Graduate Seminar: Soc. C229A Sociology of Interpersonal Conflict

Professor Robert M. Emerson

This course will explore the dynamics of interpersonal conflicts, disputes and troubles. In so doing we will draw upon bodies of theory and research developed over the past 30 years which departs from the observation that what may ultimately become legal claims against others, or even specific forms of crime and deviance, begin as informal troubles or disputes. Such disputes and troubles arise as people come to perceive and formulate grievances against others, and as they pursue and escalate these grievances through various claims-making procedures. In this processs one key juncture occurs when a claim is rejected and yet the claimant persists, leading to an overt dispute between the parties. A second key juncture arises when official third parties are brought into the matter; third party intervention critically determines both the nature and the outcome of any particular dispute/trouble.

This course will focus on how such interpersonal disputes and troubles arise, perhaps fester and/or escalate, and on how parties to disputes attempt to respond and perhaps resolve these disagreements, sometimes by trying a series of indigenous remedies, sometimes by turning to official third parties. In this respect, focusing on interpersonal conflicts raises critical issues regarding processes of informal social control in contemporary social life.