Blumer and Symbolic Interactionism

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Blumer and symbolic interactionism: He propos es 3 fundamental premises. (1) “Human beings act as toward things on the basis of the meanings which theses things have for them”. Meanings are not intrinsically in things in the world; they have to be defined before they have any human reality. This applies to other human beings, social organizations, to ideals, as well as physical objects themselves. Everything that people act upon or that has an impact upon them must go through the process of subjective meaning. (2)”The meaning of a thing for a person grows out of the ways in which other persons act toward the person with regard to the thing” Meaning is not merely individual and subjective, but social. (3) “The use of meanings by the actor occurs through a process of interpretation”. Meanings are handled flexibly as actions are worked out. The social communication which constitutes meaning is itself an interpretive process, as individuals imaginatively take the role of the other to work out of way of dealing with each other. People are not merely pushed around by psychological or social conditions. Each individual has to interpret whatever factors there are in the situation, to give them a meaning, to work out a course of action in regard to them. Society, roles, social institutions, or values should not be reified, as if they were objective things or autonomous forces impinging on the individual. Society exists only in action; it is whatever people work it out to be, at a particular moment in time. Schutz proposes features which are fundamental aspects of the consciousness of everyday life. (1)Reciprocity of perspectives. Each person makes certain assumptions about the world, assumes that anyone else who is there is making the same thing. If they were to switch positions, presumably each one would see the world as the other did. (2) Objectivity and undeceptiveness of appearances. A person assumes that world is what it appears to be, and that it is factual and objective, not sth that has been subjectively manufactured. Doubt is suspended. (3) Typification. The kinds of things that happen in one situation are taken as instances of the kinds of things that have happened before and that will happen again in the future. (4) Practicality and goal-directedness. People experience a situation as sth they are doing, a project they are working toward in the world; their sense of their self as working toward a goal is experienced as their total self. (5) Stock of commonsense knowledge. People interpret their situation by using a stock of symbols, such as the words in the language, and other cultural knowledge. This knowledge is socially based and is assumed to be obvious to everyone. Harold Garfinkel describes ethnomethodology as the study of procedures people use to remedy the indexical nature of social life. People do not confront the indexicality; they avoid it, and thereby sustain the sense that all is as it should be. Here are some of these procedures: (1) The et cetra ssumption. People commonly refer to things in their world, or actions they or someone else take, by a short-hand mode of expression. To this is implicitly or explicitly added the proviso that “I could go on in greater detail along this line.” People take this ability to provide the “et cetra” for granted, although in fact no one ever does. The fact of indexicality shows why they never do. Garfinkel’s breaching experiments in which people took things literally in a conversation shows how upset people become if the et cetra assumption is not allowed to operate. (2) Waiting for clarification. People don’t insist that everything should be clearly understood at the moment they hear or see it. Generally they will wait to see whether what is said later casts light on what went before to make it meaningful. Garfinkel dramatizes this by an experiment in which students were told they were testing a new method of psychological counseling. They were to ask a series of questions...
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