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July 11, 2012 / C H Thompson

Competing theoretical perspectives part 2 continued

Social action theory argues the interaction between people can influence our identity because we are all free to do so. Mead argues that as we grow up  we learn to develop our sense of self. Once we do this we become aware of other people around us and their impression of us.

Cooley extends this argument, he says we continually assess the reaction of people to us and modify this accordingly – as if we’re looking at a reflection of ourselves in others and modify it accordingly. He termed this the ‘looking-glass self’.  Our individual identity is always changing to suit our circumstances. On this basis our individual identity isn’t imposed (structuralist view) but a social construction.

Watch these two clips to see the looking-glass self in action.

Goffman developed Mead and Cooley’s idea. He came up with the term ‘impression management’. Impression management is the way individuals try to convince others of the identity they wish to be by ‘acting’ out certain behaviours or attributes. Make a list of the various ways people can ‘act out’ in order to create an identity.

After watching the above clip identify five examples Goffman’s idea.

Goffman’s point is people are continually using the processes you’ve identified to give the best impression of themselves!

So we now have structural and social action approaches as two ways in which socialisation is used to form culture and identity. However before we go any further we need to make certain we fully understand what we’ve learnt. Therefore identify two ways in which structural and social action approaches create culture. Secondly identify and explain two ways in in which structural and social action approaches shape identity.

Now we’ve answered that question we can assess which is the better approach. Out of structural and social action assess which theory best explains the role of socialisation in the formation of culture and identity?


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