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INTRODUCTION TO GRID/GROUP ANALYSIS Mary Douglas

I broached the idea in 'Natural Symbols' (1970), which was only an impressionistic account of cultural controls upon consciousness drawn from anthropologically reported examples from all over the world. I tried to refine and to systematize it in 'Cultural Bias1 (1978). In this new volume of essays, various contributors unfold the possibilities of the method, each applying it to a different field. The book divides into three sections. The first four essays directly address problems in the method. The second part consists of comparative studies in history and the history of ideas. The last part comes into close focus on selected case histories showing in detail how the method can be used for better insight. We can say that this book is an argument between the authors, and at the same time a book about kinds of argumentation. It starts from plausible assumptions about the sociological effects of arguments going on in social gatherings of all kinds. In families, in churches, in boardrooms, in sports committees, there are discussions of what should be done, and allocations of responsibility. Such argumentation defines social categories. Its outcomes are enforcements or suspensions of rules. The method tried out is devised to trace these arguments to the fundamental assumptions about the universe which they invoke; its objective is to discover how alternative visions of society are selected and sustained. Its first simplifying assumption is that the infinite array of social interactions can be sorted and classified into a few grand classes. The object is not to come up with something original but gently to push what is known into an explicit typology that captures the wisdom of a hundred years of sociology, anthropology and psychology. Then we can hope to ask new questions.