Symbolic Interaction

Topics: Symbolic interactionism, Sociology, Erving Goffman Pages: 2 (763 words) Published: April 22, 2012
Symbolic Interaction Theory

Symbolic Interactionism is one of the major theoretical perspectives in sociology. This perspective has a long intellectual history, beginning with the German sociologist and economist, Max Weber (1864-1920) and the American philosopher, George H. Mead (1863-1931), both of whom emphasized the subjective meaning of human behaviour, the social process, and pragmatism.  George Herbert Mead believed that symbols were the basis of individual identity and social life. In his opinion, individuals can acquire identity only through interacting with others. By doing this, we learn the language of our social lives. Since Mead regarded symbols as the foundation of both personal and social life, the theory he developed is called Symbolic Interactionism. Although Mead died before naming his theory, Herbert Blumer, a student of his, came up with the name. Blumer stated that Mead's theory consisted of three key concepts, meaning, language, and thought. The central theme of symbolic interactionism is that human life is lived in the symbolic domain. Symbols are culturally derived social objects having shared meanings that are created and maintained in social interaction. Through language and communication, symbols provide the means by which reality is constructed. Reality is primarily a social product, and all that is humanly consequential self, mind, society, culture emerges from and is dependent on symbolic interactions for its existence. Even the physical environment is relevant to human conduct mainly as it is interpreted through symbolic systems.

Symbolic Interaction Theory has been a powerful theoretical framework for over sixty years. It provides striking insights about human communication behaviour in a wide variety of contexts. The theory is logical in its development, beginning with the role of the self and progressing to an examination of the self in society. In my research I noted that the theory is heuristic, identifying its...
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