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Chapter 3: Classical Theories II (Part 2)
I. Thorstein Veblen: Increasing Control of Business Over Industry
Thorstein Veblen was interested in the conflict between business and industry, as well as the ways in
which consumption creates status.
A. Business
• The dominant interest of business is money. The focus is not on the interests of the larger
community but rather on the profitability of the organization.
B. Industry
• Industry has to do with understanding and using mechanized processes of all sorts on a large
scale. An industrial orientation is associated with the people involved in workmanship and
C. Key Concepts: Conspicuous Consumption and Conspicuous Leisure
• Veblen observed that leisure classes engaged in both conspicuous consumption and
conspicuous leisure–consuming goods and leisure as a mechanism to compete for and
increase social status.
II. George Herbert Mead: Social Behaviorism
• George Herbert Mead was a central figure in the development of an important contemporary
sociological theory: symbolic interactionism.
• Mead was a social behaviorist who was not only interested in stimulus-response but also the
ways in which people thought before they acted.
• Mead thought behavior starts with the social and then filters through the individual rather
than vice versa as many psychologists claim.
A. The Act
• There are four, albeit nonconsecutive stages of an act: impulse, perception, manipulation, and
B. Gestures
• Both humans and animals can engage in acts and gestures. A gesture is the basic part of
social acts between two or more people.
• Only people use significant gestures, language, and significant symbols.
C. Significant Symbols and Language
• Gestures can become significant symbols when they illicit similar responses in both those
making them and those observing them, thereby requiring thinking and thus making
symbolic interaction possible.
• The mind is a social process where people have conversations with themselves to solve
D. The Self
• The self is a process, unfolding and developing as people can understand themselves as both
subjects and objects, which often entails a process of looking at the self through a social
• Reflexivity, our ability to put ourselves in the place of others, is crucial to this process.
• Mead looked at how the self comes about through socialization and growth in childhood.
1. Play Stage
• In this early stage, children can imagine themselves in the discrete roles of
2. Game Stage
• In this later stage, children can imagine themselves in the roles of multiple
others during a complete interaction.
• Generalized Other
o The game stage creates an understanding of an abstract other who
embodies the attitudes of the community that people use to subjectively
evaluate themselves as an object.
E. “I” and “Me”
• The self conforms and is an individual, according to Mead.
• The I is the active and creative part of the self which largely acts against the me, which is the
socially conscious part of the self that is presented to others.
III. W. E. B. Du Bois: Race and Racism in Modern Society
W. E. B. Du Bois focused on race, particularly the situation of Black Americans, illustrating the role of
the color line in dividing White and Blacks in the 20th century and before.
A. Race
• Du Bois’s early writings pointed out that race had physical dimensions (racialism) but more
importantly, racial differences were to be found in culture, spiritual, psychic, and religious
forms. These factors are all important in the formation of racial identity.
B. The Veil and Double-Consciousness
• Du Bois used the metaphor of a veil to show the socio-structural separation between Black
and White. Double-consciousness is a concept that shows the sociopsychological
consequences: Blacks, who stand outside of dominant White society, see themselves through
their own community and the dominant society. This twoness provides two forms of
consciousness, a feeling of being split in two.
C. Economics and Marxism
• Toward the latter years of his career, Du Bois incorporated Marxian economic analysis on
racial economic inequality. He also incorporated Marx’s insights on the power of ideology,
applying it to the pervasive racist messages perpetuated by White culture.
Veblen/Mead/Du Bois Discussion
No unread replies.No replies.
1. Answer the following questions. Number your responses.
a. Briefly define Veblen’s concepts of conspicuous consumption and conspicuous leisure.
Give an example for each. (4-6 sentences)
b. Briefly discuss George Herbert Mead’s view of the self and the stages of
development. (4-6 sentences)
2. View these two short videos on W. E. B. Du Bois:
a) What were some barriers Du Bois encountered when he arrived at Harvard to pursue
his PhD? How might his concept of double-consciousness help to explain what he and
others may feel through similar experiences? (2-3 sentences)
b) Du Bois predicted that race, and more specifically race relations would be a central
issue in the 20th century. Although his ideas at the time were critical to understanding
how Blacks felt about how they were viewed by the larger society, they have also been
used to understand other forms of inequality, including racial, social class, gender,
sexual orientation, disabilities, and religious inequality. After viewing the video, what
does “How Does it Feel to Be a Problem” mean to you in your experiences? Respond to
at least one classmate’s critical analysis.

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