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Full text of "Tsukasa Kuwabara, a sociologist in Japan. Articles since April 2012."

An Introduction to the Sociological Perspective of Symbolic Interactionism: Revised Edition 

Tsukasa Kuwabara* 2 
Kenichi Yamaguchi 

I. Introduction 

It is well known that the Chicago School of Symbolic Interactionism (hereafter abbreviated as 
"SI"), in which the works of Herbert George Blumer (1900-87) are represented, played an 
important role in the "Chicago Renaissance." 4 SI was critical to both structural-functionalism, as 
established by T. Parsons and his followers, and sociological positivism, in which G. A. Lundberg 
was a central figure. Therefore, efforts of SI were focused on developing an alternative 
sociological perspective or conceptual framework and a new and appropriate research 
methodology. Si's emphasis on the conceptual understanding of "Society as Dynamic Processes" 
has been influential in the Japanese sociological community. "Society as Dynamic Processes" 
characterizes human society as constantly constructed and reconstructed by "active individuals"* 5 , 
or as constantly in the process of change. 

This article examines the conceptual status of "Society as Dynamic Processes" from the 
standpoint of the fundamental problem in sociology, namely, that of the relationship between the 
individual and society. More specifically, we have attempted to answer the following three 
questions: 

1) How does SI understand socialization? 

2) How does SI understand Vergesellschaftung ? 

3) Why must human society be understood as "in process of change" according to SI analysis? 

*7 



*1 This article is the revised edition of the following paper: T. Kuwabara and K. Yamaguchi, 
2007, An Introduction to the Sociological Perspective of Symbolic Interactionism: Herbert 
Blumer's Perspective Revisited, Journal of Economics and Sociology, Kagoshima University, o7: 
1-9 [http://hdl.handle.net/10232/6924] . 

*2 Professor at Kagoshima University. URL: http://gyo.tc/Mkbd 

*3 Full-time Lecturer at Fukuyama City University. URL: http://gyo.tc/MvJ4 

*4 C.f. R. E. L. Faris, [1967] 1970, Chicago Sociology: 1920-1932, The University of Chicago 

Press, vii-xii. 

*5 M. Funatsu, 1976, Symbolic Interactionism, Kouseisha Kouseikaku. 
*6 This term was originally coined as a sociological term by G. ^lmmel. 

*7 One of the authors has considered this as the fundamental pro Diem of "SI" since 1997. See 
the following article: T. Kuwabara, 1997, The conception of society in Herbert Blumer's Symbolic 
Interactionism Reconsidered, Culture, 60 (3-4): 55-72 [http://hdl.handle.net/10232/6937]. 



- 1 - 



Previous SI studies by sociologists in Japan have given insufficient attention to this key issue. 

The three questions mentioned above should be answered with the focus on a central concept of 
SI, "self-interaction" or "interaction with oneself." Thus, it can be said that efforts to solve the 
basic sociological problem should focus on the concept of "self-interaction." 

II. Action through Self-interaction 

In this section, we have attempted to answer the first question regarding the meaning of 
"socialization" according to SI. In addition, it has clarified how SI understands the "relationship 
between the individual and the world" and "action." 

In SI, "self-interaction" is defined as the process whereby an actor interacts with 
himself/herself, or as a form of communication whereby the actor talks and responds to 
himself/herself. That is to say, self-interaction is the internalized equivalent of social interaction 
with "others." Self-interaction is a form of social interaction, which usually involves other people; 
in this case, however, it is carried out alone. 

From the perspective of SI, self-interaction is synonymous with the "process of interpretation," 
which has two distinct steps. First, the actor indicates to himself/herself a set of "things" that carry 
personal meanings (the step of "indication") ; second, he/she interprets these meanings by 
selecting, checking, suspending, regrouping, and transforming them in the light of both the 
situation in which he/she is placed and the direction of his/her action (the step of 
"interpretation") . 

It has been argued that Si's theory of "sel ト interaction" does not differ from "subjective 
nominalism," which proposes that autonomous individuals function in society while never 
becoming products of society. Many sociologists, such as J. D. Lewis, have made this criticism 
for some time. The argument by Lewis is particularly noteworthy. The second section of this 
article includes a counterargument to his criticism. 



*8 See the following article for an exceptional instance: K. Uchida, 199o, The Micro-Macro 
Problem: An Interactionist Approach, Waseda Studies in Human Sciences, 9 (1): 101-13. 
*9 1970's and 80's have brought many criticisms toward the SI perspective. Therefore, SI needed 
to reconsider and re-develop its perspective and methoa in response to the criticisms. Among 
those criticisms, two of them have become common and popular as the labels characterizing M 
theory. That is, on the one hand, SI has been seen as one of subjectivist theories, and on the other 
hand, it has been called micro-sociology by its very nature. In sum, there are four challenges 
facing SI: i) theorizing the influences of social structures on sel ト interaction; ii) theorizing the 
influences of self-interaction on social structures; in; theorizing the social structure itself; and iv) 
consideration of the approach from the "standpoint of the actor" in relationship to the 
macro-sociological version of Si's perspective. 

*10 J. D. Lewis, 1976, The Classic American Pragmatists as Forerunners to Symbolic 
Interactionism, The Sociological Quarterly, 17: 347-59. 



- 2 - 



Given "self-interaction" as the central concept, "socialization" (according to SI) is the process 
whereby: 

1) An actor derives "schemes of definition" and "generalized roles" from "groups of others"* 12 
to which he/she belongs. 

2) The actor's interpretation or definition during social interactions in which he/she is 
participating is guided by the two frameworks identified in (1) . 

3) "Schemes of definition" serve to canalize an individual's social actions during social 
interactions with others, and "generalized roles" provide outlets for directing the individual's 
actions in self-interactions. 

Thus, "interpretation/definition" is understood as the following process: (a) the acquisition of 
"generalized roles," (b) acquisition of "schemes of definition," (c) scrutiny of "schemes of 
definition" through self-interaction, which is guided by "generalized roles," and (d) perception of 
an environment using the new "schemes of definition" resulting from the scrutiny in "step (c) ." 
This social phenomenon is known as "conferring of meaning" according to SI. The environment, 
as in (d) , above, is called the "world of reality, "or the "world that is out there."* 13 

SI conceives of "human beings" as existences surrounded by an environment, which is 
composed of a variety of "things." The "world" is created by human beings through making 
"objects" for themselves from the world of reality by means of "conferring of meaning." In SI, 
this act is synonymous with perception as organized by means of "perspectives" (i.e., "schemes of 
definition" and "generalized roles") . Therefore, an object is conceived as a portion or an aspect of 
the world of reality, which a human being has created via his/her perspectives. SI divides objects 
into three categories: "physical objects," "social objects," and "abstract objects."* 14 

The "world" for any human being is an area consisting only of these objects. Human beings are 
understood as entities living within their respective worlds of this kind. Hence, SI proposes that 
the "relationship between the individual and the world" is established by the interpretation or 
definition (= "conferring of meaning" or "perception") of the world of reality by human beings 
via successive processes of self-interaction. 

However, SI has never considered "the relationship" referred above to be "fixed" only by the 



*11 H. G. Blumer, [1977] 1992, Comment on Lewis' "The Classic American Pragmatists as 
Forerunners to Symbolic Interactionism," P. Hamilton (ed.) , George Herbert Mead Critical 
Assessments, vol. 2, Routledge, p. 154. 

*12 In our opinion, "groups of others" can be considered to be synonymous with "reference 
groups as perspectives" in Shibutani's famous article: T. Shibutani, 19》, Reference Groups as 
Perspectives, The American Journal of Sociology, 60 (6): 5b2-9~Japanese translation (provisional 
version) by Kuwabara et al.: http://hdl.handle.net/10232/12977--. 
*13 Blumer, [1977] 1992, op. cit., pp. 154-5. 

*14 H. G. Blumer, 1969, Symbolic Interactionism: Perspective and Method, Prentice Hall, pp. 
10-1. 



- 3 - 



one-sided interpretation of an actor. According to SI, the world of reality interpreted by an 
individual is capable of "resisting" or "talking back" to his/her interpretation or definition; even 
the individual cannot be sure if his/her interpretations have validity, he/she can judge the validity 
of definitions from this "resistance" or "talking back."* 15 If the interpretations prove to be invalid, 
they are then modified. Thus, in SI, the "relationship between the individual and the world" must 
be understood as the relationship that can be formed and re-formed continually based on 
continuous interaction or interplay between the interpretation or definition by an actor and talking 
back from the world of reality.* 16 Hence, SI maintains that this relationship must not be considered 
to be fixed only by the one-sided interpretation of the actor. 

Keeping the point of the "relationship between the individual and the world" in mind, we 
have tried to clarify Si's concept of "action"~an "individual act." 

According to SI, first and foremost, an action is understood as an actor's activity of "fitting" or 
"adjusting" to the world of reality. As a result, the relationship between the individual and the 
world is continually formed and re-formed in the wake of talking back from the world of reality. 
SI conceptualizes this process as a sequence of units consisting of: 1) "impulse," 2) "perception," 
3) "manipulation," 4) "consummation." 17 This process is not, of course, terminated after just one 
cycle; rather, it must be thought of as a perpetual cycling of the four units, as in, 1) "impulse (1) 
," —2 リ "perception (1)," —3) "manipulation (1), " —4) "consummation (1)," —5 リ "impulse 
(2), " ― 6) "perception (2), " ― 7) "manipulation (2), " 8) "consummation (2), " —— ― n) 
"impulse (n), " and so on. 

III. Society as a Series of joint Actions 

In this section, we have attempted to answer the second question regarding how actors are 
constructing societies. 

SI explains social interaction as a mutual presentation or an interconversion of actions by 
actors; such interactions have been classified into two categories: "symbolic interaction" and 
"non-symbolic interaction." The former is mediated by sel ト interaction, but the latter is not. 
According to Mead's terminology, symbolic interaction is the equivalent of the "use of significant 
symbols." Non-symbolic interaction is the equivalent of Mead's "conversation of gestures." 



*15 According to Blumer, " [there] is a world of reality 'out there' that stands over against 
human beings and that is capable of resisting actions toward it" and " [the] resistance of the 
world to perceptions of it is the test of the validity of the perceptions" (H. G. Blumer, [1980] 
1992, Mead and Blumer: The Convergent Methodological Perspectives of Social Behaviorism and 
Symbolic Interactionism, Hamilton (ed.), op. cit., p. 165) . 

*16 See the following literature for the difference of meanings between the words of "continual" 
and "continuous": A. L. Strauss, 1959 [1997], Mirrors and Masks, Transaction Publishers, p. 27. 
*17 H. G. Blumer, 1993, L. H. Athens (ed.), Blumer's Advanced Course on Social Psychology, 
Studies in Symbolic Interaction, 14, pp. 188-91. 



- 4 - 



However, greater precision in our analysis of SI demonstrated the existence of at least two types 
of symbolic interaction, that are distinctly different from each other: symbolic interaction in which 
significant symbols do not yet exist but participants in the interaction are trying to call them into 
being, and symbolic interaction mediated by significant symbols called into being by participants 
during a preceding interaction (i.e., "use of significant symbols") . The latter is called "a real form 
of interaction." 

In SI, "society" or "human society" is understood as "a real form of interaction." This type of 
interaction is called "joint action" or "transaction," and it is equivalent to the "use of significant 
symbols." 

Therefore, "human society" is conceptualized as a series of joint actions that are tightly or 
loosely interlinked with each other "in a timeline and in space." As Blumer said, "Joint action not 
only represents a horizontal linkage, so to speak, of the activities of the participants, but also a 
vertical linkage with previous joint action." Joint action, thus, is "the fundamental unit of 
society. Its analysis, accordingly, [exposes] the generic nature of society."* 19 

Joint action is formed through symbolic interaction. That is, interactants construct the real form 
of interaction through symbolic interaction. In SI, symbolic interaction is formulated as a 
presentation of "gestures" and a response to the meanings of the gestures. The meanings of the 
gestures have three components: they signify what an interactant to whom the gestures are 
directed is to do, what another interactant who is presenting the gestures plans to do, and the form 
of joint action that is to emerge from the articulation of the acts of the interactants. For example, 
"a robber's command to his [/her] victim to put up his [/her] hands [= a kind of gestures] is (a) 
an indication of what the victim is to do; (b) an indication of what the robber plans to do, that 
is, relieve the victim of his [/her] money; and (c) an indication of the joint [action] being 
formed, in this case a holdup." A state of "mutual understanding" occurs when the gestures have 
the same meanings for both interactants~the one who has presented the gestures and the other to 
whom they have been addressed. In this situation, "significant symbols" or "common definitions" 
are shared by the interactants, indicating that each interactant is applying the same meaning to the 
"gesture," through individual processes of self-interaction. 

Joint action can take place only when significant symbols or common definitions exist among 
interactants. In turn, common definitions can exist only when each interactant practices "taking 



*18 Blumer, 1969, op. cit., p. 20. 
*19 Blumer, 1969, op. cit., p. 70. 
*20 Blumer, 1969, op. cit., p. 9. 



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into account of taking into account" —a form of self-interaction. This process will enable the 
interactant to grasp or assume properly the "standpoint of the other" and view "one's own 
standpoint in the eyes of the other." SI proposes that a proper grasp of these two "standpoints" is 
possible only if interpretations or definitions are directed by interpretive instruments, such as 
perspectives (i.e., "schemes of definition" and "generalized roles") . The interactants have already 
obtained such perspectives from "groups of others." Additionally, from the SI perspective, only in 
the presence of common definitions can "the regularity, stability, and repetitiveness of joint 
action" be maintained. 

IV. Society as Dynamic Processes 

In this fourth section, we address the third problem: the nature of human society is one of 
unpredictable continual transformation. 

SI has emphasized that human society as a series of joint actions must have a career or a 
history; its career is generally orderly, fixed, and repetitious, by virtue of its participants' common 
identification in joint action. The overall career must, however, be viewed as "open to many 

* ゥ 2 

possibilities of uncertainty." 

Why must joint action or society be understood as having the character of being open to many 
possibilities of uncertainty? Answering this question with the focus on the concept of 
"self-interaction," wnich, we attempt to prove, necessarily implies that continuous regularity, 
stability, and repetitiveness of joint actions (human society) are practically and logically, 
impossible. In other words, any Kind of "common definition" cannot keep its given form 
continuously. 

In SI, a condition in which a certain common definition is maintained implies a situation in 
wnich a certain significant symbol is maintained among interactants. This situation can be 
described as a state in which an individual sees a gesture that he/she presents identically as it is 
being seen by those to whom it is addressed. To maintain this state, the interactant who 
presents the gesture must interpret and define properly, through a process of self-interaction, the 



*21 The concept "taking into account of taKing into account" is the famous term used by N. 
Luhmann, but it was originally formulated by Blumer himselr in 19〕 3. Luhmann coined this term 
in reference to Blumer's following statement: " [In social interactions] [one] has to catch the 
other as a subject, or in terms of his being the initiator and director of nis acts; thus one is led to 
identify what the person means, what are his intentions and how he may act. Each party to the 
interaction does this and thus not only takes the other into account, but takes him into account as 
one who, in turn, is taking him into account" (Blumer, 1969, op. cit., p. 109) . Emphasis by 
quoters. 

*22 Blumer, 1969, op. cit., p. 71. 
*23 Blumer, 1969, op. cit., p. 71. 
*24 Blumer, 1993, op. cit., p. 179. 



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"two standpoints" of the other interactant or "alter ego" to whom the gesture is addressed. 
Moreover, the validity of his/her interpretation or definition must be continuously maintained. But 
this is impossible, because of the nature of the "alter ego" or "other." 

As we have seen in section II, SI interprets the "worlds" that exist for human beings as areas 
that consist only of "objects." Therefore, "others," as they exist for each individual, must be 
included in the category/concept of "social object." Objects are, as we have said, a part of the 
world of reality that is seen by the individual from his/her perspectives. Therefore, it can be said 
that the object is, on one hand, a percept created by the individual, and, on the other hand, 
something that continues to exist undeniably within the world of reality. How, then, is the nature 
of the world of reality grasped? As clarified in section II, SI proposes that the world of reality 
interpreted by an actor has continuous possibilities of talking back to his/her interpretation or 
definition, and the actor can thereby know whether his/her interpretation has validity or not. If the 
actor's interpretation is found to be invalid, the given interpretation will be modified. This means 
that SI understands that interpretation always has the possibility of being formed and modified 
from moment to moment. 

From this framework, it follows that the individual/actor cannot use the same interpretation or 
definition of a given object continuously. Therefore, because the "other" is categorized as an 
object and part of the world of reality, it follows that the "other" interpreted by an actor has 
continuous possibilities of talking back to the actor's interpretation or definition. Furthermore, it 
also follows that the actor/individual cannot give the same interpretation or definition to the 
"other" with whom he/she is engaged in interactions/joint actions. The "other" or "alter ego" for 

*ゥ 只 

the individual exists forever as a "black box." That is, the individual can never see the other in 
the raw, i.e., in nis/her true colors. 

In summary, in SI, it is impossiole to sustain a particular form of any common definition 
forever. Forever, for "the nature of the other" (i.e., its black box ^ど 5^) does not allow an actor to 
continue to use the same interpretation/definition, or to attribute a particular meaning through a 
process of self-interaction, permanently. The "other" has continuous possibilities of talking back to 
the actor, and the resultant need of the actor to change or modify any given interpretation or 



*25 This term was originally coined as a sociological term by Luhmann. One of the authors has 
thought of his theory as a developed version of SI since 2008, in the wake of Mamoru Funatsu. 
See the following papers: Funatsu, 197b, op. cit., p. 10; T. Kuwabara and S. Okuda, 2008, 
References on Symbolic lnteractionism: Vol. I, Journal of Economics and Sociology, Kagoshima 
University, 69 [http://hdl.handle.net/10232/8117] , p. 62. 

*26 As J. M. Charon says, " [objects] may exist in physical form, but for the human being they 
are seen not 'in the raw,' but only through a perspective of some kind" (J. M. Charon, 1989, 
Symbolic lnteractionism: an introduction, an interpretation, an integration, 3rd eamon, Prentice 
Hall, p. j/) . In SI, every object for all kinds of people wnich includes others must be seen as a 
kind of hypotheses carved out psychologically or/and socially. 



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definition (i.e., meaning) persists endlessly. Hence, any common definition must be re-formed 
eventually, and any joint action must be re-formed as well. 

V. Research Act as a Kind of Symbolic Interaction 

This section concerns the problem of finding a suitable research methodology for examining the 
"standpoint of the actor," as the means for testing empirically the SI model of society "Society as 
Dynamic Processes," laid out in the previous sections. 

In section II, III, and IV, we described the SI model of human society. First, "human society" 
has been conceptualized as a system of interlinked social interactions by interactants; in reality, 
human society exists only as "a real form of interactions" (i.e., "transactions" or "joint actions") . 

* つ" T 

In SI, social interaction is the fundamental unit of society, and it exposes society's generic 
nature. To understand society, we need only to study this "real form 01 interaction" (the initial 
hypothesis of SI for the study of society) . 

The model of social interaction described in the previous sections can be summarized as 
interaction in which interactants with the nature of black boxness for other interactants perform 
"taking into account of taking into account" as a form of seli-interaction to grasp or define 
properly both the "standpoint of the other" and "one's own standpoint in the eyes of the other." 
Thus social interaction is a social process in which each interactant must guess two things by 
"taking into account of taking into account": "From what standpoint are others perceiving the 
world?" and "How are my perspectives being grasped by others?" Additionally, because of the 
nature of black boxness that characterizes all interactants with respect to each other, they are 
forced necessarily into re-defining their situations (fellows) ; thus, their interactions or their joint 
actions must change in form. These possibilities of "change" continue ad infinitum. 

We discussed the concept of social interaction earlier in this article. The concept should be 
categorized as a "sensitizing concept" in terms of Si's methodology. Therefore, it must not be 
taken as a self-evident truth or a priori assumption on which a grand theory can be built by a 
purely deductive approach. Instead, it must be understood as merely a hypothesis or tentative 
proposition whose validity must be tested empirically. The approach to empirical testing 
recommended by SI is as follows: "One moves out from [a] concept to the concrete 
distinctiveness of [an] instance, instead of embracing the instance in the abstract framework of 
the concept.' 

SI has promoted "naturalistic inquiry" as the ideal research method for the social sciences. This 
means a "continuing interaction between guiding ideas and empirical observation." The 



*27 As to the word "generic," the following article is suggestive: K. Uchida, 2004, The "Width" 

of Knowledge I the "Depth" of Knowledge: A Sketch 01 ri. Blumer's Discussion on the 

Genericness of Concepts, Society and Culture, 2: 1-14. 

*28 Blumer, 1969, op. cit" p. 149. 

*29 Blumer, [1977] 1992, op. cit., p. 154. 



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methodology of naturalistic inquiry is a continual testing and revising of the concepts with respect 
to the investigator's subject of research through empirical observation. A logical question, 
therefore, is "How can the investigator know whether or not the given concepts of the subject of 
research are valid?" That is, how does SI envision the process of testing and revising? In SI terms, 
the process is considered to be possible by way of the "resisting" or talking back , from the 
"empirical world" under study, to the concepts of the investigator. 

What, then, is the methodological position of the investigator when carrying out the naturalistic 
inquiry with the concepts of social interaction (i.e., "root images" of SI) laid out in sections 
II-IV? The position assumed is identical to the approach from the "standpoint of the actor. " The 
investigator must engage in the same activity as that of the interactant described in SI theory. 

This fifth section illustrates the problems, and the points to be considered, when actually 
employing this approach to research. 

The study of society from the " standpoint/position of the actor" requires the investigator to take 
on the role of the actor under study and see "his/her own world from his/her standpoint." An 
"actor" refers to an individual and a group. For clarity, SI often uses the term "acting unit."* 31 
Thus, one determination to be made is whether the "group" can be properly placed within the 
category or concept of the "acting unit." 

Whether the "acting unit" consists of an individual or a group, its activities must be equally 
understood as the products of its own interpretive processes. The assertion of SI is that even in 
cases where the "acting unit" represents a group, one must adopt the approach from the 
"standpoint of the actor" and "take the role of the acting unit." However, the analysis by one of 
the authors made it clear that SI did not explain persuasively and systematically how it was 
possible for the investigator to take the role of an entire group. The analysis above indicates that 
only an individual can be included in the category of "acting unit" for the approach from the 



*30 One of which is the "occurrence of negative cases." 

*31 C.f. D. R. Maines and T. J. Morrione, 1990, On the Breadth and Relevance of Blumer's 
Perspective: Introduction to his Analysis of Industrialization, H. G. Blumer, Maines and Morrione 
(ed.) , Industrialization as an Agent of Social Change, Aldine, xv-xvi. 

*32 C.f. T. Kuwabara, 2012, The Methodological Position of Blumer's Symbolic Interactionism, 
Journal of Economics and Sociology, Kagoshima University, 79: 19-32 
[http://hdl.handle.net/10232/14999]. 

*33 C.f. T. Kuwabara and A. Kihara, 2010, The potential of Blumer's Symbolic Interactionism, 
Journal of the Doctorate Studies in Social Sciences, 7: 237-49 [http://hdl.handle.net/10232/8983] . 



- 9 - 



"standpoint of the actor." 

Another question to be investigated is, "Can we take the role of the acting unit in the rawT 
Supposing that social interactions occur between two interactants, then, the two interactants are 
considered to be engaged in the "taking into account of taking into account" (a form of 
self-interaction) to grasp the "standpoint of the other" and "one's own standpoint in the eyes of 
the other." Further, each of the two interactants has the nature of black boxness for the other. 
Thus, when an investigator attempts to study social interaction from the standpoint of an actor, the 
investigator must take into account the assumption that the interactants can never know the real 
identity of each other; the investigator must build the research method or methodology to be 
compatible with this assumption. As a result, as Glaser and Strauss said, "delimiting an awareness 
context [or the degree of mutual understanding] requires always that the sociologist ascertain 
independently the awareness of each interactant. The safest method is to obtain data, through 
observation or interview, from each interactant on his [/her] own state of awareness. To accept 

*, c 

the word of only one informant is risky, even perhaps for the open awareness context." 

It must also be borne in mind that an "investigator" who studies social interaction becomes one 
of the actors or acting units on the same level as the two interactants studied. Therefore, an act of 
studying or a "research act"* 36 by the investigator must also be understood as one of the 
interpretive processes, and it must be recognized that the interaction between the investigator and 
the investigated is, equally, in the category of "symbolic interaction." Even for the investigator, 
the two interactants whose roles are under study also have the character of black boxness. For this 
reason, although the research act involves taking the standpoint of the actor, it never means taking 
directly the standpoint in the raw. The standpoint of the actor as taken by an investigator can only 
be the "reconstruction of constructions."* 37 

How, then, can the investigator relativize this "reconstruction of constructions" and test its 
validity? The obvious answer to this question derived from SI theory, that the investigator can do 
this in the light of talking back from an empirical world, is unsatisfactory. It is too incomplete for 



*34 According to Mamoru Funatsu, however, Blumer's theory on "social problems" based on 
SI has a potential for making significant contributions to develop a macro theory of SI. See 
following two articles: M. Funatsu, 1990, Interpretative Approach to Social Problems, The Study 
of Sociology, 55: 155-74; H. G. Blumer, 1971, Social Problems as Collective Behavior, Social 
Problems, 18: 298-306— Japanese translation by us: http://hdl.handle.net/10232/6922--. 
*35 B. G. Glaser and A. L. Strauss, [1964] 1970, Awareness Contexts and Social Interaction, G. 
P. Stone and H. A. Farberman (ed.) , Social Psychology through Symbolic Interaction, Xerox 
College Publishing, p. 338. 

*36 N. K. Denzin, 1970, The Methodologies of Symbolic Interaction: A Critical Review of 
Research Techniques, Stone and Farberman (ed.) , op. cit., pp. 447-65. 

*37 N. Tokugawa, 2001, The "Individual and Collaborative Character" of Narrative Actions, T. 
Kitamura et al. (ed.) , The Renaissance of Human Beings in 21st Century, Hassakusha, p. 129. 



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practical use in sociological research. 

One of the major issues for future work is the development of testing standards to verify 
empirically the SI conception of social interaction or its model of society, namely, "Society as 
Dynamic Processes."* 38 

VI. Summary 

The main purpose of this study was to examine the theory of SI from the following viewpoints: 

a) How does SI explain the concept of socialization, i.e., the process in which hominids become 
human beings? 

b) How does SI explain the concept of Vergesellschaftung, i.e., the process or mechanism 
through which people construct human society? 

c) Why is human society to be considered to be a changeable process? 
After careful examination, the following findings were made: 

i) SI regards socialization as the process in which the two frameworks or perspectives ( schemes 
of definition and generalized roles) that have been acquired by an actor through interactions with 
groups of others guide his/her interpretations/definitions. 

ii) In SI theory, society is seen to be possible only when each of the actors in interactions can 
properly grasp the two standpoints (that of the other and one's own standpoint in the eyes of the 
other) by doing a kind of self-interaction (i.e., taking into account of taking into account) . 

iii) Because of the nature of others (black boxness) , all the actors interacting with others are 
seen to be necessarily forced to revise their interpretations/definitions continually. For this reason, 
society must be regarded as a changeable process. 

Finally, we have tried to review critically the research method of SI (i.e., the approach from the 
"standpoint of the actor") on the basis of the conception of man and society that has been 
clarified in this article. Our review provides evidence for the two additional points listed below: 

iv) In doing the approach from the "standpoint of the actor," only an individual can be included 
into the category of the acting unit. 



*38 One of the authors has attempted this tasks: K. Yamaguchi, 2008, Toward an Empirical 
Study of "the Manner of Conviviality," The Study of Sociology, 83: 133-55; Yamaguchi and H. 
Lee, 2009, The Strategy of an "Intimate" Public Sphere: A Case Study on "Dialogue" as a Social 
Connection between Zainichi-Koreans and Japanese, Proceedings of 1st Next-Generation Global 
Workshop, Kyoto University GCOE Program, pp. 107-14; Yamaguchi, 2010, A Case Study on the 
Communication Mode between Zainichi-Koreans and Japanese, Proceedings of 2nd 
Next-Generation Global Workshop, Kyoto University GCOE Program, pp. 129-37. 
*39 T. Kuwabara and M. Aburada, 201 丄, Introduction to a Sociological Perspective of Symbolic 
Interactionism: Corrected Edition [http://hdl.handle.net/10232/118o7」, pp. 1-2. In addition, this 
section is the 10th edition of a series of summaries of the doctoral dissertation by T. Kuwabara: 
http://gyo.tc/MU3M 



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v) The standpoint of the actor perceived by researchers must never be seen as the standpoint in 
the raw but has to be seen as a kind of reconstruction of constructions created by researchers. 

We finally have confirmed that testing this conception of man and society (i, ii, ana 111 noted 
above) empirically, based on the points iv and v, would (and must) be one of our important 
tasks in future. 



Acknowledgements 

We are deeply indebted to many people for their assistance in the writing of this article. Special 
thanks go to Makoto Kuwabara (Professor Emeritus at Tokyo University; and Steve Cother 
(Associate Professor at Kagoshima University) 41 for their advice and many helpful suggestions. 



*40 URL: http ://ww w . webcitation . org/6EGnMgB q A 
*41 URL: http://kuris.cc.kagoshima-u.ac .jp/3 1 143 1 .html 



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