Some Ontological Implications of Situational Analysis

in Social Analysis

This essay argues that the Manchester case study method or situational analysis has theoretical implications more radical than Gluckman was in a position to see, implications bearing on the nature of the reality of society. In effect, the essay is an anthropological exercise in ontology. It maintains that the problems situational analysis was designed to address were integral to, and hence irresolvable in, the Durkheimian social ontology then characterizing British social anthropology, and that situational analysis insinuated an altogether different ontology. The latter is adumbrated here by appeal to certain Heideggerian concepts in an effort to bring into relief the unique capacity of situational analysis to capture social practice in its dynamic openness and, correlatively, in relation to human agency as a distinctively creative force.