Mead, subjectivity and urban politics 
in The power of pragmatism
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This chapter examines the contribution that G.H. Mead’s conception of the self can make to understanding political subjectivity, and deploys this approach in a case study of urban politics in the UK. Mead argued that the social self is created through relations with other human actors, but that the emergent and impulsive ‘I’ of the self can disrupt, reject and challenge intersubjectively created ‘significant symbols’ that guide and give meaning to actors and society through recognition by both the conveyer and responder, shaping what he called the ‘me’. Mead’s conceptions of the ‘I and me’ of the self, and the role of powerful significant symbols, are deployed in an examination of new forms of city-regional government in England. This case study demonstrates how political agency is partly constructed by broader significant symbols that are utilised in the construction of this new governance arena, and how local actors seek to conform to or contest this new political landscape. The chapter applies Mead’s pragmatism as a counterpoint to dominant academic ideas about the power of neoliberalism and the post-political in understanding these and other developments.

The power of pragmatism

Knowledge production and social inquiry

Editors: Jane Wills and Robert W. Lake


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