According to Mead (as cited in Allan, 2007), symbols are abstract and arbitrary there is nothing “natural” to them it is we and our actions or responses that give meaning to these. For instance, a gun at first glance may be perceived as dangerous and thus a meaning of “weapon” is assigned to this object (social) or the gun may be seen as fun and defined as a sportsman’s tool (or toy). Prior experience (interactions) with the object of course will have much to say on how it is perceived by the individual. So the gun or any object for that matter has no intrinsic meaning or function it is up to us through our use of it that gives it a meaning. This “meaning assignment” also occurs in the way we perceive certain actions or behaviors we engage in, that is certain behaviors are deemed illegal in contemporary society that may not have been seen as such before (or that one day may not be seen as illegal/inappropriate). “We are continually changing our social system in some respects, and we are able to do that intelligently because we think…” (George Herbert Mead,1934 as cited in Appelrouth & Edles, 2008) Can you think of certain behaviors that were not illegal in the past but now are? How about current illegal actions that in the future may become legitimate or not seen as wrong?
Allan,K. 2007. The Social Lens: An Invitation to Social and Sociological Theory.
Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge Press.
Applerouth, S. & Edles, L. D.2008.Classical and Contemporary Sociological Theory:
Text Readings.Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge Press.