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The Extended Case Method

The Extended Case Method: Four Countries, Four Decades, Four Great Transformations, and One Theoretical Tradition

Michael Burawoy
Copyright Date: 2009
Edition: 1
Pages: 360
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  • Book Info
    The Extended Case Method
    Book Description:

    In this remarkable collection of essays, Michael Burawoy develops the extended case method by connecting his own experiences among workers of the world to the great transformations of the twentieth century—the rise and fall of the Soviet Union and its satellites, the reconstruction of U.S. capitalism, and the African transition to post-colonialism in Zambia. Burawoy's odyssey began in 1968 in the Zambian copper mines and proceeded to Chicago's South Side, where he worked as a machine operator and enjoyed a unique perspective on the stability of advanced capitalism. In the 1980s, this perspective was deepened by contrast with his work in diverse Hungarian factories. Surprised by the collapse of socialism in Hungary in 1989, he journeyed in 1991 to the Soviet Union, which by the end of the year had unexpectedly dissolved. He then spent the next decade studying how the working class survived the catastrophic collapse of the Soviet economy. These essays, presented with a perspective that has benefited from time and rich experience, offer ethnographers a theory and a method for developing novel understandings of epochal change.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-94338-4
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Tables
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. PROLOGUE: Bringing Theory to the Field
    (pp. xi-xviii)

    This book arose from the badgering of Loïc Wacquant, who insisted that it was time to collect these essays, new and old, and throw down the gauntlet to the Chicago School. While I’m grateful for all his encouragement, forcing me to rethink once again what I have been doing for forty years, I could not follow his proposal to inaugurate a Berkeley school of ethnography. I doubt there could ever be a such a school, since Berkeley’s distinction lies in the diversity of its approaches to everything, and to ethnography in particular. Our ethnographies run the gamut from Marxism to...

  5. Introduction: From Manchester to Berkeley by Way of Chicago
    (pp. 1-18)

    On a hot and muggy September day in 1972, I was dragging my suitcases across the South Side of the Windy City in search of the University of Chicago. I’d just finished my master’s in social anthropology at the University of Zambia and decided to take my chances in the United States. I had somehow sneaked in under the Chicago admissions wire, ready to pour my life savings into the first year of graduate school. Chicago had offered me no fellowship, no job. In fact, the sociology department clearly didn’t want me. I was seeking out the Committee for the...

  6. ONE The Extended Case Method: Race and Class in Postcolonial Africa
    (pp. 19-72)

    True, anatomical knowledge is not usually a precondition for “correct” walking. But when the ground beneath our feet is always shaking, we need a crutch. As social scientists we are thrown off balance by our presence in the world we study, by absorption in the society we observe, by dwelling alongside those we make “other.” Beyond our individual involvement is the broader ethnographic predicament—producing theories, concepts, and facts that destabilize the world we seek to comprehend. So we desperately need methodology to keep us erect, while we navigate a terrain that moves and shifts even as we attempt to...

  7. TWO The Ethnographic Revisit: Capitalism in Transition and Other Histories
    (pp. 73-142)

    Tacking back and forth through forty years of fieldwork, Clifford Geertz (1995) describes how changes in the two towns he studied, Pare in Indonesia and Sefrou in Morocco, cannot be separated from their nation-states—the one beleaguered by a succession of political contestations and the other the product of dissolving structures. These two states, in turn, cannot be separated from competing and transmogrifying world hegemonies that entangle anthropologists as well as their subjects. Just as Geertz’s field sites have been reconfigured, so has the discipline of anthropology. After decades of expansion, starting in the 1950s, many more anthropologists now are...

  8. THREE Two Methods in Search of Revolution: Trotsky versus Skocpol
    (pp. 143-197)

    Sociology has founded its scientific credentials on imitating the method of the physical sciences as understood by philosophers. Regulative principles such as Mill’s “canons of induction,” Hempel’s “deductive-nomological explanation,” or Popper’s falsificationism are laid down as the scientific method. However, these principles evolved more from philosophical speculation than from careful empirical examination of the “hard sciences” from which they derived their legitimacy. Indeed, when philosophers turned to history and the actual practice of science, they found their principles violated. New understandings of science emerged, motivated less by the search for a single abstract universal method and more by the need...

  9. FOUR Multicase Ethnography: Tracking the Demise of State Socialism
    (pp. 198-244)

    One of the most insistent laments of my teacher, the anthropologist Jaap van Velsen, was aimed at Marxists who damned capitalism with utopian socialism. This, he averred, was a false comparison, comparing the reality of one society with an idealization of another. He demanded a comparison of like with like—actually existing capitalism must be compared with actually existing socialism. Comparing the reality of one society with the utopian version of another was a categorical mistake. It was irresponsible of Marxists to let the Soviet Union or Eastern Europe off the hook. His voice boomed all the louder as Marxism...

  10. Conclusion: The Ethnography of Great Transformations
    (pp. 245-266)

    The twentieth century was strewn with the corpses of unrealized ideals—freedom, equality, and self-realization. In thwarting their realization, as Eric Hobsbawm writes, no century has been more brutal or more violent—it was indeed an age of extremes (Hobsbawm 1994). As the inheritors of the twentieth century, we can blame the specific ideals and seek out others whose realization might be less recalcitrant. Alternatively, we can blame idealism itself, banish ideals, and make the best of the existing order as the only possible world. But there is a third possibility. We can hold on to the old ideals, seeking...

  11. Epilogue: On Public Ethnography
    (pp. 267-278)

    As social scientists we are part of the world we study. Typically, we insulate ourselves from the dilemmas this creates. We barricade ourselves in the ivory tower, relying on data gathered by others, accessing the empirical world at a distance, burying ourselves in archives, or even corralling our subjects into laboratories. As participant observers we cast these protections aside and plunge into the world beyond, which forces us to think more deeply about our relations to that world—relations that both are specific to the immediacy of the communities we study and extend to our responsibilities and obligations as social...

  12. NOTES
    (pp. 279-304)
    (pp. 305-328)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 329-338)