Symbolic Interactionism, Drama and Narrative

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:


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