Jane Addams’s Pragmatist Method Extended: Care Work Between Abstract Rules and Situated Practice

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    Although Jane Addams has long been recognized as a pioneer in North American pragmatism, efforts to develop her thought into a distinct research program have been limited. This article develops Addams’s work as a method of sociological inquiry by focusing on her notions of “perplexity,” “moral adjustment,” and “sympathetic understanding.” Emphasizing the essential role of language in moral conflicts and reconstruction, the article incorporates Charles Wright Mills’s concept of “vocabularies of motives.” Together, these notions offer a framework for exploring the moral dilemmas that care workers experience when responding to the imposition of standardization of their working practices. A case study demonstrates how care workers, while coping creatively with the effects of a service reform, develop motive vocabularies in defense of their professional ethics. Such situated creativity on “the shop floor” of social services remains relatively under-explored and under-theorized.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalQualitative Inquiry
    Issue number10
    Pages (from-to)1027-1038
    Number of pages12
    Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022

    Bibliographical note

    Published online: 06 June 2022.


    • Jane Addams
    • Pragmatist theory
    • Vocabularies of motive
    • Care ethics
    • Home care

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