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Symbolic Interactionism: An Introduction, An Interpretation, An Integration [Paperback]

Joel M. Charon
2.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

Oct. 1 2003 0131114794 978-0131114791 8
Using a unique step-by-step, integrated approach, this book organizes the basic concepts of symbolic interactionism in such a way that readers understand them clearly and are able to apply them to their own lives. It emphasizes the active side of human beings-humans as definers and users of the environment, humans as problem solvers and in control of their own actions-and it shows students how society makes us, and how we in turn shape society. Each chapter examines a single concept, but relates that concept to the whole perspective and to other concepts in the perspective. Chapter titles include The Perspective of Social Science, Symbolic Interactionism as a Perspective, The Meaning of the Symbol, The Importance of the Symbol, The Nature of Self, The Human Mind, Taking the Role of the Other, Human Action, Social Interaction, and Society. For individuals interested in the study of social psychology and/or social theory.

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General Thoughts


“Charon’s work is appropriate for undergraduate social psychology courses at introductory and advanced levels.  It can serve as an excellent introduction to Symbolic Interactionism even at the graduate level.  There is no other text I can think of that attempts such a comprehensive introduction to the perspective.”

Dr. Joel O. Powell, Minnesota State University, Moorhead


“I really like this book.  It is well written and would generate a great deal of discussion.”

Dr. Rhonda Matthews, Edinboro University of Pennsylvania


“This book is very reliable and credible!”

Jennifer L. Kalfsbeek, St. Paul College


Readability and Writing Style


“Charon makes very difficult concepts easy to understand without compromising their importance and complexity.  The student is held in mind throughout.”

Dr. Joel O. Powell, Minnesota State University, Moorhead


“This is perhaps the most clearly-written social science text I have ever read.”

Dr. Joel O. Powell, Minnesota State University, Moorhead


“It’s a good combination of intellectual and accessible.”

Dr. Rhonda Matthews, Edinboro University of Pennsylvania


“I appreciated the order and flow of the chapters in this textbook.  They are very cohesive, each chapter either supporting the coming chapter, or transitioning smoothly from the previous chapter.  My introductory-level students are able to keep up with the reading with little problem.”

Jennifer L. Kalfsbeek, St. Paul College


--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

From the Inside Flap

The first edition of this book attempted to fulfill a promise I made to myself in graduate school: to write a clear, organized, and interesting introduction to symbolic interactionism. It was meant to integrate that perspective, to be as accurate as possible, and to help the reader apply the ideas to real life. Since that first edition, symbolic interactionism has become increasingly important to the discipline of sociology. Its criticisms of traditional sociology have made an impact. Its research studies have increasingly become a part of sociology. Its practitioners are some of the leading officers, journal editors, and researchers in the discipline.

Each time I attempt to improve on what I have written before, it brings a certain humility to my work. After revising each edition, I wonder how in the world I could ever have written what I had previously. In the fourth edition, I was very fortunate to include a chapter on Erving Goffman by Spencer Cahill, which proved to be a wonderful addition. Joel Powell's contribution to that fourth edition also proved significant. In the fifth edition, I thoroughly revised the chapter on social interaction and the last chapter on applications of the perspective. Because of some very helpful reviewers, in this eighth edition I decided to rewrite Chapter 8, "Taking the Role of the Other" in order to make it less formal and more interesting. In Chapter 13, I changed several of the representative empirical studies. Also, my references are listed at the end of the book, and include several recent articles and books I believe will encourage further reading in the area of symbolic interactionism. I always try to change the chapters so that they are more up-to-date, more interesting, and more accurate. My guide has always been criticisms by students from classes who used this book as well as reviewers the publisher provided. Readers will find this edition more understandable and applicable to real-life situations.

Throughout the book, students will discover that symbolic interactionism is relevant to issues they really care about, emphasizing that it contains a perspective they can apply to their lives. Its purpose is always to discuss each of the key concepts in turn, and linking the concept to earlier ones discussed in order to give an integrated description of the whole perspective. As always, I examine each chapter of the previous edition very carefully in order to update and correct any errors and ambiguity. I make special efforts to appeal to students who think sociologically and students who are attracted to the world of ideas. After all, this is the excitement this perspective has always had for me.

I vividly recall my discussion with Eleanor VanderHaegen and Mary Zimmerman in Walter Library more than twenty-five years ago. We knew then that symbolic interactionism had something important to say; it was just that too many books seemed to miss the message. This book is an attempt to make the message; thankfully, other fine symbolic interactionists are successfully making the message today. Social psychology is a very broad area of scholarship in both sociology and psychology. There are many studies; there are many concepts; there are many theoretical perspectives. Social psychology is much more than just symbolic interactionism. However, no perspective within social psychology, in my opinion, comes closer to capturing the essence of the human being as a social being—a creator of, a product of, a shaper of society—than symbolic interactionism. The essence of the human being is that we interact with one another, and that social interaction leads to society, who we are as human beings, and who we are as individuals. We may have now gone beyond George Herbert Mead, Herbert Blumer, and Erving Goffman, but this essence remains critical to what symbolic interactionism is, and this essence remains the message that this perspective brings to the student.

I dedicate this book to my wife, Susan, who continues to be my best friend and greatest supporter.

Joel M. Charon
Professor Emeritus
Minnesota State University Moorhead

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2.0 out of 5 stars No deal Sept. 23 2013
By Yvonne
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
While I understood that the book was a used book, but for the condition that the book is in, this book should not have been resold for the price that it was sold for, actually this book should have not been resold. The cover is almost torn off and the I have six more months to handle it for my course. Yes I saved a few dollars, the price I paid for what I got wasnt worth it.
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