Sociology of Identity

1099 Words5 Pages
Identity, in terms of social science, is defined as the manner in which human beings associate and label themselves as part of a particular social group. People could categorize themselves into groups according to their nationality, ethnicity, religion, social class and gender to name but a few. Symbolic interactionism aims to identify how an individuals’ identity could influence as well as be influenced by their social environment. In this essay, the approaches to construct identity by Herbert Mead and Erving Goffman will briefly be outlined and discussed. It will then be argued that, although there are differences between Mead and Goffmans’ views on the sociology of identity, they are in some way complementary. “We are not, in social psychology, building up the behavior of the social group in term s of the behavior of separate individuals composing it; rather, we are starting out with a given social whole of complex group activity, into which we analyze (as elements) the behavior of each of the separate individuals composing it... We attempt, that is, to explain the conduct of the social group, rather than to account for the organized conduct of the social group in terms of the conduct of the separate individuals belonging to it. For social psychology, the whole (society) is prior to the part (the individual), not the part to the whole; and the part is explained in terms of the whole, not the whole in terms of the part or parts.” (Mead, 1934) George Herbert Mead is one of the most influential examples of theorists’ who argue that “the self” is not present at birth, but is developed through peoples’ social interactions. He believes that an individuals’ identity is constructed by means of symbolic interactionism, only once an individual considers themselves as an object. He places more focus on the interaction between the individual (actor) and the world,
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