The objective of this thesis is to describe and analyze "asymmetric interaction." It seeks to find out what the consequences of asymmetry are in an actual confrontation and for the parties involved in it. This study is an attempt to develop, to operationalize, and to illustrate the concept of asymmetry in an empirical investigation. Symbolic interactionism constitutes the basis for both my own perspective and my theoretical frame of reference. Asymmetry cannot be described in a void. It must be described in terms of interaction between two or more players in a social context. I therefore apply the analysis to a specific social case at Stockholm's Social Services Department using the hermeneutic method.
My objective is to better comprehend the whole by understanding its elements. To start with, I try to understand the specific elements, such as labeling, through the whole. The dialectics between specific elements and between the elements and the whole comprise my methodological impetus. Using the empirical process, I repeatedly return to the same events. I do so in different ways to augment my understanding, thus making it possible to create a cumulative, spiral- shaped learning process.
The method can also be described as a dialogue-oriented, observation study. In this case, I follow a basic premise in hermeneutic social science. Human action and the actual culture must be studied and described from the basis of the individual's conception of himself.
Initially I establish that asymmetric interaction exists between players in the social context I describe. There are two different ways to see and understand the same process. I show that these two approaches are incompatible because of asymmetry. The client's objective is to defend his rights and his opinions. The social workers feel their duty is to re-socialize and discipline the deviating individual. This confrontation between the two parties leads to conflict. I see "formal rationality" as an overwhelming social ideology. Power and authority comprise the central concept. The model raises the analysis to a social level. Because of this, it adds to the understanding of asymmetric interaction.
Umeå: Umeå Universitet , 1996. , 234 p.