Making the Sociological Canon: The Battle Over George Herbert Mead’s Legacy

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The American Sociologist


This paper tracks Mead's induction into the sociological canon, focusing in particular on American sociologists who made a concerted effort to reconstruct Mead as a systematic social theorist and apply his ideas to empirical research. It distinguishes two interpretive strategies of framing the classic and constructing the canon -- the politics of orthodoxy and politics of the open canon. The politics of orthodoxy aims to ascertain the original meaning and close the textual canon, creating a template relative to which alternative interpretations are judged incomplete, unorthodox, or wrongheaded. The politics of the open canon proceeds on the assumption that the classic text lends itself to conflicting interpretations, that room for the honest difference of opinion must be safeguarded, and that the capacity to further productive inquiry rather than the adherence to an orthodox view recommends a particular construal as viable and canon-worthy.


Canon (Literature); Canonization; George Herbert Mead; Mead; George Herbert; 1863-1931; Politics of interpretation; Sociological canon; Sociologists; Sociology; Structural interactionism; Symbolic interactionism


Community-Based Research | Sociology




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