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Chapter 4 - Social Structure and Interaction in Everyday Life

Chapter 4 - Social Structure and Interaction in Everyday Life

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4 S O C I A L S T R U C T U R E A N D I N T E R A C T I O N I N E V E RY D AY L I F E Social Structure: The Macrolevel Perspective Components of Social Structure Status Roles Groups Social Institutions Societies: Changes in Social Structure Mechanical and Organic Solidarity Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft Social Structure and Homelessness Social Interaction: The Microlevel Perspective Social Interaction and Meaning The Social Construction of Reality Ethnomethodology Dramaturgical Analysis The Sociology of Emotions Nonverbal Communication Changing Social Structure and Interaction in the Future
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I BEGAN D UMPSTER DIVING [scavenging in a large garbage bin] about a year before I became homeless. . . . The area I frequent is inhabited by many affluent college students. I am not here by chance; the Dumpsters in this area are very rich. Students throw out many good things, including food. In partic- ular they tend to throw everything out when they move at the end of a semester, beforeand after breaks, and around midterm, when many of them despair of college. So I find it advanta- geous to keep an eye on the academic calendar. I learned to scavenge gradually, on my own.Since then I have initiated several companions into the trade. I have learned that there is a predictable series of stages a person goes through in learning to scavenge. At first the new scavenger is filled with disgust and self-loathing. He is ashamed of being seen and may lurk around, trying to duck behind things, or he may dive at night. (In fact, most people instinc- tively look away from a scavenger. By skulking around, the novice calls attention to himself and arouses suspicion. Diving at night is ineffective and needlessly messy.) . . . That stage passes with experience. The scavenger finds a pair of run- ning shoes that fit and look and smell brand- new. . . . He begins to understand: People throw away perfectly good stuff, a lot of per- fectly good stuff. At this stage, Dumpster shyness begins to dissipate. The diver, after all, has the last laugh. He is finding all manner of good things that are his for the taking. Those who disparage his profession are the fools, not he. —AUTHOR LARS EIGHNER recalling his experiences as a Dumpster diver while living under a shower curtain in a stand of bamboo in a public park. Eighner became homeless when he was evicted from his “shack” after being unemployed for about a year. (Eighner, 1993: 111–119) E ighner’s “diving” activities reflect a specific pattern of social behavior. All activities in life— including scavenging in garbage bins and living “on the streets”—are social in nature. Homeless persons and domiciled persons (those with homes) live in social worlds that have pre- dictable patterns of social interaction. Social interaction is the process by which people act toward or respond to other people and is the foundation for all relationships and groups in society. In this chapter, we look at the relationship between social structure and social interaction. In the process, homelessness is used as an example
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