Scheff, T. (1997) 'Part/Whole
Morphology: Unifying Single Case and Comparative Methods'
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Received: 5/8/97 Accepted: 11/9/97 Published: 30/9/97
Furthermore, since verification is costly and time-consuming, only hypotheses and theories should be tested which are not only plausible, but are likely to be general and important. The procedure outlined here is more labourious than most qualitative studies, but it is also more cost-efficient than those which automatically seek verification. The approach outlined here can be seen as the next step after what Giddens (1984) has called 'instantiation'. He asked for actual instances of the behaviour described by any theory. His call, in turn, can be seen as a reiteration of Max Weber's (1947) insistence that the task of sociology is to reduce concepts about society to 'understandable action, that is, without exception, to the actions of participating individuals (persons).
Try to reconstruct a dialogue from your own life, the dialogue of a quarrel or a dialogue of love. The most precious, the most important situations are utterly gone. Their abstract sense remains (I took this point of view, he took that one. I was aggressive, he was defensive), perhaps a detail or two. But the acousticovisual concreteness of the situation in all its continuity is lost.
And not only is it lost but we do not even wonder at this loss. We are resigned to losing the concreteness of the present. We immediately transform the present moment into its abstraction. We need only recount an episode we experienced a few hours ago: the dialogue contracts to a brief summary, the setting to a few general features. This applies to even the strongest memories which affect the mind deeply like a trauma: we are so dazzled by their potency that we don't realize how schematic and meager their content is.
When we study, discuss, analyze a reality, we analyze it as it appears in our mind, in our memory. We know reality only in the past tense. We do not know it as it is in the present in the moment when it's happening, when it is. The present moment is unlike the memory of it. Remembering is not the negative of forgetting. Remembering is a form of forgetting.
We can assiduously keep a diary and note every event. Rereading the entries one day we will see that they cannot evoke a single concrete image. And still worse: that the imagination is unable to help our memory along and reconstruct what has been forgotten. The present - the concreteness of the present - as a phenomenon to consider, as a structure, is for us an unknown planet: so we can neither hold on to it in our memory nor reconstruct it through imagination. We die without knowing what we have lived. (Kundera, 1995: pp. 128 - 129, emphasis added)
[One approach to psychology] is to assert that individual behaviour cannot be predicted, but only 'understood' after it occurs. This solution puts [psychology] firmly into the area of hermeneutics, ie. the humane study of texts ... Close examination shows us clearly that this approach is indistinguishable from that of the biographer writing as a contributor to nonfiction literature... (Maher, 1991: p. 72, emphasis added)
the capacity to shift from one perspective to another - from the political to the psychological; from examination of a single family to comparative assessment of the national budgets of the world; from the theological school to the military establishment; from considerations of an oil industry to studies of contemporary poetry. It is the capacity to range from the most impersonal and remote transformations to the most intimate features of the human self-and to see the relations between the two. (C. Wright Mills' (1959: p.7)).
2 Nicholas Tavuchis called this book to my attention.
3 See Cicourel's theoretically oriented books , articles and many empirical studies.
4 Part/whole relations are clearly a central theme for Husserl (Lampert, 1989) also, but his approach is so abstract I found it impossible to follow. For an extremely cautious modern approach to parts and wholes, see Lerner (1963).
5 Discussed at greater length in Scheff and Retzinger (1994).
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