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Sociologist aim of the study is only to understand society and give a deep understanding of society. There are two type sociologist, One who try to understand society from the study of society larger intuition for example how Government, bureaucracy in society, School, University and Family etc. function. These sociologists think we can understand what happening and why happening in society but study of this larger institution. These sociologists have known as Macro Sociologist. Marx, Weber and Durkheim etc. known as a Macro sociologist. Macro-sociology was an old trend.

After this Macro sociologist, one new trend started and some of another group of sociologist start asking a question and said this Macro Sociologist perspective unable to give an understanding of society properly. They said that we cannot understand society from the study of its larger institutions. If we want to understand the society we need to understand how individuals interact with other individual and which factor is working when they are interacting that’s why they are interacting like that. From this small-small interaction and function of individuals, society takes larger shape. So without an understanding of individual, we cannot understand society. If we want to understand society and its institutions we need to understand individual’s interactions and functions. This new trend of Sociologist known as a micro-sociologist. Ethnomethodology and Symbolic Interactionism, etc. are part of Micro-Sociology. Herbert Meed, Herbert Bloomer, Goffman and Devi etc. are part of Micro Sociologist.

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So Symbolic interactionism is part of micro sociologist study of society. There is three major sociologists who given theory on symbolic interactionism i.e. Herbert Blumer, Herbert Mead and Erving Goffman. Symbolic interactionism explains the individual in a society and their interactions with others. Through this interaction, it explains social order and change. It tends to focus on the language and symbols that help us give meaning to the experience in our life. Micro sociologist notice that as we interact with the world, we change the way we behave based on the meaning we give social interactions. We spend time thinking about what we will do next and adjust our approach depending on how we believe others perceive us. Social interactionists believe that communications and interactions form reality as we know it. Early thinker in this approach focused on the face-to-face experiences of individuals, though now we would like to include much more types of interactions. Including the experiences, we have online or through text messaging with our phone and other technology.

Herbert Mead One of the famous Sociologist who talked about symbolic interactionism. Every theory of symbolic interactionism origin is from Mead theory. Mead was American Sociologist. His Theory was centred on “Self”. Mead famous book was Mind, Self and Society. He talks about Symbolic interactionism from four different aspects.

1. Self 2. Self-interaction 3. Development of self 4. Symbolic meaning.

1. Self- Mead thinks that self is the centre origin of Symbolic Interactionism. He said that every human inside has Self. After born self always is pure. If you will pinch a baby she will cry but for the same baby, if the mother feeds her she will stop crying. Slowly- slowly she starts understanding if I will cry, mom will feed her. So after that when the baby will feel hungry she will start crying because now she knows mom will feed her. This is starting of development of self. After that when self-interact with other society, family, school etc. Self-able to understand these all things. Mead said Human Self is very meaningful and human self always active. Mead defines self in two-term I and Me.  The baby first phase of self always be in I and slowly- slowly it develop as me. In this phase, human others thing understand as Me. Mead said that when a human comes with contact of society I change in Me. So when self socialized than I start becoming Me.

2. Self-Interaction – When outside value of society come in self-world than he starts interaction with them. Self-argue, agree or disagree with this outside value.

3. Development of self – Mead define the development of self in three stages. He said that first child lives in preparatory stage and in this stage every activity meaningless for them. After that child come in Play stage he starts understanding the Symbols and language but not fully understood. After that child come in the Game stage. In this stage, he develops role to play, value and meaning etc. Step by step child develops symbols and chart of symbols increased. It means child able to understand full rules of the game.

4. Symbolic meaning – For this Mead explain about Gesture. He said that Gesture is Element which self-adopted. A particular Gesture meaning always same for every person of society. Suppose that If I said Hello when I met with someone that other people understand what Hello means. He will reply for same. So symbol is one type of Gesture.  So Mead said that If we remove symbols from society, Than Human, will become staichu of stone.

Herbert Blumer was one of the famous sociologists who talked about symbolic interactionism. He was a student of Herbert Mead. He published his first book Symbolic interactionism: Perspectives and Method in1969. Blumer study is based on one newborn baby. He finds the conclusion that relation between baby and society depend on symbols. He observed that when baby, mom and dad look him, he smile or if baby smile then his mom and dad smile. Weeping of the baby, the smile of a baby, playing with toys etc. is a symbol. Blumer said that baby develop as an adult fully from symbols. So symbol is a tool for development of the child. Not only for the baby, the symbol is also important for an adult. Adult also uses the symbol for his daily life interaction. Painting or picture is also a symbol. One picture can also make a stir in society. Based on Blumer symbolic interactionism theory three major aspects come out.

1. During interactionism there is one or more than one symbols take place.

2. Symbol need to understand between people whom they are using. It means which symbol any person is using another person should understand the same meaning of that symbol.

3.  Symbols and Understanding two important word in the development of Human.

Blumer also gave different aspect for symbolic Interactionism. He also talked about Stimulus- Interpretation- Response. So if someone wants to sell a building to others, He will offer him than this stimulus will Interoperate than he will Response.

After Blumer, his students Erving Goffman worked on symbolic interactionism. Goffman was influenced by both Mead and Blumer. He wrote book” The presentation of self in Everyday life”. In this book, he talked about symbolic interactionism. His central idioms are Human is always active. Goffman uses the term ‘performance’ to refer to all the activity of an individual which occurs during a period marked by his continuous presence before a particular set of observers and which has some influence on observers. ‘Front’ is that part of the individual’s performance which regularly functions in a general and fixed fashion to define the situation for those who observe the performance. Goffman basically talked about Front in two broad manners one is Social Front and second is personal Front and He refers ‘Setting’ to the fixed elements of front- the physical layout of a room and associated background props – someone workspace or living room is a good example of a ‘setting’. After that, he refers ‘Appearance’ which consists of those things we most closely associate with the person themselves- the things which follow them around and consists of fixed attributes such as one’s racial background or age, as well as things like clothes and the items one chooses to carry around. After that, he refers ‘Manner’ which is the attitude to one’s setting displays- confidence, humility, authority etc.  Goffman said that we generally expect there to be consistency between setting, appearance and manner, but these don’t always match up.

Goffman also notes that we are constrained by society in terms of the front we can put on. If we adopt certain roles in society, we don’t actually have that much choice over the front which we can adopt-we required by social norms to put on a certain front, and there is little room for manoeuver. Goffman discussed Front and Back when he talked Dramaturgy and Everyday life.  In this ideas, he defines two ideas one is ‘Front’ second is ‘back’.

Goffman this all theory we can understand by the example of Ram Lila. The actor does so many roles in Ram Lila. Man role for woman or woman role for man. They sometimes laugh or something makes tears in the eye. The audience has a certain pics of Ram, Sita, Laxman, Raavan, Hanuman etc. These roles present by actors. It is another matter they smoke or joke when they are in backstage. Goffman said when self-come in out the world he acts like the big stage. This self act so many roles. He said but when an actor is in backstage people unable to see that role. So Goffman said we are actor look like this. We role as teachers, students, customer, seller etc. we act according to the audience. We are continually putting on faces or fronts and making performances. This can be focused or unfocused. There is also negotiation and struggles over who defines a role and its meaning. Playing a role needs a sympathetic audience. This type micro analysis basically symbolic interactionalist do.

Symbolic interactionism theory gives use a different eye to look society. What we do in our daily life during interacting with others. We use symbols.  Saying Hello to doing deal with people is symbolic interaction. These symbols develop time to time in everyone context. Sometimes we change our symbols based on the reaction we get from others. If symbols which I used for interaction and other person have not same meaning, we try to explain in another symbol which meaning is same for him. We play several roles in our daily life, in University for faculty I am students but in the home, I am husband for my wife and I am a father of my son. I play a different role in my life based on symbols which I get during my growing as an adult.



Symbolic interactionism takes a small scale view of society. It focuses on a small scale perspectives of the interactions between individuals, like when you hang out with a friend, instead of looking at large structures, like education or law. By looking at the small scale, symbolic interactionism explains the individual in a society and their interactions with others. And through that, it can explain social order and hanged. The theory was compiled from teachings of George Herbert Mead in the early 20th century. He believed that the development of the individual was a social process, as were the meaning individual assigned to things. People change based on their interaction with object, events, idea, other people. And they assign meaning to things in order to decide how to act. After that Blumer worked one symbolic interactionism and his major part was Stimulus- Interpretation- Responses. After that Goffman was a student of Blumer who did work on this. His major work was on “Front” which based on our daily life performance.


There are some criticisms of symbolic interactionism as a theory because it doesn’t ask the same question as the large-scale sociology theories do. It is sometimes considered as supplemental, rather than a full theory because it is restricted to studying small interactions between individuals. Ritzier also discusses some criticisms on this. He said that the mainstream of symbolic interactionism has too readily given up on conventional scientific techniques. While this is true, symbolic interactionism’s gives different perspectives to sociology that is necessary for fully understanding a society. It is capable of explaining how aspects of society can change as they are created and re-created by social interactions. It examines society on a small scale and gives the individual the same importance as they society as a whole and is a necessary view when studying as a society.

Cohen, A. P. (1985). The Symbolic Construction of Community. New York: Ellis Horwood Ltd and Tavistock Publication Ltd.

Goffman, E. (1967). Interaction Ritual. New York: Anchor Books.

Goffman, E. (1956). The presentation of self in Everyday Life. New York: University of Edinburgh.

Ritzer, G. (2011). Sociological theory. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Trivedi, S. D. (n.d.). Symbolic interactionism. In S. D. Trivedi, Advanced Sociological Theory (pp. 281-305). New Delhi: Rawat Publication.









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