Symbolic Interaction in Process: Introduction

Two symbolic interactionists who did their Ph.D.s at Minnesota University in the early 1960s, are Harvey A. Farberman and Peter M. Hall. I was corresponding with Harvey Farberman over his 1975 article on Criminogenic Markets, which I will examine in another post. This will be an introductory post about Peter M. Hall.

Peter M. Hall gained his Ph. D. in sociology at Minnesota University in 1963 and was Editor of Symbolic Interaction from 1978 to 1982, then on its Editorial Board until at least the time of his online CV, as well as on the editorial boards of four more journals at various times, all of which were central to the development of symbolic interactionism: Social ProblemsThe Sociological QuarterlyQualitative Sociology, and The Journal of Contemporary Ethnology.

Reading the Society for the Study of Symbolic Interaction list of awards, He won the George Herbert Mead Award for Lifetime Achievement in 1994, and was the Society for the Study of Symbolic Interaction Annual Meetings Distinguished Lecturer in 1996. More recently he has worked with Tom R. Burns, as is clear from this Wikipedia item on Meta-power. His article in Sociological Inquiry published in 1972 fits with this perspective. Peter M. Hall “A Symbolic Interactionist Analysis of Politics “ Sociological Inquiry 1972 42, 3-4 pp. 35-75:

Abstract: The purpose of this article will be to outline a symbolic interactionist approach to the study of politics in the United States. In the course of this presentation, the basic assumptions and concepts of the interactionist perspective will be presented, culminating in a model of society as a negotiated order. This model in conjunction with definitions of power and politics will provide the basis for analyzing the processes of power. The article will focus on and emphasize two mechanisms of power, information flow control and symbolic mobilization of support, which have previously been unrecognized and unanalyzed. In the conclusion, the strengths and weaknesses of the approach will be discussed.

This was very topical in the early 1960s with the visual impact of the Kennedy-Nixon TV debates and the way the candidates presented themselves.

For a long time I did not know this was the same Peter M. Hall who has recently worked with Tom R. Burns, but I now see how central a figure he has been in symbolic interaction. The presentation of self in politics, the dramaturgic analysis applied to our understanding of political processes, and the negotiated order as a key concept in symbolic interaction (including the meso-level) are all aspects that I can relate to.

Peter M. Hall “Revisiting the past and anticipating the future” Symbolic Interaction (1997 Vol. 20 No. 2 pp. 215-223) is a beautiful and moving response to an invitation to contribute to the development of a perspective that has lost many of its founders but is moving on. The first page abstract is in the public domain, and is worth reading. The whole article can be read for those who either have private subscriptions or whose libraries have online access. Uppsala has access since 1996, when I ordered it for the English-language course that I taught first with Jan Trost and later with Vessela Misheva. Being able to teach in my own language and to students many of which had prior experience of symbolic interactionism was one of the highlights of my experiences in sociology.

The whole issue is worth reading, with contributions from Carl CouchNorman K. Denzin and Harvey A. Farberman among others. An article by  Donna Darden “How I fit into the History of the SSSI Since I Was Never in the Basement With Any of These People” pp. 97-99 is a description of her initial marginality to SSSI, and this will ring a bell with many others.

The current Editor is Robert Dingwall, the journal’s first British Editor as well as having been in Aberdeen sociology after my time there, is yet another sign of the growing internationalization of symbolic interactionism.

First Published in jimsresearchnotes 12 June 2012, substantially revised.

See also: The Leicester School of Sociology (15 Feb 2011)

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