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Chapter 10. George Herbert Mead, 1863–1931

Mitchell Aboulafia

Subject Philosophy » History of Philosophy

Place Northern America » United States of America

Period 1000 - 1999 » 1700-1799, 1800-1899, 1900-1999

People Mead, George Herbert

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631216230.2003.00012.x


The notion that our understanding of our selves is in large measure dependent on how others see us is an idea with a pedigree. Ancient Greek writers such as Plato and Aristotle clearly knew that we are social beings, as did a whole string of modern political, social, and economic theorists from Rousseau, to Marx, to no less a figure than the father of modern capitalism, Adam Smith. And so did George Herbert Mead, one of America's most influential social theorists and theorists of the self. Mead was born in South Hadley, Massachusetts, in 1863, and moved with his family to Oberlin, Ohio, in 1869. Both his parents were educators, and his mother, Elizabeth Storrs Mead, would eventually serve as the president of Mount Holyoke College. Long before Mead became an important theorist of the social construction of the self, he exhibited an interest in social and political questions. As a young man, he wished to work, as it was once said, for the betterment of mankind, and he saw involvement in political activity as the proper path to accomplish this goal. Writing to his close friend Henry Castle in his twenties, Mead rather enthusiastically declared: We must get into politics of course - city politics above all things, because there we can begin to work at once in whatever city we settle, because city politics need men more than any other branch, and chiefly because, according to my opinion, ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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