Signifying Acts: Structure and Meaning in Everyday Life

Signifying Acts: Structure and Meaning in Everyday Life

Signifying Acts: Structure and Meaning in Everyday Life

Signifying Acts: Structure and Meaning in Everyday Life

Synopsis

The theme of Signifying Acts is that social acts are created by human agents engaging in signifying gestures and eliciting determined responses- from which flow a number of consequences. This theme is developed by a critical synthesis of various strands of early and contemporary thought in symbolism, meaning, language, and grammar. These strands have been classified as pragmatism and interactionism, structuralism and grammatical theory Perinbanayagam brings together for the first time the writings of G. H. Mead and his followers, who label their efforts "symbolic interactionism," and the recent developments in the philosophical and anthropological studies of mind and meaning. Through his wide-ranging analysis, he demonstrates the sociological relevance of Chomsky, Derrida, and Searle and particularizes their contributions to a more comprehensive theoretical framework. The interdisciplinary scope of his thesis recalls Ernest Becker's Birth and Death of Meaning,and his stylistic flair will stimulate readers at all levels of sophistication.

Excerpt

From time to time in the social sciences, amid the din and disarray of rival claims for one and another "true view" of our social world and our being in it, it falls to some few of rare intellectual vision to so entirely locate a theoretical tradition that the very act of location rekindles the same excitement and surge of wondrous possibility as must have animated the founders of the tradition. So it is in this work by R. S. Perinbanayagam. Signifying Acts now locates for sociology and social psychology (without perhaps even intending such as its first order of business) that tradition which has come to be known as symbolic interactionism. It does this in my estimation more tellingly than has any work since Herbert Blumer some fifteen years ago grouped a number of his essays into a volume by that name. This is not to deprecate the many fine books and articles which over this period have sought to explicate in whole or part the conceptual corpus of symbolic interactionism; it is to suggest that Perinbanayagam brings something special to the enterprise, which I trust I can in these few paragraphs indicate to the reader.

When I say Perinbanayagam newly locates the tradition of symbolic interactionism for us, I mean more than that he produces a full and faithful representation of the provenance, development, and contemporary cast of the tradition, although this he does, as have some others before him, superbly. Witness, for example, the appositeness with which throughout this work, in one connection or another, he calls on the founding formulations of Charles S. Peirce, William James, John Dewey, and, more penetratingly than any commentator I have read, George Herbert Mead. (Mead for Perinbanayagam, as for most symbolic interactionists, is the capstone of the tradition, that place in time between the two world wars when the diverse insights of a humanistically inclined, yet empirically mindful, social psychology which had been hov-

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