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The concept of “generalized other”, according to Mead, means the notion that individuals have what the society expects of them and other persons. It includes the actions or thoughts which the society conforms to. The concept is important towards the development of an individual or self (John, 2005). Young children are born to the world innocent without any beliefs, laws or norms. As they grow, they are taught and experience various activities and events that shape and model their characteristics as persons. Hence, they learn and become what the society represents generally.
Key sociological concepts include the society, culture and the social structure. Society implies a group of people within some geographical area who abide by similar norms and beliefs. Culture is the way of life of some group of persons who hold same identity, while social structure refers to the order, upon which beliefs and norms are held within a certain locality by people who conform to the same norms and beliefs.
The individualistic theory assumes that minds of persons dictate who they become, how they relate in the society, how they view societal values and general ways of life, while the social theory purports that the society, upon which an individual socializes, has an influence on the person’s molding to become the self in the society (Mangabeira, 1987). The latter does not, however, explain what builds the individual to be the self in the society, while the former clearly states that the society values and ways of living do make the self an individual. Such relationship is likened to reproduction or mutual relationships.
Shortcomings of the social theory include a presupposition that the society builds the self. However, this is not absolutely correct. If society builds the self, individuals’ minds should be equal to societal ones, but this is not true. In conclusion, the self is built through individual and societal values or through inheritance of genes from parents and learning from the society.