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"We become human only through other people"

Discussing this statement with reference to George Herbert Mead.
by

Brianne Stewart

on 15 October 2012

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Transcript of "We become human only through other people"

The Self The I The Me What is the "Me"?
The Me is the social self. It is learnt from interaction with others . The notion that we perceive others to have of us.
The me disciplines the I.

Eg. If school mates believe we are 'nerds' because we attend lectures and do well in exams. "In Mead's view human thought, experience and conduct are essentially social" - M. Haralambos and M. Holbourn George Herbert Mead Sigmund Freud George Herbert Mead an American philosopher and social theorist, concerned with interactionism. An interactionist focuses on individuals and their interpretation of the social world. Unlike the macro perspective such as the functionalist perspective, that studies the structures of society, the interactionism or interactionist perspective focus on the individuals. There are different approaches to the interactionist perspective and one of these approaches includes the symbolic interactionism which evolved out of the work of George Herbert Mead. George Herbert Mead symbolic Interactionism approach assumes that individuals place meanings on objects in the environment and it is these meanings that determine behavior in the society and aid in the formation of the self in everyday life. *There are three core elements of symbolic interactionism:
1. The Symbol
2. The Self
3. Interaction The Symbol

Symbolic interactionism assumes that individuals place meanings on objects in the environment, and it is these meanings that determine their behavior. Mead claims that for sense to be made of the real world and the actions of other individuals there must be shared symbols. These allow all members of society to share a common perception of reality. The world is therefore, made up of symbols that are created by humans to give meaning or order in society. Such symbols include language, which facilitates communication among individuals and acts as a reference point from which individuals can base their interaction. Interaction

According to Mead, no interaction is possible unless individuals are aware of the intention of others. In society, individuals assume that they share common understandings of the symbols (for example, language) and so place themselves in the place of others, and react accordingly. Thus social interaction depends on the meaning that individuals place on things, and how they are perceived by others. The Self
Mead refers the individuals in society as “actors”. He elaborates by asserting that the mind and the self are socially constructed in a social process through which individuals or social actors interact, and out of this interaction each person internalizes how he/she is perceived by others. The individual’s notion of self, Mead refers to as “I”; and the notion that we perceive others have of us; he calls the ‘me”. This is important because reference groups, or what Mead terms “the generalized other”, infuses interaction in society. Durkheim, the pioneer of the functionalist theory compared society to the human body where the social institutions are organs working together to create a culture and stabilize the economy.

In this established economy individuals need a common culture and a value consensus in which Durkheim believed socialization provided. Socialization was seen as a means in reproducing social order and functionality.


Value Consensus: An agreement about what things are of worth in a society. This is the basis of social order. The process through which individuals learn their culture Socialization I.D. = Your evil thoughts Super Ego = your subconciousness that is governed by your moral standards Ego = your actual personality after a combination of both ID and Super Ego Our Questions

1. What does it mean to be become human? What exactly is human?
2. Do we really become human through other people?
3. What does George Herbert Mead and other theorists have to say about this?
4. Who are these significant others Mead refers to? Discuss the statement in reference to George Herbert Mead "We become human only through other people" What is the 'I'

The 'I' is the response to the me and the attitudes of the community. The notion of yourself.

Eg. If you believe you are a party animal Sigmund Freud's idea of the ID, super ego and ego can be connected to Mead's idea of the self. Charles Cooley -
The looking glass self Cooley explains his looking glass theory as one in which highlights the self image as being formed by the messages we get from others and individuals interpretation of those messages. The three components of the looking glass self:

- How others view us
-How we envision our self to appear to others
- Developing self-feeling Cooley suggests that individuals look to others to create the understanding of self. Thus who we are includes everything that exists.

"Our self concepts and identities are a reflection of how other people perceive us"

Whether our beliefs about how others perceive us are true or not it is those beliefs that truly shape our ideas about ourselves. The Self Fulfilling Prophecy

Predictions made by individuals about someone will tend to come true because the prediction has been made. In regards to Herbert Mead's Self, the Me is the notion we perceive others to have of us. Bearing this in mind, if people believe that we are a certain type of person we will be treated as such and then internalise this and become what people originally thought even if we were not like that to begin with. For example: In the Caribbean stimgas are held about people who come from certain areas.

"All men from Matthews lane are criminals"

People will treat the members of this society as such and thus they internalize it and therefore become the stereotype.
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