Talking Politics


  • J.R.E. Lee Costa Del Sol, Spain



This paper revisits the author's Ph.D. research in the Department of Social Anthropology at the University of Manchester during the early 1960s. Wes Sharrock also was a PhD student there, and they shared dissatisfactions with the predominant approaches to sociology at the time, and turned for inspiration Winch's critique of social science and Wittgenstein's philosophy of language. At that time they also became acquainted with the empirical alternative to sociology offered by ethnomethodology. This paper describes how insights inspired through frequent and long conversations with Sharrock inspired the approach the author took in his observational study of active members of a local political party. The study was focused on "The Left Wing" of that party, but rather than treating talk of "The Left" as a representation of a stable ideological group, the study paid close attention to the discursive use of the distinction between members of the local party leadership, and elucidated the changing membership of "The Left Wing" and the occasioned relevance of being included in that category. The study suggested that "talking politics" was not a merely a matter of talking about politics, but was an expression of and constitutive feature of local party politics.