Individual and society

Topics: Sociology, Marxism, Symbolic interactionism Pages: 6 (2018 words) Published: April 3, 2014
‘Focuses on the social system as a whole and its functional requirements are normally that of structural sociology’ (Calhoun, C et al 2002) However Marxism a conflict theory of sociology takes exactly this focus when analysing how an individual creates an identity and relationship within society. Marxism as a Macro-theory of sociology focuses on ‘human agents as cogs in the machine of social forces’ (Calhoun, C et al 2002) who have little or no control over the development of their identities, because of the overpowering social superstructure which is dictating a social hierarchy of which they are forced to obey. This large scale view of society as over powering in the formation of one’s identity is not that taken by ‘Micro-sociologist who emphasise the social system as being a human creation, rather than one which is imposed on individuals by the system; thus micro sociologists see social order as being produced from below […] created and maintained by the institutions we actively produce.” (Calhoun, C et al 2002) It is this explanation of micro-sociologists like Mead which give room to theories like his of the symbolic self which belong within the category of action theories; and more closely associated with Symbolic Interactionism.

This essay will explore and analysis the theories put forward by both Marx and Mead in their approach to sociology and will more closely concentrate on their beliefs of how individuals form identities and relationships within society. Furthermore these essay will both compare and contrast these theorists in their politics and how these have affected modern day sociology with a final evaluation given to explain; the contemporary situation of each of these theories. Firstly though an introduction to briefly outline the basic principles behind each philosophy.

George Herbet Mead; an American Pragmatist and developer of the micro-social approach into the symbolic self through interaction and communication of individuals is critical in the knowledge of sociology and more specifically Symbolic Interactionism. Mead’s fascination with sociality, along with his knowledge that human beings are malleable; gave expansion to his theory that human behaviour is transcendent; thus our abilities to change, control and reflect on our conduct. The notion that “the individual mind can exist only in relation to other minds” (Mead, 1982) is the fundamental concept to Mead’s theory; that the ‘self’ of an individual is embodied and established through stimuli of social matters like; communication, language and essentially gestures. Mead’s publications of Mind, Self and Society in 1934, highlights the significance of social organisms, and more precisely human ability (which is unlike all other animals) to communicate through both language and gestures of the prehensile hand. Past theories viewed ‘mind’ as separate from the ‘self’ of an individual, but symbolic integrationist’s; like Mead recognise how the mind develops alongside the ‘self’ from social processes of communication; thus acts, whether impulsive or controlled constitute towards how an individual’s relationship with society is started. The micro-social position of Mead within social interactionism varies greatly in both the size and approach of Karl Marx and his inputs to Marxism.

Marxism; the father of conflict approaches in sociology is a standpoint which focuses on the move of political ideologies through history which have created the modern capitalist society. Central to this theoretical approach is the economic development of the mode of production from feudalism to the current state of capitalism which has created segregation of the social classes with only one option to change the social assembly; revolution. Karl Marx, partnership in founder of the Marxist approach of Marxism, argues that current capitalism has caused large divides between the social classes; the proletariat; or working class are controlled and alienated by the...

References: Geras, N. 1983. Marx and Human Nature: Refutation of a Legend. London: Verso Editions
Gouldner, W. A. 1980 Alienation: From Hegel to Marx — Chapter 6, The Two Marxism’s. New York: Oxford University Press.
Jones, P, Bradbury, L and Le Boutillier, S. 2011. Introducing Social Theory. 2nd Ed. Cambridge, Polity Press
McLellan, D. 1995. The Thought of Karl Marx: An Introduction. London: Papermac
Mead. H. G 2011 A Reader. Ed. by F.C. Silva. Routledge
Miller, L. D, 1982. The Individual and the Social Self: Unpublished Works of George Herbert Mead, edited. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press
Miller, L. D 1973 G.H. Mead: Self, Language and the World. University of Chicago Press
Morris, C. W. 1934 Mind, Self, and Society: From the Perspective of a Social Behaviourist, edited, with an Introduction. Chicago: University of Chicago Press
Roberts, B. 1977. George Herbert Mead: The theory and practice of social philosophy. [Online] London: LSE Online Research. Available at: [Accessed on 28 December 2013]
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