Symbolic Interactionism : An Introduction, an Interpretation, an Integration

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  • Edition: 8th
  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2004-01-01
  • Publisher: Prentice Hall
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Using a unique step-by-step,integrated approach, this book organizes the basic concepts of symbolic interactionism in such a way that readers understand them clearly and are able toapply them to their own lives. It emphasizes the active side of human beings-humans as definers and users of the environment, humans as problem solvers and in control of their own actions-and it shows students how society makes us, and how we in turn shape society. Each chapter examines a single concept, but relates that concept to the whole perspective and to other concepts in the perspective. Chapter titles include The Perspective of Social Science, Symbolic Interactionism as a Perspective, The Meaning of the Symbol, The Importance of the Symbol, The Nature of Self, The Human Mind, Taking the Role of the Other, Human Action, Social Interaction, and Society. For individuals interested in the study of social psychology and/or social theory.

Table of Contents

Prefacep. xi
The Nature of Perspectivep. 1
New Perspectives Mean New Realitiesp. 6
Perspectives Are Socially Createdp. 8
Is There a Best Perspective?p. 9
Summaryp. 10
Some Examples of Perspectives: Informal and Formal Perspectivesp. 10
Referencesp. 12
The Perspective of Social Sciencep. 13
Social Science As a Perspectivep. 15
Sociology As a Perspectivep. 17
Psychology As a Perspectivep. 19
Commonalities and Differences between Sociology and Psychologyp. 20
The Perspective of Social Psychology in Psychologyp. 21
The Perspective of Social Psychology in Sociologyp. 23
Summaryp. 25
Referencesp. 26
Symbolic Interactionism As a Perspectivep. 27
Introduction: Five Central Ideasp. 27
General Historical Background of Symbolic Interactionismp. 28
Mead and Pragmatismp. 29
Mead and Darwinp. 31
Mead and Behaviorismp. 33
A Contrast With Other Perspectives: Warrinerp. 33
Shibutani: Reference Groups As Perspectivesp. 35
Attitudes Versus Perspectivesp. 37
Summaryp. 39
Referencesp. 40
The Meaning of the Symbolp. 41
The Nature of Realityp. 42
Importance of a Social Defined Realityp. 43
Objects As "Social Objects"p. 44
Symbols--A Class of Social Objectsp. 46
Symbols Are Social, Meaningful, and Significantp. 47
Languagep. 51
Words As Categoriesp. 52
Symbols, Perspectives, and Interactionp. 53
Humans and "Infrahumans"p. 54
How Animals Approach Environmentp. 55
Symbols versus Signsp. 56
Summaryp. 57
Referencesp. 58
The Importance of the Symbolp. 60
Symbols and Social Realityp. 60
Symbols and Human Social Lifep. 61
Symbols and the Individualp. 64
Naming, Memory, Categorizingp. 64
Perceptionp. 65
Thinkingp. 65
Deliberation and Problem Solvingp. 66
Transcendence of Space and Timep. 66
Transcendence of One's Own Personp. 67
Abstract Realityp. 67
Creativityp. 68
Self-Directionp. 69
The Importance of Symbols: A Summaryp. 69
Referencesp. 71
The Nature of the Selfp. 72
Self As a Social Objectp. 72
Self As Social: Four Social Stages of Self-Developmentp. 74
The Preparatory Stagep. 75
The Play Stagep. 75
The Game Stagep. 76
The Reference Group Stagep. 77
Selves as Ever-Changing Social Objectsp. 78
Self As Objectp. 79
Action Toward Self: Self-Communicationp. 80
Action Toward Self: Self-Perceptionp. 81
Self-Perception: Assessment of Our Own Actionp. 81
Self-Perception: The Development of Self-Conceptp. 82
Self-Perception: Self-Judgment, One Aspect of Self-Conceptp. 82
Self-Perception: Identity, One Aspect of Self-Conceptp. 86
Action Toward Self: Self-Controlp. 88
Central Ideas About the Selfp. 90
The Self and the Symbolic Interactionist Perspectivep. 91
The "I" and the "Me"p. 92
Summaryp. 94
Referencesp. 94
The Human Mindp. 97
The Meaning of Mind: Symbolic Interaction Toward Selfp. 97
Mind Action: Making Indications Toward Selfp. 99
Mind Action: The Ability to Control Overt Actionp. 100
Mind Action: The Ability to Problem Solvep. 102
Mind Action Is Part of All Social Interactionp. 104
Summaryp. 106
Referencesp. 107
Taking the Role of the Otherp. 109
Description of the Conceptp. 109
Role Taking's Relationship to Self, Mind, and Symbolsp. 111
Selfp. 112
Mindp. 112
Symbolsp. 113
Role Takingp. 113
The Importance of Role Takingp. 114
Its Central Place in All Social Interactionp. 114
Nine Ways Role Taking Is Central to All Human Lifep. 115
And If We Don't Role Take--So What?p. 119
Summaryp. 120
Referencesp. 122
Human Actionp. 124
The "Stream of Action"p. 124
The Actp. 126
Action, Goals, and Social Objectsp. 128
Mead's Four Stages of the Actp. 130
Impulsep. 130
Perceptionp. 131
Manipulationp. 131
Consummationp. 132
A Brief Look at the Four Stagesp. 132
Locating the "Cause" of Human Actionp. 133
The Definition of the Situationp. 136
Habitual Actionp. 137
The Role of the Past in Human Actionp. 138
The Role of the Future in Human Actionp. 139
Action and Motivesp. 140
Action and Emotionsp. 142
Action and Choicep. 145
Summaryp. 145
Referencesp. 146
Social Interactionp. 149
Social Actionp. 149
The Meaning of Social Interactionp. 150
Mutual Social Actionp. 150
Social Interaction Is Symbolicp. 151
Social Interaction Involves Role Takingp. 153
The General Importance of Social Interactionp. 153
Social Interaction Forms Our Basic Human Qualitiesp. 154
Social Interaction Is an Important Cause of Human Actionp. 155
Social Interaction Shapes Identitiesp. 160
We Label One Another in Social Interactionp. 160
We Attempt to Shape Identities in Social Interactionp. 161
We Shape Our Own Identities in Social Interactionp. 164
Social Interaction Creates Societyp. 165
Summaryp. 165
Referencesp. 166
Societyp. 168
Groups, Organizations, Social Worlds, and Societiesp. 169
Society Is Symbolic Interactionp. 170
Society Is Symbolic Interaction That Is Characterized by Cooperative Actionp. 171
Society Is Social Interaction That Is Symbolic, That Is Characterized by Cooperation, and That Develops Culturep. 175
Culture Is a Shared Perspectivep. 175
Culture Is a Generalized Otherp. 175
Culture Maintains Societyp. 176
Culture Is Ever Changingp. 178
The Individual Exists Within Many Societiesp. 179
The Active Human Being in Societyp. 182
Summaryp. 184
Referencesp. 185
Erving Goffmanp. 187
Goffman and Symbolic Interactionismp. 187
Drama in Interactionp. 188
Impressions and Performancep. 188
Performance Teamsp. 190
Reaction to Goffman's Dramaturgical Viewp. 191
The Self of Social Interactionp. 192
Goffman's View of Selfp. 192
Social Control and Selfp. 192
Rituals of Interactionp. 195
The Meaning of Ritualp. 195
The Importance of Ritualp. 196
The Environments of Social Interactionp. 198
Summaryp. 200
Referencesp. 201
Symbolic Interactionism: A Final Assessmentp. 202
Symbolic Interactionism and Human Freedom: A Reviewp. 203
Symbolic Interactionism and Sciencep. 206
Symbolic Interactionism: Some Representative Studiesp. 209
A Study of Pregnant Drug Usersp. 209
A Study of Sam's Definition of Pain and Injuryp. 211
A Study of Identity Formation in a Maximum Security Prisonp. 212
A Study of Orthodox Synagogue Lifep. 213
A Study of Little League Baseballp. 215
A Study of Bachelorhood and Conversionp. 215
Symbolic Interactionism: Some Examples of Applicationp. 216
An Understanding of Societyp. 218
An Understanding of Racism in Societyp. 218
An Understanding of Gender Differencesp. 221
An Understanding of Dating, Marriage, and Familyp. 222
An Understanding of Childhood Socializationp. 223
Symbolic Interactionism: A View of the College Experiencep. 225
Symbolic Interactionism: A Final Look at Applicationp. 226
The Importance of the Symbolic Interactionist Perspectivep. 227
Summaryp. 229
Referencesp. 230
Indexp. 231
Table of Contents provided by Syndetics. All Rights Reserved.


The first edition of this book attempted to fulfill a promise I made to myself in graduate school: to write a clear, organized, and interesting introduction to symbolic interactionism. It was meant to integrate that perspective, to be as accurate as possible, and to help the reader apply the ideas to real life. Since that first edition, symbolic interactionism has become increasingly important to the discipline of sociology. Its criticisms of traditional sociology have made an impact. Its research studies have increasingly become a part of sociology. Its practitioners are some of the leading officers, journal editors, and researchers in the discipline. Each time I attempt to improve on what I have written before, it brings a certain humility to my work. After revising each edition, I wonder how in the world I could ever have written what I had previously. In the fourth edition, I was very fortunate to include a chapter on Erving Goffman by Spencer Cahill, which proved to be a wonderful addition. Joel Powell's contribution to that fourth edition also proved significant. In the fifth edition, I thoroughly revised the chapter on social interaction and the last chapter on applications of the perspective. Because of some very helpful reviewers, in this eighth edition I decided to rewrite Chapter 8, "Taking the Role of the Other" in order to make it less formal and more interesting. In Chapter 13, I changed several of the representative empirical studies. Also, my references are listed at the end of the book, and include several recent articles and books I believe will encourage further reading in the area of symbolic interactionism. I always try to change the chapters so that they are more up-to-date, more interesting, and more accurate. My guide has always been criticisms by students from classes who used this book as well as reviewers the publisher provided. Readers will find this edition more understandable and applicable to real-life situations. Throughout the book, students will discover that symbolic interactionism is relevant to issues they really care about, emphasizing that it contains a perspective they can apply to their lives. Its purpose is always to discuss each of the key concepts in turn, and linking the concept to earlier ones discussed in order to give an integrated description of the whole perspective. As always, I examine each chapter of the previous edition very carefully in order to update and correct any errors and ambiguity. I make special efforts to appeal to students who think sociologically and students who are attracted to the world of ideas. After all, this is the excitement this perspective has always had for me. I vividly recall my discussion with Eleanor VanderHaegen and Mary Zimmerman in Walter Library more than twenty-five years ago. We knew then that symbolic interactionism had something important to say; it was just that too many books seemed to miss the message. This book is an attempt to make the message; thankfully, other fine symbolic interactionists are successfully making the message today. Social psychology is a very broad area of scholarship in both sociology and psychology. There are many studies; there are many concepts; there are many theoretical perspectives. Social psychology is much more than just symbolic interactionism. However, no perspective within social psychology, in my opinion, comes closer to capturing the essence of the human being as a social being--a creator of, a product of, a shaper of society--than symbolic interactionism. The essence of the human being is that we interact with one another, and that social interaction leads to society, who we are as human beings, and who we are as individuals. We may have now gone beyond George Herbert Mead, Herbert Blumer, and Erving Goffman, but this essence remains critical to what symbolic interactionism is, and this essence remains the message that this perspective brings to the student.

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