Peter M. Hall

Peter M. Hall received his Sociology Ph.D. from Minnesota University in 1963 (see his University of Missouri home page, and his Colorado State University CV.

An early publication by Hall was “A Symbolic Interactionist Analysis of Politics”  Sociological Inquiry 1972 42, 3-4 pp. 35-75

AbstractThe 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 unan-alyzed. In the conclusion, the strengths and weaknesses of the approach will be discussed.

In one sense this is very different from Farberman’s article on criminogenic markets. Yet it has some of the same critical sociology approach, especially in relation to what later came to be understood as part of how candidates present themselves  on TV. This, too, first emerged as an issue in the same Kennedy-Nixon debates.

As usual, Erving Goffman was ahead of all of this. In 1960 Erving Goffman’s work on “the presentation of  self” was already well-established. The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life based on his study of one small island community the Shetland Isles, was published in 1959.  His article on Face-work was published in Psychiatry way back in 1955.

“On Cooling the Mark Out” was even earlier, published in Psychiatry in 1952, and this article must count as an important contribution to critical criminology, quite apart from its “presentation of self” aspect (the con men working to save the face of the mark to minimise the risk of the mark going to the police). I so well remember Geoff Sharp’s lecture on this, and he often talked about people being “cooled”.

A film, The Sting in 1973 illustrates this whole process:

“The title phrase refers to the moment when a con artist finishes the “play” and takes the mark‘s money. If a con is successful, the mark does not realize he has been “taken” (cheated), at least not until the con men are long gone.” ( This must surely have been written by a symbolic interactionist familiar with Goffman’s 1952 Psychiatry article.

The above abstract clearly shows how the study of politics has a legitimate – even central – place in symbolic interactionism. This was Peter Hall’s great contribution to early symbolic interaction.

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