The Sociocultural Tradition

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9. The Sociocultural Tradition
Dr. Martin Morris, Communication Studies, Wilfrid Laurier University Saved on: 3/10/09 1:30 PM Printed on: 3/10/09 1:31 PM


Reading 27. G.H. Mead, “The Social Foundations and Functions of Thought and Communication”  The principle which I have suggested as basic to human social organization is that of communication involving participation in the other. This requires the appearance of the other in the self, the identification of the other with the self, the reaching of self-consciousness through the other. This participation is made possible only through human communication  Contrast with animal communication . . .  Symbols => a human soci al product—that is, a product of interaction o What Mead discovers is that the self is ultimately a product of the human social use of symbols, the process of communication itself. Mead emphasizes the process of communication as constitutive of our very sense of self.  The first symbol important for self-formation is the self-as-object. Thinking of the self as an object is symbolic because the “object” one holds in one’s mind in order to be conscious of the self is a symbol. Objects must be symbolized in order to be identified. It’s like a nam e: you identify something by calling it by its name. The self-as-object is a representation that one must bring before oneself in order to see the self itself.  Distinction between the self and the body: the body does not experience itself as a whol e like the self does. o Concept of the self is inherently reflective: the self “can be both subject and object”*  “Symbolic interactionism”: o “significant symbols” and “significant speech”  “what is essential to a significant symbol is that the gesture which affects others should affect the individual himself in the same way. It is only when the stimulus 1

* Quote not included in the Craig Textbook excerpt. Dr. Martin Morris, Communication Studies, Wilfrid Laurier University

which one gives another arouses in himself the same or like response that the symbol is a significant symbol.” o condition of symbolic interaction is the capacity to double oneself, to take an attitude that sees the self as an object of knowledge and symbolic intention

Genesis of the self
 what are the conditions for the development of the self? o Note first, there is no such thing as a private language o the universal: “. . .You are saying something that calls out a specific response in anybody else provided that the symbol exists for him in his experience as it does in you.”* o This “calling out”* of same response is part of what we mean by rationality: sameness of meaning is necessary for rationality, for rational communication.

Taking the role of the other
 taking the role of the other as a condition of symbolic interaction: for example, the child playing a game of ball  requirement of knowing the appropriate responses of others in order to play any game—this is part of the meaning of following a rule.  Normative action: being guided by rules not instinct o hence Mead’s contrasts between human beings and animals o responses of others must be present in the self’s own make-up in order for any normative action to occur, and this is only possible with symbolic communication

Communication and society
 social control—(again, a possibility of normative action)  “The control of the action of the individual in a co-operative process can take place in the conduct of the individual himself if he can take the role of the other. It is this control of the response of the individual himself through taking the role of the other that leads to the value of this type of communication from the point of view of the organization of the conduct in the * Quote not included in the Craig Textbook excerpt. Dr. Martin Morris, Communication Studies, Wilfrid Laurier University


group. It carries the process of co-operative activity farther than it can be carried in the...
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