Evaluation of the model of the “Self” as a process not a structure This paper defines, analysis, and illustrates the model of the “Self” as a process not as a structure, which was referred by George Herbert Mead and Herbert Blumer in their works on social theory and symbolic interactionism. With symbolic interaction, process tends to take precedence over structure. Symbolic interactionism’s location on the process side of the distinction is, perhaps, the most important of its discursive characteristics. There were many founders, including Herbert Blumer, William James, W. I. Thomas, John Dewey, and- the most important- George Herbert Mead. The difference between the symbolic interactionism, structural functionalism, and conflict are that they boil down to the fact that “Blumer saw the self as a dynamic and spontaneous force and thus he designed research, which resisted formalization, while other theories were more deterministic and thus he saw symbolic interaction as more susceptible to formal, scientific research” (1969, p.
65). More recently, there has been a rise of more integrated micro-macro concerns in the sociology of work and structural functionalism calls for even more of this kind of work. This, of course, parallels the shift in sociological theory from the dominance of micro-level symbolic interactionism in the 1920s to the hegemony of macro-level structural functionalism from the 1940s through the 1960s. The major competitors during this period and into the 1970s were other macro-level theories- conflict theory that discussed concepts of inequality, discord, class struggle, exploitation and debates over who benefits systems theory’ structuralism, and some varieties of neo-Marxian theory. Many of these macro-theories remain strong to this day and this is even true of structural functionalism which, transformed into neo-functionalism, seems to be reversing two decades of decline.
The first problem of analysis of the “Self” as a process not as a structure arises with those who do not recognize or accept the extent to which reality is socially constructed (Mead 1934). On the one hand, every sociology person learns W.I. Thomas’s dictum about the social definition of reality. On the other hand, one continues to live according to pre-Einstinian definitions of the material world, if not in a pre-Copernican reality. For example, persons still speak of the pull or force of gravity (a notion discarded by Einstinian physics half a century ago), and some still speak of the sun rising and setting, rather than the earth turning. Any emerging awareness of the extent to which the facts of reality are socially constructed is likely to be undermined whenever our personal experience of reality involves a direct, physical history of the data.
Each person had a childhood (Mead 1934). One needs to believe that that direct, personal experience provided him or her with the facts about the reality of childhood. In their theory relating to social interactionism, Mead (1934) and Blumer (1969) put their finger on a key element that helps explain the resistance to recognition of the extent to which we construct reality. Part of the very process of realization of the “Self” as a process is the hiding of the activity of construction itself. Once the institutional building is up, the scaffolding is not merely removed; it is denied that the scaffolding ever existed! Blumer (1969) argues that it is not enough to identify and provide examples of different and concepts of “Self”, though the value of merely recognizing the existence of paradigms should not be underestimated; pluralism in truth is a giant intellectual step forward from true belief in a single reality.
Once symbolic interactionism leading to successful definition of the “self” as a process is recognized, one must ask for an explanation of the fact that a society may welcome and embrace a new paradigm and reject the old in some areas (for example in technology in our society), while in others the conventional wisdom is stubbornly defended against all change.