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Symbolic interaction is a perspective in sociology that places meaning, interaction, and human agency at the center of understanding social life. This perspective grew out of the American philosophical tradition of pragmatism, an approach developed in the late nineteenth century by Charles Peirce, William James, and John Dewey. Challenging the assumptions of classical rationalism, these thinkers regarded people as actors rather than reactors, treated “reality” as dynamic and pluralistic, linked meanings to social acts and perspectives, and viewed knowledge as a key resource for problem solving and reorganizing the world.

George Herbert Mead brought pragmatist philosophy to sociology, working its assumptions into a theory and method for the social sciences. Drawing on the ideas of the pragmatist founders, as well as the theories of Charles Horton ...

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