Becoming MeadThe Social Process of Academic Knowledge

Becoming MeadThe Social Process of Academic Knowledge

Daniel R. Huebner

Print publication date: 2015

ISBN: 9780226171371

Publisher: University of Chicago Press


This study contributes to the sociology of knowledge and the history of the human sciences by tracing the complex social action processes through which knowledge is produced about a major classical author, George Herbert Mead. The case raises acute questions regarding how authoritative knowledge comes to be produced about an intellectual and about the social nature of knowledge production in academic scholarship. Instead of treating Mead’s problematic reputation as a separate topic of study from his own intellectual biography, the analysis reconceptualizes both as essentially knowledge production processes with empirical connections in identifiable social actions. Substantive chapters utilize archival and primary document research to examine the centrality of Mead’s public speaking and engagement with the social problems of territorial Hawaii, the variety of representations Mead’s students made of his courses and his students’ influences on him, the problematic process of constructing posthumous volumes attributed to Mead, the mobilization of controversial claims about him by former students on the basis of their sense of his approval and collaboration, the development of patterns of published reference to Mead along lines of social connection and in response to local institutional transformations, and the reconstruction of domains of Mead’s research that have been neglected in dominant accounts of his philosophy. The study provides a novel, productive approach to knowledge making in scholarship, which focus on empirical social action processes as they connect and change over time instead of any single set of documents, concepts, mechanisms, or individuals.