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Mead - ined = the and one irms hing the the was ome free s...

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Unformatted text preview: ined = the and one- irms hing the the was ome free- s of area, and earn . The self; had e of oint hat- the . its Lime ture ions 3 to love DUt- ‘ tom :Iess but heir heir It a )f a life, ired ctiy best and and 13513 gins r to l of next George H. Mead: The I and the Me 163 display in its inner realization an empty nature suspended in the air; but then, often altered only by imponderables, precisely in this state of rew moval from all immediate reality, its deeper nature can appear more completely, more integrated and meaningful, than any attempt to comprehend it realistically and without taking distance. Accord~ ingly' as the former or the latter experience pre- dominates, will one’s own life, running its own course according to its own norms, be a formal, meaningless dead thing—or a symbolic play, in whose aesthetic charm all the finest and most highly sublimated dynamics of social existence and its riches are gathered. in ail art, in all the symbol— ism of the religious life, in great measure even in the complex formulations of science, we are thrown back upon this belief, upon this feeling, that autonomies of mere parts of observed reality, that the combinations of certain superficial ele— ments possess a relation to the depth and whole»- ncss of life, which, although often not easy to for» mulate, makes such a part the bearer and the representative of the fundamental reality. From this we may understand the saving grace and bless- ing effect of these realms built out of the pure forms of existence, for in them we are released from life but have it still. The sight of the sea frees us inwardly, not in spite of but because of the fact that in its rushing up only to recede, its receding only to rise again, in the play and counter~_ 2. The I and the Me BY GEORGE H. MEAD we wean sraaxmo ofthe social con— ditions under which the seif arises as an object. in addition to language we found two illustrations, one in play and the other in the game, and I wish to summarize and expand my account on these points. I have spoken of these from the point of view of Reprinted from George H. Mead, in Mind, Self, and Society, ed. Charles Morris (Chicago: University of Citi— Cago Press," 1934), Part III, sec. 20, pp. 15244, with the Permission of the University of Chicago Press. Copyright 1934 by the University of Chicago. play of its waves, the whoie of life is styiizcd to the simplest expression of its dynamic, quite free from all reality which one may experience and from all the baggage of individual fate, wimse final meaning seems nevertheless to flow into this stark picture. Inst so art perhaps reveals the secret of life; that we save ourselves not by simply looking away from it but precisely in that in the apparentiy selflgoverning play of its forms we construct and experience the meaning and the forces of its deep est reality but without the reality itself. Sociacility would not hold for so many thoughtful men who feel in every moment the pressure of life, this emancipating and saving exhilaration if it were only a flight from life, the mere momentary lifting of its seriousness. It can often enough he only this negative thing, a conventionalism and inwardly lifeless exchange of formulas; so perhaps in die ancien régz'me, where gloomy anxiety over a threat— ening reality drove men into pure escape, into severance from the powers of actual life. The free ing and lightening, however, that precisely the more thoughtful man finds in sociability is this; ' that association and exchange of stimulus, in which all the tasks and the whoie weight of life are realized, here is consumed in an artistic play, in that simultaneous sublimation and dilution, in which the heavily freighted forces of reaiity are felt only as from a distance, their Weight fleeting in a charm. children. We can, of course, refer aiso to the atti— tudes of more primitive people out of which our civiiization has arisen. A striking illustration of play as distinct from the game is found in the myths and various of'the plays which primitive people carry out, especialiy in religious pageants. The pure play attitude which we find in the case of little children may not be found here, since the participants are adults, and undoubtedly the relationship of these play processes to that which they interpret is more or less in the minds of even the most primitive people. in the process of interpretation of such 164 Part One, Sec. B—The Elements of Social Interaction: Roles and Collectivities rituals, there is an organization of play which per— haps might be compared to that which is taking place in the kindergarten in dealing with the plays of little children, where these are made into a set that will have a definite structure or relationship. At least something of the same sort is found in the play of primitive people. This type of activity belongs, of course, not to the everyday life of the people in their dealing with the objects about themm—there we have a more or less definitely developed (self. consciousnessmhut in their attitudes toward the forces about them, the nature upon which they den pend; in their attitude toward this nature which is vague and uncertain, there we have a much more primitive response; and that response finds its exu pression in taking the role of the other, playing at the eXpression of their gods and their heroes, going through certain rites which are the representation of what these individuals are supposed to be doing. The process is one which develops, to he sure, into a more or less definite technique and is controlled; and yet we can say that it has arisen out of situations similar to those in which little children play at heir: g a parent, at being a teacher—"vague personalities that are about them and which affect them and on which they depend. These are personalities which they take, roles they play, and in so far control the development of their own personality. This out- come is just what the kindergarten works toward. It takes the characters of these various vague beings and gets them into such an organized social role." tionship to each other that they build up the char— acter of the little child. The very introduction of organization from outside supposes a lack of or- ganization at this period in the child’s experience. Over against such a situation of the little child and primitive people, we have the game as such. The fundamental difference between the game and play is that in the latter the child must have the attitude of all the others involved in that game. The attitudes of the other players which the participant assumes organize into a sort of unit, and it is that organization which controls the response of the individual. The illustration used was of a person playing baseball. Each one of his owu acts is de— termined by his assumption of the action of the others who are playing the game. What he does is controlled by his being everyone else on that team, at least in so far as those attitudes allect his own particular response. We get then an “other” which is an organization of the attitudes of'those involved in the same process. The organized community or social group which gives to the individual his unity of self may be called “the generalized other.” The attitude of the general—- ized other is the attitude of the whole community.I Thus, for example, in the case of such a social group as a ball team, the team is the generalized other in so far as it enters—as an organized process or social activitywinto the experience of any one of the in~ dividual members of it. . If the given humanindividual is to develop a self in the fullest sense, it is not sufficient for him merely to take the attitudes of other human individuals toward himself and toward one another within the human social process, and to bring that social process as a whole into his individual experience merely in these terms: he must also, in the same way that he takes the attitudes of other individuals toward himself and toward one another, take their attitudes toward the various phases or aspects of the common social activity or set of social under- takings in which, as members of an organized so— ciety or social group, they are all engaged; and he must then, by generalizing these individual attitudes of that organized society or social group itself, as a whole, act toward difierent social projects which at any given time it is carrying out, or toward the vari- ous larger phases of the general social process which constitutes its life and of which these projects are specific manifestations. This getting of the Broad activities of any given social whole or organized society as such within the experiential field of any one of the individuals involved or included in that whole is, in other words, the essential basis and pre— requisite of the fullest development of that indi— vidual’s self: only in so far as he takes the attitudes of the organized social group to which‘he belongs toward the organized, co—operative social activity or set of. such activities in which that group as such is engaged, does he develop a complete self or possess the sort of complete self he has developed. And on the other hand, the complex co-operative processes and activities and institutional functionings of or- 1. It is possible for inanimate objects, no less than for other human organisms, to form parts of the generalized and organized—the completely socialized—other for any given human individual, in so far as he responds to such obiects socially or in a social fashion (by means of the mechanism of thought, the internalized conversation of gestures). Any thing—any object or set of objects, whether animate or inanimate, human or animal, or merely physi— cal—toward which he acts, or to which he responds, so- cially, is an element in what for him is the generalized other; by taking the attitudes of which toward himself he becomes conscious of himself as an object or individual, and thus develops a self or personality. Thus, for example, the cult, in its primitive form, is merely the social em- bodiment of the relation between the given social group or community and its physical environmentman organized social means, adopted by the individual members of that group or community, of entering into social relatiOns with that environment,- or (in a sense} of carrying on conversa~ tions with it; and in this way that environment becomes part of the total generalized other for each of the indi— vidual. members of the given social group or community. ganize far as ing to all 0t} proce: ings, z tial re and c: It i: social uais i1 comrr indivi social ing fa thong eralizl its ex: and ii so far hehav involx only l towar can 11 the in stitute taking the ge once 1 Como poses Th1 or as: given sectio social that g p which differ: 2. V individ gestun or act from 1 more 2 lug ha other is espi conver the go dividu are co social the in- eralize attitud them. stated dividu George H. Mead: The I and the Me 165 ganized human society are also possible only in so far as every individual involved in them or belong- ing to that society can take the general attitudes of. all other such individuals with reference to these processes and activities and institutional function~ ings, and to the organized social whole of experien» tial relations and interactions thereby constituted”— and can direct his own behavior accordingly. It is in the form of the generalized other that the social process influences the behavior of the individ~ uals involved in it and carrying it on, i.e., that the community exercises control over the conduct of its individual members; for it is in this form that the social process or‘community enters as a determin- ing factor into the individual’s thinking. In abstract thought the individual takes the attitude of the gen- eralized other“ toward himself, without reference to its expression in any particular other individuals; and in concrete thought he takes that attitude in so far as it is expressed in the attitudes toward his behavior of those other individuals with whom he is involved in the given social situation or act. But only by taking the attitude of the generaliZed other toward himself, in one or another of. these ways, can he think at all; for only thus can thinking—Mm . the internalized conversation of gestures which con» stitutes thinking—occur. And only through the taking by individuals of the attitude or attitudes of the generalized other toward themselves is the exist- ence of a universe of discourse, as that system of common or social meanings which thinking presup— poses at its context, rendered possible. The self-conscious human individual, then, takes '0: assumes the organized social attitudes of {the given social group or community (or of some one section thereof) to which he belongs, toward the social problems of various kinds which confront that group or community at any given tiine, and _ which arise in connection with the correspondingly diilercnt social projects or organized co—operative 2. We have said that the internal conversation of the individual with himself in terms of words or significant gesturesmwthe conversation which constitutes the process or activity of thinking—is carried on by the individual from the standpoint of the “generalized other." And the more abstract that conversation is, the more abstract think— ing happens to be, the further removed is the generalized other from any connection with particular individuals. It is especially in abstract thinking, that is to say, that the conversation involved is carried on by the individual with the generalized other, rather than with any particular in- dividuals. Thus it is,'for example, that abstract concepts are concepts stated in terms of the attitudes of the entire social group or community; they are stated on the heels of the individual’s consciousness of the attitudes of the gen- eralized other toward them, as a result oi his taking. these attitudes of the generalized other and then responding to them. And thus it is also that abstract proposruons are stated in a form which anyone—any other intelligent m- dividuai—will accept. enterprises in which that group or community as such is engaged; and as an individual participant in these social projects or co«operative enterprises, he governs his own conduct accordingly. In politics, for example, the individual identifies himself with an entire political party and takes the organized atti- tudes of that entire party toward the rest of the given social community and toward the problems which confront the party within the given social situation; and he consequently reacts or responds in terms of I the organized attitudes of the party as a whole. He thUS enters into a special set of social relations with all the other individuals who belong to that political party; and in the same way he enters into various other special sets of social relations, with various other classes of individuals respectively, the indi~ viduais of each of these classes being the other members of some one of the particular organized subgroups (determined in socially functional terms) of which he himself is a member within the entire given society or social community. In the most highly developed, organized, and complicated human social communities—those evolved by civil— ized manmthcse various socially functional classes or subgroups of individuals to which any given in— dividual belongs (and with the other individual members of which he thus enters into a special set of social relations) are of two kinds. Some of them are concrete social classes or subgroups, such as political parties, clubs, corporations, which are all actually functional social units, in terms of which their individual members are directly related to one another. The others are abstract social classes or subgroups, such as the class of debtors and the class of creditors, in terms of which their individual members are related to one another only more or less indirectly, and which only more or less in— directly function as social units, but which afiord or represent unlimited possibilities for the widening and ramifyi‘ng and enriching of the social relations among all the individual members of the given so- ciety as an organized and unified whole. The given individual’s membership in several of these abstract social classes or subgroups makes possible his en- trance into definite social relations (however in— direct) with an almost infinite number of other in~ dividuals who also belong to or are included'within one or another of these abstract social classes“ or subgroups cutting across functional lines of de- marcation which divide different human social com~ munities from one another, and including individual members form several (in some cases from all) such communities. Of these abstract social classes or subgroups of human individuals the one which is most inclusive and extensive is, of course, the one defined by the logical universe of discourse (or sysi 166 Part One, Sec. B—~The Elements of Social Interaction: Roles and Collectivities tom of universally significant symbols) deter— mined by the participation and communicative in- teraction of individuals; for of all such classes or subgroups, it is the one which claims the largest number of individual members, and which enables the largest conceivable number of. human indi— viduals to enter into some sort of social relation, however, indirect or abstract it may be, with one another—a relation arising from the universal func~ tiouing of gestures as significant symbols in the gen— eral human social process oi communication. 1 have pointed out, then, that there are two general stages in the full development of the self. At the first of these stages, the individual’s self is consti— tuted simply by an organization of the particular attitudes of other individuals toward himself and toward one another in the specific social acts in which he participates with them But at the second stage in the full development of the individuals self that self is constituted not only by an organiza- tion of these particular individual attitudes, but also by an organization of the social attitudes of the gen— eralized other or the social group as a whole to which he belongs. These social or group attitudes are brought within the individual’s field of direct experience, and are included as elements in the structure or constitution of his self, in the same way that the attitudes of particular other individuals are; and the individual arrives at them, or succeeds in taking them, by means of further organizing, and then generalizing, the attitudes of particular other individuals in terms of their organized social bear" lugs and implications. So the self reaches its full de‘ velopment by organizing these individual attitudes of others into the organized social or group atti~ tudes, and by thus becoming an individual reflec‘ tion of the general systematic pattern of social or group behavior in which it and the others are all involved—a pattern which enters as a whole into the individu'ais experience in terms of these or- ganized group attitudes which, through the mecha— nism of his central nervous system, he takes toward himself, just as he takes the individual attitudes of others. The game has a logic, so that such an organiza- tion of the self is rendered possible: there is a dell» nite end to be obtained; the actions of the difierent individuals are all related to each other with refer— ence to that end so that they do not conflict; one is not in conflict with himself in the attitude of another man onthe team. If one has the attitude of the per- son throwlng the ball he can also have the response of catching the ball. The two are related so that they further the purpose of the game. itself. They are interrelated in a unitary, organic fashion. There is a definite unity, then, which is introduced into the organiza...
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