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According to the theories of symbolic interactionism, what is and constitutes a deviation? Discuss theory, method and 1-2 exemplary works of tradition. Symbolic Interactionsim originated as a theory proposed by Blumer, built on the foundations of the philosopher; The work of Mead and Cooley. Symbolic Interactionsim takes the form of a society perspective from a perspective of looking at actions among members of society rather than looking at the laws and social structures that govern society.
Blumer’s development of this theory was greatly influenced by the thoughts of John Dewey’s society. Dewey said that “human beings understood each other better in relation to their environment” (Dewey, 1977). From this Blumer (1994: 1) he summarized “Symbolic Interactionism” as a study of the life and behavior of the human group. Blumer (1994: 2) proposed three fundamental principles for this theory; Meaning, language and thought. First; Meaning, it establishes that individuals act towards people and things according to the meaning they have given to those people or things.
The second, language, allows people to express meaning through symbols and the meaning emerges through social interaction using language. Blumer’s ideas are taken from Mead on this principle. Mead (1934) says that naming assigns a meaning and, therefore, naming is the nucleus of human society and knowledge. It is through language that individuals identify meaning. The third principle is how these meanings are interpreted and understood through a thought process. The thought adjusts the understanding of the symbols of the peoples and this understanding evokes an idea of taking roles from the different points of view that are promulgated.
Each individual point of view is expressed due to the interpretation of these symbols and is modified through each thought process and other reactions. Becker is a sociologist who agrees with the vision of Blumers society. He developed Blumer’s theory to analyze the aspect of deviance in the light of the Symbolic Interactionist theory, affirms that “the deviant is to whom that label has been applied successfully, the deviant behavior is the behavior that people label” (Becker, 1963: 8). This is explained by the idea that the deviant act is not created by the individual, but by the society that surrounds it.
Societies create the moral and the values by which all those who participate in one of these societies must be submitted and the members of the groups impose them. To get out of these “rules”, it is considered that the person is committing a deviant act and is labeled in this way. However, this view, Becker argues, ignores the idea that society creates deviance and explains that “deviation is not a quality of the act committed by the person, but rather a consequence of the application by others of rules and sanctions to a “delinquent.” The deviation is seen through the eyes of the one who labels it, due to their own responses to an action.
(Becker 1963) The definitions of deviance vary from one group to another, because the different groups have a different structure as the functionalists would say, or because of the different moral and value schemes to which the members of the group are subjected, say the Symbolic Integrationists. The gesture of “good” meaning in England (the symbol of the thumbs up) is considered a symbol of positive reward that everyone in English culture understands, for a Brazilian, this same symbol is considered an abusive provocation.
These different symbols and understandings in different cultures separate the definition of deviation from the need to refer in the cultural context. This fits well with the Blumers model to suggest that the meaning of these symbols is first misinterpreted, therefore, the implemented symbol has two different meanings and, therefore, two different interpretations. Cooley (1907) suggests the idea of public opinion; the collection of a social conscience with similar ideas, a “cooperative activity of many minds”.