Human beings have a peculiar way of interacting, stemming from the fact that humans are known to interpret another’s actions instead of reacting to them. Therefore, this means that the actions that will be taken after the interpretation will be basically from the understanding of the interpreter and not necessarily what the other party meant. Therefore, symbols and interpretation can be said to be mediators between human interactions. This is basically symbolic interaction. It can also be argued that symbolic interaction bases its theoretical perspective on an individual’s perspective rather than the entire society.
In this sense, it means that human beings have to constantly adjust their behavior in accordance to other people’s behavior. This adjustment occurs basically since one is able to interpret another’s actions. Through symbolic interactions, we are able to understand why things are the way they are, and especially why people behave and live in a certain manner. Through symbolic interaction, a certain behavior can be seen to be irrational while it is viewed differently from another perspective. This is because different members of the society have different modes through which they define their identities and circumstances that surround them.
These are some of the issues that have led the society to have a “labeling theory of deviance,” (Bond, Peter, and Sheila, pp 36). This means that certain members of the society are given a certain label which they come to be associated with it. For instance, through labeling theory, the minority groups have been forced to act in certain ways. Through symbolic interactions, the interaction of the members of the society leads to the establishment of a certain social life. Under this interaction, members do not allow being influenced by external factors though; such factors still take effect in the society.
When this influences set in the society, their effects will depend on how the members of the society takes and deals with them. Asserting that the society impacts on the individual member’s way of thinking is not compatible with the perspective of symbolic interaction. In reality the, society has many different heterogeneous groups which sometimes can be seen as competing against one another, hence there is basically no concrete reason that other group(s) should be dominated. Through symbolic interaction, members of the society are able to express to others what they think they are.
This is why people have been found to express themselves as being of a certain social class or a better race. By expressing and arguing on what one is in the society, depending on one’s understandings, inequality is created. Therefore, inequality cannot be said to be an automatic outcome but it is rather a created idea by certain quarters of the society. For instance, there is no any theoretical prove that a certain race is superior nor better than another, however, some races have been made to believe that they are inferior compared to the others.
By Symbolic interaction, a person develops a certain sense of belonging; hence having a social interaction with some sort of comparison, where one is treated as inferior affects ones sense of self in a negative way. The perspective of symbolic interaction can be applied in the affirmative action in some way. First in dealing with racial inequality, it is a complicated matter since the groups that are categorized as needing help because of their race are mostly based on some considerations that are bound to change frequently. It can turn out to be a very difficult task of determining who are to be counted for affirmative actions.
For instance, if a certain group is to be given reserve for some jobs, such a group can lobby other members to join them so that they can be considered as part of them, so that the enumeration turns out to be a large number, increasing the benefits. However, immediately the benefits have been realized, the lobby group might again turn to reducing the number of those in the group so that they can have larger share of the benefits. In essence, where there is affirmative action, those who usually do not want to be associated with minority groups might just count themselves in such groups to receive the benefits.
Through symbolic interaction perspective, it has been easier to develop a mechanism of whether to support or not support the affirmative action. There have been many arguments that either supports or are against the affirmative actions each trying to justify their points. For instance, those advocating for affirmative actions feel that since the white males for along period of time received better treatment, it is then time for the minority groups to receive such treatment. It is felt that some employers still discriminate the minority groups hence call for affirmative action.
On the other hand, those opposed to affirmative action argue that they succeed in their endeavors without having given any special preferences; hence the rest should do the same. Therefore, symbolic interaction perspective can create certain inequalities in the society depending on the mode in which some groups perceive themselves, in comparison to the others.
Andersen, L. Margaret and Howard Francis Taylor. Sociology: Understanding a Diverse Society; Thomson Wadsworth, 2005 Anderson, S. Elizabeth. Racial Integration as a Compelling Interest, Journal of Constitutional Commentary, Vol. 21, 2004