Symbolic Interactionism

What is NOT Symbolic Interactionism?

Functionalism: Malinowski and "needs hierarchy" (ritual as release of anxiety). Durkheim and "social solidarity" (eg the role of religion and ritual in creating social bonds), Parsons and homeostatic equiliburium (eg negative sanctions for deviance). Marx is a conflict theory version of functionalism. Organic metaphors, steampower metaphors.

Structuralism: Levi-Strauss: universal structures in the minds of individuals emerge as cultural themes (why is the kitchen the heart of the home? Because it is a mediator between the Raw and the Cooked). Mary Douglas: grid/group. Linguistic metaphors, info theory metaphors.

Structural-Functionalism: Radcliff-Brown wanted to be a founder of a school of thought, so he made up this combination. eg Kinship structure aligns with territorial divisions (and their functions).

Methodological individualism: Weber's views society as outcome of belief systems of individuals (eg protestant religion creates capitalism; rationalization creates bureaucracy).

Founders of Symbolic Interactionism:

George H. Mead (1863-1931): replaced reductive psychological behaviorism (stimulus/response with the external objects) with the idea of social objects. "Inner consciousness is socially organized by the importation of the social organization of the outer world"

Erving Goffman (1922 –1982): Dramaturgical analysis: we stage events, create persona, script roles, go "back stage," etc. Face-work: we have to manage our persona (mask) to avoid embarrassment.

Harold Garfinkle (1917– ) Ethnomethodology. Not that humans apply rationality, rather rationality is a product of human interactions; what we would now call a social construction. “any social setting [can] be viewed as self-organizing with respect to the intelligible character of its own appearances.” Meaning is recursively constructed – observations become the grounds for the evaluations that produce the observations. Coffee example: Breaching experiments violate social norms to make them visible.

Victor Turner (1920-1983) Indigneous ritual creates "liminal" state which acheives communitas via anti-structure. Applied to contemporary society (eg youth subculture).

Lucy Suchman (doctorate in 1984) Applied Symbolic interactionism to technology.

Others include Harold Blumer (invented term "symbolic interactionism), Charles Cooley ("looking glass self"), John Dewey (pragmatism).







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