Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The 'I' and the 'Me'

George Herbert Mead said about symbolic interactionism, so it was a challenge to find one piece by him that was a representative of his work. The piece I chose, “The ‘I’ and the ‘Me’” from Mind, Self, and Society (Mead 1934) is less than six pages long, but it contains concepts and definitions that lay the groundwork for understanding how individuals see themselves and act upon things in their environment. Read The 'I' and the 'Me' and comeback to see if you agree with my assessment of this piece.

If you are confused about what Mead meant, read the analysis below and then reread the passage. Mead said a lot in those six pages. I had to read it three times and do some research before I was really able to understand what he was talking about. Here’s what I am thinking Mead was talking about.

The ‘I’
The ‘I’ is the impulse being that is initiates an act. It is the active part side of an individual’s interchange in a social situation. It enters consciousness only after an action (De Waal 2002). ‘I’ is the spontaneous response by an individual to a social situation (Carreira da Silva 2007). Mead maintained that individuals don’t know

The ‘Me’
Individuals get the ‘me’ when they realize that they are part of the environment and is how we see ourselves reflected in social situations and the environment. The ‘me’ is merely how we see and judge ourselves from a specific perspective. ‘Me’ is a socially structured, conscious being that we build by seeing ourselves through the eyes of other people (Carreira da Silva 2007).Getting to know the ‘me’ is like getting to know another person (De Waal 2002). The unity of self is how well an individual can bring the multiples version of their ‘me’ together into one coherent ‘me’.

‘I’ + ‘Me’ = ‘Self’
By separating ‘I’ and ‘me’, Mead was able to define the individual as an active participant in their environment, rather than merely objects that perform social roles and attitudes. An individual is able to control themselves socially when the ‘me’ overrules the ‘I’ (De Waal 2002). The ‘I’ and ‘me’ are parts of the ‘self’ and each ‘self’ is part of society. Since the ‘I’ is continually affecting society and ‘me’ is continually being shaped by society, that means the ‘self’ is constantly changing and being changed by society (Carreira da Silva 2007). Could this be an example of the micro-marco link that sociologists look for? I am not sure I am convinced.

Mead and Freud
Some have compared Mead’s ‘I’ and ‘me’ to Sigmund Freud’s ‘id and superego, respectively (De Waal 2002) and to be honest, I did have the same thought when I first read this piece. I did not take the time to go back and read Freud’s writing on the id, ego and superego, to see how I personally thought they compared. But I do agree with De Waal’s assessment of the comparison. He points out that Freud’s ‘ego’ is the ‘individual’ in Mead’s view and that while Freud considered the id and superego as alien to an individual, Mead saw the ‘I’ and the ‘me’ as the essence of the individual (De Waal 2002).

If you go to re-read this passage, make sure to pay attention to the final paragraph of the piece, especially the parts I have underlined. When I really focused on understanding the content in this section, what Mead was talking about finally broke through in my head. I have highlighted in purple, what I think is the essence of Mead's explanation of the 'I' and the 'me'.

“Such is the basis for the fact that the ‘I’ does not appear in the same sense in experience as does the ‘me’. The ‘me’ represents a definite organization of the community there in our own attitudes, and calling for a response, but the response that takes place is something that just happens. There is no certainty in regard to it. There is a moral necessity but no mechanical necessity for the act. When it does take place then we find what has been done, The above accounting gives us, I think, the relative position of ‘I’ and ‘me’ in the situation, and the grounds for the separation of the two in behavior. The two are separated in the process but they belong together in the sense of being parts of a whole. They are separated and yet they belong together. The separation of the ‘I’ and ‘me’ is not fictitious. They are not identical, for as I have said, the ‘I’ is something that is never entirely calculable. The ‘me’ does call for a sort of an ‘I’ in so far as we meet the obligations that are given in conduct itself, but the ‘I’ is always different from what the situation itself calls for. So there is always that distinction, if you lie, between the
‘I’ and the ‘me.’ The ‘I’ both calls out the ‘me’ and responds to it. Taken together they constitute a personality as it appears in social experience. The self is essentially a social process going on with these two distinguishable phases. If it did not have these two phases there could not be conscious responsibility, and there would be nothing novel in experience” (Mead 1934:

Carreira da Silva, Filipe. 2007. G.H. Mead: A Critical Introduction. Polity Press, Cambridge, England

De Waal, Cornelis. 2002. On Mead. Wadsworth/Thomson Learning. Inc. Belmont, California

Mead, George Herbert. 1934. Mind, Self & Society from the Standpoint of a Social Behaviorist. The University of Chicago Press. Chicago, Illinois.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

George Herbert Mead Bibliography

Books available written by George Herbert Mead from Parks Library

Selected writings

On social psychology; selected papers

Play, school, and society

Essays on social psychology

George Herbert Mead; essays on his social philosophy

The philosophy of the present

Mind, self & society from the standpoint of a social behaviorist

Movements of thought in the nineteenth century

The individual and the social self: unpublished work of George Herbert Mead

The philosophy of the act

A report on vocational training in Chicago and in other cities
Creative intelligence; essays in the pragmatic attitude

Books available written about George Herbert Mead from Parks Library

Philosophy, social theory, and the thought of George Herbert Mead

The social dynamics of George H. Mead

The philosophical anthropology of George Herbert Mead

George Herbert Mead: self, language, and the world

On Mead

Mead and Merleau-Ponty: toward a common vision

George Herbert Mead: a unifying theory for sociology

George Herbert Mead and human conduct

The cosmopolitan self: George Herbert Mead and continental philosophy

The self imagined: philosophical reflections on the social character of psyche

Self, society, existence; human nature and dialogue in the thought of George Herbert Mead and Martin Buber

G.H. Mead, a contemporary re-examination of his thought

G.H. Mead: a critical introduction

Marx and Mead contributions to a sociology of knowledge

An invitation to critical sociology: involvement, criticism, exploration

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

George had an interesting history

Here are some little known facts about George Herbert Mead.
  • He never earned a Ph D
  • He worked for the Wisconsin Central Railroad Company
  • He was fired from his first teaching job after just four months

These tidbts were included in his bio on http://www.sociologyprofessor.com/.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Jan. 27 Reading

What is alienation? Have you experienced it and does Marx take on alienation change your view? I think the alienation that Marx describes is another way of not being spiritually connected to certain aspects of your life. You are driven to do them in order to satisfy a physical need and derive little or no spiritual benefit from them

Yes, I have experienced alienation on the job and I would say also in the area of religion.

I have used my “satisfaction level” to define how a job made me feel. I would be satisfied with a job if I felt I was contributing something to society and not just working to create profits that were intended for somebody else’s pockets. I think that is what Marx is really saying about alienation. That those who have to sell their time (and therefore themselves) to make enough money to live, instead of doing work they love, they are alienating themselves. I would argue that those who love what they, even if it produces profits for capitalists are not as likely to feel like they are alienated.

In the readings I never heard Marx talk about people who work on their own to create items for sale. Are they alienated as well? I would think not, if they are doing work that truly satisfies them and reaches them at a spiritual leve. However, if they are doing work because it is the family business and they are expected to do this work, then I should think that alienation would set in.

In the past thirty years I have held only job that truly where I did not feel some form of alienation and that was for most of the time I spent working as a communication specialist for ISU Extension. During the first five to five-and-a-half years I truly felt that I was truly serving the citizens of Iowa. Then a new vice president of Extension came in and changed the focus of our work from communicating science-based information from ISU to the citizens of Iowa to spending inordinate amounts of time and funds making him look good. The alienation set in immediately.

In most of the other jobs the alienation was there from the beginning, but I was not in a position financially to do much about it. However, now that my step children are through college and my husband is retired, I can now look for things that don’t make me feel alienated.

The other area where I have felt alienation is in the area of religion. Being raised Roman Catholic and attending a Catholic grade school, drenched me in this religion. I would try to feel some spiritual connection, but never have. I finally let go of it when I attended a Catholic college and had the opportunity to have discussions about religion and I how I did or did not feel about it. I was amazed to find that many of my classmates feel a deep connection to the Catholic way, but I did not. At that time, I let goof the Catholic religion. I have explored some other religions since then and found none that I felt I connected with.

So now I feel like I could be branded a Marxist.