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Social Interaction in the Light of Symbolic Interactionism - Essay Example

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In the paper “Social Interaction in the Light of Symbolic Interactionism” the author examines the variation in human attitude and behavior while interacting with different people as well as at different situations and occasions. Structural functionalism declares society as an organic whole…
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Social Interaction in the Light of Symbolic Interactionism
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Social Interaction in the Light of Symbolic Interactionism

Download file to see previous pages... Structural functionalism declares society as an organic whole, where a strong and integrated structure is dependent on the adequate functioning of all the social institutions and organizations. Similarly, conflict theory opines struggle between the classes as the pivotal point behind all the developments and transformations taking place in group life. On the contrary, symbolic interactionism views applying of signs, gestures, expressions and body language as the most important one during people’s communication with one another. Hence, words, symbols, and gestures not only convey the message of one individual to others but also determine and decide the reaction of others on the foundations of words, expressions and body language delivered during the interaction process. Inspired by renowned psychologist theorist George Herbert Mead, Herbert Blumer articulated symbolic interaction theory in 1937. Mead had first coined the doctrine of psychological behaviorism. “For Mead, the unit of study is the “act”, which comprises both overt and covert aspects of human action. Within the act, all the separated categories of the traditional, orthodox psychologies find a place. Attention, perception, imagination, reasoning, emotion and so forth, are seen as part of the act.”1 (Meltzer, 1978: quoted in Ritzer, 2007: 298) Symbolic interactionism states that all sets of social norms, cultural values, religious rituals, traditions, customs and conventions etc are actually the determined patterns of behavior, which guide the humans to act and react according to the situation. “Symbolic interactionists, as their name implies, place enormous emphasis on the capacity of humans to create and use symbols. In contrast to other animals, whose symbolic capacities are limited or non-existent, the very essence of humans and the world that they create flows from their ability to symbolically represent each other, objects, ideas, and virtually any phase of their experience.”2 (Turner, 1978:327) Almost the same theoretical framework has been presented by Harold Garfinkel under the title ethnomethodology, where the approach seeks to “study the methods in and through which members concertedly produce and assemble the features of everyday life in any actual, concrete, and not hypothetical or theoretically depicted setting.3 (Garfinkel 1988:137) Thus, ethnomethodology maintains a close affinity with symbolic interactionism, and draws out conclusions by observing the actions and expressions of the individuals engaged in one type of social interaction or the other in an empirical manner. In other words, ethnomethodology investigates the meanings and message of an act or behavior by testing its validity on various occasions in admitting its status at universal or regional scale. For instance, smile and frown are universal symbols of interaction as the former is taken as a sign of goodwill, while the other is regarded as the symbol of anger and displeasure all over the world. Somehow, there exist several gestures and symbols that give different meanings to different cultural groups. For instance, males’ act of shaking hand with females is a symbol of mannerism in western societies; on the contrary, it serves as a taboo in the Gulf region. ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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