Herbert Blumer was an American sociologist with interests in interactionism and methods of social research. He believed that people create their own social reality through both group and individual action. Through his work, he stressed that the creation of social reality is a continuous process and always criticized the positivistic social research approach. He believed that applying positivistic methods to social research would create results that could be ignorant of empirical realities of the social world. According to him, it’s the examination of the empirical world demands that one should be put in a theoretical form with no conventional protocol to limit empirical analysis. In his works, Blumer came up with three principles of symbolic interactionism and six root images that show how symbolic interaction views human conduct. They are also the foundations of conclusions about the creation of a person’s self and how a particular person socializes into the entire community (Blumer, 14).
Root images are theoretical concepts that are consistent in that they do not give subjective, voluntaristic, structural, and any micro-sociological bias. Blumer develops the application of his root images along a classification of social groups of human beings into units that he calls ‘’collectivities’’. These were collective elementary groups and social movements. The root image analysis proves that the micro-sociological theory is indeed right about symbolic interaction (Larson, 35).
He came up with this root image because of his conviction that human beings are not just responding organism, but acting organisms as well. To find out this, Blumer had to observe the process by which human social action is constructed. He came up with a premise that individuals act towards things in regard to the meaning that the particular thing has for them. Different things have different meanings in humans’ life and that is why humans behave differently. However, the meanings of all these things are derived from the social interaction that one has with each other. In dealing with different things in one’s social life, a person acquires and modifies the meaning of things to him or her (Farganis, 23).
Blumer believed that a human being is a possessing self which can make it to be an object of its own action. This self-object comes from an individual’s social interaction with other individuals as one is likely to place him or herself in the position of others or perform some self-interactions as way of making indication to oneself. This ends up creating an action because any organism that engages in self-interaction with itself by way of making indications to itself then responding to these indications creates a process of interpretation that results in action (Baugh, 113).
Human beings have a need to interpret the world so as to act accordingly and this is achieved through joint action where different acts of diverse participants are carried out. These acts are stable, repetitive and continuously evolving thus enabling them to create a progressive system where human joint actions arise from past actions. By considering group life of individuals, Blumer sees group life as a definitive process by which humans show lines of action to each other and interprets the indications of others.
In summary, Herbert Blumer uses his root images as a way of defining people’s social life. He concludes that human beings are actors as they perform social acts that are constructed in processes in which those involved are actors who note, interpret and finally asses the situations facing them.
Baugh, Kenneth, Jr. The Methodology of Herbert Blume. Amazone: Amazon-US , 1990.
Blumer, Herbert. Symbolic Interactionism: Perspective and Metho. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1969.
Farganis, James. Readings in Social Theory. McGraw Hill Companies, 2008.
Larson, Calvin J. Sociological Theory from the Enlightenment to the Presen. New Jerse: General Hall, Inc, 1986.