Chapter 6 analyzes case studies of George Herbert Mead’s students who were influential in promoting interpretations of his work, Charles Morris and Herbert Blumer. The chapter traces their graduate work and early careers in which they received enthusiastic support from Mead, the subsequent place Mead had in their intellectual careers, and the rhetorical justifications they made of their interpretations of Mead against prominent critics. Morris treated Mead’s supposed “social behaviorism” as central to his attempts at philosophical synthesis. His claims relied heavily on the authority of his work with unpublished primary documents in addition to his personal relationship with Mead. Blumer, in contrast, appealed to Mead’s supposed “symbolic interactionism” in his criticisms of dominant American social science, and he mobilized claims on the basis of his personal relationship and the oral tradition passed down from Mead. The chapter argues that these phenomena can be explained only if we acknowledge that Morris and Blumer understood themselves to be participating emphatically in “intellectual projects” that encompassed themselves and their mentor. These intellectual projects are, thus, the nexus where interpretations made about Mead, the unique scholarship of each individual, and their influence on Mead’s reputation all come together in concrete social relationships.
Keywords: George Herbert Mead, Charles Morris, Herbert Blumer, intellectual project, Symbolic Interactionism, semiotics, Unity of Science Movement, pragmatism, behaviorism