Symbolic Interactionism Essay

745 Words3 Pages
Definition In practical terms symbolic interactionism is a theoretical perspective that argues that humans communicate through a world of complex symbols and engage in intricate interpretative work that actually creates the social world. It recognizes that individuals are not passive in making meaning and establishing social order and therefore offers a non-traditional angle on social reality. Researchers can therefore use symbolic interactionism to not only explore how we go about creating our selves, but also how we go about shaping society (O’Leary, 2007). The aim of symbolic interactionism is to discover the meanings of the individuals involved in a given social situation. This leads to the adoption of methods of research which yield qualitative rather than quantitative information (eds. McLeish, 2003). How it evolved and why As a distinctive sociological perspective, symbolic interactionism emerged out of the American philosophical tradition of pragmatism. This approach was elaborated in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in the writings of Charles S. Peirce, William James, and John Dewey. These thinkers challenged the mechanistic world-view and assumptions of rationalism, the philosophy that had dominated western thought since the seventeenth century (eds. Turner, 2003). Symbolic interactionism has its intellectual roots in the concept of ‘self’ developed by G.H. Mead. Mead argued that social life depends on the ability of individuals to observe themselves from the standpoint of others. The concept of self develops by placing oneself in the position of others and looking back at oneself with an objective stance. With an awareness of self, individuals are able to see themselves as others see them. This provides the basis for co-operative action in society. The individual will become aware of what is expected of him or her and will
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