I further agree with Kant that individuals are not passive objects of society and that they can contribute to the making of their societies (Reynolds “Intellectual Precursors” 43). An essential component of symbolic interactionism is the understanding that the individual does not make meaning in a vacuum but within a society that impacts self-images and that regulates individual and social behaviors (Reynolds “Early Representatives” 73; Ritzer 147). Kant helped me realize the dynamic interaction between society and the individual, wherein the individual shapes the whole and whole shapes the individual too.
William James is another important influence on my thinking. James believes that an individual sees himself as an object in his social interactions (Allan 250). He further argues that people act toward the self as an object with properties (Allan 250). I agree with him that people can also be seen as objects in their social interactions, thereby opening them to scientific examination and understanding. Their properties as individuals and as part of their groups can be studied and analyzed through logic and empirical evidence. What James is lacking is the determination of how selves are formed. I believe that role-taking is an important process in forming the “self” (Allan 250). Furthermore, I want to expand his thinking by saying that the mind is a behavior that we form through social interactions (Allan 250). We form the mind through using language, and so our consciousness or our mind is an internal conversation (Allan 250). We use language to become aware of and to develop our ideas.
Apart from James, Charles Horton Cooley is one more influence on my thinking. Like James, Cooley believes that the mind is a product of society, but he extends James’ ideas when he adds that society is also a mental entity where it exists only through our ideas of society (Allan 250). Essentially, Cooley argues that people develop their self images predominantly