Sociology Index

Herbert George Blumer

Herbert George Blumer (1900 – 1987) was a sociologist whose main scholarly interests were symbolic interactionism and methods of social research. Herbert George Blumer was an avid interpreter and proponent of George Herbert Mead's social psychology, which he labelled symbolic interactionism. Herbert George Blumer elaborated and developed this line of thought in a series of articles, many of which were brought together in the book Symbolic Interactionism. Herbert George Blumer argued that the creation of social reality is a continuous process. Blumer was also a vociferous critic of positivistic methodological ideas in sociology.

Humans act towards things, and other individuals on the basis of the meanings they have for them. There is a particular emphasis on the consciousness of actors as they interpret their actions. It is important to recognize that the meaning or value of an object to one person may differ with another person- sociologists should not reduce human action to social rules and norms. Herbert George Blumer stresses this point because of the fear that our subjective meaning of our actions could be overshadowed by the norms and rules of society. The meaning of things arises out of the social interactions one has with one's fellows.

Herbert George Blumer believed that what creates society itself is people engaging in social interaction. It follows then that social reality only exists in the context of the human experience. His theory of symbolic interaction is closer to a theoretical framework based on the significance of meanings and the interaction between individuals than an applicable theory.

The complex interaction between meanings, objects, and behaviors, Herbert George Blumer reiterated, is a uniquely human process because it requires behavioral responses based on the interpretation of symbols, rather than behavioral responses based on environmental stimuli. As social life is a "fluid and negotiated process," to understand each other, humans must intrinsically engage in symbolic interaction.

Herbert George Blumer criticized the contemporary social science of his day because instead of using symbolic interactionism they made false conclusions about humans by reducing human decisions to social pressures like social positions and roles. Blumer was more invested in psychical interactionism that holds that the meanings of symbols are not universal, but are rather subjective and are "attached" to the symbols and the receiver depending on how they choose to interpret them.

When there is consensus among individual actors about the meaning of the objects that make up their situation, social coordination ensues. Social structures are determined as much by the action of individual actors as they determine the action of those individuals. Herbert George Blumer believed that society exists only as a set of potentials, or ideas that people could possibly use in the future.