We Maintain And Perpetuate Society When We Talk To Ourselves

George Herbert Mead’s Social Psychology
Commentary On Self Continues

Mead, in putting together his social psychology drew heavily upon the converging
currents of thought that filtered through the universities where he took up
residence. The emerging doctrines of Evolution, Functional Psychology, and
Pragmatism, in various degrees, eventually found expression in Mead’s social
psychology. Mead asked the question: “How do human being’s express cooperative
behavior?” Humans are many times more flexible and creative then their
biologically determined animal counterparts in expressing themselves. The answer
to this question, according to Mead, is that what sets humans apart from the
rest of the animal kingdom is the ability to communicate with oneself (to have a
self) and identify symbols. This particularly human ability allows for the
experience of shared meanings, a common vocabulary and shared expectations.
Consensus, as Mead points out, not only forms the basis of human society, it
also permits dialogue to occur within oneself. In our capacity to talk to
ourselves, we actualize the mechanism that maintains and perpetuates society. The
individual, through his/her imaginative (symbolic) completion of the act, is
able to take on the roles of other people and in this way share in the social
experience of other people. By engaging in role taking we become socialized
to the norms, mores and folkways of our culture, as we become part of that

What’s interesting here is that Mead’s concept of self (and my concept of self)
cannot be understood in terms of traditional psychologies which view the self as
a thing occurring in a mind. The “self” is a process wherein symbolic
communication occurs. The self must be conceived within the interdependent
network of symbols, gestures and roles that are encountered in the daily round
of one’s life. As I develop the capacity to act toward myself I acquire mind,
and, as I acquire mind I begin to recognize those people who become, for me, my
significant others. In the recognition of the qualities held in common by these
significant others, I am able to conceive what Mead calls the “generalized
other.” In so far as the self develops in this way, the beliefs, values,
desires, and motives, which I internalize, are the shared beliefs, values,
desires, and motives internalized by others. For Mead, this intertwining of self
with social environment produces the minded activity that relates objects to
meanings, images, and “plans of action.” The resulting plan of action is what
directs and modifies my behavior. Both Mead’s self and the self that I have
described in the Venn circles should be understood in terms of all the above


About bwinwnbwi

About me: Marvin Gaye’s song, "What’s Going On" was playing on the jukebox when I went up to the counter and bought another cup of coffee. When I got back, the painting on the wall next to where I was sitting jumped out at me, the same way it had done many times before. On it was written a diatribe on creativity. It was the quote at the bottom, though, that brought me back to this seat time after time. The quote had to do with infinity; it went something like this: Think of yourself as being in that place where infinity comes together in a point; where the infinite past and the infinite future meet, where you are at right now. The quote was attributed to Hermann Hesse, but I didn’t remember reading it in any of the books that I had read by him, so I went out and bought Hesse’s last novel, Magister Ludi. I haven’t found the quote yet, but I haven't tired of looking for it either.
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2 Responses to We Maintain And Perpetuate Society When We Talk To Ourselves

  1. Mèo Lười Việt says:

    Sometimes I have a feeling that there’re some people writing this blog. Some posts are fascinating, others are so academic. Actually I don’t like thing that’s too academic. Sorry if I’m brutally honest!

    • bwinwnbwi says:

      For the most part, I’m self-taught, however, when my children were small (about the time I turned 40) they needed to know that it was expected of them to do well in school and study hard (they succeeded). In that regard, I went back to school myself in order to communicate the message, by example, that education was their way out (I, a janitor who eventually retired after 35 years of work, and their mother, for the most part, uneducated, did not exemplify that “way out”), It took me five or six years of taking a few classes at a time, but, in the end, I graduated with my MA degree and, in the process, added my own thesis to my book collection. Anyway, to respond to your comment; when invited into that academic sandbox, you either play hard with the available toys or you are asked to leave the sandbox. A good deal of my posts (especially future posts) were written while I was playing with the rest of the kids in the sandbox (being 40 + years old however, I’m sure the kids in the box thought of me as Lather (the old guy in the Grace Slick song inserting drum sticks up his nose while playing in the sandbox). You are right, more than one person did write these posts, me and Lather. Thanks for all your comments. I really appreciate all your support. Take care.

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