastes internalized in individuals, with these two hierarchies mutually reproducing one another. The image helps explain the frustrations of reformers attacking inequality by attempting to change educational attainment. Empirical researchers report on inequalities in income and wealth, education and occupation, as changing slices of a pie, and as distributional shares for races, ethnicities, genders, and ages. We see an abstract scaffolding of hierarchy...

    • Chapter 8 TOBACCO RITUAL AND ANTI-RITUAL: SUBSTANCE INGESTION AS A HISTORY OF SOCIAL BOUNDARIES
      (pp. 297-344)

      Rituals mark boundaries of inclusion and exclusion. Such rituals at times are contested, by persons located in various relationships to those boundaries. At times the ritual itself is attacked, frequently by individuals or groups who do not recognize its ritual character; for these people, the staying power of the practice may appear inexplicable, irrational, or pathological. At other times, the boundary rather than the ritual is contested, and there are movements to break through the boundaries and become included on the other side of the ritual. Such rituals, too, can create new social boundaries, social identities and groups, rather than...

    • Chapter 9 INDIVIDUALISM AND INWARDNESS AS SOCIAL PRODUCTS
      (pp. 345-374)

      In the perspective of IR chains, is there any place left for the individual? It might seem that the theory fails to do justice to individuals, and especially to their autonomy, idiosyncracy, and apartness. The modal character of IR theory seems to be a gregarious extrovert, always caught up in the mood of the crowd or the buzz of a conversation, seeking attention, shunning solitude. What about the nonstandard personality, going his or her own way, the individualist, the nonconformist? Can IR chains account for the introvert, the person who dislikes parties and noisy crowds, who prefers his or her...

  8. NOTES
    (pp. 375-416)
  9. REFERENCES
    (pp. 417-434)
  10. INDEX
    (pp. 435-440)
  11. Back Matter
    (pp. 441-442)