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Exploring the meaning of work: A CMM analysis of the grammar of working among Acadian -Americans

John Chetro Szivos, University of Massachusetts Amherst


This study explores the meaning of work by focusing on the grammar of the term working among Acadian-Americans. The Acadian-Americans offered an exceptional starting point because of their deep pride and commitment to working. While the Acadian-Americans do not represent all cultures, they show how the meaning of working is dependent on the grammar of the term. Grammar refers to Wittgenstein's idea which includes the gestures, emotions, patterns of behavior, and rules that people may use in the way they talk about a concept such as working. This would also embody how the concept is organized (Wittgenstein, 1958). A grammar is learned by acting with others in a way that is coherent and makes sense to the participants. The study shows how the “right way” of working is dependent on critical features within this community. The Coordinated Management of Meaning (CMM) developed by Pearce and Cronen (1980) is used as a theory and methodology to analyze the situated interaction of Acadian-Americans. CMM, which has been largely influenced by the work of the American pragmatists, most notably Dewey, James, and Mead, regards communication as the primary social process. The analysis explored the stories told and lived by the Acadian-Americans about working and identified the logical and moral forces that were critical in enacting episodes of action. This study focused on the aesthetical aspects of experience and how feeling and action organizes and symbolizes experience. The consummatory experience of working, an idea first explored by Dewey (1934), provided a heightened sense of identity and membership in a community of people that act and feel a certain way about working. The study concludes that working is lived action and socially constructed through situated interaction. Thus, working can take on different meanings in different contexts with its own rules and practices that guide peoples' actions. This study reveals that working is not the same in all places for all people. CMM is a practical theory, and this study in the tradition of CMM and American pragmatism, offers directions for managers and leaders outside of the academy.

Subject Area

Mass media|Social psychology|Philosophy

Recommended Citation

Chetro Szivos, John, "Exploring the meaning of work: A CMM analysis of the grammar of working among Acadian -Americans" (2001). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3000351.