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Symbolic interactionism

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-R037-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved May 30, 2020, from

Article Summary

Symbolic interactionism is in the main a US sociological and social psychological perspective that has focused on the reciprocal relationship between language, identity and society. Philosophically it has largely been associated with pragmatists such as James (1907), Mead (1934), Dewey (1922) and Pierce (1958), although in the European context it has affinities with hermeneutics and phenomenology. In addition, it has links with various ‘dramaturgical’ approaches to communication that emphasize the interactive processes underpinning the construction, negotiation, presentation and affirmation of the self. In brief, symbolic interactionism is premised on the supposition that human beings are ‘active’ and not ‘reactive’.

Although it is not easy to spell out the central propositions of Symbolic Interactionism in a systematic way, nevertheless, most of its proponents are committed to an interactive view of self and society, that is, they take issue with those views that see the social world as a seamless unity that completely encapsulates and determines individual conduct.

Citing this article:
Brittan, Arthur. Symbolic interactionism, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-R037-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2020 Routledge.

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