Mead's field theory and its implications for American minorities

Norbert Wiley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This chapter shows that Mead has a field theory and that the explanatory method of symbolic interaction is that of a field. A field, in this sense, is a systematic network of meanings. When someone or something enters that field such as a protest rally or a cocktail party they are given the meaning that is characteristic of the field. This explanation is not one of causation but one of context. I show that a major field theory of Mead's concerns the agent and how decisions or actions are made. He also has a developmental field theory based on the play-game-generalized other relation. With Mead's agency model I then show how it can be applied, in macro fashion, to the recent rise in American minorities, especially that of women, African Americans, and gays. This example shows the macro or social structural power of Mead's idea.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)77-93
Number of pages17
JournalStudies in Symbolic Interaction
StatePublished - 2016


  • African Americans
  • Feminism
  • Gays
  • Mead
  • Meaning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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