Symbolic Interactionism: An Introduction, an Interpretation, an Integration

Symbolic Interactionism: An Introduction, an Interpretation, an Integration

by Joel M. Charon

Paperback(2nd ed)

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Overview

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 to apply 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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780138799663
Publisher: Prentice Hall Professional Technical Reference
Publication date: 01/28/1985
Edition description: 2nd ed
Pages: 208

Read an Excerpt

PREFACE:

Preface

The first edition of this book was an attempt 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.

I vividly recall my discussion with Eleanor VanderHaegen and Mary Zimmerman in Walter Library more than 25 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 that message clear; thankfully, other fine symbolic interactionists are successfully making the message clear.

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, a product, and 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 weare 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.

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. Now, in this seventh edition, I focus on presentation of all concepts in a clearer and more teachable manner. My guide is primarily criticisms by students who used this book. No one chapter was thoroughly revised, but readers will find this edition more understandable and applicable to real-life situations. Students in my classes are increasingly recognizing the relevance of symbolic interactionism to issues they care about, and relevance is the principle that guides this revision.

As always, I examine each chapter of the previous edition very carefully in order to update the material and to correct any errors and ambiguity. I especially cut down on direct quotations by paraphrasing more of the ideas of other writers. On the basis of my own teaching experience, I constantly ask myself how to best present difficult material to students so they understand it and are able to apply it to their own lives and to issues that matter to them. I make special efforts to appeal to students who think sociologically and students who are attracted to the world of ideas. After all, the sociological ramifications and ideas are the source of the excitement this perspective has always had for me.

Finally, I would like to thank certain symbolic interactionists who have been very important to my thinking from, afar. I read what they write. I listen to and watch them at meetings. They are important models to me, although they may not know it. They are Howard Becker, Lonnie Athens, Spencer Cahill, Norman Denzin, Gary Fine, Ruth Horowitz, Helena Lopata, John Lofland, Lyn Lofland, David Maines, Bernard Meltzer, and Tamotsu Shibutani. I also admired Carl Couch, and I will miss him.

I dedicate this book to my wife, Susan, who continues to be my best friend and greatest supporter.

Joel M. Charon

Table of Contents

Prefacexi
1The Nature of Perspective1
New Perspectives Mean New Realities6
Perspectives Are Socially Created8
Is There a Best Perspective?9
Summary10
Some Examples of Perspectives: Informal and Formal Perspectives10
References12
2The Perspective of Social Science13
Social Science As a Perspective15
Sociology As a Perspective17
Psychology As a Perspective19
Commonalities and Differences between Sociology and Psychology20
The Perspective of Social Psychology in Psychology21
The Perspective of Social Psychology in Sociology23
Summary25
References26
3Symbolic Interactionism As a Perspective27
Introduction: Five Central Ideas27
General Historical Background of Symbolic Interactionism28
Mead and Pragmatism29
Mead and Darwin31
Mead and Behaviorism33
A Contrast With Other Perspectives: Warriner33
Shibutani: Reference Groups As Perspectives35
Attitudes Versus Perspectives37
Summary39
References40
4The Meaning of the Symbol41
The Nature of Reality42
Importance of a Social Defined Reality43
Objects As "Social Objects"44
Symbols--A Class of Social Objects46
Symbols Are Social, Meaningful, and Significant47
Language51
Words As Categories52
Symbols, Perspectives, and Interaction53
Humans and "Infrahumans"54
How Animals Approach Environment55
Symbols versus Signs56
Summary57
References58
5The Importance of the Symbol60
Symbols and Social Reality60
Symbols and Human Social Life61
Symbols and the Individual64
Naming, Memory, Categorizing64
Perception65
Thinking65
Deliberation and Problem Solving66
Transcendence of Space and Time66
Transcendence of One's Own Person67
Abstract Reality67
Creativity68
Self-Direction69
The Importance of Symbols: A Summary69
References71
6The Nature of the Self72
Self As a Social Object72
Self As Social: Four Social Stages of Self-Development74
The Preparatory Stage75
The Play Stage75
The Game Stage76
The Reference Group Stage77
Selves as Ever-Changing Social Objects78
Self As Object79
1.Action Toward Self: Self-Communication80
2.Action Toward Self: Self-Perception81
Self-Perception: Assessment of Our Own Action81
Self-Perception: The Development of Self-Concept82
Self-Perception: Self-Judgment, One Aspect of Self-Concept82
Self-Perception: Identity, One Aspect of Self-Concept86
3.Action Toward Self: Self-Control88
Central Ideas About the Self90
The Self and the Symbolic Interactionist Perspective91
The "I" and the "Me"92
Summary94
References94
7The Human Mind97
The Meaning of Mind: Symbolic Interaction Toward Self97
Mind Action: Making Indications Toward Self99
Mind Action: The Ability to Control Overt Action100
Mind Action: The Ability to Problem Solve102
Mind Action Is Part of All Social Interaction104
Summary106
References107
8Taking the Role of the Other109
Description of the Concept109
Role Taking's Relationship to Self, Mind, and Symbols111
Self112
Mind112
Symbols113
Role Taking113
The Importance of Role Taking114
Its Central Place in All Social Interaction114
Nine Ways Role Taking Is Central to All Human Life115
And If We Don't Role Take--So What?119
Summary120
References122
9Human Action124
The "Stream of Action"124
The Act126
Action, Goals, and Social Objects128
Mead's Four Stages of the Act130
Stage 1Impulse130
Stage 2Perception131
Stage 3Manipulation131
Stage 4Consummation132
A Brief Look at the Four Stages132
Locating the "Cause" of Human Action133
The Definition of the Situation136
Habitual Action137
The Role of the Past in Human Action138
The Role of the Future in Human Action139
Action and Motives140
Action and Emotions142
Action and Choice145
Summary145
References146
10Social Interaction149
Social Action149
The Meaning of Social Interaction150
Mutual Social Action150
Social Interaction Is Symbolic151
Social Interaction Involves Role Taking153
The General Importance of Social Interaction153
1.Social Interaction Forms Our Basic Human Qualities154
2.Social Interaction Is an Important Cause of Human Action155
3.Social Interaction Shapes Identities160
We Label One Another in Social Interaction160
We Attempt to Shape Identities in Social Interaction161
We Shape Our Own Identities in Social Interaction164
4.Social Interaction Creates Society165
Summary165
References166
11Society168
Groups, Organizations, Social Worlds, and Societies169
1.Society Is Symbolic Interaction170
2.Society Is Symbolic Interaction That Is Characterized by Cooperative Action171
3.Society Is Social Interaction That Is Symbolic, That Is Characterized by Cooperation, and That Develops Culture175
Culture Is a Shared Perspective175
Culture Is a Generalized Other175
Culture Maintains Society176
Culture Is Ever Changing178
The Individual Exists Within Many Societies179
The Active Human Being in Society182
Summary184
References185
12Erving Goffman187
Goffman and Symbolic Interactionism187
Drama in Interaction188
Impressions and Performance188
Performance Teams190
Reaction to Goffman's Dramaturgical View191
The Self of Social Interaction192
Goffman's View of Self192
Social Control and Self192
Rituals of Interaction195
The Meaning of Ritual195
The Importance of Ritual196
The Environments of Social Interaction198
Summary200
References201
13Symbolic Interactionism: A Final Assessment202
Symbolic Interactionism and Human Freedom: A Review203
Symbolic Interactionism and Science206
Symbolic Interactionism: Some Representative Studies209
A Study of Pregnant Drug Users209
A Study of Sam's Definition of Pain and Injury211
A Study of Identity Formation in a Maximum Security Prison212
A Study of Orthodox Synagogue Life213
A Study of Little League Baseball215
A Study of Bachelorhood and Conversion215
Symbolic Interactionism: Some Examples of Application216
An Understanding of Society218
An Understanding of Racism in Society218
An Understanding of Gender Differences221
An Understanding of Dating, Marriage, and Family222
An Understanding of Childhood Socialization223
Symbolic Interactionism: A View of the College Experience225
Symbolic Interactionism: A Final Look at Application226
The Importance of the Symbolic Interactionist Perspective227
Summary229
References230
Index231

Preface

PREFACE:

Preface

The first edition of this book was an attempt 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.

I vividly recall my discussion with Eleanor VanderHaegen and Mary Zimmerman in Walter Library more than 25 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 that message clear; thankfully, other fine symbolic interactionists are successfully making the message clear.

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, a product, and 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, whoweare 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.

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. Now, in this seventh edition, I focus on presentation of all concepts in a clearer and more teachable manner. My guide is primarily criticisms by students who used this book. No one chapter was thoroughly revised, but readers will find this edition more understandable and applicable to real-life situations. Students in my classes are increasingly recognizing the relevance of symbolic interactionism to issues they care about, and relevance is the principle that guides this revision.

As always, I examine each chapter of the previous edition very carefully in order to update the material and to correct any errors and ambiguity. I especially cut down on direct quotations by paraphrasing more of the ideas of other writers. On the basis of my own teaching experience, I constantly ask myself how to best present difficult material to students so they understand it and are able to apply it to their own lives and to issues that matter to them. I make special efforts to appeal to students who think sociologically and students who are attracted to the world of ideas. After all, the sociological ramifications and ideas are the source of the excitement this perspective has always had for me.

Finally, I would like to thank certain symbolic interactionists who have been very important to my thinking from, afar. I read what they write. I listen to and watch them at meetings. They are important models to me, although they may not know it. They are Howard Becker, Lonnie Athens, Spencer Cahill, Norman Denzin, Gary Fine, Ruth Horowitz, Helena Lopata, John Lofland, Lyn Lofland, David Maines, Bernard Meltzer, and Tamotsu Shibutani. I also admired Carl Couch, and I will miss him.

I dedicate this book to my wife, Susan, who continues to be my best friend and greatest supporter.

Joel M. Charon

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Symbolic Interactionism: An Introduction, An Interpretation, An Integration 2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
jorgearanda on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A fluffy and superficial introduction to Symbolic Interactionism. Despite the difficulties of tackling Mead or Blumer, their texts seem to me much better presentations of Symbolic Interactionist ideas.(And what's with the obsession of S.I. to distinguish humans from other animals in every possible domain? Use of symbols, language, social patterns... I understand people in Mead's time to make this mistake, but to insist on it today is just silly.)