Dorothy Smith's feminist essay, ''A sociology for women,'' begins by calling attention to a ''line of fault'': ''a point of rupture in my/our experience as woman/women within the social forms of consciousness – the culture or ideology of our society – in relation to the world known otherwise, the world directly felt, sensed, responded to, prior to its social expression''. Smith first wrote of women's bifurcated consciousness in the early 1970s.
She pointed to the shift away from embodied experience into a governing, conceptual mode of consciousness associated with the ''ruling relations'' of industrial capitalism. She saw in most women's lives in that period a distinctive subjectivity, a ''bifurcated conscious- ness'' organized by women's household labor and the tasks assigned to them, historically, in the occupational division of labor.
As mothers, wives, community volunteers, nurses, secretaries, and so on, Smith argued, women engage with people's bodily existence, performing essential but invisible work within organizations. In such positions, women hold in their consciousness both embodied and institutional ways of seeing and thinking. When attention is directed to this disjuncture, a ''line of fault'' opens the organization of social life to analytic scrutiny.
Smith's distinctive approach drew from the materialist method of Marx, the social psychology of George Herbert Mead, and the phenomenology of Alfred Schutz. In later writings, she developed ''institutional ethnography'' an ''alternative sociology'' designed to explore the dis- junctures of life within textually mediated societies.