Symbolic interactionism and the concept of power

Dennis, A and Martin, PJ 2005, 'Symbolic interactionism and the concept of power' , The British Journal of Sociology, 56 (2) , pp. 191-213.

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Symbolic interactionism is often represented as a perspective which is limited by its restriction to ‘micro’ aspects of social organization. As such, it is allegedly unable to adequately conceptualize ‘macro’ phenomena such as social structure, patterns of inequality, and power. Such a view is routinely presented in undergraduate textbooks. This paper contests such a view through a consideration of the concept of power. We argue that the interactionist research tradition does show a fundamental concern with power phenomena, and that a reconsideration of the concept is timely in light of theoretical developments in sociology more generally. An increasing concern with the analysis of culture, the continuing influence of Foucault, the development of feminist perspectives, and the emerging consensus around neo-Weberian thought have all contributed to a renewal of interest in themes long ago explored by interactionists. As examples we suggest that interactionist studies in the fields of deviance and education have been concerned above all with the authoritative imposition of consequential identities, i.e., with the social processes through which power is enacted and institutionalized in real situations. Such developments have led some to argue that interactionism has now been incorporated into the mainstream of sociology. We conclude, however, by arguing that such a view runs the risk of granting to orthodox sociological thought a legitimacy which is analytically unwarranted, and which fails to recognize the alternative theoretical and philosophical foundations of symbolic interactionist thought.

Item Type: Article
Themes: Subjects / Themes > H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
Subjects outside of the University Themes
Schools: Schools > School of Humanities, Languages & Social Sciences
Schools > School of Health and Society > Centre for Applied Research in Health, Welfare and Policy
Journal or Publication Title: The British Journal of Sociology
Publisher: Wiley
Refereed: Yes
ISSN: 00071315
Depositing User: H Kenna
Date Deposited: 04 Feb 2009 13:53
Last Modified: 16 Feb 2022 08:07

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