George Herbert Mead developed a sophisticated social and pragmatist model of science, which has escaped the attention of most modern-day scholars and symbolic…
George Herbert Mead developed a sophisticated social and pragmatist model of science, which has escaped the attention of most modern-day scholars and symbolic interactionists. While Mead’s insights have much to offer to contemporary interactionist studies of science and technology, they are not without their shortcomings. In his analyses, Mead tends to put most of his emphasis on the concrete micro-foundations of knowledge production and the functional necessity of science as a problem-solving institution par excellence, yet he fails to seriously question the role of power and domination within the competitive terrain of scientific fields. Lonnie Athens has attempted to reconstitute the basic assumptions of symbolic interactionism by insisting that domination, rather than mere sociality, is the foundation of human existence, since the root of all social acts are comprised of super- and subordinate relations. Changing our fundamental assumptions about social action thus forces us to ask new questions about the micro- and macro-processes we explore in our research. By applying this radicalized lens to Mead’s view of science, I attempt to forge a new interactionist approach, which would better connect with and contribute to the critical wing of the science studies tradition.
A number of international relations' mid-level theories about violence are inadequate to the task of explaining societal and group violence. Many of these theories, for…
A number of international relations' mid-level theories about violence are inadequate to the task of explaining societal and group violence. Many of these theories, for example, confuse causality with correlation, or breakdown and then cannot explain why they fail. Building upon the theories of criminologist Lonnie Athens, both in their particulars and in their spirit of practical solution rather than entrenched debate, this article considers whether those theories of individual violence are suitable for extrapolation to the societal level. It explores some problems with the current theories in international relations, and reviews the theoretical foundations offered by Athens and some others, who have also laid strong groundwork for scaling Athens' theories to the societal level by considering their applications to communities. A number of those theories, although based upon analyses of individual dangerous violent criminals, lend themselves particularly well to groups and communities, suggesting strong suitability of scaling to these levels, and to the societal one as well. Also considering critiques of Athens' and Rhodes' work, this article ultimately argues that Athens' theories of violence, and those building upon them, constitute a strong foundation for theories of violence in international relations that relate to the societal scale.
This essay argues for a a radical interactionist framework using autoethnographic tools as well as critical feminist perspectives. Not all “masculine” systems are necessarily all “evil” and “feminist” systems are not unambiguously good, devoid of context. The vantage point from which I engage Lonnie Athens’ work on radical interactionism is rooted personally and professionally: as a woman of color who was formerly a tenured Associate Professor of English and Humanities turned joint Juris Doctor in Law and Women’s Studies Graduate and Teaching Fellow in Women’s Studies.
An autoethnographic exploration of critical pedagogies, as practiced by law professors, concretely shows that a radical interactionist framework more accurately describes the fluctuating borders of power in the classroom. In addition, feminist critiques against Athens’ work, as evidenced, for example, by Deegan’s critique of the “patriarchal” type of “Chicago pragmatism” practiced by Mead, suffer from similar simplistic binaries as Noddings’ “ethic of care” – which reduces gender to sex, and unconditionally idealizes the “feminine” as “feminist.” Most importantly, this biologically determinist perspective does not take into the account the lived realities of lesbians and women of color, for whom the principle of domination is always, already a part of the worlds into which they are flung.
This chapter closes with an examination of how an acceptance of the radical interactionist principle of domination combined with an intersectional approach, rather than a binary of gender, could yield fruitful results in new areas of application, such as international human rights, and critical race theory and criminal law.
Open access publishing is an increasingly popular trend in the dissemination of academic work, allowing journals to print articles electronically and without the burden of…
Open access publishing is an increasingly popular trend in the dissemination of academic work, allowing journals to print articles electronically and without the burden of subscription paywalls, enabling much wider access for audiences. Yet subscription-based journals remain the most dominant in the social sciences and humanities, and it is often a struggle for newer open access publications to compete, in terms of economic, cultural, and symbolic capital (Bourdieu, 2004). Our study explores the meanings of resistance held by the editors of open access journals in the social sciences and humanities in Canada, as well as the views of university librarians. To make sense of these meanings, we draw on Lonnie Athens’ (2015) radical interactionist account of power, and expand on this by incorporating George Herbert Mead’s (1932, 1938) theory of emergence, arguing that open access is characteristic of an “extended rationality” (Chang, 2004) for those involved. Drawing on our open-ended interview data, we find that open access is experienced as a form of resistance in at least four ways. These include resistance to (1) profit motives in academic publishing; (2) access barriers for audiences; (3) access barriers for contributors; and (4) traditional publishing conventions.
Athens’ Radical Interactionism and Rorty’s neopragmatism represent two differing interpretations of pragmatist philosophy that are used to inform contemporary approaches…
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.
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…
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.
I have been asked by Professor Lonnie Athens to shed light upon those parts of my academic career that may be of interest to sociologists working within the tradition of…
I have been asked by Professor Lonnie Athens to shed light upon those parts of my academic career that may be of interest to sociologists working within the tradition of symbolic interactionism. With this in mind, the present essay offers an account of how I became a scholar whose main focus has for many years been the philosophy and social psychology of George Herbert Mead (1863–1931).
In our paper, Randy Starr, who was found not guilty by reason of insanity for committing murder, tells his life story with my help. Our collaboration helps erase the…
In our paper, Randy Starr, who was found not guilty by reason of insanity for committing murder, tells his life story with my help. Our collaboration helps erase the fictitious line traditionally drawn between subject and analyst in life stories. We cover the period from his early childhood to his late twenties when he committed the homicide that led to his involuntary commitment to a state’s mental health system. In telling his life story, we vividly describe his passage through the four stages of the violentization and later descent into “self disorganization,” which is seen as a normal part of the process of dramatic self change. It is made clear by us that the severe self disorganization into which he descended did not originate independently from his violentization, but instead was a direct by-product of it. We conclude that he should have been adjudged a “disorganized dangerous violent criminal” and found “guilty, but in need of and susceptible to treatment.” A plea is made to make this verdict available to judges and juries in such cases.
Because, for George Herbert Mead, the “social act” is the basic unit of analysis for understanding human social existence, and thereby, his entire body of thought, it…
Because, for George Herbert Mead, the “social act” is the basic unit of analysis for understanding human social existence, and thereby, his entire body of thought, it demands much more critical attention than it thus far has received from sociologists. Here, his notion of the social act will be critically examined – in terms of his definition of social action, the underlying organizing principle he uses to explain it, the different fundamental forms of social action he identifies, and the basic operating elements that he contends comprise these forms – for the purpose of developing a better conception of social action than he provided. Mead sees social action as organized on the basis of “sociality,” expressing itself in two fundamental forms – “cooperative” and “conflictive.” He also views the cooperative form as comprised of five basic elements – attitudes, roles, significant symbols, attitudinal assumption, and common social objects – while the conflictive form is comprised of only the first four elements. After a critical examination of Mead’s social act is completed, an alternative and improved conception of social action, with domination as its organizing principle, is proffered. More importantly, it is argued that this new notion of social action, termed the “collective act,” provides the grounds for the development of a novel interactionist perspective, dubbed here “radical interactionism,” which is based on the principle of domination rather sociality. Thus, this new interactionist perspective, is dramatically different from the traditional interactionist perspective Mead and Blumer developed.
We view novelists as people who work alone through the night typing away at their keyboards while deeply absorbed in thought. Although no novel could be published without…
We view novelists as people who work alone through the night typing away at their keyboards while deeply absorbed in thought. Although no novel could be published without the performance of the solitary role of the writer, the publication of a novel involves far more than merely the performance of this one role. Book agents must screen writers’ novels for possible representation by their agency, acquisition editors must screen them for possible publication by their publishing houses, and production editors must prepare them for distribution; therefore, the publication of a novel is a genuine “social act.” Nevertheless, a novel's publication is a distinctively creative social act because it affords greater opportunity than most social acts for people to express their “selves” or, more precisely, “phantom communities,” which are etched from their past “significant social actions.” A novelist's phantom community primarily discloses itself through the “voice” in which she tells her story. Thus, the “voice” that an author uses while writing her novel can provide telltale signs of not only her phantom community, but also of the past significant social actions in which she has and has not participated during the course of her life.