Mythic facts and Herbert Blumer's work on race relations: A comment on Esposito and Murphy's article

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Abstract

Luigi Esposito and John Murphy (1999) have argued that research using Blumer's group position theory of race relations using statistical analysis of survey data research actually undermines Blumer's theory of race relations by ignoring its definitional and dynamic emphases, as well as its emphasis on human agency. Furthermore, they argue that surveys and other quantitative data are directly antithetical to Blumer's perspective and symbolic interaction in general, which instead supposedly espouse nongeneralizing, idiographic, interpretive methods, such as "sympathetic introspection." This commentary focuses on these latter points of their argument. I think Esposito and Murphy present questionable interpretations of Blumer's view of scientific concepts, of his methodological position, and symbolic interactionism. I first discuss Esposito and Murphy's depiction of Blumer's perspective as being "non-generalizing," with a focus on the sensitizing-definitive continuum of concepts. Second. I address the question of whether Blumer, and symbolic interactionism in general, is antiquantitative. I conclude by noting the importance of this debate for understanding race relations as well as the present and future place of symbolic interactionism in sociology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)289-296
Number of pages8
JournalSociological Quarterly
Volume42
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 1 2001

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science

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