History: USA – The interwar years

Rural-Urban Migration; Integration; Post WW1 Crises in Modernity; G.H. Mead, William James and Pragmatism

The SP that emerged in the U.S. in the early 20th Century

The historical situation:
G.H. Mead was in Chicago, there was massive migration in to the City, there were social challenges e.g. integration in education (According to Stenner, 2017, p. 5)

“Mead’s social psychology was, as a consequence, distinctively pragmatic” (p. 5).

[Surely his thought could have gone multiple ways? – L.C.]

Mead was influenced by the ‘pragmatism’ of William James and others.

The social is thus understood as “shared social projects” where individuals integrate “via their sense of self” (p. 5).

For Mead, as for Hegel, the self is fundamentally social and cognitive. It should be distinguished from the individual, who also has non-cognitive attributes. (SEP)

For Mead, the self is already something inherently social, since the sense of self as a distinctive entity emerges only when we begin to engage, as small children, in role taking. We can experience ourselves as a ‘self’ when we take the attitude of another person towards ourselves, and hence objectify ourselves (view ourselves from the ‘outside’). (Stenner, 2017. p. 5)

We can see a similar view expressed by William James:

Properly speaking, a man has as many social selves as there are individuals who recognize him and carry an image of him in their mind. To wound any one of these his images is to wound him. But as the individuals who carry the images fall naturally into classes, we may practically say that he has as many different social selves as there are distinct groups of persons about whose opinion he cares. He generally shows a different side of himself to each of these different groups. (James 1890, 294) (SEP)

The self emerges through interaction with others, but not only in the dyad form, but via a whole social field.

“How then does a self arise? Here Mead introduces his well-known neologism, the generalized other. When children or adults take roles, they can be said to be playing these roles in dyads. However, this sort of exchange is quite different from the more complex sets of behaviors that are required to participate in games. In the latter, we are required to learn not only the responses of specific others, but behaviors associated with every position on the field. These can be internalized, and when we succeed in doing so we come to “view” our own behaviors from the perspective of the game as a whole, which is a system of organized actions” (SEP).