The committee for the 2020 Melvin Pollner Prize in Ethnomethodology, consisting of Götz Hoeppe (Chair), Alex Dennis and Nozomi Ikeya, is pleased to announce the recipient of this year’s award:
R.J. Anderson and W. W. Sharrock. Action at a Distance: Studies in the Practicalities of Executive Management. London and New York: Routledge, 2018.
Anderson and Sharrock’s Action at a Distance is a significant contribution to ethnomethodology and management studies. Drawing upon their own experiences as and with managers, the authors consider documents as ordering devices for the co-ordinated action of organizational work, through which managers influence the actions of others who are separated by time, physical and organizational space, thereby “creating the organization as a consociate social structure.” Their analysis demonstrates ethnomethodological studies can be fruitfully undertaken on actions without face to face interaction, i.e., “action at a distance.” This sophisticated analysis informs and exemplifies the reconceptualisation of ethnomethodology as a “first sociology” (disclosing what sociology presupposes), and introduces “third person phenomenology” as a study policy. Third person phenomenology provides a third person description of the internal configuration of first person experience without immersive fieldwork. Anderson and Sharrock thus formulate a thoughtfully argued response to Pollner’s late critique of ethnomethodology’s accommodation to conventional sociology, eradicating the distinction between members and analysts, and generating accounts that simply repeat what members say. This response is framed as a pair of problems. Firstly, how can one “bracket” the assumptions of the natural attitude when they are necessarily part and parcel of sociological work? Secondly, what is the status of ethnomethodological claims: are they objectivist findings or situated construals? Given the technical sophistication of Pollner’s critique, their creative response is useful both within and outside the EMCA community in advancing the understanding of ethnomethodology.