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The Modern Person:

George Herbert Mead

and Georg Simmel
he topics of each of the previous chapters are central to the modern project.
V-le've talked about social structures and complex social systems, religion
and the state, capitalism and bureaucracy, culture and social integration,
and so on. All of these are fairly large (macro level institutional issues that help
define modernity as a historical period. !n this chapter "e're bringing our analysis
do"n to the micro level and the person. !n a significant "ay this chapter is about
you. #o"ever, it is vital for you to see that the topic of this chapter is just as central
to the project of modernity as those institutional forces.
$odernity "as founded on a specific kind of person. %rior to the social and philo
sophical changes leading up to modernity, a person "asn't seen as an individual in the
"ay "e mean the term today. &o help you see this, let me explain a little bit about ho"
the modern person came about. 'ne of the major forces in pushing modernity for
"ard "as the %rotestant (eformation) it had broad based effects beyond its religious
implications. *or example, in +hapter , "e sa" ho" -uther's notion of the calling
provided a cultural base for the "ork ethic of early capitalism. &he %rotestant
(eformation also helped reconceptuali.e the person. !n traditional +atholicism a per
son had a relationship "ith /od based on his or her being part of the Catholic Church.
0alvation "asn't seen individually, but, rather, collectively-a person "ent to heaven
because he or she "as part of the +hurch, part of the 1ride of +hrist.
And membership in the +hurch "as obtained through the sacraments, such as
baptism (generally at birth and the #oly 2ucharist. *urther, people didn't have a
direct, individual relation or experience "ith /od) a person's connection "ith /od
"as continually mediated by priests, saints, the Virgin $ary, and various other
intermediaries-people "eren't even deemed capable of reading the 1ible on their
o"n. &his type of person "as also in the political realm3 0ubjects of the monarchy
"ere to be guided and cared for. &he important thing ! "ant you to see here is that
none of this implied a person individually capable of making important decisions
and guiding his or her life. !n fact, it implies just the opposite. 1ut "ith the advent
of %rotestantism, the person "as singled out, made to stand before /od on his or
her o"n confession of faith. &his is "hy people converting from +atholicism "ould
be rebapti.ed3 1eing bapti.ed as an infant did not involve personal choice. As ! said,
%rotestantism is just one force in the redefinition of the person, but it gives us a
sense of ho" people "ere vie"ed prior to modernity.
&he 2nlightenment and modernity brought "ith it a ne" kind of person, 4as a fully
centered, unified individual, endo"ed "ith the capacities of reason, consciousness, and
action4 (#all, 5667, p. 869. 1oth science and citi.enship are based on this idea of a
ne" kind of person-the supreme individual "ith the po"er to use his or her o"n
mind to determine truth and to use reason to discover the "orld as it exists and make
rational decisions. &his belief gave the 2nlightenment its other name3 the Age of
(eason. &his ne" idea, this reasoning person, obviously formed the basis of scientific
in:uiry) more importantly, for our purposes, it also formed the basis for the social
project. ;emocracy is not only possible because of belief in the rational individual)
this ne" person also necessitates democracy. &he only "ay of governing a group of
individuals, each of "hom is capable of rational in:uiry and reasonable action, is
through their consent.
<e "ill consider the modern person (you several times throughout the book.
0o, keep this in mind3 &he person you are is not incidental to modernity. And, per
haps more importantly, the type of person that it is possible for you to be is histor
ically specific and socially created-the possibilities of personhood, of the subject,
alters "ith changes in social practices, structure, and culture. !n this chapter "e look
at the modern person from t"o points of vie". /eorge #erbert $ead "ill vie" the
modern person from the perspective of pragmatism. And he's going to give us a
theory about ho" the modern person as a reasoning, acting individual can come to
exist-he "ill explain ho" the modern person comes into being. /eorg 0immel, on
the other hand, is going to assume the individual. 0tarting there, he then considers
ho" certain modern social processes and factors impact the person.
George Herbert Mead (1863-1931)
Theorist's Digest
Concepts and Theor! Tr"th# Meaning# and Action
Pragmatic Truth
Human Action
Concepts and Theor! Meaning and Interaction
Symbolic Interaction
Concepts and Theor! Ma$ing Yo"rse%&
The Mind
Three Stages of Role-Taking
Society and the Self
The I and the Me
Ta$ing the Perspecti(e)S'*o%ic Interaction
&rie' &iogra(h)
George Her*ert Mead +as *orn on ,e*r"ar -.# /012# in So"th Had%e# Massach"setts3 Mead
*egan his co%%ege ed"cation at O*er%in Co%%ege +hen he +as /1 ears o%d and grad"ated
/0023 A&ter short stints as a schoo% teacher and s"r(eor# Mead did his grad"ate st"dies in
phi%osoph at Har(ard3 In /042# 5ohn De+e as$ed Mead to 6oin hi' to &or' the
Depart'ent o& Phi%osoph at the 7ni(ersit o& Chicago# the site o& the &irst depart'ent o&
socio%og in the 7nited States3 Mead's 'a6or in&%"ence on socio%ogists ca'e thro"gh his
grad"ate co"rse in socia% pscho%og# +hich he started teaching in /4883 A'ong his st"dents
+as Her*ert 9%"'er :Chapter // ;3 Those %ect"res &or'ed the *asis &or Mead's 'ost &a'o"s
+or$# Mind, Self, and Society, p"*%ished posth"'o"s% * his st"dents3 Mead died on Apri%
-1# /42/3
*entral So+iologi+al ,-estions
Societ as +e $no+ it ca'e to e<ist in 'odernit3 9"t# &or Mead# societ doesn't e<ist as 'acro
%e(e% str"ct"res and sste's3 =hat +e 'ean * societ is act"a%% 'ade "p o& (ario"s sets o&
attit"des# +as o& seeing and *eing in the +or%d3 Societ is enacted and co'es to e<ist as
indi(id"a%s interact one +ith another and ta$e on these attit"des3 Centra% to this socia% interaction#
and th"s to societ# is a certain $ind o& se%&# one capa*%e o& ta$ing his or her o+n actions as socia%
o*6ects and deciding to act3 Mead's >"est# then# is to e<p%ain ho+ this 'odern person e<ists! ?Ho+
can an indi(id"a% get o"tside hi'se%& :e<perientia%%; in s"ch a +a as to *eco'e an o*6ect to
hi'se%&@ This is the essentia% pscho%ogica% pro*%e' o& se%&hood or o& se%&)conscio"sness? :Mead#
/42A# p3 /20;3
Sim(l) Stated
At the core o& Mead's >"estion is the iss"e o& separation! The +atching perspecti(e o& an
indi(id"a% is separate &ro' the actions o& the se%&3 Mead +ants to e<p%ain ho+ that
separation ta$es p%ace3 There are t+o chie& 'echanis's thro"gh +hich peop%e *eco'e
separated &ro' their o+n actions! %ang"age ac>"isition and ro%e ta$ing3 Ro%e ta$ing
progresses thro"gh three stages as the indi(id"a% de(e%ops a se%& that is increasing%
separated &ro' his or her o+n actions3
.e) *on+e(ts
prag'atis'# e'ergence# action# 'eaning# nat"ra% signs and signi&icant gest"res# socia%
o*6ects# e'ergence# ro%e)ta$ing# perspecti(e# se%&# 'ind# p%a stage# ga'e stage#
genera%iBed other stage# I and the Me# interaction# societ
*on+e(ts and Theor): Tr-th/ Meaning/ and 0+tion
&here "ere many influences on $ead's thinking. !n fact, his "ork is an early
example of theoretical synthesis, bringing together several different strands of
thought to create something ne" (for $ead's influences, see $orris, 567=. 1ut for
our purposes, "e "ill concentrate on $ead's debt to the philosophy of pragmatism.
%ragmatism is the only indigenous and distinctively American form of philoso
phy, and its birth is linked to the American +ivil <ar ($enand, =>>5. &he +ivil
<ar "as costly in the extreme3 &he number of dead and "ounded exceeds that
of any other "ar that the ?nited 0tates has fought, and the dead on both sides
"ere family members and fello" Americans. &his extreme cost left people disil
lusioned and doubtful about the ideas and beliefs that provoked the "ar. !t "as
n't so much the content of the ideas that "as the problem, but, rather, the fact
that ideas that appeared so right, moral, and legitimate could cause such devas
tation. !t took the ?nited 0tates almost 8> years to culturally recover and find a
"ay of thinking and seeing the "orld that it could embrace. &hat philosophy "as
Pragmati+ Tr-th
%ragmatism rejects the notion that there are any fundamental truths and instead
proposes that truth is relative to time, place, and purpose. !n other "ords, the
4truth4 of any idea or moral is not found in "hat people believe or in any ultimate
reality. &ruth can only be found in the actions of people) specifically, people find
ideas to be true if they result in practical benefits. %ragmatism is thus 4an idea about
ideas4 and a "ay of relativi.ing ideology ($enand, =>>5, p. xi, but this relativi.ing
doesn't result in relativism. %ragmatism is based on common sense and the belief
that the search for 4truth and kno"ledge shifts to the social and communal cir
cumstances under "hich persons can communicate and cooperate in the process of
ac:uiring kno"ledge4 (<est, 5666, p. 585.
?nderstanding pragmatism helps us see the basis of $ead's concern for mean
ing, self, and society. As "e "ill see, $ead argues that the self is a social entity that
is a practical necessity of every interaction. <e need a self to act deliberately and to
interact socially) it allo"s us to consider alternative lines of behavior and thus
enables us to act rather than react. !n pragmatism, human action and decisions
aren't determined or forced by society, ideology, or preexisting truths. (ather, deci
sions and ethics emerge out of a consensus that develops through interaction-a
consensus that is based on a free and kno"ing subject3 the self.
%ragmatism also helps us understand another important idea of $ead's3
emergence. !n general, the "ord emergence refers to the process through "hich
ne" entities are created from different particulars. *or $ead, then, meaning
emerges out of different elements of interaction coming together. -et's take a ham
mer as an example. %eople create social objects such as hammers in order to sur
vive, and hammers only exist as such for humans (hammers don't exist for tigers,
though they might sense the physical object. 1ut the meaning of objects isn't set
in stone, once and for all. <hile the hammer exists in its tool context, its meaning
can vary by its use, and its use is determined in specific interactions. !t can be an
instrument of construction or destruction depending upon ho" it is used. !t can
also symboli.e an individual's occupation or hobby. 'r it could be used as a
"eapon to kill, and it could be an instrument of murder or mercy, depending upon
the circumstances under "hich the killing takes place. &hus, the 4true4 meaning of
an object cannot be unconditionally kno"n) it is negotiated in interaction. &he
meaning pragmatically emerges.
H-man 0+tion
Humans act-they don't react. As $ead characteri.es it, the distinctly human
act contains four distinct elements3 impulse, perception, manipulation, and con
sumption. *or most animals, the route from impulse to behavior is rather direct
they react to a stimulus using instincts or behavioristically imprinted patterns. 1ut
for humans, it is a circuitous route. &he philosopher 2rnst +assirer (56,, puts it
this "ay3 4$an has ... discovered a ne" method of adapting himself to his envi
ronment. 1et"een the receptor system and the effector systems, "hich are found
in all animal species, "e find in man a third link "hich "e may describe as the
symbolic system4) this system is 4the "ay to civili.ation4 (pp. =,, =7.
After "e feel the initial impulse to act, "e perceive our environment. &his per
ception entails the recognition of the pertinent symbolic elements-other
people, absent reference groups ("hat $ead calls generali.ed others, and so
on-as "ell as alternatives to satisfying the impulse. After "e symbolically take
in our environment, "e manipulate the different elements in our imagination.
&his is the all-important pause before action) this is where society becomes possi
ble. &his manipulation takes place in the mind and considers the possible rami
fications of using different behaviors to satisfy the impulse. <e think about hmv
others "ould judge our behaviors, and "e consider the elements available to
complete the task. After "e manipulate the situation symbolically in our minds,
"e are in a position to consummate the act. ! "ant you to notice something
about human, social behavior3 Action requires the presence of a mind capable of
symbolic, abstract thought and a self able to be the object of thought and action.
1oth the mind and self, then, are intrinsically linked to society. 1efore consider
ing $ead's theory of mind and self, "e have to place it "ithin the more general
context of symbolic meaning.
*on+e(ts and Theor): Meaning and #ntera+tion
According to $ead, language came about as the chief survival mechanism for
humans. <e use it to pragmatically control our environment, and this sign system
comes to stand in the place of physical reality. As "e've seen, animals relate directly
to the environment) they receive sensory input and react. #umans, on the other
hand, generally need to decide "hat the input means before acting. ;istinctly
human action, then, is based on the "orld existing symbolically rather than
physically. !n order to talk about this issue, $ead uses the ideas of natural signs and
significant gestures.
A sign is something that stands for something else, such as your /%A that can
represent your cumulative "ork at the university. !t appears that many animals
can use signs as "ell. $y dog /ypsy, for example, gets very excited and begins to
salivate at the sound of her treat box being opened or the tone of my voice "hen
! ask, 4<anna trrrreeeeet@4 1ut the ability of animals to use signs varies. *or
instance, a dog and a chicken "ill respond differently to the presence of a feed
bo"l on the other side of a fence. &he chicken "ill simply pace back and forth in
front of the fence in aggravation, but the dog "ill seek a break in the fence, go
through the break, and run back to the bo"l and eat. &he chicken appears to only
be able to respond directly to one stimulus, "here the dog is able to hold her
response to the food at bay "hile seeking an alternative. &his ability to hold
responses at bay is important for higher-level thinking animals.
&hese signs that "e've been talking about may be called natural signs. &hey are
private and learned through the individual experience of each animal. 0o, if your
dog also gets excited at the sound of the treat box, it is because of its individual
experience "ith it-/ypsy didn't tell your dog about the treat box. &here also tends
to be a natural relationship bet"een the sign and its object (soundAtreat, and these
signs occur apart from the agency of the animal. !n other "ords, /ypsy did not
make the association bet"een the sound of the box and her treats) ! did. 0o, in the
absolute sense, the relationship bet"een the sound and the treat isn't a true natural
sign. Batural signs come out of the natural experiences of the animal, and the
meaning of these signs is determined by a structured relationship bet"een the sign
and its object, like smoke and fire.
#umans, on the other hand, have the ability to use "hat $ead calls significnnt
gestures or symbols. According to $ead, other animals besides humans have ges
tures but none have significant gestures. A gesture becomes significant "hen the
idea behind the gesture arouses the same response (same idea or emotional atti
tude in the self as in others. *or example, ifl asked about your "eekend, you "ould
use a variety of significant gestures (language to tell me about it. 0o, even though !
"asn't "ith you over the "eekend, ! could experience and kno" about your "eek
end because the "ords call out the same response in me as in you. &hus, human lan
guage is intrinsically reflexive3 &he meaning of any significant gesture al"ays calls
back to the individual making the gesture.
!n contrast to natural signs, symbols are abstract and arbitrary. <ith signs,
the relationship bet"een the sign and its referent is natural (as "ith smoke and
fire. 1ut the meaning of symbols can be :uite abstract and completely arbitrary
(in terms of naturally given relations. *or example, 40unday4 is completely arbi
trary and is an abstract human creation. <hat day of the "eek it is depends upon
"hat calendar is used, and the different calendars are associated "ith political
and religious po"er issues, not nature. 1ecause symbolic meaning is not tied to
any object, the meaning can change over time. *or example, in the ?nited 0tates
there have been several meanings associated "ith the category of 4people "ith
dark skin.4
According to $ead ( 56C,, the meaning of a significant gesture, or symbol, is its
4set of organi.ed sets of responses4 (p. 95-notice the influence of pragmatism.
0ymbolic meaning is not the image of a thing seen at a distance, nor does it exactly
correspond to the dictionary definition) rather, the meaning of a "ord is the action
that it calls out or elicits. *or example, the meaning of a chair is the different kinds
*ha(ter 6 C The Modern Person! Mead and Si''e%
of things "e can do "ith it. %icture a "ooden object "ith four legs, a seat, and a slat
ted back. !f ! sit do"n on this object, then the meaning of it is 4chair.4 'n the other
hand, if ! take that same object and break it into small pieces and use it to start a
fire, it's no longer a chair-it's fire"ood. 0o the meaning of an object is defined in
terms of its uses, or legitimated lines of behavior.
1ecause the meaning-legitimated actions-and objective availability (they
are objects because "e can point them out as foci for interaction of symbols
are produced in social interactions, they are social objects. Any idea or thing
can be a social object. A piece of string can be a social object, as can the self or
the idea of e:uality. &here is nothing about the thing itself that makes it a social
object) an entity becomes an object to us through our interactions around it.
&hrough interaction, "e call attention to it, name it, and attach legitimate lines
of behavior to it.
*or example, because of certain kinds of interactions, a +oke bottle here in the
?nited 0tates is a specific kind of social object. 1ut to Di, a bushman from the
Ealahari ;esert (in the film The ods !ust "e Cra#y$, the +oke bottle becomes
something utterly different as a result of his interactions around it. *or Di, the +oke
bottle dropped from the sky-an obvious gift from the gods. 1ut "hen he brought
it to his village, this playful gift from the gods became a curse, because there "as
only one and everybody "anted it. It became a scarce resource that brought con
flict. 2ventually, Di had to go on a religious :uest because of this gift from the gods
(to us, a +oke bottle.
S)mboli+ Interaction
Botice in this illustration that the meaning of the +oke bottle changed as different
kinds of interactions took place. !n this sense, meaning is emergent and arises out of
interaction. As $ead ( 56C, says, 4the logical structure of meaning ... is to be found
in the threefold relationship of gesture to adjustive response and to the resultant of
the given social act4 (p. F>. !nteraction is defined as the ongoing negotiation and
melding together of individual actions and meanings through three distinct steps.
*irst, there is an initial cue given. Botice that the cue itself doesn't carry any specific
meaning. -et's say you see a friend crying in the halls at school. <hat does it mean@
It could mean lots of things. !n order to determine (or more properly, create or
achieve the meaning, you have to respond to that cue3 4!s everything alright@4 1ut "e
still don't have meaning yet. &here must be a response to your response. After the
three phases (cue-response-response to response, a meaning emerges3 4Bothing's
"rong,4 your friend responds, "my boyfriend just asked me to marry him3'
1ut "e probably still aren't done, because her response "ill become yet another
cue. !magine "alking a"ay from your friend "ithout saying a "ord after she tells
you she's getting married. &hat "ould be impolite ("hich "ould actually be a
response to her statement. 0o, "hat does her second cue mean@ <e can't tell until
you respond to her cue and she responds to your response.
Botice that interactions are rarely terminal or closed off. -et's suppose you told
your friend "ho "as crying in the hall that marrying this guy "as a bad idea. Gou
sa" him out "ith another "oman last *riday night. At this point, the social
object-marriage-"hich "as a cue that caused her to cry in happiness, has
become an object of anger. 0o the meaning that emerges is no" betrayal and anger.
0he then takes that meaning and interacts "ith her fiance. !n that interaction, she
presents a cue (maybe she's crying again, but it has a different meaning, and he
responds, and she responds to his response, and so on. $aybe she finds out that you
misread the cues that *riday night and the 4other "oman4 "as just a friend. 0o she
comes back to you and presents a cue, ad infinitum. Eeep this idea of emergent
meaning in mind as "e see "hat $ead says about the self (it, too, emerges.
*on+e(ts and Theor): Ma1ing 2o-rsel'
#ave you ever "atched someone doing something@ 'f course you have. $aybe you
"atched a "orker planting a tree on campus, or maybe you "atched a band play
last *riday night. And "hile you "atched, you understood people and their behav
iors in terms of the identity they claimed and the roles they played. !n short, "hen
you "atch someone, you understand the person as a social object. After "atching
someone, have you ever called someone else's attention to that actor@ 'f course
you have, and it's easy to do. All you have to say is something like, 4<hoa, check
himAherAit out.4 And the other person "ill look and usually understand immedi
ately "hat it is you are pointing out, because "e understand one another in terms
of being social objects.
%eople-"atching is a pretty common experience and "e all do it. <e can do it
because "e understand the other in terms of being a social object. 1ut let me ask
you something. #ave you ever "atched yourself@ #ave you ever felt embarrassed or
laughed at yourself@ #o" is that different from "atching other people@ Actually, it
isn't. 1ut there is something decidedly odd about this idea of "atching our self. !t's
easy to "atch someone else, and it is easy to understand how "e "atch someone
else. !f ! am "atching a band play, ! can "atch the band because they are on stage
and ! am in the audience. <e can observe the other because "e are standing out
side of them. <e can point to them because they are there in the "orld around us.
1ut ho" can "e point to our self, call our o"n attention to our self, and understand
our self as a social object@ ;o you see the problem@ <e must someho" di%orce our
self from our self so that "e can call attention to our self, so that "e can understand
our self as meaningfully relevant as a social object. 0o, ho" is that done@
Role-taking is the key mechanism through "hich people develop a self and the
capacity to be social, and it has a very specific definition3 (ole-taking is the
process through "hich "e place our self in the position (or role of another in
order to see our o"n self. 0tudents often confuse role-taking "ith "hat might be
called role-ma&ing. !n every social situation, "e make a role for ourselves. 2rving
+offman "rote at length about this process and called it impression management
(see +hapter 5=. (ole-taking is a precursor to effective role-making-"e put
ourselves in the position of the other in order to see ho" they "ant us to act. *or
example, "hen going to a job intervie", you put yourself in the position or role
of the intervie"er in order to see ho" he or she "ill vie" you-you then dress or
act in the 4appropriate4 manner. 1ut role-taking is distinct from impression man
agement, and it is the major mechanism through "hich "e are able to form a per
spective outside of ourselves.
A perspecti%e is al"ays a meaning-creating position. <e stand in a particular
point of vie" and attribute meaning to something. -et's take the flag of the ?nited
0tates, for example. &o some, it means freedom and pride) to others, oppression and
shame) and to still others, it signifies the devil incarnate (as for some fundamental
ist sects. ! "ant you to notice something very important here3 &he flag itself has no
meaning. !ts meaning comes from the perspective an individual takes "hen he or
she vie"s it. &hat's "hy something like the flag (or gender or skin color or ethnic
heritage can mean so many different things. $eaning isn't in the object) meaning
arises .from the perspecti%e we ta&e and .from our interactions.
#ere's the important point3 &he self is just such a perspective. It is a vie"point
from "hich to consider our behaviors and give them meaning, and by definition, a
perspective is something other than the object. !n this case, the self is the perspec
tive and the object is our actions, feelings, or thoughts. &aking this perspective, the
self is ho" all these personal :ualities and behaviors become meaningful social
objects. %recisely ho" "e can get outside ourselves in this "ay is $ead's driving
The Mind
1efore the self begins to form, there is a preparatory stage. <hile $ead does not
explicitly name this stage, he implies it in several "ritings and talks about it more
generally in this theory of the mind. *or $ead, the mind is not something that
resides in the physical brain or in the nervous system, nor is it something that is
unavailable for sociological investigation. &he mind is a kind of behavior, accord
ing to $ead, that involves at least five different abilities3
H &o use symbols to denote objects
H &o use symbols as its o"n stimulus (it can talk to itself
H &o read and interpret another's gestures and use them as further stimuli
H &o suspend response (not act out of impulse
H &o imaginatively rehearse one's o"n behaviors before actually behaving
-et me give you an example that encompasses all these behaviors. A fe" years
ago, our school paper ran a cartoon. !n it "as a picture of three people3 a man and
a "oman arm-in-arm, and another man. &he "oman "as introducing the men to
one another. 1oth men "ere reaching out to shake one another's hands. 1ut above
the single man "as a balloon of his thoughts. !n it he "as picturing himself vio
lently punching the other man. #e "anted to hit the man, but he shook his hand
instead and said, 4/lad to meet you.4
&here are a lot of things "e can pull out of this cartoon, but the issue "e "ant
to focus on is the disparity bet"een "hat the man felt and "hat the man did.
#e had an impulse to hit the other man, perhaps because he "as jealous. 1ut he
didn't. <hy didn't he@ Actually, that isn't as good a :uestion as, how didn't he@ #e
"as able to not hit the other man because of his mind. #is mind "as able to
block his initial impulse, to understand the situation symbolically, to point out to
his self the symbols and possible meanings, to entertain alternative lines of
behavior, and choose the behavior that best fit the situation. &he man used symbols
to stimulate his o"n behavior rather than going "ith his impulse or the actual
$ead (56C, argues that the 4mind arises in the social process only "hen that
process as a "hole enters into, or is present in, the experience of any one of the given
individuals involved in that process4 (p. 5C,. Botice that $ead is arguing that the
mind evolves as the social process-or, more precisely, the social interaction-comes
to live inside the individual. &he mind, then, is a social entity that begins to form
because of infant dependency and forced interaction.
<hen babies are hungry or tired or "et, they can't take care of themselves.
!nstead, they send out "hat $ead "ould call 4unconventional gestures,4 gestures
that do not mean the same to the sender and hearer. !n other "ords, they cry. &he
caregivers must figure out "hat the baby needs. <hen they do, parents tend to
vocali.e their behaviors (4'h, did 0usie need aba-ba@4. 1abies eventually discover
that if they mimic the parents and send out a significant gesture (4ba-ba4, they "ill
get their needs met sooner. &his is the beginning of language ac:uisition) babies
begin to understand that their environment is symbolic-the object that satisfies
hunger is 4ba-ba4 and the object that brings it is 4da-da.4 2ventually, a baby "ill
understand that she has a symbol as "ell3 40usie.4 &hus, language ac:uisition allo"s
the child to symboli.e and eventually to symbolically manipulate her environment,
including self and others. &he use of reflexive language also allo"s the child to
begin to role-take, "hich is the primary mechanism through "hich the mind and
self are formed.
Three Stages o' "ole-Ta1ing
After a child begins to use language, he or she is ready to begin creating a sym
bolic self. &his happens through three stages of role-taking. &he first stage is the
play stage and here the child can take the role, or assume the perspective, of certain
significant others. 0ignificant others are those upon "hom "e depend for emo
tional and often material support. &hese are the people "ith "hom "e have long
term relations and intimate (self-revealing ties. $ead calls this stage the play stage
because children must literally play at being some significant other in order to see
themselves. At this point, they haven't progressed much in terms of being able to
think abstractly, so they must act out the role to get the perspective. &his is impor
tant3 A child literally gets outside of himself or herself in order to see the self
+hildren play at being $ommy or being &eacher. &he child "ill hold a doll or
stuffed bear and talk to it as if she "ere the parent. Ask any parent) it's a fright
ening experience because "hat you are faced "ith is an almost exact imitation of
your o"n behaviors, "ords, and even tone of voice. 1ut remember the purpose of
role-taking (notice this isn't role-playing$' !t is to see one's o"n self. 0o, as the
*ha(ter 6 C The Modern Person! Mead and Si''er 11
child is playing $ommy or ;addy "ith a teddy bear, "ho is the bear@ &he child
herself. 0he is seeing herself from the point of vie" of the parent, literally. &his is
the genesis of the self perspective3 being able to get outside of the self so that "e
can "atch the self as if on stage. As the child acts to"ard herself as others act, the
child begins to understand self as a set of organi.ed responses and becomes a
social object to herself.
&he next stage in the development of self is the game stage. ;uring this stage,
the child can take the perspective of several others and can take into account the
rules (sets of responses that different attitudes bring out of society. 1ut the role
taking at this stage is still not very abstract. !n the play stage, the child could only
take the perspective of a single significant other) in the game stage, the child can
take on the role of several others, but they all remain individuals. $ead's example
is that of a baseball game. &he batter can role-take "ith each individual player in
the field and determine ho" to bat based on their behaviors. &he batter is also
a"are of all the rules of the game. +hildren at this stage can role-take "ith several
people and are very concerned "ith social rules. 1ut they still don't have a fully
formed self. &hat doesn't happen until they can take the perspective of the general
i.ed other3 ?It is this generali.ed other in his experience "hich provides him "ith a
self4 ($ead, 56=8, p. =76.
&he generali.ed other refers to sets of attitudes that an individual may take
to"ard himself or herself-it is the general attitude or perspective of a community.
&he generali.ed other allo"s the individual to have a less segmented self as the per
spectives of many others are generali.ed into a single vie". !t is through the gener
ali.ed other that the community exercises control over the conduct of its individual
?p until this point, the child has only been able to role-take "ith specific others.
As the individual progresses in the ability to use abstract language and concepts, he
or she is also able to think about general or abstract others. 0o, for example, a
"oman may look in the mirror and judge the reflection by the general image that
has been given to her by the media about ho" a "oman should look.
Another insightful example of ho" the generali.ed other "orks is given to us by
/eorge 'r"ell in his account of 40hooting an 2lephant.4 'r"ell "as at the time a
police officer in 1urma. #e "as at odds "ith the job and felt that imperialism "as an
evil thing. At the same time, the local populace despised him precisely because he rep
resented imperialistic control) he tells tales of being tripped and ridiculed by people
in the to"n. 'ne day an elephant "as reported stomping through a village. 'r"ell
"as called to attend to it. 'n the "ay there, he obtained a rifle, only for scaring the
animal or defending himself if need be. <hen he found the animal, he kne" imme
diately that there "as no longer any danger. &he elephant "as calmly eating grass in
a field, and 'r"ell kne" that the right thing to do "as to "ait until the elephant
simply "andered off-but at the same time, he kne" he had to shoot the animal.
As 'r"ell ( 56,7 relates, 4! reali.ed that ! should have to shoot the elephant after
all. &he people expected it of me and ! had got to do it) ! could feel their t"o thou
sand "ills press me for"ard, irresistibly4 (p. 58=. #e felt the expectations of a gen
erali.ed other. &hough contrary to his o"n "ill, and after much personal anguish,
he shot the elephant. As 'r"ell puts it, at that time and in that place, the "hite man
4"ears a mask, and his face gro"s to fit it. ... A sahib has got to act like a sahib4
(pp. 58=-58C. Bot shooting "as impossible, for 4the cro"d "ould laugh at me.
And my "hole life, every "hite man's life in the 2ast, "as one long struggle not to
be laughed at4 (p. 58C. <e may critici.e 'r"ell for his decision (it's al"ays easy
from a distance) still, each one of us has felt the pressure of a generali.ed other.
So+iet) and the Sel'
*or $ead (56C,, there could be no society "ithout individual selves3 4#uman
society as "e kno" it could not exist "ithout minds and selves, since all its most
characteristic features presuppose the possession of minds and selves by its indi
vidual members4 (p. ==9. <e don't have a self because there is a psychological
drive or need for one. <e have a self because society demands it. &o emphasi.e
this point, $ead (56C, says that 4the self is not something that exists first and
then enters into relationship "ith others, but it is, so to speak, an eddy in the
social current and so still a part of the current4 (p. =7. 2ddies are currents of air
or "ater that run contrary to the stream. It isn't so much the contrariness that
$ead "ants us to see, but the fact that an eddy only exists in and because of its
surrounding current. &he same is true for selves3 &hey only exist in and because
of social interaction. &he self doesn't have a continuous existence) it isn't some
thing that "e carry around inside of us. !t's a mechanism that allo"s conversa
tions to happen, "hether that conversation occurs in the interaction or "ithin the
individual. 0o, the self isn't something that has an essential existence or meaning.
-ike all social objects, it must be symbolically denoted and then given meaning
"ithin interactions. And like all social-symbolic objects, the meaning of the self
is flexible and emergent.
&his emphasis of $ead's (56C, leads him to see society and social institutions
as 4nothing but an organi.ation of attitudes "hich "e all carry in us4) they are
4organi.ed forms of group or social activity-forms so organi.ed that the indi
vidual members of society can act ade:uately and socially by taking the attitudes
of others to"ard these activities4 (pp. =55, =75-=7=. 0ociety, then, doesn't exist
objectively outside the concrete interactions of people, as ;urkheim or $arx
"ould have it. (ather, society exists only as sets of attitudes, symbols, and imagi
nations that people may or may not use and modify in an interaction. !n other
"ords, society exists only as sets of potential generali.ed others "ith "hich "e can
role-take. <e'll find this emphasis on the situation several times during the course
of this book, and it comes back to the assumption about society's existence that "e
addressed in +hapter 5.
The # and the Me
&hus far it "ould appear that the self is to be conceived of as a simple reflection
of the society around it. 1ut for $ead, the self isn't merely this social robot) the self
is an active process. %art of "hat "e mean by the self is an internali.ed conversation,
*ha(ter 6 C The Modern Person! Mead and Si''e% 13
and by necessity interactions re:uire more than one person. $ead thus postulates
the existence of t"o interactive facets of the self3 the ! and the $e. &he $e is the
self that results from the progressive stages of role-taking and is the perspective
that "e assume to vie" and analy.e our o"n behaviors. &he 4!4 is that part of the
self that is unsociali.ed and spontaneous3 4&he self is essentially a social process
going on "ith these t"o distinguishable phases. I& it did not have these t"o phases,
there could not be conscious responsibility and there "ould be nothing novel in
experience4 ($ead, 56C,, p. 59F.
<e have all experienced the internal conversation bet"een the ! and the $e. <e
may "ant to jump for joy or shout in anger or punch someone "e're angry at or
kiss a stranger or run naked. 1ut the $e opposes such behavior and points out the
social ramifications of these actions. &he ! presents our impulses and drives) the $e
presents to us the perspectives of society, the meanings and repercussions of our
actions. &hese t"o elements of our self converse until "e decide on a course of
action. 1ut here is the important part3 &he ! can al"ays act before the conversation
begins or even in the middle of it. &he ! can thus take action that the $e "ould
never think of) it can act differently from the community.
H &here are basic elements, or tools, that go into making us human. Among the
most important of these are symbolic meaning and the mind. <e use symbols and
social objects to denote and manipulate the environment. 2ach symbol or social
object is understood in terms of legitimated behaviors and pragmatic motives. &he
mind uses symbolic-social objects in order to block initial responses and consider
alternative lines of behavior. It is thus necessary in order for society to exist. &he
mind is formed in childhood through necessary social interaction.
H &he self is a perspective from "hich to vie" our o"n behaviors. &his
perspective is formed through successive stages of role-taking and becomes a social
object for our o"n thoughts. &he self has a dynamic :uality as "ell-it is the
internali.ed conversation bet"een the ! and the $e. &he $e is the social object, and
the ! is the seat of the impulses. <hen the self is able to role-take "ith generali.ed
others, society can exist as "ell as an integrated self. (ole-taking "ith generali.ed
others also allo"s us to think in abstract terms.
H 0ociety emerges through social interaction) it is not a determinative structure.
!n general, humans act more than react. Action is predicated on the ability of the
mind to delay response and consider alternative lines of behavior "ith respect to
the social environment and a pertinent self. &hus, mind, self, and society mutually
constitute one another. !nteraction is the process of knitting together different lines
of action. $eaning is produced in interaction through the triadic relation of cue,
response, and response to response. <'hat "e mean by society emerges from this
negotiated meaning as interactants role-take "ithin specific definitions of the
situation and organi.ed attitudes (institutions.
T0.#3G TH P"SP*T#4-S2M&!5#* #3T"0*T#!3
S'*o%ic interaction DE/; is a pri'ar perspecti(e in socio%og# and there are se(era% tpes o& E/3
The one e<p%ained in this chapter is so'eti'es re&erred to as the Chicago Schoo%# *eca"se the
7ni(ersit o& Chicago +as its &irst instit"tiona% ho'e3 This *ranch o& E/ gained &orce in the
/418s as a criti>"e o& Ta%cott Parsons' str"ct"ra% &"nctiona%is' and +as sste'atiBed *
Her*ert 9%"'er3 9%"'er D/414; speci&ica%% ta$es on Parsons' notion o& the "nit act as ?the
>"aint notion that socia% interaction is a process o& de(e%oping 'co'p%i'entar e<pectations?'
:p3 E2;3 Approaches %i$e Parsons' cast theoretica% concepts at a high %e(e% o& a*straction and
re% hea(i% on >"antitati(e data# *oth o& +hich 'a %ead to the pro*%e' o& rei&ication that
9%"'er points o"t3 S'*o%ic interactionis'# then# as 9%"'er concept"a%iBed it is an approach
that points to the necessit o& interpretation and 'o(ing theor &ro' the gro"nd "p :o&ten
re&erred to as ?gro"nded theor?;3 More genera%% and historica%%# 9%"'er's +or$ &o%%o+s that
o& George Her*ert Mead and prag'atis' in e'phasiBing the po%itica% responsi*i%it &or choices
and the e'ergent propert o& de'ocratic ethics3
In *rie&# 9%"'er's schoo% o& s'*o%ic interaction is a theoretica% perspecti(e in socio%og
that ass"'es that h"'an *eings are &"nda'enta%% oriented to+ard 'eaning# that
'eaning is not a characteristic o& a +ord or o*6ect# and that 'eaning e'erges &ro' the
interaction3 Centra% iss"es and >"estions &or s'*o%ic interaction inc%"de the prod"ction
and "se o& the se%& in interaction# ho+ 'eaning is achie(ed# and ho+ actions and
interactions are +o(en together3
=or$ de(e%oped &ro' this perspecti(e has ta$en a (ariet o& paths# s"ch as Ho+ard 9ec$er's
%a*e%ing theor# (utsiders' )tudies in the )ociology of *e%iance :/412;F Nor'an DenBin's
c"%t"ra% st"dies# )ymbolic lnteractionism and Cultural )tudies' The +olitics of ,nterpretation
:/44-;F and R3 S3 Perin*anaaga''s theor o& dia%ogic acts# The +resence of )elf :-888;3 An
o"tstanding reso"rce containing pri'ar +or$s is Gen P%"''er's )ymbolic lnteractionism,
(o%"'es / and - D/44/ ;3
Another schoo% o& E/ that gained &orce in the /4.8s is o&ten ca%%ed the Io+a Schoo%# *est
e<e'p%i&ied * Man&ord G"hn's +or$ :see G"hn H McPart%and# ?An E'pirica% In(estigation
o& Se%&)Attit"des#? American )ociological -e%iew, Io%3 /4 J/4E/K3 pp3 10).1F and G"hn#
?Ma6or Trends in S'*o%ic Interaction Theor in the Past T+ent),i(e Years#? )ociological
.uarterly, /41A# (o%3 E# pp3 1/)0A;3 Si'p% p"t# the 'a6or di&&erence *et+een the t+o
approaches is that G"hn's +or$ e'phasiBes str"ct"re +hereas 9%"'er stresses e'ergence3
G"hn arg"es that peop%e de(e%op a core se%&# one that is sta*%e across sit"ations and
interactions# and that socia% str"ct"res# +hich inc%"de nor's and e<pectations# are
re%ati(e% sta*%e and hea(i% in&%"ence the interaction# as does one's sense o& se%&3 In
contrast to 9%"'er's sit"ationa% approach# socio%ogica% 'ethods in this schoo% "se
str"ct"red 'eas"re'ents3 The one that G"hn created +hich has had the greatest i'pact
on the &ie%d is the T+ent State'ents Test# +hich as$s peop%e to +rite t+ent responses to
?=ho a' #67 G"hn too$ the responses as indicators o& a person's interna%iBed o*6ecti(e
socia% stat"ses# that is# the parts o& a socia% str"ct"re to +hich a person 'ost re%ates3 G"hn
arg"es that these &or' persona% e<pectations# +hich# in t"rn# str"ct"res an indi(id"a%'s
*eha(ior in an sit"ation3
*ha(ter 6 3# The Modern Person! Mead and Si''e% 15
Georg Simmel (1888-1918)
Theorist's Digest
Concepts and Theor! The Indi(id"a% in Societ
Subecti!e and "becti!e #ultures
Concepts and Theor! The Se%& in the Cit
The $i!ision of %abor
Money and Markets
Social &et'orks( Rational )ersus "rganic #rou* Membershi*
Ta$ing the Perspecti(e),or'a% Socio%og
immel is particularly significant for "hat he adds to $ead's theory of the self.
As "e've seen, $ead's theory sees the self as a perspective that comes out of
interactions, and he sees the meanings of symbols, social objects, and the self
as emerging from negotiated interactions. !n general, 0immel "ould not take issue
"ith $ead's analysis) but he does add a caveat. *or 0immel, cultural entities-such as
social forms, symbols, and selves-can exist subjectively and under the influence of
people in interaction, just as $ead says. #o"ever, 0immel also entertains the possi
bility that culture can exist objectively and independent of the person and interaction.
!t's the influence of this objective culture on the person that interests 0immel.
&rie' &iogra(h)
Georg Si''e% +as *orn in the heart o& 9er%in on March /# /0E0# the o"ngest o& se(en
chi%dren3 His &ather +as a 5e+ish *"siness'an +ho had con(erted to Catho%icis' *e&ore Georg
+as *orn3 In /0.1# Si''e% *egan his st"dies :histor# phi%osoph# pscho%og; at the 7ni(ersit
o& 9er%in# ta$ing so'e o& the sa'e co"rses and pro&essors as Ma< =e*er +o"%d a &e+ ears
%ater3 In /00E# Si''e% *eca'e an "npaid %ect"rer at the 7ni(ersit o& 9er%in# +here he +as
dependent "pon st"dent &ees3 At 9er%in# he ta"ght phi%osoph and ethics# as +e%% as so'e o&
the &irst co"rses e(er o&&ered in socio%og3 In a%% pro*a*i%it# George Her*ert Mead +as one o&
the &oreign st"dents in attendance3 Tho"gh Si''e% +rote 'an socio%ogica% essas and
artic%es# his 'ost i'portant +or$ o& socio%og +as p"*%ished in /488# The Philoso*hy of Money
A%% together# Si''e% p"*%ished 2/ *oo$s and se(era% h"ndred essas and artic%es3 In /4/8# he#
a%ong +ith Ma< =e*er and ,erdinand Tonnies# &o"nded the Ger'an Societ &or Socio%og3
In /4/A# Si''e% +as o&&ered a &"%%)ti'e acade'ic position at the 7ni(ersit o& Stras*o"rg3
Ho+e(er# as =or%d =ar I *ro$e o"t# the schoo% *"i%dings +ere gi(en o(er to 'i%itar "ses and
Si''e% had %itt%e %ect"ring to do3 On Septe'*er -0# /4/0# Si''e% died o& %i(er cancer3
Central Sociological Questions
Man socio%ogists arg"e that peop%e are &or'ed thro"gh socia% interaction and e<periences +ith
socia% gro"ps and str"ct"res3 Si''e% is so'e+hat "n"s"a% *eca"se he ass"'es a $ind o& nat"ra%
state &or peop%e3 In other +ords# peop%e are *orn +ith certain dispositions and tendencies# and
interactions and instit"tions a&&ect that nat"ra% state3 Si''er# then# +as pri'ari% concerned +ith
ho+ societ and o*6ecti(e c"%t"re in&%"ence this 'ore nat"ra% e<istence3 Si''e% &e%t that 'odernit
*ro"ght ne+ press"res to *ear on the nat"ra% state o& peop%eF th"s# theor e<p%ains ho+ 'odern
societ creates o*6ecti(e rather than s"*6ecti(e c"%t"re and ho+ that shi&t in&%"ences the indi(id"a%3
Simply Stated
Si''e% arg"es that peop%e 'eet their indi(id"a% needs thro"gh socia% enco"nters and that these
enco"nters can on% *e carried o"t thro"gh identi&ia*%e &or's3 These &or's# a%ong +ith c"%t"ra%
genera%%# can *eco'e a%ienating :o*6ecti(e; and th"s create di&&ic"%ties &or the person3 C"%t"re
*eco'es o*6ecti(e and a%ienating in 'odernit thro"gh s"ch genera% processes as "r*aniBation#
'one# and co'p%e< socia% net+or$s# as +e%% as instit"tiona%iBed re%igion and gender3
Key Concepts
socia% &or's# socia*i%it# e<change# con&%ict# o*6ecti(e c"%t"re# "r*aniBation# the di(ision o& %a*or#
'one# +e* o& gro"p a&&i%iations# nor'ati(e speci&icit#3ano'ie# ro%e con&%ict# *%ase attit"de
*on+e(ts and Theor): The #ndi9id-al in So+iet)
At the core of 0immel's thought is the individual. !n contrast to $ead, 0immel
assumes there is something called human nature "ith "hich "e are born. *or
example, 0immel feels that "e naturally have a religious impulse and that gender
differences are intrinsic. #e also assumes that in back of most of our social interac
tions are individual motivations. &his emphasis sets up an interesting problem and
perspective for 0immel. !f the individual and his or her motivations and actions are
paramount, then ho" is society possible@
!n formulating his ans"er, 0immel follo"s one of his favorite philosophers,
!mmanuel Eant. Eant did not ask about the possibility of society. !nstead, he "on
dered ho" nature could exist as the object/nature/ to science. 1asically, Eant argued
that the universe could exist as 4nature4 to scientists only because of the category of
nature. 'bjects in the universe can only e0ist as objects because the human mind
orders sense perception in a particular "ay. 1ut Eant didn't argue that it is all in our
heads) rather, he argued for a kind of synthesis3 &he human mind organi.es our
*ha(ter 6 C The Modern Person! Mead and Si''e% 17
perceptions of the "orld to form objects of experience. 0o, nature can only exist as
the object 4nature4 because scientists are observing the "orld through the a priori
(existing before category of nature. !n other "ords, a scientist can see "eather as a
natural phenomenon, produced through processes that "e can discover, only
because she assumes beforehand (a priori that "eather does not exist as a result of
the "him of a god.
0immel "ants to discover the a priori conditions for society. &his "as a ne" "ay
of trying to understand society, rather than using a mechanistic and organismic
analogy. !n understanding society, ho"ever, 0immel "ants to maintain the integrity
of the individual but at the same time recogni.e society as a true force. <hat
0immel argues is that society exists as social forms that come about through
human interaction, and society continues to exist and to exert influence over the
individual through these forms of interaction3
0trictly speaking, neither hunger nor love, "ork nor religiosity, technology
nor the functions and results of intelligence, are social. &hey are factors in
sociation only "hen they transform the mere aggregation of isolated individ
uals into specific forms of being "ith and for one another, forms that are sub
sumed under the general concept of interaction. (0immel, 5695, pp. =C-=,
&hese forms or categories of behavior, 0immel argues, are the a priori conditions
of society.
Bo", think about this3 !f 0immel is primarily concerned about the individual,
"hat are the implications for the person if social forms take on objective existence@
&here is a sense in "hich $ead doesn't see symbols as objective. !f the meaning of
symbols emerges through social interaction, then they are al"ays subjective, at least
to some degree. <hat 0immel "ants us to consider is the possibility that signs, sym
bols, ideas, social forms, and so forth can exist independently of the person and
exert independent effects. &he :uestion then becomes, ho" does objective culture
impact the subjectivity of the person@ /uy 'akes ( 56F, "rote concerning 0immel,
4&he discovery of objectivity-the independence of things from the conditions of
their subjective or psychological genesis-"as the greatest achievement in the cul
tural history of the <est4 (p. C.
S-b:e+ti9e and !b:e+ti9e *-lt-res
0immel "as the first social thinker to make the distinction bet"een subjective
and objective culture the focus of his research. !ndividual or subjecti%e culture refers
to the ability to embrace, use, and feel culture. +ollectives can form group-specific
cultures, such as the spiked $oha"k haircut of early punk culture. &o "ear such an
item of culture immediately links the individual to certain social forms and types,
and a group member "ould subjectively feel those links. !ndividuals and dyads are
able to produce such culture as "ell. An individual could have special incense that
he or she blends just for extraordinary, ritual occasions) or a couple could create a
picture that "ould symboli.e their relationship. &his culture is very close to the
individual and his or her psychological experience of the "orld.
Objective culture is made up of elements that become separated from the
individual's or group's control and reified as separate objects. &hink about tie
dye &-shirts, for example. Gou can no" go to any department store and buy such a
shirt. Gou do not have to be a hippie to "ear it, nor are you necessarily identi
fied as a hippie, nor do you necessarily feel the connection to the values and
norms of the hippie culture. It exists as an object separate from the individuals
"ho produced it in the first place. 'nce formed, objective culture can take on
a life of its o"n and it can exert a coercive force over individuals. *or example,
many of us gro"ing up in the ?nited 0tates believe in the ideology and morality
of democracy, though in truth "e are far removed from its crucial issues, ideals,
and practices.
&he diagram in *igure 7.5 pictures the relationship bet"een subjective and
objective culture. <hat "e see on the far left is probably "hat 0immel has in mind
under ideal conditions. %eople need culture to interact "ith others, and in small,
traditional communities the culture can be kept graspable and thus subjective. &he
double-headed arro"s indicate reciprocal relations-subjective culture influences
and is affected by people and interactions. 'bjective culture, on the other hand,
stands apart from the individual psychology. Botice that culture becomes more
objective as interactions are extended to distant others and as certain features of
modernity become more prominent. <hen this happens, a lag is produced bet"een
the individual and objective cultures. As the si.e and complexity of the objective
S"*6ecti(e and O*6ecti(e C"%t"re
E%e'ents o&
Di(ision o& La*or#
Mone and Mar$ets
C"%t"re! Iita%
Repeated O*6ecti(e
L))))and E<tended &))))))))'))))/ Socia% ,or's
Interactions and C"%t"re
culture increases, it becomes more and more difficult for individuals to embrace it
as a "hole. !ndividuals come to experience culture sporadically and in fragments.
#o" individuals respond to this tension bet"een subjective experience and culture
is of utmost concern to 0immel.
0immel identifies three general variables of objective culture. As any of these
variables increases, culture becomes more objective and less subjectively available
to the individual. *irst, culture can vary in its absolute si#e. &he pure bulk of cul
tural material can increase or decrease. !n modernity, the amount of objective
culture increases continuously. *or example, in the year =>>>, the "orld produced
approximately 5,=>> terabytes of scanned printed material. A terabyte contains
over 1 trillion bytes. !f "e "ere to make a single book that contained just 5 billion
characters, it "ould be almost C= miles thick. A trillion is 5,>>> billion. It has been
estimated that to count to 5 trillion "ould take over 56>,>>> years, if "e counted
=,A9AC78. &he human race created over 5,=>> trillion bytes of printed information
in =>>>. &hat's not counting the !nternet. And that figure increases by =I to 5>I
each year.
+ulture can also vary by its di%ersity of components. -et's take fashion, for
example. Bot only are there simply more fashion items available (absolute si.e,
there are also more fashion types or styles available-there are fashions for hip
hop, grunge, skater, hardcore, preppy, glam, raver, piercer, and so on, ad infinitum.
*inally, culture can vary by its comple0ity. ;ifferent cultural elements can either be
linked or unlinked. !f different elements become linked, then the overall complex
ity of the objective culture increases. *or example, "hen this nation first started,
there "Jere only a fe" different kinds of religions (a couple of different %rotestant
denominations and +atholicism. ;ue to various social factors, the objective cul
ture of religion has increased in its si.e and diversity, resulting in any number of
different kinds of religion in America today. &he culture of religion has also
become more complex, especially in the last fe" years. &oday "e find people "ho
are joining together in "hat "as previously thought to be antithetical forms of
religion. 0o, for example, "e can find +hristian-%agans in Borth +arolina. As these
different forms become linked together, the religious culture becomes increasingly
more complex.
*or 0immel, cultural forms are necessary to achieve goals in a social setting.
#o"ever, if these forms become detached from the lived life of the individual, they
present a potential problem for the subjective experience of that individual. !n an
ideal "orld, there is an intimate connection bet"een the personal experience of the
individual and the culture that he or she uses. #o"ever, as the gap bet"een the indi
vidual and culture increases, and as culture becomes more objective, culture begins
to attain an autonomy that is set against the creative forces of the individual.
*on+e(ts and Theor): The Sel' in the *it)
!n the follo"ing sections "e "ill be exploring the ideas expressed as 42lements of
$odernity4 in *igure 7.5. &hese are the specific characteristics of the modern age
that tend to decrease subjective and increase objective cultures. 0immel's primary
concern in this shift is the effects it has on the individual's personal experience of
the self. &here are three interrelated forces in modernity that tend to increase objec
tive culture in all three of its areas-urbani.ation, the division of labor, and the use
of money and markets. ?rbani.ation appears to be the principal dynamic, as it
increases the level of the division of labor and the extent that money and markets
are used. It also changes one's "eb of affiliations from a dense, primary net"ork to
a loose, secondary one. As is typical "ith 0immel, "e "ill find that he believes that
social processes bring some conflicting effects. Additionally, as you'll see, 0immel's
argument is complex, so read the next sections carefully by thin&ing through and
&eeping trac& of the theoretical connections and effects. At the end of our discussion
!'ll give you a model that captures 0immel's theory.
0immel's (568> concern "ith objective culture is no"here clearer than in his
short paper 4&he $etropolis and $ental -ife43
&he most profound reason ... "hy the metropolis conduces to the urge of
the most individual personal existence ... appears to me to be the follo"ing3
the development of modern culture is characteri.ed by the preponderance of
"hat one may call the 4objective spirit4 over the 4subjective spirit.4 (p. ,=5
&he initial factor in back of this objective spirit is urbaniation-the process that
moves people from country to city living. &his move "as a major factor in creat
ing the modern era, and in that sense urbani.ation is historically specific. 1ut it's
extremely important for us to keep in mind that this process didn't stop at some
point. &he dynamics that brought about urbani.ation are ongoing) thus, contem
porary societies still have varying degrees of urbani.ation, "ith some areas being
more or less urbani.ed. &hus the levels of the effects from urbani.ation vary as
"ell. ?rbani.ation created three other factors3 increasing division of labor,
expanding use of money and markets, and greater ratio of rational to organic
group membership.
The %i9ision o' labor
#istorically, people generally moved from the country to the city because of
industriali.ation. As a result of the !ndustrial (evolution, the economic base of
society changed and "ith it the means through "hich people made a living. As pop
ulations became increasingly concentrated in one place, more efficient means of
providing for the necessities of life and for organi.ing labor "ere needed. &his
increase in the di%ision of labor happened so that products could be made more
:uickly and the "orkforce could be more readily controlled. 0immel 1 568> argues
that the division oflabor also increases because of "orker-entrepreneur innovation3
4&he concentration of individuals and their struggle for customers compel the
individual to speciali.e in a function from "hich he cannot be readily displaced by
another4 (p. ,=>.
&he division of labor demands an 4ever more one-sided accomplishment,4 and
"e thus become speciali.ed and concerned "ith smaller and smaller elements of
the production process. &his one-sidedness creates objective culture3 <e are
unable to grasp the "hole of the product and the production process because "e
are only "orking on a small part. &he "orker in a highly speciali.ed division of
labor becomes 4a mere cog in an enormous organi.ation of things and po"ers
"hich tear from his hands all progress, spirituality, and value in order to trans
form them from their subjective form into the form of purely objective life4
(0immel, 568>, p. ,==.
0immel claims that the consumption of products thus produced has a triviali.
ing effect. &his is basically the same issue "ith "hich $arx "as concerned3
+ommodities produced in modern economies have little if any intrinsic meaning.
1efore modernity most products "ere handmade, had very clear meanings to
groups and individuals, and "ere usually embedded in socially reciprocal relations
of gift giving, support, and lineage. <hile "e can still accomplish this today by
making a gift by hand (from start to finish or passing do"n heirlooms, it isn't "hat
characteri.es our "orld. 1oth $arx and 0immel are saying that using such trivial
i.ed or empty commodities has an alienating effect on the person. 1oth the level of
speciali.ation and commodification that come from high divisions of labor create
higher levels of objective culture.
Mone) and Mar1ets
?rbani.ation also increases the level of exchange in a society and thus the use of
money-facilitated markets. <hen thinking about the presence of money in society,
it is important to understand it in comparison to barter. 1arter is the exchange of
goods or services for other goods or services. !n a barter system, there is no univer
sal value scheme. 2verything is e:uated on an item-by-item basis and every item is
e:ually real. &hus, the bushel of corn that ! gre" may be exchanged for the t"o
chairs that you made or for the ten loaves of bread that *rancis baked. &he value of
a product or service can vary tremendously, depending on local conditions or the
subjective state of the trader.
!oney creates a universal value system "herein every commodity can be under
stood. 'f necessity, this value system is abstract) that is, it has no intrinsic "orth. !n
order for it to stand for everything, it must have no value in itself. &he universal and
abstract nature of money frees it from constraint and facilitates exchanges. 1ut it
also has other effects for both the individual and society at large) "e "ill talk about
four of these effects belo". &hese effects increase the level that money (or even
more abstract systems such as credit is used.
'ne effect of money is that it increases individual freedom by allo"ing people
to pursue diverse activities (paying to join a dance club or a pyramid sales organi
.ation and by increasing the options for self-expression ("e can buy the clothes
and makeup to pass as a raver this "eek and a business professional the next) "e can
even buy hormones and surgery to become a different sex. 0econd, even though "e
are able to buy more things "ith "hich to express and experience our self, "e are
less attached to those things because of money. <e tend to understand and experi
ence our possessions less in terms of their intrinsic :ualities and more in terms of
their objective and abstract "orth. 0o, ! understand the value of my guitar ampli
fier in terms of the money it cost me and ho" difficult it "ould be to replace (in
terms of money. &he more money ! have, the less valuable my 0unn amplifier "ill
be, because ! could afford a hand-"ired, bouti:ue amp. &hus, our connection to
things becomes more tenuous and objective (rather than emotional due to the use
of money.
&hird, money also discourages intimate ties "ith people. %art of this is due to the
universal nature of money. 1ecause of its all-inclusive character, money comes to
stand in the place of almost everything, and this effect spreads. <hen money "as
first introduced, only certain goods and services "ere seen as e:uivalent to it. &oday
in the ?nited 0tates, "e "ould be hard pressed to think of many things that cannot
be purchased "ith or made e:uivalent to money, and that includes relationships.
$uch of this outcome is due to indirect conse:uences of money3 &he relationships
"e have are in large part determined by the school or neighborhood "e can afford.
0ome of money's conse:uences are more direct3 Vve buy our "ay into country clubs
and exclusive organi.ations. $oney further discourages intimate ties by encourag
ing a culture of calculation. &he increasing presence of calculative and objectifying
culture, even though spa"ned in economic exchange, tends to make us calculating
and objectifying in our relationships. All exchanges re:uire a degree of calculation,
even barter, but the use of money increases the number and speed of exchanges. As
"e participate in an increasing number of exchanges, "e calculate more and "e
begin to understand the "orld more in terms of numbers and rational calculations.
$oney is the universal value system in modernity, and as it is used more and more
to assess the "orld, the "orld becomes increasingly :uantified (4time is money4
and "e shouldn't 4"aste time just 'hanging out4'.
*ourth, money also decreases moral constraints and increases anomie. $oney is
an amoral value system. <hat that means is that there are no morals implied in
money. $oney is simply a means of exchange, a "ay of making exchanges go eas
ier. $oney kno"s no good or evil3 It can be e:ually used to buy a gun to kill school
children as to buy food to feed the poor. 0o, as more and more of our lives are
understood in terms of money, less and less of our lives have a moral basis. !n addi
tion, because moral constraints are produced only through group interactions,
"hen money is used to facilitate group membership, it decreases the true social
nature of the group and thus its ability to produce morality.
&hus, money has both positive and negative conse:uences for the individual.
$oney increases our options for self-expression and allo"s us to pursue diverse
activities, but it also distances us from objects and people and it increases the
possibility of anomie. !n the same way, there are both positive and negative con
se:uences for society. #o"ever, "hile it may seem that the negative conse
:uences out"eigh the positive for the individual, the conse:uences for society
are mostly positive.
<e "ill look at a total of four effects for society of the increasing use of money.
*irst, the use of money creates exchange relationships that cover greater distances
and last longer periods of time than "ould other"ise be possible. -et's think of the
employment relationship as an illustration. !f a person holds a regular job, he or she
*ha(ter 6 ? The Modern Person! Mead and Si''e% 23
has entered a kind of contract. &he "orker agrees to "ork for the employer a given
number of hours per "eek at a certain pay rate. &his agreement covers an extended
period of time, "hich should only be terminated by a t"o-"eek notice or severance
pay. &his relationship may cover a great deal of geographic space, as "hen the "ork
place is located on the <est +oast of the ?nited 0tates and the corporate head
:uarters is on the 2ast +oast. &his kind of relationship "as extremely difficult
before the use of money as a generali.ed medium of exchange, "hich is "hy many
long-term "ork relationships "ere conceptuali.ed in terms of familial obligations,
such as the serf or apprentice. And, "ith more generali.ed forms of the money
principle, as "ith credit and credit cards, social relations can span even larger geo
graphic expanses and longer periods of time (for example, ! am obligated to my
mortgage company for the next =8 years, and ! just completed an e1ay transaction
"ith a man living in Kapan. <hat this extension of relations through space and
time means is that the number of social ties increases. <hile "e may not be con
nected as deeply or emotionally today, "e are connected to more diverse people
more often. &hink of society as a fabric3 &he greater the number and diversity of
ties, the stronger is the "eave.
0econd, money also increases continuity among groups (level of cultural and
social homogeneity. $oney flattens, or generali.es, the value system by making
everything e:uivalent to itself. It also creates more objective culture, "hich over
shado"s or coloni.es subjective culture. &ogether these forces tend to make group
specific culture more alike than different. vVhat differences exist are trivial and
based on shifting styles. &hus, "hile the "eave of society is more dense due to the
effects of money, it is also less colorful, "hich tends to mitigate group conflicts.
&hird, money strengthens the level of trust in a society. vVhat is money, really@
!n the ?nited 0tates, it is nothing but green ink and nice paper. Get "e "ould do and
give almost anything in exchange for enough of these green pieces of paper. &his
exchange for relatively "orthless paper occurs every day "ithout anyone so much
as blinking an eye. #o" can this be@ &he ans"er is that in back of money is the ?.0.
government, and "e have a certain level of trust in its stability. <ithout that trust,
the money "ould be "orthless. A barter system re:uires some level of trust, but
generally speaking, you kno" the person you are trading "ith and you can inspect
the goods. $oney, on the other hand, demands a trust in a very abstract social
form-the state-and that trust helps bind us together as a collective.
*ourth, behind this trust is the existence of a centrali.ed state. !n order for us to
trust in money, "e must trust in the authority of a single nation. <hen money "as
first introduced in /reek culture, its use "as rather precarious. ;ifferent "ealthy
lando"ners or city-states "ould imprint their image on lumps or rods of metal.
1ecause there "as no central governing authority, deceit and counterfeiting "ere
rampant. &he images "ere easily mimicked and "eights easily manipulated. 2ven
though money helped facilitate exchanges, the lack of oversight dampened the
effect. It "asn't until there "as a centrali.ed government that people could com
pletely trust money. &hus, "hen markets started using money for exchanges, they
"ere inadvertently pushing for the existence of a strong nation-state. +entrali.ed
authority is the structural component to a society's trust and it binds us together.
&his factor has an effect on individual freedom of expression. <hile the increasing
use of money and markets along "ith decreases in the level of normative regulation
increase individual freedom of expression, there's a counter force for regulation
coming from a centrali.ed state. $odern states have increasing interest in control
ling your behaviors. &he list of direct and indirect regulation is almost endless, but
an especially clear example is cigarette smoking. <hile it may still be legal to smoke
tobacco, it's highly regulated in terms of "here and "hen a person may smoke) at
some firms, not smoking is a condition of employment.
So+ial 3et;or1s:
"ational 4ers-s !rgani+ Gro-( Membershi(
As a further result of urbani.ation, 0immel argues that social net"orks ("hat he
calls the "eb of group affiliations# have changed. vVhen "e talk about social net
"orks today, "hat "e have in mind are the number and type of people "ith "hom
"e associate, and the connections among and bet"een those people. Bet"ork
theory is an established part of contemporary sociology, and 0immel "as one of the
first to think in such terms. *or his part, 0immel characteri.es t"o types of social
net"orks, organic and rational. <e'll first consider organic social net"orks, "hich
are typical of small, more rural to"ns and settings. 0immel uses the term organic to
imply that these sorts of group net"orks come about and develop in a "ay that
resembles the gro"th of a plant or animal-they occur naturally.
!n small rural settings, there are relatively fe" groups for people to join, and
most of those memberships are strongly influenced by family. <e tend to join the
same groups as members of our family do. !n these social settings, the family is a
primary structure for social organi.ation, and families tend not to move around
much. 0o there are likely to be multiple generations present. As a result, the associ
ations of the family become the associations of the child. A child reared in such sur
roundings "ill generally attend the same church, school, and "ork as his or her
parents, grandparents, cousins, and so on. *urther, most of these groups "ill over
lap. *or example, it "ould be very likely that a "orker and his or her boss attend the
same church and that they "ill have gone to the same school.
0immel notes that people in these settings tend to join groups because of
organic moti%ations-because they are naturally or organically connected to the
group. $any of the groups "ith "hich a person affiliates in this setting are
primary groups. $rimary groups are note"orthy because they are based on ties
of affection and personal loyalty, endure over long periods of time, and involve
multiple aspects of a person's life. ?nder organic conditions, a person "ill usually
be involved "ith mostly primary groups, and these groups have some association
"ith one another. &his kind of community "ill thus contain people "ho are very
much alike. &hey "ill dra" from the same basic group influences and culture, and
the groups "ill possess a compelling ability to sanction behavior and bring about
'n the other hand, people join groups in modern, urban settings out of rational
moti%ations--group membership due to freedom of choice. &he interesting thing to
*ha(ter 6 C The Modern Person! Mead and Si''e% 161
note about this freedom is that it is forced on the individual-in other "ords, there
are fe" organic connections. !n large cities, people usually do not have much family
around and the personal connections tend to be rather tenuous. !n 0outhern
+alifornia, for example, people move on average every five to seven years. $ost only
kno" their neighbors by sight, and the majority of interactions are "ork related
(and people change jobs about as often as they change houses. <hat this means is
that people join social groups out of choice (rational reasons rather than out of
some emotional and organic connectedness. &hese kinds of groups tend to have the
characteristics of secondary groups (goal and utilitarian oriented, "ith a narro"
range of activities, over limited time spans.
As a result of rational group affiliations, it is far more likely that individuals "ill
develop uni:ue personalities. A person in a more complex or rational "eb of group
affiliations has multiple and diverse influences and groups' capacity to sanction is
diminished. *rom 0immel's point of vie", the group's ability to sanction is based on
the individual's dependency upon the group. !f there are fe" groups from "hich to
choose, then individuals in a collective are more dependent upon those groups and
the groups "ill be able to demand conformity. &his po"er is crystal clear in tradi
tional societies "here being ostraci.ed meant death. 'f course, the inverse is also
true3 &he greater the number of groups from "hich to choose and the more diverse
the groups, the less the moral boundaries and normative specificity (the level of
behaviors that are guided by norms. !n turn, this decrease in sanctioning po"er
leads to greater individual freedom of expression.
$any students, for example, are able to express themselves more freely after
moving a"ay from home to the university. &his is especially true of students "ho
move from rural to urban settings. Bot only is the influence of the student's child
hood groups diminished (family, peers, church, but there are also many, many
more groups from "hich to choose. &hese groups often have little to do "ith one
another. &hus, if one group becomes too demanding of time or emotion or behav
ior, you can simply s"itch groups. 0o, it may be the case that you experience your
self as a uni:ue individual having choices, but it has little to do "ith you per se3 It
is a function of the structure of your net"ork.
<hile decreased moral boundaries and normative specificity lead to greater
freedom of expression, they can also produce anomie-also a concern of
;urkheim's. *or the individual, it speaks of a condition of confusion and
meaninglessness. ?nlike animals, humans are not instinctually driven or regu
lated. Vve can choose our behaviors. &hat also means that our emotions,
thoughts, and behaviors must be ordered by group culture and social structure
or they "ill be in chaos and "ill have little meaning. <hen group regulation is
diminished or gone, it is easy for people to become confused and chaotic in
their thoughts and emotions. &hings in our life and life itself can become
meaningless. 0o "hile "e may think that personal freedom is a great idea, too
much freedom can be disastrous.
+omplex "ebs of group affiliations can have t"o more conse:uences3 &hey can
increase the level of role conflict a person experiences, and they contribute to the
blase attitude. (ole conflict describes a situation in "hich the demands of t"o or
more of the roles a person occupies clash "ith one another (such as "hen your
friends "ant to go out on &hursday night but you have a test the next morning.
&he greater the number of groups "ith "hich one affiliates, the greater is the
number of divergent roles and the possibility of role conflict. #o"ever, the ten
dency to keep groups spatially and temporally separate mitigates this potential. !n
other "ords, modern groups tend not to have the same members and they tend to
gather at different times and locations. 0o "e see the roles as separate and thus not
in conflict.
+omplex group structures also contribute to the blase attitude% an attitude of
absolute boredom and lack of concern. 2very social group "e belong to demands
emotional "ork or commitment, but "e only have limited emotional resources,
and "e can only give so much and care so much. &here is, then, a kind of inverse
relationship bet"een our capacity to emotionally invest in our groups and the
number of different groups of "hich "e are members. As the number and diversity
of social groups in our lives goes up, our ability to emotionally invest goes do"n.
&his contributes to a blase attitude, but it also makes conflict among groups less
likely because the members care less about the groups' goals and standards.
&his blase attitude is also produced by all that "e have talked about so far, as
"ell as overstimulation and rapid change. &he city itself provides for multiple
stimuli. As "e "alk do"n the street, "e are faced "ith diverse people and cir
cumstances that "e must take in and evaluate and react to. !n our pursuit of indi
viduality, "e also increase the level of stimulation in our lives. As "e go from one
group to another, from one concert or movie to another, from one mall to
another, from one style of dress to another, or as "e simply "atch &V or listen to
music, "e are bombarding ourselves "ith emotional and intellectual stimulation.
!n the final analysis, all this stimulation proves to be too much for us and "e emo
tionally "ithdra". *urther, this stimulation is in constant flux. Eno"ledge and
culture are constantly changing. $odern kno"ledge constantly changes because
of the basic assumptions in back of science (the modern "ay of kno"ing3
0cientific kno"ledge is based on skepticism, testing, and the defining value of
progress. &he general culture of modernity is affected by changes in kno"ledge,
yet cultural change is also fueled by ever-expanding capitalist markets and com
modities and mass media.
V!e have covered a great deal of conceptual ground in this section. !t's been made
all the more complicated because each of the things "e have talked about brings
both functional and dysfunctional effects and the effects overlap and mutually rein
force one another. !'ve diagramed 0immel's theory in *igure 7.=. Bote that !'ve con
centrated on the effects of urbani.ation on the individual, "hich is 0immel's focus.
At first glance the complexity of the model may seem over"helming. #o"ever, if
you follo" each of the paths, you'll find that it simply expresses "hat "e've been
talking about over the past fe" pages. *or example, starting at the level of division
of labor, "e can see that increases in the division of labor create speciali.ed cultures,
"hich in turn increases the level of objective culture (relative to subjective that
then increases the likelihood that people "ill experience a blase attitude. Gou can
also "ork back"ards in the model. !f you "ant to kno" "hen it's more likely that
people "ill have a sense of freedom in personal expression, start at that box and
E<tended E&&ects o& 7r*aniBation
Le(e% o&
o& La*or
Le(e% o&
Le(e% o&
Ratio o& O*6ecti(e
/)!)) MN#3I to S"*6ecti(e
Le(e% o& ,reedo'
o& Persona%
Le(e% o&
Le(e% o& E'otiona%#
Le(e% o& 9%ase
Le(e% o&
7r*aniBation and Mar$et
Di&&erences and
Ratio o& Rationa%
to Organic Gro"p
Le(e% o& Gro"p
Mora% and
Le(e% o&
"ork back"ards from the arro"s pointing to the box. <orking through a model
such as this is a great study aid in understanding ho" the theory "orks. 1e certain
you kno" ho" each concept or variable influences the others, not only in "hat
direction but also "hat happens substantively.
Gou'll notice that there is an additional concept at the end3 the level of exaggerated
differences and displays. &hese displays of difference come about because of three
issues (as you can see, there are three arro"s going into the concept. Botice the long
arro" coming from the level of commodification. Gou'll remember that modern pro
duction creates commodities void of any substantial or stable meaning. !n order to
sell them in mass markets, all truly personal or group-specific :ualities have been
bleached out of the products. 0immel argues that in the face of this "e feel compelled
to exaggerate any differences that do exist in the things "e use in order to stand out
and experience our personal selves. &"o other issues contribute to this felt need3 an
increasing sense of a confusion and meaninglessness (blase attitude and a feeling of
la"lessness (anomie. &hese too compel individuals to reach out, to be noticed, to
establish themselves as a center "hen the modern objective culture doesn't provide it
for them. As Nygmunt 1auman (566= notes, 4&o catch the attention, displays must
be ever more bi.arre, condensed and (yesO disturbing) perhaps ever more brutal, gory
and threatening4 (p. xx. &hus, modernity increases our freedom of expression, but it
also forces us to express it more dramatically "ith triviali.ed culture.
H &here are t"o central ideas that form 0immel's perspective3 social forms and
the relationship bet"een the subjective experience of the individual and objective
culture. 0immel al"ays begins and ends "ith the individual. #e assumes that the
individual is born "ith certain "ays of thinking and feeling, and most social
interactions are motivated by individual needs and desires. 2ncounters "ith others
are molded to social forms in order to facilitate reciprocal exchanges. &hese forms
constitute society for 0immel. 'bjective culture is one that is universal yet not
entirely available to the individual's subjective experience. &hus, the person is
unable to fully grasp, comprehend, or intimately kno" objective culture. &he
tension bet"een the individual on the one hand and social forms and objective
culture on the other is 0immel's focus of study.
H ?rbani.ation increases the division of labor and the use of money, and it
changes the configuration of social net"orks. All of these have both direct and
indirect influence on the level of objective culture and its effects on the individual.
&he use of money increases personal freedom for the individual, yet at the same
time it intensifies the possibility of anomie, diminishes the individual's attachment
to objects, and increases goal displacement. %eople join groups based on either
rational or organic motivations. (ational motivations are prevalent in urban
settings and imply greater personal freedom coupled "ith less emotional
investment and possible anomie and role conflict) organic motivations imply less
personal freedom and greater social conformity coupled "ith increased personal
and social certainty.
T0.#3G TH P"SP*T#4-<!"M05 S!*#!5!G2
Si''e% is genera%% seen as the &o"nder o& ?,or'a% Socio%og3? Toda +e "s"a%% "nderstand
the +ord formal as 'eaning ?proper? or ?o&&icia%3? Ho+e(er# this isn't ho+ Si''e% intends the
idea3 ,or'a% socio%ogists "se the +ord form to re&er to the shape# &ra'e# or str"ct"re that peop%e
"se to create predicta*%e patterns o& socia% interaction3 In doing so# &or'a% socio%ogists 'a$e a
distinction *et+een the content and &or' o& an interaction3 The content is +hat the
interaction is a*o"t)the interests and p"rposes)s"ch as ed"cation# 'arriage# *"siness# and
so &orthF and 'ost socio%ogists are concerned +ith the content3 Th"s the socio%og o& ed"cation
te%%s "s +hat is happening in ed"cation3
,or'a% socio%ogists# on the other hand# st"d the str"ct"res o& socia% interaction that c"t across
s"ch content areas3 ,or e<a'p%e# a con&%ict in ed"cation ;ill ta$e the sa'e genera% &or' as a
*att%e in +ar# e(en tho"gh the content (aries &ro' sit"ation to sit"ation3 ,or'a% socio%og# then#
is the st"d o& the centra% organiBing con&ig"rations o& interaction and its intention is to create
a geo'etr o& socia% %i&e3
Si''e% has a%so in&%"enced conte'porar theor in 'an +as3 His ideas concerning c"%t"re
are *eco'ing increasing% i'portant in the +or$ o& so'e post'odernists :see =einstein H
=einstein# /442;3 In this *oo$# +e +i%% see Si''e%'s in&%"ence on e<change and con&%ict theor3
Si''e% +as one o& the &irst to e<p%icate the i'p%ications o& e<change on socia% enco"nters3
Rather than theoriBing a*o"t the str"ct"re o& the econo' per se# %i$e Mar< and =e*er#
Si''e% is instead &ascinated * the in&%"ence o& the socia% &or' o& e<change on h"'an
e<perience3 As +e'%% see +hen +e get to Chapter /-# Si''e% is speci&ica%% concerned +ith
ho+ (a%"e is esta*%ished and ho+ it a&&ects the "se o& po+er in socia% enco"nters3
Si''e% has a%so had direct in&%"ence on conte'porar con&%ict theor thro"gh Le+is Coser
:Chapter 4;3 9e&ore Si''e%# con&%ict had *een "nderstood as a so"rce o& socia% change and
disintegration3 Si''e% +as the &irst to ac$no+%edge that con&%ict is a nat"ra% and necessar
part o& societ3 Coser *ro"ght Si''e%'s idea to 'ainstrea' socio%og# at %east in A'erica3 ,ro'
that point on# socio%ogists ha(e had to ac$no+%edge that ?gro"ps re>"ire dishar'on as +e%%
as har'on? and that ?a certain degree o& con&%ict is an essentia% e%e'ent in gro"p &or'ation
and the persistence o& gro"p %i&e? :Coser# /4E1# p3 2/ ;3
learning More-Primar) and Se+ondar) So-r+es
C The chie& so"rce o& George Mead's theor is &o"nd in a co'pi%ation o& st"dent notes!
o Mead# G3 H3 :/42A;3 Mind, Seland Society( -rom the Stand*oint of a Social
.eha!iorist (+. =3 Morris# Ed3;3 Chicago! 7ni(ersit o& Chicago Press3
C Georg Si''e% p"*%ished >"ite a *it# "n%i$e Mead3 I s"ggest that o" start o&& +ith the
&irst t+o readers# and then 'o(e to his s"*stantia% +or$ on 'one!
o Si''e%# G3 :/4E4;3 2ssays on )ociology +hilosophy and Aesthetics 3by4 eorg )immel
3and others4' eorg )immel, 5676-5856 :G3 H3 =o%&e# Ed3;3 Ne+ Yor$! Harper H Ro+3
o Si''e%# G3 :/4./ ;3 eorg )immel' (n ,ndi%iduality and )ocia9:orms :D3 N3 Le(ine#
Ed3;3 Chicago! 7ni(ersit o& Chicago Press3
o Si''e%# G3 D/4.0;3 The +hilosophy of !oney (&. 9otto'ore H D3 ,ris*# Trans3;3
London! Ro"t%edge and Gegan Pa"%3
C To read 'ore a*o"t Mead# I +o"%d reco''end the &o%%o+ing!
o 9a%d+in# K. D3 :/401;3 eorge Herbert !ead' A ;nifying Theory for )ociology.
9e(er% Hi%%s# CA! Sage3
o 9%"'er# H3 :/414;3 )ymbolic lnteractionism' +erspecti%e and !ethod. Eng%e+ood
C%i&&s# N5! Prentice Ha%%3
o 9%"'er# H3 :-88A;3 eorge Herbert !ead and Human Conduct (&. K. Morrione# Ed3;3
=a%n"t Cree$# CA! A%taMira Press3
o Coo$# G3 A :/442;3 eorge Herbert !ead' The !a&ing of a )ocial +ragmatist.
7r*ana# IL! 7ni(ersit o& Chicago Press3
C ,or Si''e%# the &o%%o+ing are e<ce%%ent reso"rces!
o ,eatherstone# M3 :Ed3;3 :/44/;3 A Specia% Iss"e on George Si''e%3 Theory Culture
H )ociety 0:2;3
o ,ris*# D3 :/40A;3 eorg )immef. Ne+ Yor$! Ta(istoc$3
Seeing the Social &orld 'kno"ing the theory#
C =rite a -E8)+ord snopsis o& the theoretica% perspecti(e o& s'*o%ic interaction3
C =rite a -E8)+ord snopsis o& the theoretica% perspecti(e o& &or'a% socio%og :again# don't
*e a&raid o& o"tside so"rces;3
C A&ter reading and "nderstanding this chapter# o" sho"%d *e a*%e to de&ine the &o%%o+ing
ter's theoretica%% and e<p%ain their theoretica% i'portance to s'*o%ic interaction! prag
matism, emergence, action, meaning, natural signs and significant gestures, social objects,
emergence, role-ta&ing, perspecti%e, self, mind, play stage, game stage, generali#ed other
stage, , and the !e, interaction, society
C A&ter reading and "nderstanding this chapter# o" sho"%d *e a*%e to de&ine the &o%%o+ing
ter's theoretica%% and e<p%ain their theoretica% i'portance to Si''e%'s theor o& the
indi(id"a% in 'odern societ! socia% &or's# socia*i%it# e<change# con&%ict# s"*6ecti(e and
o*6ecti(e c"%t"res# "r*aniBation# the di(ision o& %a*or# 'one# +e* o& gro"p a&&i%iations#
nor'ati(e speci&icit# ano'ie# ro%e con&%ict# *%ase attit"de3
*ha(ter 6 ? The Modern Person! Mead and Si''e% 167
C A&ter reading and "nderstanding this chapter# o" sho"%d *e a*%e to ans+er the
&o%%o+ing >"estions :re'e'*er to ans+er the' theoretically$'
o De&ine prag'atis' and app% the idea to 'eaning# tr"th# and
se%&3 o E<p%ain ho+ the 'ind and se%& are e&&ects o& socia%
o De'onstrate ho+ the 'ind and se%& are necessar &or the e<istence o& societ3
o De&ine o*6ecti(e c"%t"re and *e a*%e to e<p%ain ho+ "r*aniBation and the "se o&
'one increase the %e(e% o& o*6ecti(e c"%t"re3
o Identit and descri*e the e&&ects o& "r*aniBation and rationa% gro"p &or'ation on
the indi(id"a%3
ngaging the So+ial =orld (-sing the theor))
C More and 'ore peop%e are going to co"nse%ors or pschotherapists3 Most co"nse%ing is
done &ro' a pscho%ogica% point o& (ie+3 Gno+ing +hat o" $no+ no+ a*o"t ho+ the
se%& is constr"cted# ho+ do o" thin$ socio%ogica% co"nse%ing +o"%d *e di&&erent@ =hat
things 'ight a c%inica% socio%ogist e'phasiBe@
C 7sing Goog%e or o"r &a(orite search engine# enter ?c%inica% socio%og3? =hat is c%inica%
socio%og@ =hat is the c"rrent state o& c%inica% socio%og@
C Mead (er c%ear% c%ai's that o"r se%& is dependent "pon the socia% gro"ps +ith +hich
+e a&&i%iate3 7sing Mead's theor# e<p%ain ho+ the se%& o& a person in a disen&ranchised gro"p
'ight *e di&&erent &ro' one associated +ith a 'a6orit position3 Thin$ a*o"t the di&&erent
$inds o& genera%iBed others and the re%ationship *et+een interactions +ith genera%iBed
others and interna%iBed Me's3 :Re'e'*er# Mead hi'se%& doesn't ta%$ a*o"t ho+ +e &ee% a*o"t
the se%&3;
C Ho+ +o"%d Mead ta%$ a*o"t and "nderstand race and gender@ According to Mead's
theor# +here does racia% or gender ine>"a%it e<ist@ ,ro' a Meadian point o& (ie+# +here
does responsi*i%it %ie &or ine>"a%it@ Ho+ co"%d +e "nderstand c%ass "sing Mead's
theor@ ,ro' Mead's perspecti(e# ho+ and +h are things %i$e race# c%ass# gender# and
heterose<is' perpet"ated :contrast Mead's point o& (ie+ +ith that o& a str"ct"ra%ist;@
C Re'e'*ering Si''e%'s de&inition and (aria*%es o& o*6ecti(e c"%t"re# do o" thin$ +e
ha(e *een e<periencing 'ore or %ess o*6ecti(e c"%t"re in the %ast -E ears@ In +hat +as@
In other +ords# +hich o& Si''e%'s concepts ha(e higher or %o+er rates o& (ariation@ I&
there has *een change# ho+ do o" thin$ it is a&&ecting o"@ Theoretica%% e<p%ain +hat
the proportion o& s"*6ecti(e to o*6ecti(e c"%t"re +i%% *e %i$e &or o"r chi%dren3
Theoretica%% e<p%ain the e&&ects o" +o"%d e<pect3
C Per&or' a $ind o& net+or$ ana%sis on o"r +e* o& gro"p a&&i%iations3 Ho+ 'an o& the
gro"ps o& +hich o" are a 'e'*er are *ased on organic and rationa% 'oti(ations@ In
+hat $inds o& gro"ps do o" spend 'ost o& o"r ti'e@ O(er the ne<t &i(e ears# ho+ do
o" see o"r +e* o& a&&i%iations changing@ 9ased on Si''e%'s theor# +hat e&&ects can
o" e<pect &ro' these changes@
=ea9ing the Threads (b-ilding theor))
C Mead and Si''e% o&&er an opport"nit to snthesiBe their theories to get a *etter
"nderstanding o& ho+ the se%& is i'pacted * 'odern &actors3 Thin$ o& Mead te%%ing "s
a*o"t ho+ the person is socia%iBed# and "se Si''e% to e<p%icate the socia% and c"%t"ra%
conte<t o& 'odern socia%iBation3 Mead ta%$s a*o"t %ang"age ac>"isition and ro%e)ta$ing3
Thin$ o& %ang"age ac>"isition 'ore genera%% as c"%t"re# and "nderstand ro%e)ta$ing
occ"rring +ithin "r*an settings# +ith a%% that i'p%ies3 A&ter o"'(e *eg"n to get a sense
o& +hat the 'odern se%&Operson +o"%d *e# thin$ a*o"t ho+ the se%& o& so'eone gro+ing
"p and %i(ing in Los Ange%es# Ca%i&ornia# 'ight *e di&&erent than so'eone gro+ing "p
and %i(ing in a s'a%%# r"ra% to+n3

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