The social and the fundamental : groups, structure, and construction

Pagano, Emilie
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Jon walks into a bar and orders a Manhattan. The bartender asks him for twenty USD’s, he coughs them up, and sulks off with his cocktail. Clearly, this everyday interaction both is and involves social phenomena. Although there are many kinds of social phenomena, it’s quite plausible that one kind is fundamental relative to the rest: social groups. Jon is a patron and, so, an ‘element’ of a particular group – a business – of which his cocktail is a product. Moreover, the twenty USD’s he coughs up are printed by one group, the Bureau of Printing and Engraving, and its value is underwritten by another group, the United States Treasury. Even the advertisements, the swank, and the wealth inequality that partly account for Jon’s decision to pay twenty USD’s for a cocktail are deeply related to groups. Advertisements come from agencies, swank from social practices that we practice, and wealth inequality from institutions that systematically disadvantage by groups of folks. Social reality is remarkably complex, but what we do as patrons, producers, and practitioners – how we function as denizens – are at the heart of it. As a result, the question arises: what are groups? In this dissertation, I try to answer this question.