Central to symbolic interactionism is the concept of "self-identity" (Stone 1962). Self-identity is knowledge that the self exists. Self-identity permits communication and other interactions with the self which, in turn, produce "self-definition." Self-definition is a simultaneous recognition of self, and of a beyond-self reality.
Since symbolic interaction also allows for the formation of thought, the self is (as Mead suggested) the result of a social process. Blumer defines the self as the capacity "that a human being can be an object of his own action... he acts toward himself and guides himself in his actions toward others on the basis of the object he is to himself". This process involves, first, a selection of the objects considered relevant for the individual, and, second, an appropriate handling of the meanings of those objects. Here it shows that Blumer, unlike Mead, stresses the I side of the self.
How are meanings constructed in interaction? The interaction determines meaning on the basis of 1) a cognitive interpretation, and 2) a practical handling of an object on the basis of that interpretation. Then Blumer asserts that symbols play an important role in this meaning-giving process (note that Blumer also mentions non-symbolic interaction which does not require any mental processes). Symbols, specifically linguistic symbols, allow for 1) a categorization of objects; 2) a selection of relevant objects; and 3) the formation of thought, which itself enables the avoidance of risk behavior and the abstract conception of things and people (interaction is the process by which thought is at once developed and expressed).
Blumer was opposed to any psychological theory that ignores the process by which actors construct meaning - the fact that actors have selves and relate to themselves. Blumer's general criticism were similar to Mead's, but he extended them beyond behaviorism to include other forms of psychological reductionism as well.
Mead (1934) saw communication processes and the interexchanges of significant symbols as central to his theory of mind and as constitutive of how people internalize social conventions and collaborate to construct meaning. Mead himself did not develop a particularly nuanced analysis of the “pragmatics” underlying social action—that is, of the activities that are coordinated between individuals and constitutive of communication.
The relative lack of interactionists’ interest in the situation reflects a disengagement from one of sociology’s key questions, namely, how people arrive atan intersubjective understanding of an object. With this special issue we hope tomake a small step toward a symbolic interactionist return to issues such as inter-action processes, practices, and intersubjective understanding. The resurrection concerns that in the past were at the heart of symbolic interactionist debaterequires a reflection on contemporary concepts of interaction
On one level, symbolic interactionists study the interpretations individuals derive from their experiences, and the social and cultural influences on those interpretations. On a second level, we – the researchers – are also interpreters. Regardless of our relationships to and with the people we study, we seek to present, through various mediums, interpretations of interpretations.
To the symbolic interactionists, socialization is a more dynamic process that allows people to develop the ability to think, to develop in distinctively human ways. Furthermore, socialization is not simply a one-way process in which the actor receives information, but is a dynamic process in which the actor shapes, and adapts the information to his or her own needs.
Symbolic interactionism (Blumer 1969; Mead 1934; Solomon 1983) suggests that society is continually produced and re-produced through the individual's interaction with the symbolic representations of surrounding society. As will be explained, symbolic interaction with material and non-material culture enables the individual to develop a sense of self, become socialized, participate in society, and understand the roles and significance of other people.
Symbolic Interactionism, a term coined by Herbert Blumer in 1937, focuses on how relationships between individuals affects one’s view of the world and the self. Blumer asserted that the self does not exist independently from our social relationships with others, but rather others constantly modify the self. This modification of the self happens through symbolic interactions with other people.