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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: 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…

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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: 16 October 2013

Michael A. Katovich

In this chapter I attempt to merge Athens’ conception of domination as a complex interactionist concept with Goffman’s notion of demeanor and deference as lynchpins of…

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In this chapter I attempt to merge Athens’ conception of domination as a complex interactionist concept with Goffman’s notion of demeanor and deference as lynchpins of dramaturgical analysis. I ground the merger in an analysis of metaphorical duel between a superordinate and subordinate in the TV show Mad Men. The examination of this metaphorical dual also implies a connection between a radical interactionism as defined by Athens and a radical dramaturgy informed by Athens’ conception of domination. In particular, I propose an examination of civil domination within institutionalized settings in which use of shared pasts and concomitant acts of demeanor and deference enhance the construction of domination between superordinates and subordinates. The fictional representation of a metaphorical duel in the television show Mad Men depicts a struggle for control in which the superordinate demands that a willful subordinate sign a contract which will bind the subordinate to a particular place for an extended period of time. The examination of events leading to signing reveals a complex weave of social acts that combines the force of domination with the artistry of demeanor and deference.

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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: 16 October 2013

Gil Richard Musolf

Dewey, through his contributions to pragmatism (America’s sole original philosophy), has long been considered relative to symbolic interactionism (SI), which emerged from…

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Dewey, through his contributions to pragmatism (America’s sole original philosophy), has long been considered relative to symbolic interactionism (SI), which emerged from that philosophy. His impact on SI, while falling short of those of Mead and Cooley, has mainly come from (and has been limited to) concepts and insights developed in Human Nature and Conduct: An Introduction to Social Psychology (1922/1957) and his earlier, seminal, article, “The Reflex Arc Concept in Psychology,” published in 1896 during his tenure at the University of Chicago (1894–1904). SI, however, has wrongly ignored Dewey’s political theory, especially his concept of domination. In order to rectify this inattention, I summarize the social and historical contexts that motivated Dewey’s turn toward domination; outline the radical nature of his political theory; illustrate similarities of his political theory with Marx’s; expatiate on his concept of domination, including his argument for social practices to reduce surplus domination; and explicate the theoretical and political implications of taking his political theory seriously.

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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: 9 May 2011

Natalia Ruiz-Junco

The work of George Santayana belongs simultaneously to North American and European traditions of social thought. Although an important figure of the Western tradition…

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The work of George Santayana belongs simultaneously to North American and European traditions of social thought. Although an important figure of the Western tradition, Santayana is not well known among sociologists. The main purpose of this chapter is to introduce Santayana's social thought to sociologists, and especially to those interested in interactionist and interpretivist theory. I pay particular attention to the concepts of psyche, domination, and dramatic sympathy. I also analyze how some of Santayana's concepts fare when compared to those by Mead and radical interactionism.

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Blue Ribbon Papers: Interactionism: The Emerging Landscape
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-0-85724-796-4

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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…

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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: 16 October 2013

Antony J. Puddephatt

George Herbert Mead developed a sophisticated social and pragmatist model of science, which has escaped the attention of most modern-day scholars and symbolic…

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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.

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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…

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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: 9 May 2011

Lonnie Athens

Signs of a new period of theoretical and methodological ferment – consequent real growth – are finally appearing on the horizon. Old theoretical and methodological issues…

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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.

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Blue Ribbon Papers: Interactionism: The Emerging Landscape
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-0-85724-796-4

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Book part
Publication date: 16 October 2013

Matthew Gougherty and Tim Hallett

The sociology of education has various traditions which examine the connections between education, culture, and inequality. Two of these traditions, symbolic interactionism

Abstract

The sociology of education has various traditions which examine the connections between education, culture, and inequality. Two of these traditions, symbolic interactionism and critical theory, tend to ignore each other. This paper creates a dialogue between these traditions by applying symbolic interactionist (SI) and radical interactionist (RSI) sensibilities to an important study for resistance theory, Paul Willis’ classic ethnography Learning to Labor (1977). The SI reading of Learning to Labor emphasizes the importance of group interactions and the creation of meaning, while the RSI reading highlights how domination unfolds in social interaction. We argue that SI and RSI have much to offer Learning to Labor, as these readings can avoid some of the critiques commonly leveled on the book regarding the linkage between theory and data, structure and agency, and the book’s conceptualization of culture. Likewise, we argue that the data in Learning to Labor have much to offer SI and RSI, as the material provides grist to further understand the role of symbols in domination while identifying escalating dominance encounters that create a set of patterned interactions that we describe as a “grinding” social order.

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