Course:SOCI1110/Harold Garfinkle

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Harold Garfinkel

Harold Garfinkel

American Sociologist, Ethomethodologist, as well as a Professor at the University of California. (October 29,1917 - April 21, 2011)


Harold Garfkinel was born in Newmark, New Jersey on October 29, 1917. Growing up he lived in Newmark, where his father, Abraham, had a local business selling housewares. Instead of following in his father's footsteps and taking up the family business, he decided to go to the University of Newmark to study business, and accounting. He later developed a deep interest in sociology, and moved on to study that instead. He then went to the University of North Carolina, and earned his master's degree in 1932. In the summer of 1942 Garfinkel started a field study of Bastrop, Texas, and started sociological research for the Army and Navy in Gulfport Field, Mississippi from 1942-1946. From 1951 - 1953 he held a high ranking position at Princeton University. By the time Garfinkel was 35 years old he had written more than twelve impressive manuscripts, all before he earned his PhD at Harvard in the summer of 1952. Garfinkel finally retired from in 1987, but became a professor emeritus in sociology at the University of California, Los Angelas. He was an American Sociologist, Ethomethodologist, as well as a Professor at the University of California. Garfinkel died at the age of 93, in his home in Pacific Palisades, California, due to congestive heart failure. He was survived by his wife, Arlene, his daughter, Leah, and his son, Mark.


Garfinkel was influenced by Talcott Parsons, and Alfred Schütz. Parsons was a sociologist of the classical tradition, Garfinkel was very fascinated by his research on social order. Schutz was a European scholar which started to introduce Garfinkel into newly important ideas in social theory, psychology and phenomenology.

Early Work

The term Ethnomethodology was invented and created by Harold Garfinkel in 1954. Ethenomethodology examines how human beings communicate while interacting with one another. Garfinkel is well known for his published book called "Studies in Ethnomethodology" in 1967. Which was followed by unpublished articles in two volumes called "Seeing Sociologically" and "Ethnomethodology's Program."

The World Around Him

Harold Garfinkel lived through both world wars. This situates him in many interesting points in history. Even though Garfinkel could not participate in World War One because he was just a baby, by the time World War Two occurred he had become an adult. He enlisted in the military, and conducted sociological research for the Army and Air Force in Gulfport Field, Mississippi, from 1942-1946. As a Jewish man dedicated to racial justice, Garfinkel took his work for the military very seriously. The Second World War actually ended up uniting social scientists. Since the study of social sciences was completely put on hold in occupied Europe, some of Europe's scientists had come to join the research in America. In 1939, the American Sociological Association and its higher ups started to aid the war and peace efforts in both institutional and substantive ways. This helped sociology become a "well-respected and unified science."(Rawls, 2013)

Relevant World Events Durring Garfinkel's Life

1917 - America enters WWI 1918 - WWI ends 1931 - Great Depression at its worst, more that 25% of Americans unemployed 1939 - WWII begins in Europe 1941 - Pearl Habor is attacked

        - America joins the war
        - Women enter the workforce

1945 - America drops first atomic bomb on Japan

        - WWII ends

1949 - NATO is created 1950 - Start of the Korean war 1961 - Vietnam war begins

        - Berlin Wall is built

1962 - Cuban Missile Crisis 1963 - Present Kennedy is assassinated 1965 - People begin protesting war

        - Malcom X is assassinated

1966 - People riot over race 1967 - People are still rioting over race

        - Vietnam war becomes even more intense

1975 - Vietnam war ends


Harold Garfinkel has published quite a few writtings. One of his most famous writings is


Garfinkel, H. (1964). Studies of the Routine Grounds of Everyday Activities. Social Problems, 11(3), 225-250. doi:1. Retrieved from doi:1

Lynch, M. (2011, July 13). Harold Garfinkel obituary. The Guardian. Retrieved from


US history Timeline: 1900 - 2000. (1950). Retrieved October 24, 2016, from Rawls, A. W. (2013). The early years, 1939-1953: Garfinkel at north Caroline, Harvard and Princeton. Journal of Classical Sociology, 13(2). 303-312.


Weber, B. (2014, September 8). Harold Garfinkel, a common-sense sociologist, dies at 93. U.S. Retrieved from

Garfinkel, H., & Rawls, A. (2015). Toward A sociological theory of information. Retrieved from

In-line Citation: (Garfinkel & Rawls, 2015) Phenomenology online. (2011). Retrieved October 23, 2016, from