The place of G. H. Mead’s works in symbolic interactionism is both central and paradoxical. It stands at the very foundation of Hebert Blumer’s initial invention of symbolic interactionism with respect to Mead’s social behaviorism and has been discussed and debated ever since because of the problems caused by such a presumed direct filiation. Returning to Mead in order to broaden the perspective offered by Blumer is a must and has to face some fundamental issues raised in this context. This article starts by examining the ontogenetic and phylogenetic processes involved in Mead’s concept of society, in order to show the multiple dimensions involved in significant symbols. An illustration of Mead’s wider perspective is given in reference to the feminist movement as analyzed first by Mead’s student, Jessie Taft, and goes back to the origin of the movement with Mary Wollstonecraft. This leads to the analysis of the debate about the place of power in symbolic interactionism, initiated by Peter M. Hall, and addresses the alternative between domination and emancipation. This alternative has been worked out by Lonnie Athen’s radical symbolic interactionism analysis of domination on the one side, and by Kathy Charmaz and Norman K. Denzin on the other side of emancipatory symbolic interactionist practices. Another solution is proposed to this alternative, with the analysis of power being intrinsically constituted by domination and emancipation, in their respective contribution to the understanding of the symbolic dispositions of autonomy – a concept that remains relatively undeveloped in Mead’s works.
Côté, J. (2019), "The Past, Present, and Future of G. H. Mead in Symbolic Interactionism: A Dialectical Encounter around the Issue of Feminism, Power, and Society", The Interaction Order (Studies in Symbolic Interaction, Vol. 50), Emerald Publishing Limited, pp. 117-140. https://doi.org/10.1108/S0163-239620190000050006Download as .RIS
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