Having read quite a number of IE articles, and anticipating using IE in my research in care settings, I have come to an inverse argument to John. As Laura says, the hidden functionings and doings (activities) of ruling relations are laid bare in IE projects, and have been used particularly to expose the operation of neo-liberal counter-revolutions in Canadian health care. However, to a cynical socialist like me, this neo-liberal influence was not news, but the result of a systematic application of ideology. IE detected how it - unwittingly to them - changed healthcare workers' practices, and re-shaped how healthcare provision was thought about. I have been tempted to say, "so what?" But then, maybe Dorothy Smith would say I am using highly abstract and possibly gendered sociological concepts to arrive at my analysis, to which she could equally say "so what?". Is it possible that IE/point of entry/ethnomethodologically congruent/ground up approaches and sociological/abstract/authoritative approaches are technologies of analysis in a dialectical process/tension? IE developed as an anti-thesis to sociological, abstract, institutional collaboration: is there a sythesis waiting out there?
In any ethnography, what can be established and followed up will be influenced by over-arching theory, even Grounded Theory! Or should there always be a dialogue, mediated by others in a co-operative, between what has been observed and the observer's textual cultural artefacts?