George Herbert Mead: The Work
John Dewey said of George Herbert Mead that he had "the most original mind in philosophy in the America of the last generation." Though this may have been a slight exaggeration, there seems to be consensus among students of philosophy that Mead ranks in the forefront of the exponents of pragmatism in America.
Mead, a very modest man, published relatively little. Dewey has remarked that "while [he] was an original thinker, he had no sense of being original." This may account for the fact that during his lifetime he was not recognized as being on the same level of importance as his teacher William James or of his intimate friend John Dewey. But the posthumous publications of many of his lectures and continued critical interest in his work make it abundantly clear that Mead has a central position in philosophical thought, linking as he did the themes first adumbrated by James and Pierce with the philosophical pre- occupations of Dewey, Whitehead, Bergson, and Santayana.
This account is mainly based on Mead's posthumous Mind, Self and Society and on some of his earlier papers in social psychology, most of which can now be found in his Selected Writings. That is, only one facet of Mead's work will be commented upon here: his contribution to social psychology. His wider philosophical concerns--for example, the nature of time in his The Philosophy of the Present, his exposition of pragmatism in The Philosophy of the Act, and his history of Movements of Thought in the Nineteenth Cen- tury--will be dealt with only tangentially.
From Coser, 1977:343-347.