Sociology Symbolic-Interactionism Is a Dynamic Theory of Essay

Download this Essay in word format (.doc)

Note: Sample below may appear distorted but all corresponding word document files contain proper formatting

Excerpt from Essay:


Symbolic-interactionism is a dynamic theory of society that emphasizes process and change over institution and structure. In Symbolic Interactionism, Joel Charon describes the theory and applies it to a more general study of sociology. In Terrorism and the Politics of Fear, David Altheide applies various theories of sociology including symbolic-interactionism toward understanding how a society collectively agrees upon fear-based symbols and messages.

In Chapter 11, "Society," Joel M. Charon defines society from a symbolic-interactionism perspective. The symbolic-interactionism perspective defines society as "individuals in action," as opposed to a static entity (p. 152). Emphasizing the interactions between individuals, or between individuals and entities, the symbolic-interactionism approach stresses factors like social processes and social change. According to Charon, there are three qualities of society that make it viable from a symbolic-interactionism perspective. These three qualities include ongoing social symbolic interaction; cooperation or interdependence; and culture.

Ongoing social symbolic interaction refers to the symbolic means of communication that are critical to any social organization, even the smallest and loosest relationships. Communication is symbolic in the sense that words, actions, and other symbols impart a collective meaning. There are agreements as to what words and actions mean, and the act and result of that agreement is the solidification of society. A culture could not exist without ongoing symbolic interaction. Symbolic interaction includes role definition and role taking by individual members of the society. Roles are highly symbolic.

Cooperation and cooperative action refer to the fulfillment of either individual or collective goals via individual action. The goals do not have to be shared in precisely the same way, and the individuals participating in the society might have different goals. Yet the individuals in the society are willing to pool resources including information and energy, so that together they can accomplish individual goals. There are certainly shared values that enable cooperative action. Society is viable when individuals "work together despite their personal differences" (Charon p. 155). Societies are formed when individuals act cooperatively and interdependently. Cooperation requires ongoing communication (such as ongoing social symbolic interaction), mutual role taking (also a form of symbolic interaction), defining others as social objects, defining social objects together, and developing goals in interaction (Charon p. 155-156).

Culture is the final of Charon's three components of society. Culture is what develops over time, as ongoing social symbolic interaction and cooperative action take place. When a new social group is formed, it might not have a culture. As the individuals participate in the group over time, cooperating and interacting symbolically, a culture is formed. This is a group consensus over things like values and goals. The culture promotes itself through worldview and shared perspectives. Culture may be described as a frame of reference.

Part of the culture's frame of reference depends on how it defines the in-group and out-group. One aspect of culture is the "generalized other," which is a "socially created conscience" that dictates norms, procedures, rules, and taboos (Charon, p. 158). Self-control is partly a result of heeding the messages of the generalized other -- which is like Freud's superego. When the generalized other is weak, the culture can fall apart. Demoralized members of the group can also cause the culture to break down, as the generalized other becomes delegitimized. Therefore, conformity is a necessary component of culture and society.

For the symbolic interactionist, culture is not a static force. Rather, culture is continually being created and re-created as individuals redefine the boundaries of the group and of the generalized other. The symbolic interactionism perspective is a dynamic perspective because it acknowledges the complex and changing nature of society. Even the seemingly static emblems or institutions in a society such as gender, race, class, and power are continually being negotiated, re-negotiated, defined, and re-defined. As Charon puts it, all aspects of culture are negotiated -- aspects of culture are being agreed upon continually by the individuals comprising the society.

Society is "any instance of ongoing social interaction that is characterized by cooperation among actors and that creates a shared culture," (162). Within the society, there may be any number of smaller groups or sub-cultures. One individual can easily be a member of several different societies concurrently. The individual needs to feel a sense of meaning and camaraderie to participate in the group and ultimately, to sustain that group. "Ultimately, they need to believe that their place in the group is necessary for the group's continuation,"…[continue]

Cite This Essay:

"Sociology Symbolic-Interactionism Is A Dynamic Theory Of" (2013, March 03) Retrieved December 9, 2016, from

"Sociology Symbolic-Interactionism Is A Dynamic Theory Of" 03 March 2013. Web.9 December. 2016. <>

"Sociology Symbolic-Interactionism Is A Dynamic Theory Of", 03 March 2013, Accessed.9 December. 2016,

Other Documents Pertaining To This Topic

  • Symbolic Interactionism Is a Term

    Herbert Blumer, having coined the term Symbolic Interactionism, is the person who was instrumental in the development of the Symbolic Interactionism perspective. Blumer was a student of George Herbert Mead. More than writing, publishing, and popularizing Mead's ideas, Blumer built on Mead's ideas and further developed. He believed and theorized that "there was more to human behavior than influences on it by outside forces or uncontrollable psychological factors" (Bandy, Foley,

  • Sociology Changing Societies in a Diverse World

    Sociology: Changing Societies in a Diverse World (Fourth Edition) George J. Bryjak & Michael P. Soroka Chapter One Summary of Key Concepts Sociology is the field of study which seeks to "describe, explain, and predict human social patterns" from a scientific perspective. And though Sociology is part of the social sciences (such as psychology and anthropology), it is quite set apart from the other disciplines in social science; that is because it emphasizes

  • Sociology of Poverty and Welfare

    Interpretive sociology does not agree with the thought that behavior is related to society as effect is related to cause since this entire idea is dysfunctional with that which composes social life in reality. Interpretive sociology holds that understanding of our fellow man should be the pursuit of each day as sense is made of their individual societal existence. Seeking to understand is the concept held in interpretive sociology

  • Sociological Theories Sociology of Gender

    Sociology and Feminist Theories on Gender Studies Postmodern Feminism in "Cherrie Moraga and Chicana Lesbianism" In the article entitled, "Cherrie Moraga and Chicana Lesbianism," author Tomas Almaguer analyzes and studies the dynamics behind Moraga's feminist reading of the Chicano culture and society that she originated from. In the article, Almaguer focuses on three elements that influenced Moraga's social reality as she was growing up: the powerful effect of the Chicano culture, patriarchal

  • Sociological Theory Social Order Institutions Socializations and...

    Social Order: Institutions, Socializations, And the Performance of Social Roles Erving Goffman dramaturgical theory is a seminal theory in the field of sociology. An example of "micro-sociological analysis," it forced sociological analysis back into the examination of things which actually exist, individual behavior, instead of mere concepts. Goffman demonstrated that the examination of real things can not only clarify existing lines of thought, but open up new avenues for the study

  • Sociological Theories Understanding Society Also

    From a functionalist perspective, colleges are crucial parts or systems in the society because it promotes and makes possible education for the society. However, from a conflict theory standpoint, colleges can be considered structures or systems through which only those with access to education continue to perpetuate the 'oppression' of the "have-nots" -- people who cannot afford a college education. Symbolic interactionism, meanwhile, looks at colleges as an important

  • Communitarianism Liberal Society Seeks Not

    That premise states a core value that the framers intended to protect. The intentionalist judge must then supply the minor premise in order to protect the constitutional freedom in circumstances the framers could not foresee. (Bork 15) Bork's approach was recently critiqued by Daniel Ortiz and some others, one of whom noted, with reference to the Griswold decision on privacy, that Bork saw the decision as "unprincipled" "because [e]very clash

Read Full Essay
Copyright 2016 . All Rights Reserved