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Mead is known today primarily for his original philosophy and social psychology. Much less familiar to us is Mead the reformer, a man who sought to balance political engagement with academic detachment and who established himself as an astute critic of contemporary American society. This paper examines Mead's political beliefs and his theory of the reform process. Drawing on little known sources and archival materials, it demonstrates that Mead shared socialism's humanitarian ends and that, following the dominant progressive ideology of his time, he sought to accomplish these ends by constitutional means. An argument is made that Mead's ideological commitments had profound effects on his substantive ideas, particularly on the dialectical premises of social interactionism. The final section of the paper discusses the legacy of Mead and the Progressive movement.


Politics and Social Change | Social Psychology and Interaction | Sociology | Sociology of Culture


This paper is part of a project on Progressivism and Chicago Sociology supported by a grant from the American Sociological Association's Committee on the Problems of the Discipline. The second section of the paper was presented at the annual meeting of the Midwest Sociological Society, Des Moines, 1986


© 1988 by The University of Chicago