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University of Toronto Scarborough
Dan Silver

Mead 1) The “act” is the basic unit of Mead’s social theory. Explain the four interrelated components of the act as defined by Mead: a) Impulse = involves an immediate stimulation and an actor’s reaction to this stimulus • stimulation, desire, need to fulfill and thus want to fulfill it • organism finds manners by which it filters out its desires and how to respond to impulses based on past experiences • find way to respond in a more nuanced and rich way • there is a deep connection between actor and the environment • undeveloped organism is most disconnected from the environment and thus cannot act appropriately • a more fully developed ability to discriminate things around you represents a fuller interconnection with things around you b) perception = refers to how an actor searches for and reacts to a stimulus • develops as you learn to sift through world around you • actor is searching for things to respond to their impulses mean developing capacities to sense things coming at you in the world in a non-mechanical way • what is relevant to my impulses and what is not • ability to select what is important comes from higher developed perception abilities • high stages of development means that you are capable of having a sensitive and intelligent response c) manipulation = involves an actor’s ability to manipulate a given stimulus • you can perceive world around you and then get your hands around it and see what you can do with it • animals have limited levels of manipulation but increases as you go up the ladder d) consummation = refers to the action one takes in satisfying the original impulse • when you decide whether you consummate your act or not • to end up drinking that water is very different act • to drink as a result from perception and manipulation is very different • if you manipulate words, have knowledge of effects, aesthetic appreciation • perception, manipulation are more pragmatically effected What does it mean to say that they are interrelated? These four components are stages of any action, the process of undertaking action and each stage must be addressed in order to act upon an impulse. 2) How does Mead define “gestures”? Provide an example of a “conversation of gestures” • gesture is the basic mechanism of the social act • Gestures refer to how the action of one individual mindlessly and automatically elicits a reaction by another individual, basic starting point of interaction • human beings are capable of engaging in meaningful or significant gestures • Gestures become significant symbols when they arouse in the individual who is making them the same kind of response they are supposed to elicit from those to whom the gesture is addressed. Language, as a set of vocal gestures, is one of the most important types of significant symbols, as it makes human communication possible • Conversation of gestures = acting in a communicative manner (second step of an interaction) o Animals having a fighting ritual but never actually fighting o Whole relationship can occur at this level without speech o If you do this, I will reply like that o Facial cues 2) What does Mead mean by the “self”? How does it arise? Define what Mead means by “reflexivity” and what this has to do with the self. • Mead defines the self as the ability to take oneself as an object and identifies the basic mechanism of the development of the self as reflexivity — the ability to put ourselves into the place of others and act as they act. Mead makes it clear that a self can arise only through social experiences, and he traces its development to two stages in childhood: the play stage and the game stage. 3) Mead identifies three stages in child development of the self. Explain each. a) Play stage = when children take baby steps in taking on attitudes • children learn how to take the attitude of particular others to themselves • When you pretend to be mommy • Lack complex rules • Children under age of four have little notion of society rules • When you can pretend to be others, you can begin to see the world through different eyes i.e. how mommy/daddy sees things • Can get sense of multiple ways that things can be interpreted • Not required to follow rules • No definite character b) game stage = When children gain further understanding of rules of society • children learn how to take the role of many others and the attitude of the generalized other • If you’re going to be able to play baseball, the only way you want understand it is to understand how the roles relate to each other • To be able to do any one single role in a game means you have to understand how they interact with each other and thus being able to develop understanding of the self • If he gets in a baseball game her must know what everyone else is going to do… • The thing you do at this moment implies what you will need to do next = beginning to acquire capacity to organize actions c) generalized or virtual other = able to orient what you are doing to other roles as well as community as a whole • Ability to not just focus on reaction of one person but how would anybody tend to respond in this situation • The self develops its full self by…. • Get outside of self completely, adopt perspective of whole team • Can only be developed by being active in the community, taking a risk • Paying attention to expectations is how you gain understanding of your self • Condition of knowing self is understanding how things you do affects everyone around you • You cant change the generalized other, through actions we can change general ideas of expectations by setting up an even more general set of expectations • Changing the generalized other is changing the generality • If you feel like your community is mistreating you the way to change that is showing them the generalized other • ***the wider your orientation to others the more nuanced is your perception of self 4) Define what Mead means by the “I” and the “me”. • The “I” is the immediate response of an individual to others; it is the unpredictable and creative aspect of the self. The “me” is the organized set of attitudes of others that an individual assumes; it is how society dominates the individual and is a source of social control. 5) Explain the following three reasons why Mead is interested in the “I”. • Novelty o The ‘I’ self is main source of innovation, human interaction, novelty. A great innovator is to have more I than more people have. • Self-Realization o One thing that happens when you make a creative response, you don’t just have the opportunity to think about yourself, you can realize yourself out there in action. It’s not just a thought, you said it, you are out there, and you realize yourself out there in it. You get a definite personality and character. • Evolution o Social evolution was a force dominated by the ‘Me’ self. Modern society had more room for the ‘I’ to move. When you have education, you encourage students to have their own thoughts instead of memorizing things all the time. Mead thinks of the two as having pragmatic interaction. A more creative and innovative society where more of life is like jazz ensemble, interactions have expectations that each person must contribute something back on their own Simmel 1) What is association and how does it relate to action. Explain Simmel’s concept of ‘forms of association’ • The form of group, structure of group greatly influences interaction, the ability of actors to create social structures, and the disastrous effects those structures have on the creativity of individuals • Easiest form to examine is the number of people in the group independent of everything else • People are conscious and creative individuals and the mind plays a crucial role in this mutual orientation and social interaction. This creativity allows for flexibility and freedom on the part of the individual, but at the same time it helps to create the structures of objective culture that may constrain and stifle this freedom. That is, social interaction becomes regularized and has patterns to it, and these become forms of association. • Simmel argued that because there is so much going on in social life, people regularly simplify the world into a limited number of forms of interaction, and types of interactants. Humans are able to continually develop new forms and types because they are endowed with a creative consciousness. This creative consciousness allows people to overcome limits imposed by external structures, but it can also impose limits on action when it reifies the social world. Simmel was also interested in the way that group size affects everyday interactions. He believed that the most important group differences are observed between two-person (dyad) and three- person (triad) groups. It is with the addition of a third group member that objective social structures can emerge and control individual behavior. Finally, Simmel was interested in the issue of distance. He analyzed the "stranger" as an important social type that is defined by its combination of closeness and distance. As an alternative to Marx’s labor theory of value, Simmel argued that value is a function of an object’s distance from a person. Thus, objects that are further away from a person acquire greater value for that person. 2) How does Simmel study the quantitative aspects of groups? Provide examples e.g. dyads, triads and large groups • He studies the quantitative aspects of groups by studying their form/structure by examining differences between dyads, triads and large groups; and by examining forms of social life, combinations and interactions among individuals. • Simmel’ s approach to sociology is to study the pure forms of interaction • You have to satisfy two things in order to study sociology in a pure form o Have the same form and different contents – can you study same form of interaction across multiple contents o Have to be able to find the same content but different forms i.e. the desire for economic gain can be found in trading, in hierarchical form such as a military militia • Task of sociology o To identify the pure forms, groups, can we catalogue them o To order/arrange them according to some pattern o To determine how they are related o To examine their development (how have these forms initially and how have they evolved over time) o To explain psychologically (what motivates someone who is active in a conflict) • The crucial difference between the dyad (two-person group) and triad (three-person group) is that a triad presents a greater threat to the individuality of group members. In a larger society, however, an individual is likely to be involved in a number of groups, each of which controls only a small portion of his or her personality. • Dyad = conversation between two people, each of you only has to deal with one other person, forced to focus more on the conversation • Triad = conversation between three people, two people can outvote the third, forced to go along with the group • Large groups = book clubs that grow into an organization with formal arrangements for interaction 3) How does Simmel understand sociability? Be sure to include the following three features of sociability in your answer. • Sociability = purest form of interaction in which people interact simply for the pleasure of interacting with those around them such as at parties where purpose is none other than to be with other people • Autonomous • interaction is independent of external circumstances that may have brought them together in the first place, not just a social networking sight, just associating with people for the sake of associating • Artificiality • good forms and bad forms, high level of artificiality in sociable interactions, covering yourself so people can’t see you, rooms are dark, special moment (132) that creates an ideal sociological world where joy is contingent upon others • They demand that we leave behind other aspect of life such as wealth, status, prestige that get in the way of going out with someone • Leave everything behind and associate with people • Party allows you to set aside the real world for a while • Playful • in sociable interactions people take the serious interactions of life such as peace, war, love and turn it into playful banter • Social games are about serious things = Battleship (war), Monopoly (bankruptcy), flirting (love) • Serious things are turned into something fun as long as everyone knows it is not real • Conversations = usually serve a purpose, stop trying to do that at a party How does sociability provide distance from life? • In a party you can set outside everything for a few hours, forms of escapism (140) that can give you access to secrets of life, allows you to examine your ambitions o Flirting allows you to give an important viewpoint on romantic seduction in a low risk environment without having to suffer the consequences, gives you opportunity to think about love without falling in love o Going to party is like turning life into work of art 4) How does Simmel understand “the stranger” as a social type? • Being strange doesn’t necessarily doesn’t have to do with possessing some unusual attributes or marginal attributes • We define a stranger by their position in a group • Stranger = both close and distant as well as insider and outsider • Part insider and outsider Explain the three traits of the stranger: • Objectivity = Stranger is thought to have a certain level of objectivity = insider/outsider is close enough to everyone in the group that they can be trusted, they have spent time with you but they are a bit outside so they are not a partisan • emotional confidants = they are close to people, they have a presence in people’s lives, but the fact they are distant means that it is easier to reveal things to them because of the distance in the relationship • abstractness • tend to be treated in an abstract way, according to stereotypes, in a general way • Close enough to feel commonality with stranger but not close enough that we consider them to be a distinct individual • Traditional stranger is Jews, had the most stereotypes about them • Think of them less and less as a distinct person 5) For Simmel, how does the EXPANSION of group size affect individuality? Why? • Bigger group, individualism is more valued • People in big cities value individualism more • As town gets bigger there is more competition between people, specialization ensues • You have beginnings of social ties that are not based on social background • Demonstrates difference between personal and collective individuality • When in narrow, small social circle there isn’t much capability to develop individuality •
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