The Iowa School in
of Sociology at Iowa played a key role after World War II in the
development of the symbolic interactionism paradigm. Manford Kuhn, a
leading symbolic interactionist of his time, taught at Iowa from
1946 until his death in 1963. He developed here what would be called
the "Iowa school" of symbolic interactionism, and which was
differentiated from the "Chicago school" developed through the work
of Herbert Blumer.
The Iowa school became distinctive for
its emphasis on operationalizing symbolic interactionist concepts
(such as self, reference group, or social object) in a standardized
way so that hypotheses could be developed and empirically tested.
The ultimate goal was to be able to put forth generalizable
statements about human behavior. In 1950 Kuhn developed the twenty
statements test (TST) as a research instrument. It became a very
widely used research tool, garnering its own session at the 1958
American Sociological Association Meetings.
Blumer's Chicago School relied more heavily on participant
observation research. The Chicago school was more anthropological in
that it strived to understand the meaning system of an individual or
group of people, without the emphasis on uncovering generalizable
patterns in human behavior.
Another important figure in the
history of our department, Carl Couch (1965-94), continued to keep
the Iowa school of symbolic interactionism in the public eye after
Kuhn's death. He edited several volumes of articles written in the
Iowa school tradition, including Constructing Social Life:
Readings in Behavioral Sociology from the Iowa School (1975,
co-edited with Robert A. Hintz, Jr.), and The Iowa School
(1986, co-edited with Stanley L. Saxton and Michael A. Katovich).
Fine, Gary Alan.
1993. "The Sad Demise, Mysterious Dissapearance, and Glorious
Triumph of Symbolic Interactionism." Annual Review of Sociology
N., John W. Petras, and Larry T. Reynolds. 1975. Symbolic
Interactionism: Genesis, Varieties, and Criticism. Boston: Routledge
& Kegan Paul.