Assess the claim made by interactionists that the social world has to be explained in terms of the meanings that the acotors give to their actions. (Points in essay may be elaborated on)

Essay by rizzo_21High School, 10th gradeB, September 2006

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Interactionists, who believe in symbolic interactionism, contrary to other sociologists, believe that there is no structure in society, and so there is nothing to influence a person's behaviour. Interactionists also tend to look at every person (the actor) as an individual and study him or her in detail, rather than absorbing people into predetermined groups and studying each group. One interactionist, George Hubert Mead, develop a concept, known as the self concept, which talks about the various stages in which we develop ourselves. This is done by acting and copying the actions of certain significant people in our lives. We then give meaning to these actions, which develop into norms and values, which we attribute to certain roles and which we carry with us for our whole lives.

The word symbolic interaction may be split into two, symbol and interaction, which both have a very important significance in understanding the through believes of the interactionist. The word symbol shows us how these sociologists believe that social life is impossible if one does not have symbols which are shared. This is due to the fact that a person must make classifications, for example the names of people, in order to be able to communicate and so live in a society. They also believe that a person may consciously choose whether or not to use these classifications, an element of choice which is a fundamental part of symbolic interactionism. The word interaction tells us that interactionists believe that there must be interaction in a society. They think that this is only possible if people are able to take on each other's roles, in order to reach a certain degree of understanding and empathy. This process is said to be very complex as it entails the modification of...