On Howard S. Becker

layman-2009jazz-splshI am by no means a regular reader of The New Yorker, and, in fact, I tend to privilege UK publications over the US based equivalent monthlies. So, for instance, the London Review of Books over the New York Review of Books, or the bi-mothly New Left Review over the Monthly Review or the more ‘generational’ Jacobin. There are, I am certain, complex and perhaps not so interesting reasons for this… that have everything to do with my being a citizen of Venezuela, born in Moscow, and a resident of Canberra.

Still, I have found Adam Gopnik’s piece on Howard Becker published about a fortnight ago to be really very good. Others I am certain will tell me that Gopnik’s pieces are generally good. Indeed, the piece would be excellent, if it dedicated another two or three paragraphs to outlining the very different directions sociology and social research have taken in the US and France. There are many allusions to this, but no clear statement on the matter. Perhaps simply suggesting some references might do the trick.

Becker’s work is good, and I think that it merits all the attention it has received, and in a particularly Latin American sort of way –itself mediated by our reception of French sociology– I tend to relate his work to H. Garfinkel’s ‘ethnomethodology’ and B. Latour’s ‘actor-network theory’. I. Goffman does gets a gossipy mention in Gopnik’s piece, but that seems less relevant to me.

I have Becker’s (& C. Ragin’s) early 1990s Exploring the Foundations of Social Inquiry on the ‘to-read pile’, and will now add Becker’s latest Mozart/Murder text (and move the earlier one) to the ‘to-read-sooner’ pile.

Gopnik’s ‘The Outside Game’ on Becker, through here.

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