Charles Horton Cooley and the Symbolic Interactionism Theory

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Charles Horton Cooley and the Symbolic Interactionism Theory

Should we associate the abandonment of ‘self’ with symbolic interactionism? Do you feel the need to ‘change your stripes’ to fit in with society?
‘An individual is an abstraction unknown to experience, and so likewise is society when regarded as something apart from individuals.... Society and individuals do not denote separable phenomena, but are simply collective and distributive aspects of the same thing…’ (Thomas Francis O'Dea) In this aspect of his theory, Charles Horton Cooley, a symbolic interactionist, concluded that our sense of ’self’ develops from interactions with others. Cooley described this process as the looking -glass self. The looking- glass self consists of three principle elements. We first imagine how we appear to those around us. We may feel that others see us as monotonous or quiet. Therefore, we try to interpret the reactions of others when we are around them to confirm if what we think is true. If others seem to avoid you or go out of their way to make sure you don‘t see them at all, your typical assumption would be that they have seen or heard something to turn them off from wanting to be an acquaintance of yours .

Secondly, in order of the concept, one imagines the judgment that others may be making regarding that appearance. In other words, how their actions must look to those observing. If someone saw another person walking down the street with all sorts of colors in their hair, one must wonder what compelled them to do such a thing. But if that person turns around with the crazy hair that’s out of the norm and on their shirt it says, ‘I am doing what I want to my hair before chemo takes it from me,’ then there you go. Judgment served.

Lastly, how Cooley put down in words the symbolic interactionism theory was how one feels, either prideful or mortified, about appearances and other judgments of that imagined appearance. People changing themselves or even rebelling against change due to the judgments of others they interact with. A great portion of peoples ‘identities’ are based on speech sounding ignorant or illiterate, appearance with baggy clothes, ripped jeans, a face piercing, or tattoos. Actions are another way people can be judged, or even down to what their beliefs are.

With that stated above, I will explain my reaction to the theory. Cooley states that “ a person’s self grows out of a person’s commerce with others.” (Coser) Well, doesn’t that create a society? A society, or a human society, is a group of people related to each other through persistent relations, or a large social grouping sharing the same geographical or virtual territory, subject to the same political authority and dominant cultural expectations. (Wikipedia)

So where does an image come from that the society can agree on and want to make ‘theirs‘? How do they want others to perceive them? From one person? In my bluntness, I deem most individuals are afraid to express their own opinion. Almost to the point of creating a ’free market’ idea on the concept of opinion. One person comes up with the opinion and the rest of society, if they feel it is not harmful to themselves, goes along with the insight not speaking up to change or viewing a different insight. This creates separate subcultures in society such as the “punk” subculture or the “thug” subculture. Because one person thought of the idea to shave both sides of the head and spike the middle and color it blue for an outrageous reaction, others who were intrigued by the idea and wanted to express them selves with out being an individual but being an individual ’society’. Within the ’thug’ subculture, most people on the outside decipher them by wearing their clothes too big. Is that the right way to pick them out? If it is, than how do today's youth in middle class suburbia sport that style, they have never lived in the ghetto and experienced things like supposed genuine thugs have. In...
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