2 Society Is Like: A Human Body (Functionalism) A League Table (Marxism) A Play (Interactionism)A League Table (Feminism)A Theme Park (Post-Modernism)
3 In sociology, interactionism is a theoretical perspective that derives social processes (such as conflict, cooperation, identity formation) from human interaction. It is the study of individuals and how they act within society.Interactionism: “A theoretical position assuming that the individual is not only influenced by his/her environment, but that s/he also influences his/her environment. The emphasis is on the person taking an active, or constructive, part in his/her development.”
4 Keywords Social Actions For social interactionists, people negotiate their social world by adapting to different situations. These situations are largely considered to be the result of actions taken by others.InteractionInteractions take place between two or more individuals, and include all uses of language, exchange, confrontation and working with others. The goal of all such interactions is communication and meaning making.SymbolsIndividuals interpret social actions symbolically to give meaning to their interactions. The meaning of these symbols is itself a matter of social construction.Social ProcessSocial interactionists think of social organization as the result of continually changing social processes. Social interactionists think that social factors are constantly in flux as actors adapt to changing circumstances and relationships. They are opposed to functionalists, who think that social structures tend towards stability and consistency.DramaturgySocial interactionists observe how people both create and enact roles in order to negotiate their social situations in a process called dramaturgy, in much the same way stage actors play roles on a stage. Social roles are themselves considered a kind of symbol which individuals act out in accord with their situation.
5 Keynotes of Interactionism Micro-Emphasizes individualsFocus on subjective aspects of social lifeStudies communication between individuals and groupsCommunicates with symbols which are meaningfulDeviance and individual differences are more toleratedFor social interactionists, people negotiate their social world by adapting to different situations.
6 Interactionism is normally considered to consist of three possible variations: Symbolic InteractionPhenomenologyEthnomethodology
7 Symbolic Interaction Symbolic interactionism, or interactionism for short, is one of the major theoretical perspectives in sociology. This perspective has a long intellectual history, beginning with the German sociologist and economist, Max Weber ( ) and the American philosopher, George H. Mead ( ), both of whom emphasized the subjective meaning of human behavior, the social process, and pragmatism. In symbolic interactionism, humans are portrayed as acting as opposed to being acted upon.Phenomenology In sociology, phenomenology seeks to reveal how human awareness is implicated in the production of social action, social situations and social worlds (Natanson 1970).Ethnomethodology A branch of the social sciences which is concerned with exploring how people interact with the world and make sense of reality. It is not designed to provide people with judgments on human behavior or its causes, but rather to explain how people interact with each other and with society at large.
8 Interactionist perspectives tend to concentrate on relatively small-scale levels of social interaction (between individuals, small social groups and so forth) and, for this reason, they are sometimes referred-to as a "micro level of sociological analysis".The basic ideas that Interactionist sociologists have in common (and which make them different in many respects to macro perspectives like Functionalism and Marxist Conflict theories) can be summarised as follows in the next 3 slides:
9 1. They focus on the way in which individuals (or "social actors" as Interactionists like to call them) act (that is, make conscious choices about their behavior based upon the way they interpret situations) - rather than simply react to social stimulation.
10 2. The way in which different social actors interpret the behavior of others is significant as a means of understanding the way in which the world is socially constructed.This "social construction" of the world is focused upon the meanings people give to behavior and the way in which they interpret the meaning of behavior.
11 3. The social context within which people interact is significant for both their interpretation of the behavior of others and the way they themselves choose to behave at any given time.
12 Notables in developing Interactionism Walter Mischel ( )Charles Horton Cooley ( )George Herbert Mead ( )Herbert Blumer ( )Irving (Erving) Goffman ( )
13 Walter Mischel: Situationism Developed the theory of situationism( )“A personality system is characterized by available cognitive and affective units…When certain configurations of situation features are experienced by the individual…, a subset of cognitions and affects become activated.”Mischel
14 Charles Horton Cooley Noted for concepts: of “primary group” the “looking glass self.”( )
15 George Herbert Mead “Father of Symbolic Interactionism” Called his approach “social behaviourism”“I” = self-conception“Me” = views of others( )
16 Herbert Blumer Coined the term “symbolic interaction” Student of Mead Interactionism = practical approach to scientific study of human conduct( )
17 Irving Goffman The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life “The Shakespeare of Interactionism”Dramaturgy( )
18 Interactionists see humans as active, creative participants who construct their social world and not as passive, conforming objects of socialization.
19 Choice vs. Determinism Actors produce patterns of interaction Social structure guides human behavior rather than rigidly determining itChoiceINTERACTIONISMDeterminism
20 Limitations of Interactionism Theory is vaguehard to summarizeLacks clarityDiffering interpretationsdifferent people have attached different meanings to the theorySome theorists overstate their caseas when Mead differentiates humans from other animalsAssessment may be unreliablesubjective measures