The focus is on subjectivity
We are not animals interacting with each other. We have minds which take in a subjective view of our environment, and then responds to the subjectively perceived environment (not the true environment).
Main ideas of Symbolic Interactionism:
People make decisions and act in accordance with their subjective understanding of the situations in which they find themselves
Social life consists of interaction processes rather than structures and therefore is constantly changing (micro vs. macro)
People understand their experience through the meanings found in the symbols of their primary groups, and language is an essential part of social life
The world is made up of social objects that are named and have socially determined meanings
People's actions are based on their interpretations, in which the relevant objects and actions in the situation are taken into account and defined (individual interpretation -> individual response)
One's self is a significant object and like all social objects is defined through social interaction with others (not in isolation)
significant others- someone important in your heirarchy of values (your significant other, this is where the phrase comes from)
generalized others- the stereotyped others (muslims in the war on terror, soviets in the cold war, etc.) GOOD VS. EVIL, US VS. THEM
I, Me- 'I' is the active decision maker, 'Me' is the socialized 'I'
The Chicago School: George Herbert Mead and Herbert Blumer (qualitative)
background in sociology- theory is the opposite of Watson's behaviorism theory- which examines humans and their external actions.
The mind is a black box that we cannot see into- and the focus is on subjectivity
Mead's Units of Analysis:
the Mind: see 'I' above
the Self: see 'Me' above
the Society: the collection of individuals
Blumer was Mead's student. His work added to Mead's, and he was the one who coined the term 'symbolic interactionism'
My paper on Mead's Mind, Self and Society
The Iowa School: Manfred Kuhn (quantitative)
background in behaviorism- interested in measuring external actions to attain quantitative data for analysis (Watson). Since the mind is a black box, we can only measure input (stimulus) and output (response).
Extended Interactionism (Erving Goffmann)
He used a theatrical metaphor: Society's ordinary setting is a stage and people are actors who use performances to make an impression on the audience. We behave in a way to make a certain impression we want to create upon others.
Example: Madonna "Strike A Pose" in her song "Vogue"- it's all about impression management
Example of this- George Bush standing on the air craft carrier with the "Mission Accomplished" sign in the background after defeating Iraq
Structuration Theory (Anthony Giddens)
Structures are formed by individuals following rules to meet their goals. The structures come back to affect future actions (precedence)
Structures are subject to time, formed by interpretation. They are subject to changing norms and power.
Example: The Constitution- it's very old but has survived by changing along with the structures
With respect to Symbolic Interactionism- the self isn't static- it changes over time as we redefine ourselves