Sociology, Department of


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Hill, Michael R. 1988. “Framing ‘Bomb Talk’: The Macro Consequences of the Microfoundations of Social Interaction in a Goffmanian Nuclear World.” Paper presented to the Parsons Conference on Microfoundations of Macrosociology, Department of Sociology, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, April 9.


Copyright 1988 Michael R. Hill


This paper, originating with issues generated in Professor Deegan’s seminar on contemporary sociological theory at the University of Nebraska, explores the “frames” or microfoundations of everyday interaction and their consequences for the ultimate macrosociological threat: global nuclear annihilation. The theoretical basis of this study is Erving Goffman’s Frame Analysis: An Essay on the Organization of Experience. The adequacy and comprehensiveness of Goffman’s major constructs are substantiated by data from the everyday world of newspapers and popular culture. “Keys” (or transformational conventions) are pivotal in this analysis. The central thesis of this paper holds that the keys used to transformationally restructure and “make sense of” frames in everyday, interpersonal interactions allow us to routinely ignore the high probability of macrosociological annihilation by keying it into less lethal frames, thereby dangerously increasing the probability of global nuclear holocaust. The paper concludes with the hypothesis that solving the macrosociological threat of global genocide requires inventing a new framework of meaning for the micro-level organization of everyday life.