Sociological Theory
Department of Sociology and Anthropology

Iowa School of Symbolic Interactionism

Manford H. Kuhn

Kuhn is to the Iowa School what Blumer is to the Chicago School

He emphasized that science could be used successfully in Symbolic Interactionism

They sought to rid the Meadian tradition of its "nonempirical" content and to demonstrate that "...the key ideas of symbolic interaction could be operationalized and unitized successfully in empirical research" (Kuhn, 1964:72)
as quoted in Reynolds
As Blumer stressed the methodology needed to find that emphatic understanding, Kuhn's was not convinced, again as Reynolds points out
"If one may say, as others have, that Blumer's image of people led him to his particular methodology and that, in his scheme of things, a rather large theoretical dog wags a less than awesome methodological tail, then we may say of Kuhn that his methodological predilections inexorably led to his particular image of people, and that in his scheme of things an awesome methodological tail wags a rather puny theoretical dog."
Blumer sides heavily on the subject or actor side of human behavior while Kuhn comes down more heavily on the object or determinacy side

Remember we talked about types of theories,.....

Blumer is more of the explanation and understanding levels of theory

Kuhn wants the prediction and control that science holds up as a possibility


Kuhn abandoned the "I" component of self which is so critical to the Chicago School

The dialectical nature of self, the creative potential of self, the truly unpredictable aspect of self was tossed out

Thus self becomes completely determined

....and therefore operationalized and measured...

The idea of the generalized other (or society) determines who we are (not something Kuhn willing admitted (see Reynolds page 88)

The core self (which exists for Kuhn) is develops much the same way role theory explains, from a composite of statuses and roles that we play and adhere too

Who am I?
Twenty Statements Test

These will reflect social positions mostly

Kuhn talks about

Whereas consensual aspects are self evident, subconsensual need to be interpreted to figure out who we are

In the end, social life is ordered, stable, predictable, and controllable

Unlike the Chicago school they take account of structure and history (at least as a creator of current structure), but leave little or no room for the subjective, conscious actor

Turner indicates five areas where Blumer and Kuhn disagree,
  1. What is the nature of the individual?

  2. What is the nature of interaction?
    Interaction is released not constructed, role playing not role making

  3. What is the nature of social organization?
    Kuhn sees structure (in terms of stable networks of statuses and roles) rather than process

  4. What is the most appropriate method for studying humans and society?
    for Blumer it is exploration and inspection whereas Kuhn emphasized one science to study all things

  5. What is the best form of sociological theoizing?
    For Blumer concepts can not be precise, we need to build from a set of "sensitizing" concepts that can help us in what to look for and under what types of conditions different types of interaction are likely to occur
    Kuhn, of course, goes for deterministic concepts and a notion of deductive theorizing. Build a unified system from which propostions can be derived and tested

Return to Sociology 2111 Page.

Return John Hamlin's Home Page.

The University of Minnesota is a equal opportunity educator and employer.

Copyright: © 2001, John Hamlin
Last Modified: Wednesday, 05-Sept.-2001
Page Coordinator: John Hamlin

Picture of Bulldog

The University of Minnesota is an equal opportunity educator and employer.

Copyright: © 2001, John Hamlin
Last Modified: Thursday, 28-Aug-2003 07:39:57 CDT
Page URL: Kuhn/MkuhnNotes.html
Page Coordinator:John Hamlin