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'Inner Dramatization': The Theatre of Interiority in George Herbert Mead

domingo, 3 de julio de 2016

'Inner Dramatization': The Theatre of Interiority in George Herbert Mead


Erving Goffman's dramatistic theory of the self, in which self-experience is constituted through the interiorization of social roles and relationships, is anticipated in George Herbert Mead's book 'Mind, Self, and Society'. Here is an account of the origin of a self and a complex interiority on the basis of the internalization of social interaction (MSS, 172-73)—this is a later phase of more simple organisms relating to their environment; only here the environment includes the self and its social world. Thus, Mead provides a materialist and interactionalist account of the origin of consciousness and the self which is also dramatistic, i.e. reliant on the objectivization and symbolization of roles:

"Through self-consciousness the individual organism enters in some sense into its own environmental field; its own body becomes a part of the set of environmental stimuli to which it responds or reacts. Apart from the context of the social process at its highest levels—those at which it involves conscious communication, conscious conversations of gestures, among the individual organisms interacting with it—the individual organism does not set itself as a whole over against its environment; it does not as a whole become an object to itself (and hence is not self-conscious); it is not as a whole a stimulus to which it reacts. On the contrary, it responds only to parts or separate aspects of itself, and regards them, not as parts or aspects of itself at all, but simply as parts or aspects of the environment in general. Only within the social process at its higher levels,and also in the merely physiological environment or situation which is logically antecedent to and presupposed by the social process of experience and behavior, it does not become an object to itself. In such experience or behavior as may be called self-conscious, we act and react particularly with reference to ourselves, though also with reference to other individuals; and to be self-conscious is essentially to become an object to one's self in virtue of one's social relations to other individuals.
Emphasis should be laid on the central position of thinking when considering the nature of the self. Self-consciousness, rather than affective experience with its motor accompaniments, provides the core and primary structure of the self, which is thus essentially a cognitive rather than an emotional phenomenon. The thinking or intellectual process—the internalization and inner dramatization, by the individual, of the external conversation of significant gestures which constitutes his chief mode of interaction with other individuals belonging to the same society—is the earliest experiential phase in the genesis and development of the self. Cooley and James, it is true, endeavor to find the basis of the self in reflexive affective experiences, i.e., experiences involving 'self-feeling'; but the theory that the nature of the self is to be found in such experiences does not account for the origin of the self, or of the self-feeling which is supposed to characterize such experiences. The individual need not take the attitudes of others toward himself in these experiences, since these experiences merely in themselves do not necessitate his doing so, and unless he does so, he cannot develop a self; and he will not do so in these experiences unless his sellf has already originated otherwise, namely, in the way we have been describing. The essence of the self, as we have said, is cognitive; it lies in the internalized conversation of gestures which constitutes thinking, or in terms of which though or reflection proceeds. And hence the origin and foundations of the self, like those of thinking, are social."

(from ch. 23: "Social attitudes and the physical world"):

"The self is not so much a substance as a process in which the conversation of gestures has been internalized within an organic form. This process does not exist for itself, but is simply a phase of the whole social organization of which the individual is a part. The organization of the social act has been imported into the organism and becomes then the mind of the individual. It still includes the attitudes of others, but now highly organized, so that they become what we call social attitudes rather than rôles of separate individuals. This process of relating one's own organism to the others in the interactions that are going on, in so far as it is imported into the conduct of the individual with the conversation of the 'I' and the 'me' , constitutes the self.
The value of this importation of the conversation of gestures into the conduct of the individual lies in the superior co-ordination gained for society as a whole, and in the increased efficiency of the individual as a member of the group. It is the difference between the process which can take place in a group of rats or ants and bees, and that which can take place in a human community. The social process with its various implications is actually taken up into the experience of the individual so that that which is going on takes place more effectively, because in a certain sense it has been rehearsed in the individual. He not only plays his part better under these conditions but he also reacts back on the organization of which he is a part." (178-79)

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