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Queue Culture: The Waiting Line as a Social System

Leon Mann
American Journal of Sociology
Vol. 75, No. 3 (Nov., 1969), pp. 340-354
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2775696
Page Count: 15
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Queue Culture: The Waiting Line as a Social System
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Abstract

The long, overnight queue is seen as a miniature social system faced with the problems of every social system, formulating its own set set of informal rules to govern acts of pushing in and place keeping, leaves of absence, and the applications of sanctions. Cultural values of egalitarianism and orderliness are related to respect for the principle of service according to order of arrival which is embodied in the idea of a queue. The importance of time in Western culture is reflected in rules relating to "serving time" to earn one's position in line, and to the regulation of "time-outs." The value of business enterprise is expressed in the activities of professional speculators and queue "counters." Queue jumping is discouraged by a number of contraints, but, if social pressure fails, physical force is seldom used to eject the intruder. Principles of queue etiquette are illustrated with empirical and anecdotal evidence from the study of Australian football queues.

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