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Book part
Publication date: 16 October 2013

James A. Shaw

Athens’ Radical Interactionism and Rorty’s neopragmatism represent two differing interpretations of pragmatist philosophy that are used to inform contemporary approaches…

Abstract

Athens’ Radical Interactionism and Rorty’s neopragmatism represent two differing interpretations of pragmatist philosophy that are used to inform contemporary approaches to social inquiry. Athens’ and Rorty’s views differ greatly in their positions on the implications of a Darwinian worldview, leading to different perspectives on the value and role of truth, scientific method, and rationality in engaging in social inquiry and political reform. By tracing out the differences between Radical Interactionism and neopragmatism with respect to epistemology, social science, and political reform, I show that Athens’ Radical Interactionism accomplishes more to inform concrete social inquiry and political change. While Rorty’s neopragmatism helps readers to situate pragmatist-inspired inquiry in its evolutionary context, his work provided little guidance for social science. Conversely, Athens’ Radical Interactionism expands upon the value of a pragmatist version of rationality and scientific method, directing researchers’ attention to domination and dominance orders in contemporary social life. Furthermore, the Darwinian underpinnings of both Athens’ and Rorty’s pragmatist-inspired philosophies suggests that concepts in social inquiry are to be understood as sensitizing as opposed to definitive. As such, Athens’ Radical Interactionism remains true to the pluralistic thrust of pragmatist philosophy by conveying domination as a sensitizing concept in contrast to a more neo-positivist definitive concept.

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Book part
Publication date: 26 July 2016

Patrick J. W. McGinty

The purpose of this conceptual chapter is to analyze the current state of the astructural bias in symbolic interactionism as it relates to three inter-related processes…

Abstract

The purpose of this conceptual chapter is to analyze the current state of the astructural bias in symbolic interactionism as it relates to three inter-related processes over time: (1) the formalization of critiques of symbolic interactionism as ahistorical, astructural, and acritical perspectives; (2) an ahistorical understanding of early expressions of the disjuncture between symbolic interactionism and more widely accepted forms of sociological theorizing; and (3) persistent and widespread inattentiveness to past and present evidence-based arguments that address the argument regarding symbolic interactionism as an astructural, ahistorical, and acritical sociological perspective. The argument frames the historical development of the astructural bias concept in an historically and socially conditioned way, from its emergence through its rejection and ultimately including conclusions about contemporary state of the astructural bias as evidenced in the symbolic interactionist literatures of the last couple of decades. The analysis and argument concludes that the contemporary result of these intertwined historical and social conditioning processes is that the astructural bias myth has been made real in practice, and that the reification of the myth of an astructural bias has had the ruinous effect of virtually eradicating a vital tradition in the interactionist perspective which extends back to the earliest formulations of the perspective. As a result, a handful of suggestions that serve to aid in reclaiming the unorthodox structuralism of symbolic interactionism and the related interactionist study of social organization are provided in the conclusion.

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The Astructural Bias Charge: Myth or Reality?
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-78635-036-7

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Book part
Publication date: 16 October 2013

Lonnie H. Athens

In this chapter, the approach of radical interactionism is juxtaposed against symbolic interactionism, its older conservative turned rival cousin, to highlight primarily…

Abstract

In this chapter, the approach of radical interactionism is juxtaposed against symbolic interactionism, its older conservative turned rival cousin, to highlight primarily the major differences between them. The five key differences identified are as follows: (1) the major progenitors for symbolic interactionism are Mead and Blumer, while those for radical interactionism are Park and, by default, myself; (2) although radical interactionism presumes that domination and power are always of great importance for understanding human group life, symbolic interactionism assumes that they now have only limited importance for understanding it; (3) radical interactionism makes it mandatory for researchers to examine the role of dominance and power during social interaction, whereas symbolic interactionism makes it only discretionary; (4) while radical interactionism stresses the impact of individuals’ and groups’ unstated assumptions on their interaction with one another, symbolic interactionism de-emphasizes their impact on it; and finally (5) radical interactionism discourages, while symbolic interactionism encourages researchers falling into the trap of linguistic phenomenalism. Thus, unlike radical interactionism, symbolic interactionism facilitates sociologists not only falling prey to linguistic phenomenalism, but also conservative and idealistic biases, while allegedly conducting “value-free research.”

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Radical Interactionism on the Rise
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-78190-785-6

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Book part
Publication date: 5 February 2019

Jean-François Côté

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…

Abstract

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.

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The Interaction Order
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-78769-546-7

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Book part
Publication date: 26 July 2016

Natalia Ruiz-Junco

This chapter assesses the power focus in contemporary interactionist theory, and advances several premises about power based on recent research and theory. I first examine…

Abstract

This chapter assesses the power focus in contemporary interactionist theory, and advances several premises about power based on recent research and theory. I first examine the main assumptions of the view of power that emerged in the wake of the astructural bias debate, which became an implicit standard for assessments of power in the tradition. Next, I explore the criticisms of the astructural bias thesis and related conceptualization. My argument is that while the debate correctly spotlighted the power deficit of interactionism, it had theoretical implications that distracted us from the task of fully conceptualizing power. In the second part of this chapter, I examine recent interactionist work in order to build general premises that can advance interactionist theory of power. Based on this analysis, I elaborate four premises that interactionists can use, regardless of theoretical orientation. Drawing on examples from my ethnographic research, I illustrate how researchers can benefit from the use of these premises.

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The Astructural Bias Charge: Myth or Reality?
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-78635-036-7

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Book part
Publication date: 17 October 2005

Anwar Ouassini

As a general response to Gary Alan Fines article, The Sad Demise, Mysterious Disappearance and Glorious Triumph of Symbolic Interactionism, this performance narrative…

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As a general response to Gary Alan Fines article, The Sad Demise, Mysterious Disappearance and Glorious Triumph of Symbolic Interactionism, this performance narrative account of a dialogue between G. Fine (Dr. Gary Alan Fine) and Sowsh Stud (Sociology student) intends to explain the subtleties of the current state of Symbolic Interactionism through the use of hip hop/inner city gangster terminology; drawing many parallels between Symbolic Interactionism as a discipline and street gang cultures to show that Symbolic Interactionism as a “gang” and Symbolic Interactionists as “gangsters” embrace the same gangster mentality, as they continuously try to find an identity and role within the gang (S.I.).

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Studies in Symbolic Interaction
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-0-7623-1186-6

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Book part
Publication date: 23 October 2008

James A. Forte

SI offers a distinctive theoretical language for practice: a vocabulary and a grammar for identifying the personal troubles and joys of group members and for locating…

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SI offers a distinctive theoretical language for practice: a vocabulary and a grammar for identifying the personal troubles and joys of group members and for locating these experiences in shared symbol systems and in associated social arrangements (Weigert, 1995). SI can provide the ideal base for social work and sociological helping work (Forte, 2004a, 2004b). It is a coherent organizing language that can guide practitioner thinking, acting, and feeling especially when professional action is blocked.

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Studies in Symbolic Interaction
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-84855-127-5

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Book part
Publication date: 17 October 2005

Andrea Fontana

This article takes stock of the current promises and problems of postmodern-informed interactionism. It points out that postmodern interactionism may go the way of…

Abstract

This article takes stock of the current promises and problems of postmodern-informed interactionism. It points out that postmodern interactionism may go the way of ethnomethodology unless it is more reflexive about its practices. The article examines the present trends in postmodern informed interactionism, then speculates about future paths for it, by creative various analytic categories for postmodern interactionisms. Present trends include personal ethnographies, subdivided into autoethnographies, polyphonies, and impressionistic stories. Other present trends are cooperative ethnographies, performances, and power/knowledge ethnographies. Future paths are divided into the building block approach, the blending approach, the empathetic approach, and the divisive approach. The article summarizes the pros and cons of postmodernism for interactionists. The author notices that postmodern interactionism lacks clear criteria of evaluation and points to the possible courses to follow to rectify the problem.

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Studies in Symbolic Interaction
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-0-7623-1186-6

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Book part
Publication date: 23 October 2008

Phillip Vannini

Both the history and the historiography of SI show that multiple “different definitions and boundaries” have been applied to the subject of study (Atkinson & Housley

Abstract

Both the history and the historiography of SI show that multiple “different definitions and boundaries” have been applied to the subject of study (Atkinson & Housley, 2003, p. vii). Yet, despite the commonly agreed-upon understanding of SI's heterogeneity, in practice the institutional and disciplinary core of SI unmistakeably resides in its American heartland. For instance, Reynolds and Herman-Kinney (2003a, 2003b, p. ix) preface their fine Handbook of Symbolic Interactionism by aiming at making it “a fine addition to the sociological literature” (my emphasis). Maines (2001, 2003) himself – the most visible critic of the dissolution of SI – focuses on the growing invisibility of interactionism across American sociological theory and research while Fine (1993) and Sandstrom and Fine (2003, p. 1041) find that the “glorious triumph” of SI is due to its successes in “social psychology, medical sociology, deviance, social problems, collective behavior, cultural studies, media studies, the sociology of emotions, the sociology of art, environmental sociology, race relations, social organization, social movements, and political sociology” – hardly an interdisciplinary outlook.

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Studies in Symbolic Interaction
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-84855-127-5

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Book part
Publication date: 23 April 2013

Christine Teague, David Leith and Lelia Green

This chapter uses symbolic interactionism as a theoretical framework for considering data produced during two in-depth ethnographic investigations: one at Orco, a minerals…

Abstract

This chapter uses symbolic interactionism as a theoretical framework for considering data produced during two in-depth ethnographic investigations: one at Orco, a minerals processing facility; the other at RTE, the Rail Transport Executive of an urban region in Australia. It discusses the value of symbolic interactionism in revealing the detailed importance of interaction between managers and workers and, particularly, within specific workgroups. It argues that regular, repeated and intense interaction such as characterizes daily work in high-pressure occupations helps establish subcultures. It is then comparatively easy for a subculture group to develop its own values and meanings in opposition to those promulgated by management. The two case studies differ significantly around the organizational value placed on investigating injuries and accidents. In the Orco workplace, injury statistics are clearly communicated and workers believe that the “zero injury workplace” is a management priority. In the RTE, transit officer injuries are kept confidential and workers believe that a major purpose of investigations is to show how individual workers are at fault. In both cases, however, the work group has developed an informal safety culture at odds with that promoted by managers.The conclusion drawn by the end of the chapter is that managers seeking to influence the safety cultures of workers in dangerous and fraught occupations should pay close attention to the ways in which those workers operate at a symbolic distance from management. They should engage with the workers to understand the symbolic value placed by frontline staff upon the meanings attributed to safe work practices, and should collaborate together to develop a shared safety culture in which workers are protected by active management engagement in their symbolic reality. Where this occurs, workers’ perspectives are appreciated at the same time as their practices become more regulated and aligned with managerial wishes. Symbolic interactionism offers a rich perspective that takes into account the dynamism of changing circumstances and that works outwards from the thought processes of individuals through to interactions across entire organizations.

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40th Anniversary of Studies in Symbolic Interaction
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-78190-783-2

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