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W.I. Thomas

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W.I. Thomas and Florian Znaniecki

California State University, Dominguez Hills
University of Wisconsin, Parkside
Soka University Japan - Transcend Art and Peace
Created: October 13, 2000
Latest update: July 30, 2003
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takata@uwp.edu

W.I. ThomasW.I. Thomas: "Definition of the Situation"

"If men define situations as real, they are real in their consequences." W. I. Thomas.

Review and Essay by Jeanne Curran and Susan R. Takata
Part of Teaching Theory Series
Copyright: Jeanne Curran and Susan R. Takata, October 2000. "Fair Use" encouraged.

Inventory on Mead Project Site Link added July 30, 2003.

This review essay is based on W.I. Thomas's The Unadjusted Girl Mead Project at Brock University's Department of Sociology in St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada. The picture wouldn't come up from the Mead Project Site, so I subjected it to my shareware paint program. At least you can get an idea of what W.I. Thomas looked like. The real photo that came up later.

Citation: W.I. Thomas, The Unadjusted Girl with cases and standpoint for behavior analysis. Boston: Little Brown and Company, (1923).
CRIMINAL SCIENCE MONOGRAPH No. 4. Supplement to the Journal of the American Institute of Criminal Law and Criminology.

Condensed version of this monograph. Link not working on July 30, 2003.

In this monograph, W.I. Thomas describes the perhaps inevitable desires of the individual for excitement, wealth, luxury, which conflict with those of the social group when the individual interferes with the freedom to such pursuits by others. Social groups are particularly disconcerted when one individual harms others in pursuit of his/her desires.

"[O]rganized society seeks also to regulate the conflict and competition inevitable between its members in the pursuit of their wishes. The desire to have wealth, for example, or any other socially sanctioned wish, may not be accomplished at the expense of another member of the society,--by murder, theft, lying, swindling, blackmail, etc."

W.I. Thomas, The Unadjusted Girl, 1923.. His focus was on how society prevents competition for the "goodies: wealth, power, leisure, luxury" to reaching an adversarial level at which individuals might harm one another. We will discuss also the underlying unstated assumption that organized society itself will not in engage in "murder, theft, lying, swindling, blackmail, etc." Notice the timeliness of this issue today as corporate profits compete with social intervention in the interest of creating global justice.

Alterity and diversity require that today we recognize the "Other." So we need to learn to read critically, and to recognize in texts from three quaters of a century ago, the acceptance that organized society must be "right." This follows from Edward Said's critical readings in the interest of postcolonialism. Recall his analysis of Jane Austen's acceptance of exploitation in the British isles for the benefit of Victorian England. P. 81ff, Culture and Imperialism.



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