Mead argued that humans interact through the use of symbols such asSymbols can be: Visual signs (red traffic light = stop)Visual gestures (waving = hello)Expressions (frown = angry)Verbal (scream = fear)Sounds (siren = emergency) Shared understanding of these symbols and how to respond to them form the basis of communication.Whilst we are each conscious individuals, the way in which we choose to behave is influenced by the social context of that behaviour.
Look at the work of Goffman and the dramaturgical analogy
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SOURCES AND DIFFERENTCONCEPTIONS OF THE SELF, IDENTITYAND DIFFERENCE
Symbolic Interactionism – Meads Theory Mead is usually seen as the founder of symbolic interactionism.
SYMBOLIC INTERACTIONISM Symbolic interactionists emphasise the ways in which society is actively shaped by individuals and the meanings they attach to ‘everyday things’. Symbolic interactionism is usually regarded as a social action theory.
MEADHe argued that humans interact through the use of symbols such as Visual signs (red traffic light = stop) Expressions Visual gestures (frown = angry) (waving = hello)Sounds (siren =emergency) Verbal (scream = fear)Shared understanding of these symbols and how to respond to them formthe basis of communication.Whilst we are each conscious individuals, the way in which we choose tobehave is influenced by the social context of that behaviour.
THE ‘I’ AND THE ‘ME’ G. H. Mead (1934) described our awareness of how others see us. The ‘I’ is the spontaneous side of our personality which would like to act freely, but we are aware of the way ‘generalised others’ of our society view us and expect us to behave and this more inhibiting self concept seen through the eyes of others is termed the ‘me’.
C.H.COOLEY - ‘LOOKING GLASS SELF’ Cooley (1922) aptly called theme side of our self the ‘looking glass self’, referring to how, after a while, we begin to view ourselves as if others’ eyes are a mirror.
How does it link to symbolic interactionismSymbolic interactionism: A sociological perspective on selfand society based on the ideas of George Mead (1934). Thecentral theme of symbolic interactionism is that human life isbased on the use of symbols. Through language andcommunication, symbols provide the means by which realityis constructed.Mead’s work: Human behaviour is social because peopleinteract in terms of symbols. Symbols stand for other objectsand imply certain behaviour. For example; The ‘ no entry’symbol implies to the majority of people that they cannotenter. Therefore Mead’s work is credible that we followsymbols, however as the majority follow this rule, does thisshow there must be some sort of collective norms and values?Can we really say that reality being so complex comes downto simply the use of symbols? However, Mead’s work isaccurate that we do associates symbols with meanings.
HOW USEFUL IS MEAD’S THEORY TO ANUNDERSTANDING OF SOCIETY? Although Mead’s theory is over 70 years old, humans do relate the meanings of symbols to what they do, i.e at a red traffic light, the majority of people would stop. Therefore, Mead is correct to an extent. However, Mead states that we as individuals shape society, but for the majority to abide by the symbols, rules and regulations there must be some sort of collective conscience, norms and values. In order to have shared meanings, it must feed off some sort of structural factors.
LABELLING THEORY Perhaps the most well known application of symbolic interactionism is labelling theory. Developed initially by H Becker it has been used widely in Education and Deviance. We all label people and objects Those with power are able to label someone, and make others accept that label Labelling of humans can lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy If the label is especially damaging, it can become a master status
EVALUATION OF SYMBOLIC INTERACTIONISM It over-emphasises the significance of the individual. There tends to be little conception of social structures. It cannot explain power relationships in society in the way that Marxists or feminists have. It does not explain why some individuals / social groups are more powerful than others. It concentrates too much on small-scale, trivial aspects of social life, therefore ignoring the much bigger picture of life at a society-wide level of analysis.
EVALUATION It believes that nearly everything is socially constructed – so logically one could argue that sociology is itself a social construct, and therefore useless? It fails to explain social order and social change. Ethnomethodologists(focus on how people make sense of their world) believe it fails to explain how actors create meanings Reynolds (1975) found evidence that interactionists ignore power and class as being important concepts of interactionism.
ERVING GOFFMAN Goffman saw the social world as being rather like a drama, or a performance in a play. His work is therefore referred to as a dramaturgical approach.
ERVING GOFFMAN Individuals put on a performance for others to convince them about who they are. Like an actor, they have to believe in the role in order to be convincing. In the process they may become the person they are trying to project an image of.
ERVING GOFFMAN Goffman describes this process as The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life (1959) – through presenting him- or herself in particular roles the individual develops identities.
ERVING GOFFMAN Goffman admits that the roles available for us to adopt are not unlimited and that individuals are therefore constrained by the range of social roles available in a particular society at a particular time.
GOFFMAN’S (1961) STUDY Read his study on page 23 in your textbook. Explain his study in detail, ensuring you define the key concepts such as ‘mortification’, ‘total institutions’ and ‘institutionalised’. How can this study be used to support Goffman’s dramaturgical theory? How can this be used to challenge the idea of a self-fulfulling prophecy?
EVALUATION How may sociologists criticise Goffman’s theory?
SIGMUND FREUD Freud was the founder of psychoanalysis. He argued that people possess an unconscious mind which contains repressed feelings and desires which they are not aware of.
SIGMUND FREUD Many of these are concerned with pleasure-seeking and sexuality. To develop into a psychologically well-balanced adult, the child needs to learn to control these desires, and to identify with the same-sex parent. For Freud, childhood experiences were vital for the development of identities in adulthood.
SIGMUND FREUD This relates to identity as it suggests that we bring childhood experiences, even those about which we are not conscious of, to the decisions we make as adults. Identity positions we adopt may be the result of unconscious feelings. Both gender and sexuality are important to our understanding of identity. Our sense of who we are is most significantly linked to our awareness of our identities as women and men.
EVALUATIONS??? How may sociologists criticise Freudian explanations of identity? What part of his theory may sociologists agree with?