The chapter begins by examining the relevance of symbolic interactionism, not only for deepening personal understanding of social life but also for improving social policy. It then moves on to consider how interactionism has moved beyond its early focus of interpersonal observations, particularly by broadening its scope to include analysis of mesostructure and organizational life. It concluded by discussing some of the new voices that have gained influence in interactionism during the past decades including feminist, neo-Marxist, and postmodernist perspectives.
Interactionism can be beneficial in at least two important ways, it can enhance your understanding of the nature and consequences of (1) your personal "agency" and (2) your joint activity with others. Interactionism differs from other sociological approaches because it emphasizes that people have the capacity for agency, or freedom, as they act toward situations and respond to their demands. Interactionism, however, does not talk about freedom in a language of "individual choices" that separate these choices from the larger society or social structures in which they occur. Rather , interactionism recognizes that freedom is always linked with social structiure and constraint. You make choices, but these choices are always conditioned by your social experiences and relationships, and they are made within situations characterized by various forms of social control. In this way interactionism has merit in that it can help you recognize that often you so not exercise as much agency, or freedom, in decision making as you might think. However, interactionism also helps you remember that your choices and actions are not fully dictated by cultural expectations or the reactions of others. Interactionism emphasizes that because to think and use symbols, you have an important element of freedom as you form your behavior. In analyzing joint action interactionism offers a... [continues]
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