Thursday, June 24, 2010


Robert Merton (1957, Social Theory and Social Structure) describes the situation where we end up wrongly labeling others, and through this we actually influence their action, and they eventually become and act according to the label that then reaffirms our original label.
"You are a dumb student"; you begin to act like a dumb student; eventually you come to think of yourself and act as a dumb student.
And then we, in turn, are able to proudly declare that we knew who you were a long time ago. Merton call this "the self-fulfilling prophecy. "Yes. I guess this is who I am." Identity is a powerful aspect in everyone's definition of the situation. "Who we are" and "who they are" guide almost everyone in social interaction one way or another. [As people can talk without words, i.e with body language, the sentence "you are a dumb student" doesn't need to bee spoken. And as we are able to talk to our selves, we can also say that "You a dumb student", to ourselves.. never do]
More generally, the idea that even then we say nothing our clothes are talking noisily to everyone who sees us, telling them who we are, where we come from, what we like to do in bed and a dozen other intimate things, may be unsettling. To wear what "everyone else" is wearing is no solution to the problem, any more than it would be to say what everyone else is saying. We all know people who try to do this; even if their imitation of "everyone" is successful, their clothes do not shut up; rather thay broadcast without stopping the information that this is a timid and conventional man or woman, and possible an untrustworthy one. We can lie in the language of dress, or try to tell the truth; but unless we are naked and bald it is impossible to be silent.
 (Alison Lurie, 1982. The Language of Clothes)

 Interactions is also responsible for society. It is through it that society is formed, reaffirmed, and altered. It is through the absence of continuous interaction that society ceases to exist. Society depends on individuals continuously interaction with one another and with themselves.
The work of Goffman reminds us that creating identity is an active negotiation process between who others tell us we are and our continuous attempts to present who we think we are to others.
Social interactions, then, takes on further importance now. It is not only the basis of our human nature qualities; it is not only an important cause of how we act in situations; but it is also the negotioation process through which we create one another's identity. Through social interaction we become who in the world we are.

All text from the book Symbolic Interactionism, An introduction, an interpretation, an integration, Joel M. Charon, 2009

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