sociology response 5

Students should strive to identify the main concepts and arguments presented in the assigned readings, while also considering the strengths and weaknesses of each theorist’s analysis. Ideally, responses should offer thoughtful criticisms, and if possible, raise insightful questions that can be utilized for class discussions.


Mind, Self and Society (pgs. 371-415) 

and class notes:

George Herbert Mead(1863–1931)

Born in Massachusetts George grew up the son of a congregationalist minister who worked at Oberlin theological seminary(Ohio). 

after graduating from Oberlin college, he studied as Harvard university and the university of Chicago. 

Mead would spend his entire academic career(post PhD) at university of Chicago.

His theories regrading the development of the self were greatly influenced by ‘American Pragmatism’.

The meaning of things lies in their practical utility— i.e. truth is a function of usefulness.

What is the meaning of water? it has different uses and purposes for the chemist, athlete. firefighter and grandeur.

therefore, water has different meanings.

along with Max Weber, his ideas “laid foundation for the theory of symbolic interactionism…”

Mind, self and society was published posthumously.

“mead’s influence on sociology stemmed largely from his graduate course in social psychology.”

“…Some of his students had his lectures transcribed. shortly after his death, the transcriptions were edited…”

mind, self and society presents a sociological theory of the ‘process of self development’

Q: what is the “self”?

It’s psychological apparatus that gives a person the capacity to think consciously about oneself—i.e. to think reflexively, to think self-consciously. 

‘who am I?’ we are able to deliberately describe, articulate, define, imagine and analyze ourselves.

‘self-concept’ refers to “the set of beliefs we have about the characteristics we possess”(Barrett, 2017)

“your positive or negative evaluation of yourself is called your self-esteem”  (Barrett, 2017: 125)

“the self has the characteristic that it is an object to itself…” (394)

the self is both subject(‘I’) and object(‘Me’)

“this characteristic is represented in the word ‘self’, which is a reflexive and indicates that which can be both subject and subject” (394). 

Immanuel Kant (1724–1804), German philosopher.

“it was Kant who proposed the existence of a twofold self…in being conscious of oneself…the individual ‘splits’ into I as subject and…I as object”

human being “…as a thinking.  subject and as a perceived object…”(373)

‘I’=subject : the ‘I’ is the impulsive, spontaneous and creative aspect of the self

‘Me’=object: The ‘Me’ is the observing, supervising and overseeing aspect of the self (…watching the ‘I’)

the self is an ‘ongoing conversation’—based on exchange between the ‘I’ and the ‘Me’

Q; “how can an individual get outside himself (experientially) in such a way to become an object to himself?” (394)

“this is the essential psychological problem of selfhood or of self-consciousness…its solution is to be found by referring to the process of social conduct or activity in which the given person or individual is implicated .” (395)

‘nature vs. nurture’ debate:

to what extent is this reflexive capability—which is necessary for achieving selfhood—innate or emergent?

is it ‘genetically inherited’ or “culturally acquired’ (ie environmentally conditioned)?

Answer: we become ‘objects to ourselves’ through social interaction with others:

social interaction facilitates (i) language acquisition and (ii) the taking of other’s attitudes toward oneself

“it is impossible to conceive of a self arising outside of social experience”

Three fundamental stages of self-development:

  1. language stage
  2. play stage
  3. game stage
  • passage through these stages occurs from ages 3-5.

‘language stage’

“out of language emerges the field of the mind”— it is what enables abstract thought (386).

human cognition— the process of thinking—is carried out “by means of symbols…[or] mediated by sets of symbols” (384-385).

“thinking always implies a symbol which will call out the same response in another that it calls out in the thinker”(398).

Eg. ‘student’, ‘classroom’, ‘chair’

“such as symbol…

further, the acquisition of language — of significant symbols—allows access to ‘cultural meanings’

this enables the child to ‘take the attitudes of others’

only by taking the attitudes of other individuals toward oneself —does the child become an object to oneself.

‘play stage’

“a child plays at being a mother, at being a teacher, at being a policeman; that is, [the child] is taking different social roles”(399)

social roles include attitudes about ‘how to relate to others, in specific situations.

“the play stage is marked by the ability to assume the attitude of the other of only one particular individual at a time.”

it is a specific stage of self-consciousness. 

“in play, the child is able to switch successively between discrete roles”

‘game stage’

“in contrast… we note the essential difference that the child who plays in a game must be ready to take the attitude of everyone else involved…”(399)

“he must know what everyone else is going to do in order to carry out his own play”(400).

“what he does is controlled by his being everyone else on that team…in so far as those attitudes affect his own particular response” (400)

“We get an ‘other’ which is the organization of the attitudes of those involved in the same process.”

This is what Mead calls ‘the generalized other’.

“the organized community, or social group which gives to the individual his utility of self may be called ‘the generalized other’”(400)

The attitude of the entire community—in terms of a set of attitudes—becomes taken toward oneself.

internalization of this abstract unity share conduct.

‘I’=subject: “the ‘I’ is the response of the organism to the attitudes of the others…”.

‘Me’=object: “the ‘Me’ is the organized set of attitudes of others which one himself assumes”

“the attitudes of the others constitute the organized ‘me’, and then one reacts toward that as an ‘I’”(404)

“Consider, for instance, the internal conversation you engage in before asking someone out for a date, going to a job interview…or deciding whether to ask a question in class. in each case, you take the attitude of the other, viewing yourself as an object as other individuals do during, you may ask yourself [various questions]. the answers…and [you] behavior… are4 shaped by the responses evoked in your mind. the responses are not entirely your own…instead, they reflect the assumed attitude that others take toward you behavior.” (375)

“The self is something which has a development; it is not initially there, at birth, but arises in the process of social experience and activity…”.

“To have self-consciousness one must have the attitude of the other”.

“the self…is essentially a social phenomenon.”

‘Self as object’

“the essence of the symbolic interactionist concept of self lies in the idea that human beings are objects to themselves”(Hewitt and Shulman 2011)

The ‘self’ is fundamentally social in nature—it is an emergent property that arises put of social interaction.

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