Soc 102

Symbolic Interactionism
Seeks to “bring the individual back” into the analysis of society
Social reality (i.e., norm, roles, institutions, structures) is constructed and negotiated through everyday interaction in social situations; the “situation” (not “structures”) is the main unit of analysis.
Social structures vary by time and place – processes of social construction
Reality is not something given directly to our senses; instead, the mind “interprets” reality through meaningful symbols.
For example, the American flag “symbolizes” different meanings to different individuals and groups.
George Herbert Mead
The self
The self
the individual self is a product of society (as with functionalism), but the individual is actively involved in the process of defining their self. The self develops through social interaction but this process is not the same for everyone.
The self is constituted by
the “I” and the “Me”
The “Me” part of the self is the
social and cooperative self, or those parts of society that an individual incorporates into the self (attitudes and expectations of others that one takes on); the sum of “generalized others”
The “I” part of the self is
spontaneous, impulsive, rebellious, imaginative, and creative phase of the self
The “I” takes chances and
The “I” takes chances and risks social sanction. In a free and open society with a high degree of individual freedom, the “I” is allowed greater expression. Over the course of a life-time the individual’s “I” is overshadowed by the “Me”; that is, one’s individuality becomes more limited and constrained. Of course, the balance between the I and the Me will vary somewhat by individual.
Construction of the self through “role-takeing” or
reflexivity – internalizing the attitudes and expectations of the group (of role-models, in particular) as your own
The self is developed in what?
The self is developed in the play stage, the game stage, and the “generalized other” (idealized or typical attitudes and expectations in group)
The “complete” or unified self is constituted by
The “complete” or unified self is constituted by multiple “elementary” selves; people who experience a highly contradictory and disorganized social environment, will also experience difficulty in developing a coherent and consistent self image.
Conflicting demands placed on the individual by different social groups can create conflicting and irreconcilable elementary selves (self identities) within the individual.
What does Mead mean when he says we enter our experience by first “becoming an object of oneself?”
a. Experience of oneself
b. taking the attitudes of other individuals toward herself
c. The individual must take an objective, impersonal attitude toward herself
d. Indirect
What does Mead mean by “generalized others” when he says “the organized community or social group which gives to the individual his unity of self can be called ‘the generalized other”?
a. Attitude of the whole community
b. Allows the self to fully develop
c. When the individuals tries to do what is expected of them
d. It is the general notion that a person has of the common expectations that others have about actions and thoughts within a particular society, and thus serves to clarify their relation to the other as a representative member of a shared social system.
According to Mead, is there a self that is not captured by “the generalized other”? In other words, within Mead’s theory of the self, what is the ‘I’ that is separate from the “me”?
a. Individuals can only have a self in relation to the selves of others, people have to have interaction order to be able to have a self
b. The self is constructed by these structures
c. The ‘I’ would not have a concept of social structures or no social interaction – would not act and would not be acted upon
Explain what Mead means by: “The self […] is essentially a social structure and it arises in social experience.” For Mead, what is the process by which the self is developed?
a. The self is not there at birth
b. It is a reflection of social interaction
c. The Play Stage – The Game stage
i. Organizes individual attitudes of others into the organized group attitudes and becomes an individual reflection of the general systematic pattern of social group behavior in which they are involved with others
According to Blumer, how is the worldview of Symbolic Interactionism different from the previous social theories — for example, previous theories such as functionalism and conflict theory?
a. Earlier theories do not take into consideration the self of individuals
b. Focuses on how the society is acting and are at play on people
c. While symbolic interactionism focuses on social action as individuals fitting their actions in line with the action of others through interpretation
What is the unit of observation in conducting a study based on Symbolic Interactionism? How is it different from the previous social theories, according to Blumer?
a. Students have to catch the process of interpretation
b. They study it in terms of acting units and organization
Organization of society is the framework in which social action takes place – does not determine the action
Changes in the organization are products of the activity of acting units
c. While sociologist study it in terms of social system, culture, norms, values, social stratification, status position, social roles and institutional organization
In the article, Blumer is making a case of the benefit of studying Symbolic Interaction as social scientist. According to Blumer, why does is make even more sense to study interactions (or action units), particularly, in the modern society?
a. It is common for actions to in situation in which participants are not in an organized structure
b. Therefore social organization does not shape the situation
Causing the tools of interpretation to shift.
Blumer states that, in contrast to the perspective of symbolic interactionism: “Sociological thought rarely recognizes or treats human societies as composed of individuals who have selves. Instead, they assume human beings to be merely organisms with some kind of organization, responding to forces which play upon them.” Why does Blumer think this is problematic? Why does Blumer think his symbolic interactionist approach is better?
a. He acknowledges that the individual is forgotten and they are not recognized as persons constructing individual and collective action
b. It simply sees people being acted on and acting as interpreters and responding based off their interpretation.
Dramaturgy – “All the World is a Stage”
Life is a series of situations, or “stages” on which each of us seeks to project an ideal concept (image) of our self through various roles. The aim of these performances is “impression management” or trying to impress our self image on others.
Impression Management
situational acting that strives to impress others of your ideal self-concept (for that situation)
As people move from one stage to the next, they have to
As people move from one stage to the next, they have to change roles and adapt their impression management to the new situation.
Individuals in groups are always struggling to control the
Individuals in groups are always struggling to control the “definition of the situation,” or define the situation in ways that support their self-concept.
Despite the conflict, most individuals most of the time cooperate with others in their performances.
Face work – saving face, losing face, giving face – every situation we encounter we project a face
Is your line credible, rational, believable, and persuasive?
The self is very situational how?
shallow, flexible and adaptable, social relationships are contrived
We go out of our way to save other peoples faces
His view may be hard to accept – we expect interaction to be real
Conditioned and circumscribed by factors like age and gender
Authority relations
often times we have to defer to them
Specific strategies of impression management, or audience management:
Keep some things hidden, too much honesty can undermine your impression management, hide the dirty work in constructing your performance
Requires keeping different audiences separate
You want to make your audience feel special
Project a sense of mystery and awe, the trick is to amaze an audience by keeping specific social distance from it, keeps them from questioning your performance
Defending your performances against disruptive intrusions
If you want your performance to work you have to make sure there is some level of trust with the group
You have to select the right audience, who is going to believe your line?
Staging performances in “teams”
Front Stage
Wherever the audience is supposed to be
Back Stage
Off limits to the audience
The performer can relax, practice their performance
Is there ever a backstage? Even when you are alone, are you still performing for yourself?
Performing or “doing” gender
It is instructed to look at gender roles in this way, men act differently around men and women, vice versa
Women are pressured to act caring and passionate
We feel the pressure to perform gender at school
Social stigmatizing
labeling of individuals as deviants
Physically handicapped
Mentally ill
Have a hard time giving off their impression management
People with disabilities are outsiders, shunned, and avoided
It can be hard to make an impression that will overcome
The way people look at you is through this single lens of mental illness – role engulfment
What is really dangerous is when the individual comes to identify themselves as that
Social Stigmatizing: Total institutions
Military – had for service men to re-enter society
In the end people that are labeled deviant get sick of fighting society
Social Stigmatizing: Stigmatization and the formation of subcultures and counter cultures (embracing a stigma as positive).
Stigma complicates impression management; your audience only sees your spoiled identity, or master status.
A stigma is an social characteristic that causes a person to be shamed, disgraced, or banished by a group or groups in society
Frames and framing
Performing roles in situations is rarely spontaneous or improvised. People frame these situational encounters and attempt to define these situations according to preconceptions, ideas, traditions, and beliefs that are part of the larger culture and social structure. We see the world through “frames” or cultural lenses (“world view”) that shape the way we think and act.
Similar to Mead’s generalized others or symbolic templates that assign meaning to a situation
Principles of organization that define our experiences
Assumptions about what we are seeing in the social world
Master frames
Goffman talks about maintaining a ‘surface of agreement’, or ‘veneer of consensus’, or ‘giving lip service’ (63pg) to create a situation that feels “at least temporary acceptable (63pg)”. How is this done?
This veneer of consensus is when the individual suppresses their immediate feelings conveying a view of the situation that will be socially acceptable
Individual remains non-committal or silent
They work to create a situation in which they create a single definition of the situation in which they come to an agreement as to whose claims will be honored
Goffman argues that individual effectively projects a “definition of the situation”(65pg) when one enters the presence of others. What does he mean by “definition of the situation”? How does a definition of a situation come about through ‘defensive’ and ‘protective’ practice?
A process in which self and others involved in an interaction try to figure out what the interaction is about
The definition of the situation is the individual’s attempt to define the situation, how the individual wants to be perceived in the situation and what they expect
When they get this wrong it can lead to anomy
Provides a plan for the cooperation activity – it has a distinct moral character
The person asserts who they are and the other individuals in turn know how to treat them
Defensive practices: when the individual uses strategies to protect their own projections
Protective practices: when the individual uses these strategies to save others
Analysis of capitalism is shifted from capitalist economic exploitation to capitalist cultural indoctrination and political control.
Class exploitation and misery in the economic realm are not sufficient to produce a revolutionary consciousness or human emancipation.
The struggle must include a struggle over ideas in the cultural and political realms.
The nagging question of why no revolution, Why is there no revolution, what is stalling it?
Early 20th century Marxists addressed this question by changing the focus from purely economic explanation, to political and cultural explanations; they conclude that the economic contradictions of capitalism are not enough to destroy it.
Believed that capitalism would fall in the west first, but it fell in Russia first, there were very few proletarians
Realized that the revolution is not automatic
This is how Marxism changed in the 20’s – becomes more sociologically
Everything is an instrument of capitalism – education, religion
Georg Lukacs/”Reification”
An extension of Marx’s concept/process of Commodity Fetishism
Capitalism’s tendency to transform social relations (exploitative ones) into things/commodities, and thereby obscures the real source of value (i.e., labor), and the injustice and inhumanity of the system.
A container of invisible relationships between workers and owners
It’s produced and behind this commodity are people
Capitalist don’t want you to see the workers that make the things that you buy
We humanize what has become very dehumanized
Reification of civil society
Market penetration in, and commodification of, every nook and cranny of our life, beyond economic life
Overcoming false consciousness:
Conditions under which when a “class in itself” becomes a “class for itself”
The proletariat have an active role in creating their fate
The bourgeoisie has the organizational and intellectual weapons while the proletariat have the ability to see society for what it is
The class struggle must be raised from the level of economic necessity to the level of conscious aim and effective class consciousness
-The rise of capitalism over feudalism facilitated this process of becoming a class-for-itself among workers, but under late capitalism, it has once again become difficult for workers to identify with their class interests due to pervasive reification ala consumerism and “status” distinctions.
Reification serves as an ideology that instill a “false consciousness” in workers how?
The process becomes so pervasive that it comes to conceal capitalist exploitation.
Nevertheless, at the same time, as capitalism develops, class relations are increasingly exposed.
Capitalism itself comes to sweep away all of the cultural beliefs and practices that had previously disguised its true exploitative nature.
The hardening of class divisions in advanced capitalism facilitates the process in which the proletariat moves from a “class-in-itself” to a “class-for-itself”
Antonio Gramsci
Cultural domination in which the masses freely consent to their own exploitation and oppression
Not a fixed or permanent state, but rather an ongoing process that is never complete or absolute. Ruling classes have to work tirelessly to maintain their hegemony – devise strategies and campaigns to convince the masses that the social order is just, necessary, and natural, and that resistance is futile.
Much more effective than force to obtain the obedience of workers because it uses persuasion to convince workers that capitalism is legitimate; ideas are primary weapon of the capitalist class to subdue the working class.
This concept is very similar to Weber’s concept of authority, since it emphasizes “legitimate domination,” whereby subordinates (in this case, the working class) give their consent to rulers (in this case the capitalist class).
From Marxist perspective, the proletariat becomes an accessory of its own exploitation
Hegemonic crises (or crises of legitimacy) and counter-hegemonic struggles
Need not be revolutionary
Any information that allows people to think outside of the box and escape the echo chamber can weaken or undermine the dominant hegemonic ideology than controls the hearts and minds of the masses
Gramsci’s analysis of hegemony serves as a critique of vulgar Marxism (i.e., economic determinism).
The emphasis is placed on political and ideological struggle and away from economic contradictions and exploitation
Role of intellectuals and culture in revolutionary struggle against capitalism – counter-hegemonic ideology.
Workers must be re-educated and re-socialized into a workers class culture before they can mobilize against capitalists.
Herbert Marcuse: Technical rationality
– technology as dehumanizing under capitalism; destroys individual freedom
How technology becomes a tool of reification and control under capitalism
Technology is not repressive in and of itself, but is corrupted under capitalism.
Capitalism requires the all technology serve the profit-motive, rather than human needs.
Technical rationality
Erodes individual freedom and creativity and promotes mindless conformity to procedures and routines imposed by technology (or more accurately, by large corporations that sell technology).
Life becomes unthinkable and unbearable without it.
In this way, Marcuse has re-envisioned Weber’s “Iron Cage” of modernity.
Technology now represents the bars of that imprison humanity.
Capitalism rewards technocrats and computer geeks because they are the “experts” that execute the “efficiency imperative” – they maintain and guard the cage.
Standardization or regimentation of all life
Technology makes life increasingly predictable, routine, and uniform; the “mass society,” in which everyone follows the same social patterns and leads identical lives, comes to pass; thus, Marcuse’s “One-Dimensional Man.”
The perversion of individualism by technical rationality:
The rebellious, autonomous, and critical thinker of the Enlightenment is replaced by the efficient, obedient, and servile rule- conformist.
Individual worth is measured by efficiency, or how much one can produce or consume, rather than by creativity or originality (critical thought is shunned).
Reminiscent of Weber’s cog in the bureaucratic wheel.
People only distinguish themselves as individuals by the differing amount and style of goods they consume (everyone drives a car but some people drive newer, bigger, and faster ones).
To Marcuse, this modern conception of individualism based on the mass consumption of status symbols makes a mockery of the original conception.
According to Marcuse, what is “traditional rationality and standards of individuality”(see 105) and how did the process of “commodity production” undermine the basis for this rationality?
Commodity production forced there to be a weaker competitor under giant enterprises, established society’s dominion over nature and abolished the free economic subject
According to Marcuse, what is “technological rationality” and how is it different from “individualistic rationality?”
Characterizes the pervasive mode of thought and even the manifold forms of protest and rebellion
Establishes standards of judgment and fosters attitudes which make men ready to accept and even to introcept the dictates of the apparatus
Individuality was dependent upon social standards, set the individual against society
What is the “principle of individualistic rationality” and how has it “been transformed into technological rationality”? Which historical periods does Marcuse associate with each form of rationality (individualistic vs. technological)?
Self-interest as rational, it was guided by autonomous thinking
The individual achievement has been transformed into standardized efficiency, his performance is measured by standards external to him
Jergen Habermas:
Purposive “instrumental” action (work)
The ideological expression of instrumental rationality is “scientism,” under which capitalist interests become embedded in the language of science and technology.
That is, capitalists are able to use science to bolster their legitimacy insofar as scientific research proves that capitalism “works” (or benefits most people most of the time).
Economists and experts of scientific management have devised a multitudes of quantifiable indexes, that can precisely measure quality of life, such as GDP, Consumer Confidence, inflation, Dow Jones index, etc. ad nauseum.
Communicative action (understanding)
Under capitalism, “communicative competency” is distorted by “instrumental rationality” that reduces human relations to market transactions.
Scientism- ideology that all human problems have scientific or technical solutions
In reality, the truth of capitalism is not derived from science but from metaphysics, or self-evident principles that don’t need to be proven to be true, they simply are assumed to be true by economists.
There is no scientific evidence to show that unregulated “free” markets invariably spread wealth far and wide.
Scientists under capitalism are reduced to corporate shills reduced to selling “snake oil” to gullible consumers who want to feel better about themselves.
Placebos are very profitable business
Ideal speech community
Becomes the goal of socialism – equality in communication
Rationalization of purposive action
Led to the growth of productive forces and an increase in technological control over life
Rationalization of communicative action (see Ritzer)
Leads to communication free from domination , free and open communication, involves emancipation
Truth as consensus – consensus is formed when 4 “validity claims” are met (ditto).
The speaker’s utterances are seen as understandable and comprehensible
The propositions offered by the speaker are true, reliable knowledge
The speaker is being truthful and sincere in offering the propositions, the speaker is reliable
It is right and proper for the speaker to utter such propositions
Legitimation Crisis
The “de-coupling” of economics and politics in modern society (aka “deregulation”) instigates a crisis. As the government intervenes less and less in the economy, “free” market forces result in increasing economic inequality; social unrest and instability ensue.
The government must come to the rescue of the economy and prevent capitalism from destroying itself (aka massive bail outs). But this re-regulation and government stimulus creates a new backlash from anti-government reactionaries (think “Tea Party”).
The government experts that intervene defend their policies with “scientism.”
The “data” show that some government regulation makes capitalism run more smoothly. The growing cooperation between government and business creates banks that are way too big to fail; Wall Street is awash in free government money and main street gets the bill. Sound familiar?
Under liberal capitalism, the increasing inequality cause by free markets leads to mass discontent, which compels the state/government to increasingly regulate the marketplace to quell social unrest and maintain social order.
Another potential crisis emerges when a backlash against state regulated capitalism occurs; discontent grows over the usurpation of individual freedom and democratic participation by bureaucratic experts (aka administrative despotism).
Bureaucrats and administrators (so-called experts) attempt to justify their increasing authority (despotism) through scientism (scientific expertise).
“New” social movements and the formation of ideal speech communities
Erecting ideal speech communities through communicative competency
Like all Marxists, Habermas believes that human emancipation is possible.
He is very much “Enlightenment” thinker because he supports equality and individual liberty. He calls for removing the barriers to equal communication or expression
The current struggle for human emancipation is being waged not by industrial workers, but by the participants of “New Social Movements”
These movements include the Civil Rights Movement, Women’s Movement, Green Movement, Gay and Lesbian Movements, Animal Rights to name a few.
Not your typical Marxian proletarians. Other Marxists have criticized Habermas for taking the working class out of the revolution
Paul Baran and Paul Sweezy
Monopoly Capital
As distinct from competitive capitalism
Process by which monopoly capitalism displaces competitive capitalism – business consolidation
Focus on advertising and marketing as opposed to pricing
The rise of the large corporation as a requirement of monopoly capitalism – managers replace owners as dominant capitalist class
Immanual Wallerstein
Capitalist “world-system”
Core: the ruling class that benefits off of the periphery, they own things and control production – dominants the world economy and exploits the rest
Periphery: the group of people that are exploited and are the workers — provide materials to the core
Semi-periphery: the class in-between the core and periphery, headed towards the core — between the exploiter and the exploited
Relationship between the parts
The periphery and semi-periphery are locked by core nations and their governments and financial institutions into a dependent and exploited position
Historical development of world-system:
Geographic expansion (imperialism/colonialism), world-wide division of labor, formation of core states.

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