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George Herbert Mead, an American social psychologist, taught at the University of Chicago for his entire career. The task he set for himself was to explain how humans learn to think in abstractions, become self-conscious, and behave purposefully and morally. He contended that these attributes rest mostra'n més on language and are acquired and maintained through group life. Social psychology, for Mead, was the study of regularities in individual behavior that result from participation in groups. Mead was very much influenced by pragmatist philosophers, especially John Dewey and Charles H. Cooley. He was something of a cult figure during and after his lifetime; he published no books, and his posthumous books were reconstructed from his notes and from the notes of students. He was a man far ahead of his time, and many of the concepts he developed at the turn of the century are widely accepted today: the selective nature of perception, cognition through linguistic symbols, role playing, decision processes, reference groups, and socialization through participation in group activities. (Bowker Author Biography) mostra'n menys
Crèdit de la imatge: George Herbert Mead, 1863-1931 (Encyclopedia of Marxism)


Obres de George Herbert Mead

Obres associades

Pragmatism: The Classic Writings (1970) — Col·laborador — 87 exemplars
Philosophy now : an introductory reader (1972) — Col·laborador — 24 exemplars


Coneixement comú



review of
Works of George Herbert Mead - volume 1
- Mind, Self, & Society - from the Standpoint of a Social Behaviorist

- Edited and with an Introduction by Charles W. Morris
- by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - August 16-24, 2015

Being the somewhat thorough type of person that I am, I've written a long review of this bk entitled: "The Generalized Other don't know SHIT!" wch you can read here:

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What's written below is just the teensiest beginning of that:

The genesis of my reading this bk may interest some. In December of 2000 I rc'vd a letter from a man named Detlev Hjuler from Flensburg, Germany. This letter contained a want list of rare recordings of avant-garde music a catalog of things that Hjuler published himself. My days of being a prompt replier were long since behind me & I didn't answer. Hjuler was very persistent & we finally started corresponding. He bought 23 tapes that I publish (here's the link to my tape company website: - usually somewhat out-of-date these days) & we began trading.

Somewhere along the line I saw a list of Hjuler's record collection. It was very impressive. We started trading recordings. I'm usually very open to trading, my tape company isn't really a 'business' insofar as I usually lose money on it & have no aggressive commercial intentions, but I don't always like what I receive &, therefore, don't want to continue trading w/ that particular sender. That was the case here. By December, 2003, I stipulated that I wdn't trade w/ Hjuler any more.

Hjuler goes by the name "Kommissar Hjuler", reputedly b/c he was a police detective. He was also what, for simplicity's sake, one might call an "Outsider Musician". While I found his taste in music to be very sophisticated I found his own performances to be unbearably primitive. Still, given that I'm an anarchist & that he was a policeman & that these 2 types are usually in opposition to each other I found it somewhat fascinating that we shared similar musical interests.

12 yrs later, in 2015, Hjuler got in touch w/ me again b/c he's now publishing records & wants to publish work by Franz Kamin that I had previously published. At 1st I was wary of this b/c I'd disliked Hjuler's publications from my 1st correspondence w/ him but he sent me samples & I found them somewhat interesting so I eventually agreed. One thing led to another & he put out a short piece of mine on a record w/ longer tracks by himself & the Nihilist Spasm Band. He also invited me to collaborate w/ him by doing something w/ a CD-R that he sent me that's somehow based on the ideas of Mead:

" This is my invitation to you to collaborate with us.

"10. (SHMF-019 …) - Collaboration Project:

"Kommissar Hjuler and Mama Baer run a project called (SHMF-019 …) for which any artists are allowed to create versions of the reading DIE ANTIZIPATION DES GENERALIZED OTHER. A tape, several CD-Rs and some LPs still have become released in this series on Der Schoene-Hjuler-Memorial-Fond. A list of all artists that have been committing you will find at file (SHMF), just see no. (SHMF-019) following!

"The Generalized Other refers to George Herbert Mead's psychological explanation for the origin of social self-consciousness. Within Mead's theory, is the act of 'role-taking' in which individuals react to social gestures, and adjust to common attitudes. Through 'role-taking', people adapt to social exchanges based on gesture-response action sequences. Self-consciousness is then developed through these social actions and completed upon personal reflection. This text is hard to handle for other artists, we now have given away quite a lot of free Audio-CD-Rs to other artists, but only few were able to work with our spoken text. It is a stumbling dialogue with reading parts and conversation parts and in the result we do by far not justice to the grandilocant or intellectual theme.

"Mainly artists and musicians from experimental music scene have contributed, but not at least, this project is to create a mix of most different music styles, one of the stranges contributions was by the Afro-French Urban-Rap- and Dub-musician LO daam, who normally creates music far from any experimental scene, and the crazy version by the dark metal band HELLMOUTH from Rotterdam.

"Artists and musicians, who are interested into creating their personal version for this project, could get a promotional Audio-CD-R with the spoken text, the versions sent back become released on our label, the artists will get some free copies. Especially artists from very different music scenes are invited for their contribution, also film works or collages and paintings as limited prints are possible, it need not be the medium music, anything goes.

"Several more collaboration works like the mail-collaboration between Rudolf of Schimpfluch Group (SHMF -, LP in limited edition, re-issued as a CD by Blossoming Noise/USA in edition of 1000 copies, or the experimental smalltalk with Juergen O. Olbrich of NO-Institue/Paper Police (SHMF - 155), CD-R in limited edition, which is also a set for other anti-live acts, are possible."

I wasn't previously familiar w/ Mead or, if I was, I'd forgotten about him. I wasn't necessarily interested in the collaboration at 1st but "The Generalized Other refers to George Herbert Mead's psychological explanation for the origin of social self-consciousness. Within Mead's theory, is the act of 'role-taking' in which individuals react to social gestures, and adjust to common attitudes." resonated w/ me b/c one of the anarchist Street Rat slogans that I use is "Evict the Ruling Elites from your Mental Real Estate!" - the idea being that mind control is largely accomplished by behavior modification mass media techniques that colonize people's thought processes & bring them in-line w/ ruling elite interests that're particularly harmful to impoverished free thinkers.

SO, I decided to read a bk by Mead that explores this idea of the "Generalized Other" & to write a review of it. The idea being to then record my reading the review & to send the txt & the recording to a German friend of mine in the Netherlands w/ the request that he either translate my English into multiple languages & then make a recording of it & send me back his translation(s) & recording &/or to do whatever else he might feel inclined to do if anything at all. In the meantime, I haven't listened to Hjuler's CD-R b/c I don't want it to bias my procedure. My plan being to then put my recording in one channel, my German friend's in the other, & to mix in the Hjuler material as the finishing touch. THEN, this is to be sent to Hjuler for possible publication, hopefully on vinyl rather than K7 or CD-R.

Mead was a "Social Behaviorist" as the title of the bk states. I've generally had a negative attitude toward Behaviorism b/c it seems to take a strictly mechanistic appraisal of human interaction w/ an eye toward being able to control behavior. For me, even if it were possible to reduce all processes to strict cause & effect sequences that can be controlled, wch I don't believe it is, it wdn't be a goal worth pursuing b/c the result wd be oppressively reductionist. Still, I decided to approach the bk w/ somewhat of an 'open mind' since I'm hardly an expert on Behaviorism, let alone psychology in general, & can, therefore, stand to learn much more.

1st off, I have to give credit to the compilers of this bk:

"The volume is in the main composed of two sets of excellent student notes on the course, together with excerpts from other such notes and selections from unpublished manuscripts left by Mr. Mead. A stenographic copy of the 1927 course in social psychology has been taken as basic. This set, together with a number of similar sets for other courses, owes its existence to the devotion and foresight of Mr. George Anagnos. Sensing as a student, the importance of the material of Mr. Mead's lectures (always delivered without notes), he found in Mr. Alvin Carus a sympathetic fellow-worker who was able to provide the means necessary to employ persons to take down verbatim the various courses." - p vi of Charles W. Morris's "Preface"

Having (a) student(s) pay (a) stenographer(s) to transcribe such a course is mind-boggling to me. It's very hard for me to imagine anyone doing anything nearly so caring or labor-intensive today. As such, I'm deeply impressed by the studiousness that went into making this bk. Then again, maybe these students were just rich enuf to hire people to take notes that they cd copy later rather than pay attn in class (or even attend?) - thusly doing the same-old-same-old thing that rich people usually do: take advantage of their privilege to give themselves the appearance of scholarliness they're actually lacking & to give themselves an unfair competitive edge. Whatever the circumstances, compiling this bk is an achievement.

On the other hand, I think the substances of Mead's ideas wd've been better served if Mead himself had organized them into carefully outlined & developed logical progressions of the type of 'I think 1. pertains & conclude that 2. follows logically' etc.. - rather than the somewhat tediously repetitive & meandering flow of the lectures - but Mead didn't do that so this is what the interested researcher gets.

I have no idea whether Mead really fits into the lineage suggested in the following but this is what Morris begins his "Introduction" w/: "Philosophically, Mead was a pragmatist; scientifically, he was a social psychologist. He belonged to an old tradition—the tradition of Aristotle, Descartes, Leibniz; of Russell, Whitehead, Dewey—which fails to see any sharp separation or any antagonism between the activities of science and philosophy, and whose members are themselves both scientists and philosophers." (p ix)

While I'm all in favor of ethics, I'm more relieved than convinced by the way Mead combines the 'cold' rationality of Behaviorism w/ the community-mindedness of his social values. Here's what Morris says: "The pragmatic reliance upon the experimental method, coupled with the moral and valuational relation of the movement to the democratic tradition, has resulted in a conception of philosophy as having a double concern with fact and value; and a conception of the contemporary moral problem as the redirection and reformulation of human goods in terms of the attitudes and results of the experimental method. Darwinism, the experimental method, and democracy are the headwaters of the pragmatic stream." (p x)

Morris gets me more interested in Social Psychology by posing its newness (in the early '20th century', ie): "The terms "social" and "psychologist" have not long appeared together, nor in company with biological categories, Tradition has identified psychology with the study of the individual self or mind. Even the post-Darwinian influence of biological concepts did not for a long time break up the inherited individualistic presuppositions (as is evidenced by a Huxley to find a place for moral behavior in the evolutionary process), though it did formulate the problem as to how the human mind appeared in the history of animal conduct." (p xii)

At 1st I thought "redintegration" was a typo meant to be "reintegration". Then I read it twice in the same paragraph & figured it for a term I don't know: "Mead in some places admits the facts of redintegration" & "one event leads at some organic center to the expectation of and redintegration of some other event." (p xiv) SO, I found these definitions to quote for those of you who're also unfamiliar w/ the word: "1 archaic : restoration to a former state, 2 a : revival of the whole of a previous mental state when a phase of it recurs, b : arousal of any response by a part of the complex of stimuli that originally aroused that response" ( ) "Evocation of a particular state of mind resulting from the recurrence of one of the elements that made up the original experience." ( ) What does redintegration have to do w/ the price of beans? Mead "feels that such processes do not come under the classification of "significant symbol" or "mind."" (p xiv)

Therefore, if I understand this correctly, wch I quite possibly don't, an element from a previous experience capable of stimulating some type of mental revival of sd experience is NOT a "significant symbol" & this redintegration (or reinstantiation?) is NOT a part of the "mind". Morris says: "it seems to me that he has shown that mind and the self are, without remainder, generated in a social process, and that he has for the first time isolated the mechanism of the genesis." (p xv) To wch I query: Is there, then, any process that is not a social process insofar as it's hypothetically 'impossible' for something to occur in a 'content vacuum'? &, given the possibility that all processes are social in the sense of non-isolated, is it then possible that a redintegration is 'inevitably' a social process that 'inevitably' generates significant symbols in a 'playing field' that can be accepted as a mind? Just sayin'. I mean I sure as shit don't 'know'.

"Mind was not to be reduced to non-mental behavior, but to be seen as a type of behavior genetically emerging out of non-mental types. Behaviorism accordingly meant for Mead not the denial of the private nor the neglect of consciousness, but the approach to all experience in terms of conduct." - p xvii

The notion of one's POV (Point-of-View) being something that prevents the possibility of objectivity or even any 'rational' basis for a belief in objectivity doesn't seem to bother Mead at all. Given the possibility that everything is interconnected &, therefore, centerless in terms of our own hypothetical subjectivity, when I was in my early 20s I posed the idea of "ogjectivity": a state that's neither objective or subjective, a state that's a hypothetically infinite flux of interpenetrating subjectivities that come as close to objectivity as we're likely to get. The idea being that solipsism is 'impossible' b/c, despite superficial appearances, we have no center, no fixed POV that can be the center of the universe (or multiverse). Whatever the case, I will most likely continue to act as if I believe there's a world outside me that there are desirable responses to - such as pleasurable engagement &/or self-protective evasion. I fully expect that no matter how expert I become at such responses my subjective center will eventually deteriorate & I will disintegrate in a very obvious way & reintegrate piecemeal into an environment wch no longer houses my POV.

"Certain of the radical behaviorists have frankly identified "I see x" with "my ocular muscles have contracted"; and have as frankly admitted that this identification leads into a behavioristic form of solipsism. Such a situation is simply the appearance in psychology of the logical and methodological scandal which has long harassed scientific thought: on the one hand science has prided itself upon being empirical, on bringing its most subtle theories to the test of observation; on the other hand science has tended to accept a metaphysics which regards the data of observation as subjective and mental and which denies that the objects studied have the characters which as experienced they appear to have." - p xviii

Is that really solipsism tho? It seems to me that it isn't b/c the notion that there are such things as "ocular muscles" implies a belief in physical reality outside of the POV.

"The individual must know what he is about; he himself, and not merely those who respond to him, must be able to interpret the meaning of his own gesture. Behavioristically, this is to say that the biological individual must be able to call out in himself the response his gesture calls out in the other, and then utilize the response of the other for the control of his own further conduct. Such gestures are significant symbols. Through their use the individual is "taking the role of the other" in the regulation of his own conduct." - p xxi

It's this feedback that generates mind, self, & society - making those nouns more processual than object-oriented although Mead uses words like "form" to, apparently, refer to people - returning them to object status, 'objectifying' them. What I want to know is: Are there, then, 'insignificant symbols'? Symbols that don't signify? I find Mead's position interesting & well-thought-out except that I can't really accept the notion of 'objectivity':

"Mind is the presence of behavior of significant symbols. It is the internalization within the individual of the social process of communication in which meaning emerges. It is the ability to indicate to one's self the response (and implicated objects) that one's gesture indicates to others, and to control the response in these terms. The significant gesture, itself a part of a social process, internalizes and makes available to the component biological individuals the meanings which have themselves emerged in the earlier, non-significant, stages of gestural communication. Instead of beginning with individual minds and working out to society, Mead starts with an objective social process and works inward through the importation of the social process of communication into the individual by the medium of the vocal gesture. The individual has then taken the social act into himself. Mind remains social; even in the inner forum so developed thought goes on by one's assuming the roles of others and controlling one's behavior in terms of such role-taking." - p xxii

I find Morris's summary above to be marvelously succinct & I appreciate Mead's working from the outside-in instead of the inside-out. However, I'm still not convinced that our subjective perceptual 'apparatus' can have objective data to work from no matter how we roll the die. Hence, I return to my admittedly fanciful 'ogjectivity': an infinite network of interpenetrating 'subjectivities' that are all us at the same time that none of them are us exclusively. These enable us to have multiple POVs & the more of these we have the closer we get to 'objectivity' w/o ever actually getting there.

"It is presumably the human cortex (whose place in the higher reflexes the reflexologists have made abundantly clear) and the temporal dimension of the nervous system (which allows the control of the gesture in terms of the consequences of making it) which permit the human animal alone to pass from the level of the conversation of gestures to that of the significant language symbol, and the absence of which prevent the talking birds from really talking. These two characteristics, coupled with the place of the human hand in the isolation of the physical object, are supposedly the organic bases which determine the biological differentiations of man and the animals." - p xxiii

I also always have a problem w/ 'scientific' differentiating humans from animals. Such reasoning usually smacks of speciesism, of creating a hierarchy that then gets used to justify acts of brutality. Remember that it wasn't so long ago that the notion of "subhumans" was used to justify Death Camps. Many other than me have drawn the parallel between slaughterhouses & Death Camps. I'm a meat eater & the meat I eat comes from slaughterhouses - as such, I'm not taking a more-moral-than-thou position, I, too, am culpable - but I don't want to delude myself w/ justifying ideology.… (més)
tENTATIVELY | Hi ha 2 ressenyes més | Apr 3, 2022 |
Awfully dense, I'm afraid, and dated, and idiosyncratic in some ways (as in the insistence to draw hard lines between humans and other sentient beings). But Mead's key ideas are powerful and compelling, and the world looks different to me now, after reading him.
jorgearanda | Hi ha 2 ressenyes més | Oct 2, 2011 |


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