Cooperative Accounts: Avoiding Conflict and Repairing Social Relations

Stephen C. Poulson, Timothy J. Carter, Daniel M. Crowley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The analytical concept of accounts has long presented sociologists with an excellent tool for the study of talk. Nonetheless, studies of accounts often neglect the fact that cooperation is common when an account for untoward behavior is constructed. Many studies tend to flatten the process of how accounts are created by routinely describing them as being “offered” by offenders and then “evaluated” by reproachers. We assume that accounts are often negotiated between parties as a means of avoiding conflict and preserving a relationship. As such, this paper develops the concept of cooperative accounts that are offered to (or projected upon) offenders as a means of explaining their untoward behavior. While also examining hostile accounts, this paper concentrates on developing the cooperative account in order to investigate more fully Scott and Lyman's (1968) argument that accounts are crucial for managing conflict and maintaining social order. Because offering cooperative accounts to others is a routine social interaction their examination provides an opportunity to reanchor the study of accounts back into the symbolic interactionist tradition.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)143-164
Number of pages22
JournalSymbolic Interaction
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Nursing
  • Social Psychology
  • Education
  • Communication
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • General Social Sciences


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