Sunday, May 29, 2016

Thomas Luckmann dies aged 88



Peter Stegmaier (Department of Science, Technology, and Policy Studies, University of Twente) & Dirk vom Lehn (School of Management and Business, King's College London)

Thomas Luckmann was born in 1927 in the Slovenian town of Jesenice, than soon after became a part of the Yugoslavian Kingdom. Growing up bilingually at the Slovenian-Austrian boarder he received a broad humanist education. After WWII, Luckmann moved to Vienna where he first finished school and then studied linguistics and philosophy. He later moved to Innsbruck to study psychology, egyptology, French philology, and history. Right after marrying in 1950, first his wife Benita Luckmann and then 1951 Thomas came to New York, destitute, where he first worked as chauffeur for a known lawyer and as builder on his property, and his wife as steno typist at the Wall Street, then continuing their studies in philosophy and sociology at the Graduate Faculty of the New School for Social Research. Here, some of Luckmann’s teachers were Alfred Schütz, Karl Löwith, Carl Mayer (through whom he later met Arnold Gehlen), and here as a student he met with Peter L. Berger. In 1951, the young couple had a first of later three daughters (Maja, Mara, Metka), attending lectures after five, in shifts, and learning during late evening (Schnettler 2006).

After completing his studies, Luckmann first taught at Hobart College, New York, before returning to the New School for Social Research as successor of his teacher Alfred Schütz, with Peter L. Berger as colleague, from 1962-3 as colleague and friend also of Helmuth Plessner’s. In 1965 he returned to Germany where he received a call to a chair at University of Frankfurt am Main. In 1970, Luckmann became Professor for Sociology at University of Constance where he stayed until his retirement in 1994.

The richness and influence of Luckmann’s œuvre can be ascribed to its grounding in a range of sociological, anthropological, and philosophical traditions with a deep cultural-historical understanding. Luckmann combines the phenomenological thinking of Edmund Husserl and Alfred Schütz, Karl Mannheim’s sociology of knowledge and the anthropologies of Arnold Gehlen and Helmuth Plessner as well as the American pragmatists George Herbert Mead, William James, and John Dewey, and the later developing sociological perspectives of symbolic interactionism and ethnomethodology.

Luckmann probably best-known book is “The Social Construction of Reality—A Treatise in the Sociology of Knowledge” (1966) that he wrote together with Peter L. Berger … although, as he once put it, Luckmann and Berger actually wrote it “four-headed”, “because we both discussed what we were doing with our wives, who were scholars in their own right” (Dreher 2014). The influence of this book is enormous, if not, in some areas, pervasive, yet hard to quantify. It has been translated in many languages. Ideas and phrases (“the social construction of …”) have been trivialised through more or less thoughtful use—often a sign for impact far beyond narrow academic circles. Importantly, many authors have build explicitly on it since it was first published half a century ago; nonetheless many authors developed their own successful theoretical or empirical approaches with less explicit reference to it, in continuation of or in demarcation from it.

The book can be read, although not directly meant as a fundamental critique of (structural) functionalist reason. It also treats psychoanalysis with a little bit of irony. At the core, it amalgamates the sociologies of Emil Durkheim with Max Weber in the famous lead question: “How is it possible that human activity (Handeln) should produce a world of things (choses)?” (Berger & Luckmann 1966: 18). The ‘Social Construction’ provides a broad, not really specific theory that can and has been used as a set of general heuristics for grasping the historicity of what counts as real and relevant in a world shared by fellow humans, full also of things and non-humans, mainly focussing on their meaningful interactions. The book is deeply anthropological by recognising the importance of the body and the organism, of social things and their histories. Although often used as theoretical reference, it develops its great strengths especially when empirically studying all kinds of specific interactions and communications (in case of Luckmann himself: communicative genres as institutionalised routines, moral communication in particular). Its charm and actuality emerges from permanently urging the researcher to account both for the given structures and the actually just occurring interactions that make the world to what it is in that moment for those involved and later for those taking notice of how it was so far seen as real and normal.

Of enormous importance for the development of various contemporary discussions in sociology is the book “The Structures of the Life-World” (1974) that Luckmann developed from the notes and documents bequeathed unfinished by Alfred Schütz after his premature death in 1959. The Structures of the Life-World” have become a classic sociological text that provides the basis for sociological phenomenology and recent developments in the sociology of knowledge. In the book, Luckmann (and Schütz) unfold a theory to inform social theory, a conception of how a person’s life-world is constituted by individually and intersubjectively inhabiting a world of unquestioned everyday character.

A particular interest of Luckmann’s research has always been the role of religion in modern societies. Whilst Max Weber had highlighted the secularisation of society, Luckmann showed already in the 1960s how religion features in modern societies by virtue of a transformation of symbols. In 1967, he published the book ‘The Invisible Religion’ with a very broad notion of religiosity that can literally encompass everything, thereby allowing for discovering new or different forms of religiosity, less or not at all associated with an officially registered religious community. He distinguished small (within the everyday), middle-range (only indirect), and great (far beyond everyday reality reaching) transcendences. His theory of signs, symbols, and rituals is a logical and fruitful further elaboration of his effort to trace transcendences into all corners of social life. His analyses have provided the basis for the emergence of discussions about “popular religion” and “intermediary institutions”.

His studies into genres in (oral) communication laid the foundation for the emergence of the sociology of language and communication. In this area, his best-known work explores the “Communicative Construction of Moral” (with Jörg Bergmann, 1999). The recent emergence of “communicative constructivism” (Knoblauch 2013) as a new strand of theory and research pays testimony to the sustained impact of Luckmann’s work to the present day. Throughout his career Luckmann published in multiple languages and taught in different parts of the world making him a truly transcultural social theorist (Schnettler 2006). His work therefore was received well not only in Europe but also elsewhere in the world. Moreover, the influence of his work ripples through the social sciences and reaches also into the information sciences (e.g. Martin et al. 2012: 1192; Luckmann 2005).

Luckmann has questioned taken-for-granted assumptions about the equation of what is social and is human. From cultural anthropology and history he follows that what counts as social can be very different and changing. He always emphasised, often with a dry sense of humour, that he would stand for a “realist” position, especially when reminding so-called “constructivists” or “constructionists” of how much the materiality of things matters and which manifold roles it can play in the various social formations und dominating definitions of a ‘social world’ (Luckmann 1980). Scientific knowledge is seen in relation to everyday common sense knowledge as special knowledge. Science, in his view, different than religion, has failed to offer meaning to last questions because it is falsifiable in principle, never able to claim ultimate truths and has therefore run into its ‘cosmological fiasco’ of never having found the Archimedean point from which both world and reality could be explained as well as this explanation could be explained itself (Luckmann 1999, 1973).

Thomas Luckmann remained active in German and international sociology and in conversation with many neighbouring disciplines until very recently. On Tuesday, 10 May, he has died after a long illness in his mountain home in Carinthia, Austria (not far from the Slovenian boarder).


Sources

Berger, P. L., & Luckmann, T. (1966). The social construction of reality. A treatise in the sociology of knowledge. Garden City, New York: Doubleday

Bergmann, J., & Luckmann, T. (Eds.). (1999). Kommunikative Konstruktion von Moral. Band 1: Struktur und Dynamik der Formen moralischer Kommunikation (Vol. 1) & Band 2: Von der Moral zu den Moralen (Vol. 2). Opladen: Westdeutscher Verlag.

Dreher, Jochen (2014): 50th Anniversary Social Construction Thomas Luckmann. Sozialwissenschaftliches Archiv, Konstanz, at: www.youtube.com/watch?v=ObEsOZxslfE
 Knoblauch, H. (2013). Communicative constructivism and mediatization. Communication Theory, 23(3), 297–315. doi:10.1111/comt.12018
Luckmann, T. (2005). On the communicative construction of reality. Lecture to the LSE Department of Information Systems 2nd February 2005

Luckmann, T. (1999). Das kosmologische Fiasko der Soziologie. In R. Hitzler, J. Reichertz, & N. Schröer (Eds.), Hermeneutische Wissenssoziologie. Standpunkte zur Theorie der Interpretation (pp. 309-318). Konstanz: UVK

Luckmann, T. (1980). Über die Grenzen der Sozialwelt Lebenswelt und Gesellschaft (pp. 56-92). Paderborn et al.: Schöningh

Luckmann, T. (1973). Philosophy, Science and Everyday Life. In M. A. Natanson (Ed.), Phenomenology and the Social Sciences Vol. 1 (pp. 143-185). Evanston/Ill.: Northwestern UP

Luckmann, T. (1967). The invisible religion. New York: MacMillan

Martin, B., Nightingale, P., & Yegros-Yegros, A. (2012). Science and technology studies: Exploring the knowledge base. Research Policy, 41, 1182-1204. doi:doi:10.1016/j.respol.2012.03.010

Pawlowski, T., & Schmitz, H. W. (Eds.). (2003). 30 Jahre “Die gesellschaftliche Konstruktion der Wirklichkeit”. Gespräch mit Thomas Luckmann. Essen: Shaker
Schnettler, B. (2006). Thomas Luckmann. Konstanz: UVK


Wednesday, April 20, 2016

CFP SPQ

Social Psychology Quarterly


 
 



An Official Journal of the American Sociological Association  
 
April 20, 2016



Dear Section Members,

We are writing because we have learned that a significant number of members in this section also are members of the social psychology section. In an effort to expand the breadth of the journal, we are reaching out to you to encourage you to consider submitting your work to SPQ. We would like to attract more contributions to the journal from a broad base of researchers who use social psychological approaches. SPQ is publishing full length (10,000 words) theoretical and empirical Articles and Research Notes (5,000 words).  We think that for many in this section, this would include your work.

We want you to know that we are committed to making editorial decisions in a timely manner. Over the past year and half, we have average 35 days from submission to first decision. 

We hope that you will send your scholarship to Social Psychology Quarterly. Please contact us if you have any questions about a manuscript or the journal, more generally.

Kind Regards,



Richard T. Serpe, Professor                                                                       Jan E. Stets, Professor    
Kent State University                                                                                  University of California, Riverside 

Friday, April 8, 2016

Mel Pollner Award Michael Deland


The awards committee and section committee would like to congratulate Michael Deland on the award of the prize for his essay "Basketball in the Key of Law: The Significance of Disputing in Pick-Up Basketball." 2013 Law & Society Review. 47(3): 653-85

The Melvin Pollner Prize in Ethnomethodology honors the intellectual spirit and memory of Melvin Pollner.  The $1000 award recognizes an article, chapter, or book published between 2010-2014, that develops original work drawing upon, or resonant with, Melvin Pollner's ethnomethodological interests in topics such as mundane reason, reality disjunctures, radical reflexivity, and the connections and contributions of ethnomethodology to other types of sociology. The Award Committee citation reads: 


After carefully reading and sharing our views of the four nominated articles, the committee unanimously agreed that this year the Pollner Prize should go to Michael DeLand for his essay "Basketball in the Key of Law: The Significance of Disputing in Pick-Up Basketball." 2013 Law & Society Review. 47(3): 653-85. In this essay DeLand masterfully shows how disputing rule violations in pick up basketball serves to frame the game as a serious competition in which players hold a genuine stake. As he notes, disputes over rule violations in the context pick up basketball present a number of fascinating analytic opportunities for those interested in the rule of law as a mundane practical achievement-a topic Mel Pollner made famous through his ethnographic investigations in traffic courts. Drawing on Pollner's  concept of "reality disjunctures," DeLand highlights how competing versions of what happened in the game (and whether what happened constitutes a rule violation) are adjudicated in the absence of unequivocal legal authorities. The essay makes a compelling contribution to the Pollnerian legacy.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Lifetime achievement award John Heritage

The ASA EMCA awards Committee and section officers would like congratulate John Heritage on the award of Lifetime Achievement Award. The committee unanimously agreed with the assessment of the letters of support received for the award, noting his enduring and outstanding contribution to EMCA and sociology.



Congratulations John!


Thursday, December 17, 2015

December newsletter

Dear EMCA Section

Our latest newsletter is available with many important news updates.
2015 December newsletter

Much as we have enjoyed serving the EMCA community for the last 18 months, all
good things do come to an end and we need a willing individual or individuals to stand for election
to chair the Section. Erik Vinkhuyzen is leading a Nominations Committee in this search, as well as
looking for candidates for two vacancies as Section Council members. Please don’t wait to be called
or for your colleagues to volunteer you – make Erik’s job easy and put your own name forward to
tokyovink@gmail.com

All the best seasons wishes

Robert, Mardi, Emily and Edward

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

ASA CFP 16



Call for Papers EMCA Section of ASA

Seattle, August 20-23

Submission is now open

Submission Deadline: January 6, 2016, 3PM EST

Regular Sessions  (Organized by ASA)   
Conversation Analysis.
David Gibson, University of Notre Dame

Ethnomethodology.
Robert Dingwall, Nottingham Trent University


Section Sessions  (Organized by the Section)

*New Directions in EM/CA Research (one-hour).
This session invites submissions from researchers who are, broadly speaking, taking EM/CA research in new directions. For example, these researchers may be using an EM/CA approach in a previously under-studied context with under-studied types of participants, or they may be researching new  interactional/practical sensemaking phenomena altogether. Alternatively, they may have made new advances in traditional areas of EM/CA scholarship.

Session Organizer:  Tim Berard, Kent State University

*Session will be 1-hour in length; followed by the Section’s 40-minute business meeting


Current Studies in Conversation Analysis
This session invites submissions from researchers who use the approach of conversation analysis to understand naturally occurring interaction. Typically, this means that researchers will make use of audio or videotaped data in real world settings, but the session is open to consideration of researchers who may use other methods to understand the close coordination of interactional conduct and the cultural and relational factors that bear on this conduct.

Session Organizer:   Mardi Kidwell, University of New Hampshire
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