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SOCI 2040
Philip Walsh

SOCI-2040 Sociological Theory Lecture, November 28 2013h George Herbert Mead: Self and Society I. George Herbert Mead: Biography and background  Background and family (1863-1883)  Education and intellectual influences  Cambridge, Berlin and Ann Arbor (1887-1894)  The Chicago years (1894-1931)  Legacy and influence Major works:  1914 – “Class Lectures in Social Psychology”  1925 – “The Genesis of Self and Social Control”  1934 – Mind, Self and Society; this is done by his students, notes from his lecture his students put together. Mead did not himself right this book  1938 – The Philosophy of the Act Fundamental Themes of Mead’s Work  Sociology as social psychology o Has a different vision of what sociology is [rimarly because he starts with the individual, and he answers society that society is something imagined. He doesn’t exist out there as a thing like Durkheim understands it. Society only exists as people imagine it exists. Mead is a full member of Idealist; talked about it when we discussed Marx who is a historical materialist (focus on what people are doing, the state) not peoples ideas, unlike Mead. Institutions that stem from human ideas. He thinks ideas, the way people think, conceptualization, is very important. He emphasizes institutions as shared attitudes. Mead used social psychology, he was a theorist, and he didn’t do empirical work. Ex: interviewing people, participant observation (putting yourself in a social situation and seeing how things work, like Goffman; asylums, jails), to see what people think. o Assumptions of this kind of research:  Interaction is much more complex than you think. When people interact with each other, try to work together, communicate together, interpret what the other is thinking is a complicated process which people aren’t necessarily good at.  People when they interact are very aware of how they appear to others. Goffman took this idea and wrote famous book presentation of self in everyday life; basic idea that in every action there is two selves (the self you relate to and the self you present to others, the self is split) this idea the self is a split entity is Mead. “I” (source of individuality, creativity and spontaneity) and the “Me” how you are perceived by others  In order for communication to occur between two people, human beings have to be able to take the role of the other; a key element in communication. May think this has moral implication; empathy (a synonym of taking the role of the other, putting yourself in someone else’s shoes) o He thinks science is about control and the human capacity to control (and utility) their environment, in a way that is useful to them o He has a long-term evolutionary perspective. Says, “science is the evolutionary process grown self-conscious”. Can sociology be scientific to mead? He says yes, but borders on mystical. Believes in forces of evolution.  The basis of mind o What is mind/ consciousness? Mead went out of his way to make comparisons and contrasts between humans and animals. He thought human beings are different from animals but the differences are perfectly consistent with Darwin’s differences of evolution. Humans evolved from animals and are related closely to animals biologically.  Language; Mead places a lot of importance on language; it is unique to human being. Animals can express themselves (gestures, signs) but he thought only human beings are able to communicate but to be able to enter into how someone can understand your expression. Communicate successfully with someone else is being able to take the role of the other. Important distinction between expression and gestures which animals are capable of and communication. Distinction lies in the ability to understand how someone understands you. We typically think human beings first developed mind and then developed language. Mead says opposite; language is the condition of consciousness. In order to do things like think and form intentions, communicate, the things we associate with mind, we have to have language first. • The idea of children and babies who have yet to learn to speak have not developed how to speak vocal language yet. • Mead didn’t really explore alternatives like Mute, people who are deaf and mute, etc. • Explore the idea of how consciousness will change within social conditions; etc online communication. Learn to speak differently, there are generational differences from how people learn. • He had a lot to say about people who lived in pre- historic society. How their minds are similar and different from those of others  Consciousness/mind  The nature, origins and structure of the self o You are not born with a self, with what equals the self. It develops, we learn how to present ourselves. We learn different roles. Selves develop through stages and Mead identifies two stages  Play Stage; age 6 or 7  Game Stage; around 12 kids enter this  We are not born with selves we have to build them through interaction with others o Human beings did not always have selves. The human animal that existed approximately 100, 000 years ago was almost identical to modern human beings, but didn’t have the capacity to think, reflect, and deliberate or have the capacity to form a sense of self.  Communication and moral order o Didn’t discuss this too much in lecture. o Mead was interested in the moral order. The capacity to take the role of the other, step into their experiences, is a crucial component of our moral sense (empathy) but mead said for a moral order you needed not just moral order but you needed sympathy. Mead saw empathy and sympathy, we need to promote a moral order which will be achieved by promoting people’s ability to communicate o Mead differed from Marx because he favored social reform, not revolution.  The tendencies and future of social evolution o People are able to understand and recognize each other and their experiences. *Recognition* II. Sociology as social psychology  Contrasts with Weber and Durkheim o Durk: society is a thing out there that has its effects on them, there is representations of society. He thinks society is imagined o Weber: individualistic theory of social action. Weber takes it for granted that individuals think and act; rational act. Individuals conceive of goals and they chose the appropriate means to get there. Mead challenges how to people get the capacity to have these goals and actions, we are not born with it, we have to build mind’s to form intentions and seek means to achieve them.  Influence of Darwin, Watson, Cooley and Hegel o Darwin: animals and humans. Mead thought it was crucial to link sociology and psychology with biology. Mead thought it was important you cant reduce sociology and psychology to biology.  Key theoretical areas: Mead’s theories fall into 3 distinct areas • Evolutionary (species) o Evolution not only of species but of human capacity (human, mind and self) • Developmental (individual) o Best known theory, how we develop selves and mind’s as we grow up. **childhood socialization • Interactional (social) III. Theory of mind  Contrasts with organismic models: contrast meads approach with the other approaches. Meads model is not compatible, it competes with these. Basis of mind Structure of self Basis of sociability Behaviourism (Watson) Stimulus and Minimal Conformity - Meads graduate student for a while response - We are empty vessels when we are born and we respond to stimuli - Says we have no
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