Herbert George Blumer March 7, — April 13, was an American sociologist whose main scholarly interests were symbolic interactionism and methods of social research. Blumer was born March 7, in St. Louis, Missouri. He grew up in Webster Groves, Missouri , with his parents. He moved to Webster Groves with his family in onto a farm, but his father commuted to St. Louis every day to run a cabinet-making business.

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Herbert George Blumer March 7, — April 13, was an American sociologist whose main scholarly interests were symbolic interactionism and methods of social research. Blumer was born March 7, in St. Louis, Missouri. He grew up in Webster Groves, Missouri , with his parents. He moved to Webster Groves with his family in onto a farm, but his father commuted to St.

Louis every day to run a cabinet-making business. Herbert Blumer was constantly being grounded in the world of economics and labor, insofar as having to drop out of high school to help his father's woodworking shop. Moreover, during the summer, Blumer worked as a roustabout to pay for his college education.

While studying undergraduate at the University of Missouri, Blumer was fortunate enough to work with Charles Ellwood, a sociologist, and Max Meyer, a psychologist. Upon graduating, Blumer secured a teaching position at the University of Missouri. Then, in , he relocated to the University of Chicago , a university where he was greatly influenced by the social psychologist George Herbert Mead and sociologists W. Thomas and Robert Park.

Blumer was the secretary treasurer of the American Sociological Association from — and was the editor of the American Journal of Sociology from — In , he moved from the University of Chicago and presided and developed the newly formed Sociology Department at the University of California, Berkeley. During World War II, he had a role as an arbitrator for the national steel industry. During much of the period that Blumer was at the University of Chicago from, through , including all of the years that he was completing his doctorate, [15] Blumer played football professionally for the Chicago Cardinals now the Arizona Cardinals , a team in the American Professional Football Association which would later become the NFL.

Blumer played as an end , guard and a series of other positions. During his first year of his doctorate, he also scored two touchdowns for the Cardinals. Blumer was selected to the All-Pro Team. Although Blumer devised the term symbolic interaction in , [18] the early development of this theoretical approach to social analysis is largely credited to the work of George Herbert during his time at the University of Chicago.

Blumer believed that what creates society itself is people engaging in social interaction. It follows then that social reality only exists in the context of the human experience.

First, is the identification of the objects that have situational meaning. Second, is the process of internal communication to decide which meaningful object to respond to. This complex interaction between meanings, objects, and behaviors, Blumer reiterated, is a uniquely human process because it requires behavioral responses based on the interpretation of symbols, rather than behavioral responses based on environmental stimuli.

Blumer was more invested in psychical interactionism that holds that the meanings of symbols are not universal, but are rather subjective and are "attached" to the symbols and the receiver depending on how they choose to interpret them. The importance of thinking to symbolic interactionists is shown through their views on objects. The significance of objects is how they are defined by the actor.

In other words, different objects have different meanings depending on the individual. According to Herbert Blumer, the most valid and desirable social research is conducted through qualitative, ethnographic methodology. He persistently critiqued the idea that the only form of valid knowledge is derived through a totally objective perspective.

Blumer believed that when positivistic methods were applied to social research, they created results that were ignorant to the empirical realities of the social world. Because people act towards the world based on the subjective meanings they attribute to different objects symbolic interactionism , individuals construct worlds that are inherently subjective.

Therefore, "objective" analysis is intrinsically subjugated to the researcher's own social reality, only documents the researchers own personal assumptions about social interaction, and ultimately yields biased findings. Following this logic, Blumer discounted social research that blindly applies methods that have been traditionally used in the natural sciences.

Such quantitative, objective analysis, he argued, does not acknowledge the difference between humans and animals — specifically the difference in cognitive ability to consciously entertain opinions and to apply meanings to objects, both which enables humans to take an active role in shaping their world.

Therefore, contextual understanding of human action is intrinsic to valid social research. Thus Blumer advocated for sociological research that sympathetically and subjectively incorporates the viewpoints of the subject, therefore pushing for a micro-sociological approach.

Blumer believed that society is not made up of macrostructures, but rather that the essence of society is found in microstructures, specifically in actors and their actions. These microstructures are not isolated, but consist of the collective action of combination, giving rise to the concept of joint action. Joint action is not just the sum of individual actions, but takes on a character of its own.

Blumer did not reject the idea of macrostructures, but instead focused on the concept of emergence-our larger social structures emerge from the smaller. Blumer admitted that macrostructures are important, but that they have an extremely limited role in symbolic interactionism. Therefore, he argued that macrostructures are a little more than "frameworks" within which the really important aspects of social life action and interaction take place.

Moreover, according to Blumer, macrostructures are important because they shape the situations in which individuals act and supply to actors a certain set of symbols that allow them to act. In sum, Blumer said that large scale structures are the frameworks for what is crucial in society, action and interaction.

Herbert Blumer says "there is a conspicuous absence of rules, guides, limitations and prohibitions to govern the choice of variables.

Blumer believed these shortcomings are serious but not crucial, and that with increased experience they can be overcome. This address was meant to question how well variable analysis is suited to the study of human group life in its fuller dimensions. He said they used the terms interchangeably, and therefore making the theory unreliable. It is difficult to disentangle subjective factors and objective correlates because the objective world is dealt with only to the extent that it enters subjective experiences.

This scheme declares that a value playing upon a pre-existing attitude gives rise to a new attitude, or an attitude playing upon a pre-existing value gives rise to a new value.

With terms that are uncertain and not clearly disjunctive, the presumed causal relation becomes suspect.

In conclusion, Blumer recognized that in society there was no clear distinction between attitude and value, and that even social theorists have difficulty distinguishing between the two.

Based on the work of Robert E. Park , Blumer, in a article, called to attention a new subfield of sociology: collective behavior. This now developed area of inquiry is devoted to the exploration of collective action and behavior that is not yet organized under an institutional structure or formation. Blumer was particularly interested in the spontaneous collective coordination that occurs when something that is unpredicted disrupt standardized group behavior.

He saw the combination of events that follows such phenomena as a key factor in society's ongoing transformation. Blumer is well known for his connection with George Herbert Mead. Blumer was a follower of Mead's social-psychological work on the relationship between self and society, and Mead heavily influenced Blumer's development of Symbolic Interactionism.

Mead transferred the subject field of social psychology to Blumer's sociology. One important aspect Blumer learned from Mead was that in order for us to understand the meaning of social actions, we must put ourselves in others' shoes to truly understand what social symbols they feel to be important.

However, Blumer also deviated from Mead's work. Blumer was a proponent of a more micro-focused approach to sociology and focused on the subjective consciousness and symbolic meanings of individuals. Similar to George Mead, sociologist Charles Ellwood also influenced the development of Herbert Blumer and symbolic interactionism. There are four prominent areas where Ellwood's ideas can be found in both Blumer's work and symbolic interactionism: interactionism, methodology, emotions, and group behavior.

The concepts of "interstimulation and response," "intercommunication," and "coadaptation" function in Ellwood's social psychology in the same way that "self-indications" and "interpretations" that are found in Blumer's symbolic interactionism.

There are six areas where Ellwood and Blumer are similar when addressing methodology: studying human behavior in context, a disdain for the physical science method, understanding the people being studied, using sociology to assist humanity, using inductive reasoning, and avoiding hypotheses. Looking at their ideas on emotion, both Ellwood's and Blumer's ideas deal with the relationship between emotion and interaction, with Ellwood stating, all our social life and social behavior are not only embedded in feeling, but largely guided and controlled by feeling.

Many have argued that Blumer's theory is a simplified and distorted version of Mead's. Many contemporary positions see "Blumerian interactionism" as "old hat," because it is gender blind as argued by feminists and is too conservative. It is also contested that symbolic interaction needs to adopt an agenda that takes race, class and gender into consideration more. Moreover, it is argued that the social constructionist perspective of Blumerian interactionism provides an "over-socialized" account of human life, and downplays and ignores our unconscious.

One of Blumer's best-known studies, "Movies and Conduct" , was part of the Payne Fund research project. The project, which included more than 18 social scientists who produced eleven published reports, was initiated out of fear about the effect movies might have on children and young adults. Blumer thus conducted an ethnographic, qualitative study on more than fifteen hundred college and high school students by asking them to write autobiographies of their movie-going experiences.

His findings were that children and young adult spectators reported that they learned from movies life skills such as attitudes, hairstyles, how to kiss, and even how to pickpocket. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. American sociologist. Danville , California. George Herbert Mead , W. Thomas , Charles H. Symbolic Interactionism: Perspective and Method. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, Inc. Symbolic Interaction.

Oxford University Press. Classical Sociological Theory. McGraw Hill Companies. London: Routledge. Blackwell Encyclopedia of Sociology. Larson Sociological Theory from the Enlightenment to the Present.

General Hall, Inc. Presidents of ASA. American Sociological Association. Retrieved October 2, Player Statistics. Sports Reference LLC.


Symbolic interactionism

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Herbert Blumer

This is a collection of articles dealing with the point of view of symbolic interactionism and with the topic of methodology in the discipline of sociology. It is written by the leading figure in the school of symbolic interactionism, and presents what might be regarded as the most authoritative statement of its point of view, outlining its fundamental premises and sketching their implications for sociological study. Blumer states that symbolic interactionism rests on three premises: that human beings act toward things on the basis of the meanings of things have for them; that the meaning of such things derives from the social interaction one has with one's fellows; and that these meanings are handled in, and modified through, an interpretive process. Herbert George Blumer earned his doctorate in at the University of Chicago and went on to teach there until


Symbolic interactionism is a sociological theory that develops from practical considerations and alludes to people's particular utilization of dialect to make images and normal implications, for deduction and correspondence with others. The interpretation process that occurs between interactions helps create and recreate meaning. It is the shared understanding and interpretations of meaning that affect the interaction between individuals. Individuals act on the premise of a shared understanding of meaning within their social context. Thus, interaction and behavior is framed through the shared meaning that objects and concepts have attached to them.

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