ALONE AND WITH OTHERS: A Grammar of Interpersonal Behavior by Murray Melbin

ALONE AND WITH OTHERS: A Grammar of Interpersonal Behavior

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Melbin, a professor of sociology at Boston University, attempts to construct a comprehensive theory and workable methodology for studying everyday social acts. Although his general conclusions are hardly startling (individual conduct is principally influenced by others; behavior is not an isolated phenomenon; etc.) several of his theoretical formulations are bound to generate debate (most of it derisive) within the field -- if (and this is questionable) the book is actually read and understood. Melbin's most controversial postulate is that observable behavior in ordinary social situations creates ""rich packets"" of interpersonal mental ""sensations"" and as a result the ""mind in the company of others is no longer individual"" but merged or suffused into an amorphous social ""network."" (The key word here of course is ""sensations"" and, despite manful efforts, Melbin is unable to clearly pinpoint his meaning of the term.) Melbin is out of the same sociological closet as Erring Goffman (Relations in Public p. 979, etc.) though his style in no way approaches Goffman's accessibility and his methodological design is much more sophisticated -- a case study of mental hospital attendant-patient behaviors classified and analyzed with the help of elaborate situational and probability reaction tables. Obviously this is not for readers unschooled in modern sociological techniques and the suspicion exists that even many of Melbin's colleagues will find much of this overbearingly turgid and jargon-ridden.

Pub Date: Jan. 26th, 1971
Publisher: Harper & Row