G.H. Mead: A Critical Introduction
Silva, Filipe Carreira da
Polity Press, Cambridge
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Filipe Carreira da Silva has provided us with a comprehensive critical guide to the work of G. H. Mead, in which he focuses in particular on Mead's me-I complex. This is a compelling text which not only explores Mead's work but also Mead himself and his relationship with his work. This allows one to understand the background to his ideas and conceptions. One of the main strengths of this text is that it links Mead and his work to other key philosophers and schools of thought. In addition, the way in which the author situated Mead and his perceptions into the context of his own work was particularly interesting. It is a definite must read for anyone with and interest in Mead, but it is also a useful tool in understanding it and the social psychological/sociological world which Mead inhabited.
One of the shortcomings of this book, however, is its introductory chapter. Since this section tries to incorporate a substantial and vast amount of information this has resulted in a slightly disjointed approach. One almost has to read the rest of the book first in order to understand all the concepts dealt within this chapter, and were one to use it an introductory text, with no prior knowledge of the field, it may generate some confusion. Nonetheless, this book does progress into a comprehensive and compelling read. Chapter 2 explores Mead's academic path with interesting references to his personal life, but also highlights the main influences that led to his work. This chapter also shapes the American academic scene of the late 1800s & early 1900s and highlights the development of the university movement within the USA. It also provided insight to the development of social psychology and the academic exchange that went on between the US and Germany. Chapter 3 attempts to clarify Mead's basic concepts and sets the premise to understanding his ideas. It starts by exploring role-taking in the context of one's perception of the role of the 'other' and links this central insight to different schools of philosophical thought. It follows by deconstructing social interaction and Meads concept of phylogeny and the importance of language. Chapter 4 looks at the concept of the social self and introduces Mead's revolutionary perspective of exploring in social attitudes inside the structure of the self. This chapter initiates the authors exploration of Mead's me-I complex. Chapter 5 explores the moral and political perspective of Mead's thought, as well as his concept of the 'object' and theory of the act. In Chapter 6 the author explores the influence and impact that Mead has had on symbolic interactionism and his relevance to relevant research today. Chapter 7 indicates how Mead relates to 20th century philosophy. The author pays particular reference to Gehlen, Habermas, Joas, Honneth and American Sociologists such as Randall Collins. The 8th and final chapter illustrates Mead's importance and relevance to current research and thought. It is clear that this author is a keen follower of Mead's ideas and has made a good case to support his argument that Mead is of continuing relevance to current research agendas.