The Sociology of the Local: Action and its Publics

Gary Alan Fine*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

82 Scopus citations

Abstract

Sociology requires a robust theory of how local circumstances create social order. When we analyze social structures not recognizing that they depend on groups with collective pasts and futures that are spatially situated and that are based on personal relations, we avoid a core sociological dimension: the importance of local context in constituting social worlds. Too often this has been the sociological stance, both in micro-sociological studies that examine interaction as untethered from local traditions and in research that treats culture as autonomous from action and choice. Building on theories of action, group dynamics, and micro-cultures, I argue that a sociology of the local solves critical theoretical problems. The local is a stage on which social order gets produced and a lens for understanding how particular forms of action are selected. Treating ethnographic studies as readings of ongoing cultures, I examine how the continuing and referential features of group life (spatial arenas, relations, shared pasts) generate action and argue that local practices provide the basis for cultural extension, influencing societal expectations through the linkages among groups.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)355-376
Number of pages22
JournalSociological Theory
Volume28
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 1 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science

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