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This chapter shows that Mead has a field theory and that the explanatory method of symbolic interaction is that of a field. A field, in this sense, is a systematic network…
This chapter shows that Mead has a field theory and that the explanatory method of symbolic interaction is that of a field. A field, in this sense, is a systematic network of meanings. When someone or something enters that field such as a protest rally or a cocktail party they are given the meaning that is characteristic of the field. This explanation is not one of causation but one of context. I show that a major field theory of Mead’s concerns the agent and how decisions or actions are made. He also has a developmental field theory based on the play-game-generalized other relation. With Mead’s agency model I then show how it can be applied, in macro fashion, to the recent rise in American minorities, especially that of women, African Americans, and gays. This example shows the macro or social structural power of Mead’s idea.
My main point is that the 1920s Chicago School got its scholastic or school-like quality primarily from its notion of what a human being is, from its social psychology…
My main point is that the 1920s Chicago School got its scholastic or school-like quality primarily from its notion of what a human being is, from its social psychology, and only secondarily from its sociology. These sociologists developed the novel idea that humans are constituted by symbolic or cultural elements, not biological forces or instincts. They applied Franz Boas's discovery of culture to human nature and the self. In particular, they showed that ethnic groups and their subcultures are not biologically determined or driven by fixed instincts. In the 1910s and 1920s, the Americanization movement held that ethnic groups could be ranked on how intelligent, how criminal, and therefore how fit for democracy they were. This powerful movement, the extreme wing of which was lead by the Northern Ku Klux Klan, advocated different levels of citizenship for different ethnic groups. The Chicago sociologists spear-headed the idea that humans have a universal nature, are all the same ontologically, and therefore all the same morally and legally. In this way, they strengthened the foundations of civil liberties. The Chicago professors advanced their position in a quiet, low-keyed manner, the avoidance of open political controversy being the academic style of the time. Their position was nevertheless quite potent and effective. The actual sociology of the school, also quite important, was largely an expression of the democratic social psychology. In addition, the sociology was dignified and elevated by the moral capital of their theory of human nature.
Mead's notion of “reflexivity” is one of his key ideas. Our mind “bends” or “flexes” back to itself in this process. Mead argues that universal ideas were first attained reflexively when humans could understand their own communications; for example, when the primate mother could both indicate to her children where food was and also give herself the same message. These two cases, viewed together, constituted the first “universal” (for Mead). This contrasted with the traditional theory of universals, which had the knower abstracting the universal idea, i.e. the “essence,” from a group of particulars. Mead's universal is not essentialist but linguistic. It is syntactic and not ontological. This allowed him to sidestep the problem of essences (since no one could find any, anyway). Mead's version shows how reflexivity may have first originated, in the evolutionary process, though he does not actually prove this. I examine reflexivity itself here, singling out several varieties. I look at self-referencing pronouns (especially “I”) and show how Cooley's observations of his daughter's use of pronouns clarified this process. I also examine the reflexivity of recognizing one's own face in the mirror. Mead said the body could not be reflexive, but self-recognition in a mirror is a form of bodily reflexivity. And there are several others, for example the varieties of bodily meditation, that Mead missed. Recognizing this reflexivity introduces the body (and, therefore, gender) early in Mead's theory, rather than late, as he has it. This point also opens him to a badly needed infusion of feminist thought, such as that of Nancy Chodorow. The self-recognizing mirror face is, as Lacan points out, “all smiles.” This insight also introduces emotion early into Mead. As it is, he has emotion late, as a kind of afterthought. This paper then promotes a badly needed feminization of Mead.
This will be an attempt to construct a pragmatist theory of the self, drawing on the four major classical pragmatists. From John Dewey, I will take the self as actor or…
This will be an attempt to construct a pragmatist theory of the self, drawing on the four major classical pragmatists. From John Dewey, I will take the self as actor or agent; from George Herbert Mead the social self; from Charles Sanders Peirce the semiotic or significative self; and from William James the emotion of self feeling. The four fit together reasonably well, and the result is a highly egalitarian, democratic and humanistic idea of what it means to be a human being.
Signs of a new period of theoretical and methodological ferment – consequent real growth – are finally appearing on the horizon. Old theoretical and methodological issues…
Signs of a new period of theoretical and methodological ferment – consequent real growth – are finally appearing on the horizon. Old theoretical and methodological issues that have merely been papered over in the past, stymieing progress for decades, are now undergoing long-awaited resolution. New burning issues necessary to stimulate theoretical and methodological growth are now being raised for resolution in the future. Perhaps, no better evidence of this potential renewal of interactional thought can be provided than in the seven chapters published in this edition of the “Blue-Ribbon Papers.” The first three of these chapters aim to resolve, or – at least – reframe long-standing theoretical and methodological controversies.
This is a comparison of the emotions we have in watching a movie with those we have in everyday life. Everyday emotion is loose in frame or context but rather controlled and regulated in content. Movie emotion, in contrast, is tightly framed and boundaried but permissive and uncontrolled in content. Movie emotion is therefore quite safe and inconsequential but can still be unusually satisfying and pleasurable. I think of the movie emotions as modeling clay that can symbolize all sorts of human troubles. A major function of movies then is catharsis, a term I use more inclusively than usual.
Throughout I use a pragmatist approach to film theory. This position gives the optimal distance to the study of ordinary, middle-level emotion. In contrast psychoanalysis is too close and cognitive theory too distant. This middle position is similar to Arlie Hochschild’s symbolic interactionist approach to the sociology of emotions, which also mediates between psychoanalysis and cognitive theories.