George Herbert Mead was a symbolic interaction theorist, which is a belief that society is made up of individuals creating and recreating meaning. Just as Meghan previously stated there is a major focus on the individual. Specifically, Mead wrote about the “mind” and how we perceive our “self”. Overall I really enjoyed Mead and he is tied with Simmel for my favorite social theorist that we have discussed and this may be because some of Mead’s ideas are similar to Simmel’s. For example, Simmel’s idea of Fashion as a way of identity where people think what a certain outfit says about themselves. Fashion is a way to make yourself seem a certain way. Similarly, Mead’s idea that the mind has the ability to objectify ourselves and to see what other people see is very analogous to Simmel’s idea. Another idea that I found interesting was Mead’s idea that humans are distinguished from animals through symbols and specifically through language and that there is no inherent meaning to language except the meaning we have brought to it through consensus of understanding. This idea is very similar to a theoretical article by Nietzsche called “On Truth and Lies in a nonmoral sense” where he talks about how there is no absolute Truth because language is something that is created in order to exert power and there is no inherent meaning to it and the only way meaning is created is through consensus from society. I find it very interesting that Mead and Nietzsche have similar beliefs about language and it’s meaning since Mead seems like an optimistic theorist whereas everything I have heard about Nietzsche is pessimistic.
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I think Mead is easier to relate to than any of the other sociologists we have discussed this semester. It might be because we grew up in America and have that more individualistic mind set as Mead explains. Mead’s theories behind meaning and symbols are that things only have meaning because we give them meaning and we can give things different meanings. There is no meaning apart from social reality. Language could be the prime example of this but also be a complex example as well. Language is made up of symbols that only have meaning because we social constructed them to. There is no meaning of language that we don’t bring to it.
Mead focused on how we derive meaning from the world around and how reflexivity allows us to do so through thinking through our options differentiating us from other animals. So could it be the fact that we give things mean that makes us different from other animals?
Now looking back at my notes they are not too clear about symbolic interactionism. I have that there is more emphasis on the individual and generalized social attitudes and that we get to those attitudes through interaction. Is that all we had or am I missing something??