Anonymity and Recognition: Toward an Ontology of Social Roles
Although it is Mead rather than James who expressly uses the term “role”, it is evident that what James is concerned with in the present context is a theory of social roles. He takes it as given and obvious that roles exist, that men in everyday life grasp them and interpret them, live them, express them, and submit to their demands. Roles turn out to be formed expressions of some aspect of the self whose characteristics and dynamics are societally grounded. It is no harder to discover a social role than it is to encounter a human face. Exactly how hard is that? I propose to begin the exploration of social roles by way of an oblique strategy: a consideration of the human face. I hope to show that there is a mode of perception proper to both.
“Thus a layman may abandon a city infected with cholera; but a priest or a doctor would think such an act incompatible with his honor. A soldier’s honor requires him to fight or to die under circumstances where another man can apologize or run away with no stain upon his social self. A judge, a statesman, are in like manner debarred by the honor of their cloth from entering into pecuniary relations perfectly honorable to persons in private life. Nothing is commoner than to hear people discriminate between their different selves of this sort: ‘As a man I pity you, but as an official I must show you no mercy; as a politician I regard him as an ally, but as a moralist I loathe him;’ etc., etc.3”
KeywordsSocial Role Social Reality Human Face Dyadic Relationship Essential Insight
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