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Mead Readings.doc

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Political Science
Genevieve Dewar

MeadReadingsGeorge Herbert Mead Play the Game and the Generalized Other Section 20 in Mind Self and Society from the Standpoint of a Social Behaviorist Edited by Charles W Morris Chicago University of Chicago 1934 152164We were speaking of the social conditions under hich the self arises as an object In addition to language we found two illustrations one in play and the other in the game and I wish to summarize and expand my account on these points I have spoken of these from the point of view of children We can of course refer also to the attitudes of more primitive people out of which our civilization has arisen A striking illustration of play as distinct from the game is found in the myths and various of the plays which primitivepeople carry out especially in religious pageants The pure play attitude which we find inthe case of little children may not be found here since the participants are adults and undoubtedly the relationship of these play153 processes to that which they interpret is more or less in the minds of even the most primitive people In the process of interpretation of such rituals there is an organization of play which perhaps might be compared to that which is taking place in the kindergarten in dealing with the plays of little children where these are made into a set that will have a definite structure or relationship At least something of the same sort is found in the play of primitive people This type of activity belongs of course not to the everyday life of the people in their dealing with the objects about themthere we have a more or less definitely developed selfconsciousnessbut in their attitudes toward the forces about them the nature upon which they depend in their attitude toward this nature which is vague and uncertain there we have a much more primitive response and that response finds its expression in taking the rle of the other playing at the expression of their gods and their heroes going through certain rites which are the representation of what these individuals are supposed to be doing The process is one which develops to be sure into a more or less definite technique and is controlled and yet we can say that it has arisen out of situations similar to those in which little children play at being a parent at being a teachervague personalities that are about them and which affect them and on 1which they depend These are personalities which they take rles they play and in so far control the development of their own personality This outcome is just what the kindergarten works toward It takes the characters of these various vague beings and gets them into such an organized social relationship to each other that they build up the character of the little child1 The very introduction of organization from outside supposes a lack of organization at this period in the childs experience Over against such a situation of the little child and primitive people we have the game as suchThe fundamental difference between the game and play is154 that in the latter the child must have the attitude of all the others involved in that game The attitudes of the other players which the participant assumes organize into a sort of unit and it is that organization which controls the response of the individual The illustration used was of a person playing baseball Each one of his own acts is determined by his assumption of the action of the others who are playing the game What he does is controlled by his being everyone else on that team at least in so far as those attitudes affect his own particular response We get then an other which is an organization of the attitudes of those involved in the same processThe organized community or social group which gives to the individual his unity of self may be called the generalized other The attitude of the generalized other is the attitude of the whole community2 Thus for example in the case of such a social group as a ball team the team is the generalized other in so far as it entersas an organized process or social activity into the experience of any one of the individual members of itIf the given human individual is to develop a self in the fullest sense it is not sufficient for him merely to take the attitudes of other human individuals toward himself and toward one another within the human social process and to bring that social process as a whole into his individual experience merely in these terms he must also in the same way that he takes the attitudes of other individuals toward himself and toward one another2155 take their attitudes toward the various phases or aspects of the common social activity or set of social undertakings in which as members of an organized society or social group they are all engaged and he must then by generalizing these individual attitudes of that organized society or social group itself as a whole act toward different social projects which at any given time it is carrying out or toward the various larger phases of the general social process which constitutes its life and of which these projects are specific manifestations This getting of the broad activities of any given social whole or organized society as such within the experiential field of any one of the individuals involved or included in that whole is in other words the essential basis and prerequisite of the fullest development of that individuals self only in so far as he takes the attitudes of the organized social group to which he belongs toward the organized cooperative social activity or set of such activities in which that group as such is engaged does he develop a complete self or possess the sort of complete self he has developed And on the other hand the complex cooperative processes and activities and institutional functionings of organized human society are also possible only in so far as every individual involved in them or belonging to that society can take the general attitudes of all other such individuals with reference to these processes and activities and institutional functionings and to the organized social whole of experiential relations and interactions thereby constitutedand can direct his own behavior accordinglyIt is in the form of the generalized other that the social process influences the behavior of the individuals involved in it and carrying it on ie that the community exercises control over the conduct of its individual members for it is in this form that the social process or community enters as a determining factor into the individuals thinking In abstract thought the individual takes the attitude of the generalized other3156 toward himself without reference to its expression in any particular other individuals and in concrete thought he takes that attitude in so far as it is expressed in the attitudes toward his behavior of those other individuals with whom he is involved in the given social situation or act But only by taking the attitude of the generalized other toward himself in one or another of these ways can he think at all for only thus can thinking or the internalized conversation of gestures which constitutes thinkingoccur 3
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