Ethnomethodology at Work (Directions in Ethnomethodology and Conversation Analysis)

Rouncefield, Mark and Tolmie, Peter
Ashgate, Aldershot
9780754647713 (hb)

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Cover of book Ethnomethodology at Work, edited by Mark Rouncefield and Peter Tolmie, gathers a collection of essays around the ethnomethodology in practice. Throughout the book, there is a clear will to question the mundanity of working practices, which involves challenging taken-for-granted assumptions about the nature of work. The ethnomethodological approach to the study of work is illustrated through twelve chapters, written by some of the most prominent contributors in the field. The rationale behind this book is to provide new-comers to the field, students and new researchers alike, with a basis for understanding ethnomethodology in practice. As such, this book would prove particularly useful for people interesting to engage into ethnomethodology and the clearly targeted readership makes it a well-focused book.

In the first chapter, which serves as an introduction, Randall and Sharrock show how ethnomethodology differs from the sociology of work in that the latter fails to question assumptions on work itself. In the second chapter, Sharrock focuses on organisational planning in relation to the division of work and outlines its importance on work. The third chapter, by Tolmie and Rouncefield, deals with organisational acumen and shows how it becomes visible through prioritization, compliance to policies and descriptions of organizations. Hughes, in chapter four, outlines the importance of calculations as an everyday practice in organisational life. In the fifth chapter, Randall and Rouncefield explore issues around planning and plans and outline their ubiquity and significance within organisations. In chapter six, Crabtree, Rouncefield and Tolmie pore over time at the workplace but instead of focusing on the temporal dimension of time, they put the emphasis on the practical reality associated to it. Chapter seven, written by Martin and O'Neil, considers how organisations are performed in practice through talks and take the example of representatives-customers talks. In the following chapter, Hughes, Randall, Rouncefield and Tolmie challenge the assumptions made by sociologists that ethnomethodology cannot reflect on power and, through references to organisational politics and talks, further distinguish between the postmodernist perspective and the ethnomethodological perspective on power. In chapter nine, Hartswood, Rouncefield, Slack and Carlin pore over certain practices associated with documents and their use within organisations. Rooksby, in chapter ten, contends that texts are ubiquitous in the workplace and proposes a re-thinking of the mundane practices of reading and writing in organisations. Finally, in the last chapter, which serves as a conclusion, Sharrock and Button not only separate ethnomethodology from the sociology of work but also from the social construction of technology; ethnomethodology is about investigating what makes work the way it is.

Ethnomethodology at work provides readers with a solid understanding of ethnomethodology in practice. The various chapters illustrate many different aspects of organizational life 'calculations, meetings, power, planning, texts to name but a few' and within in each chapter, there is an attempt to show how ethnomethodology would view and tackle those particular issues within the workplace. Besides, throughout the book, there is a clear determination to distinguish ethnomethodology from the sociology of work and other approaches and to give ethnomethodology back its due credit. The only criticism which might be addressed to this book is that it could have benefited from a conceptual and historical development of ethnomethodology.

Jeremy Aroles
Manchester Business School