Revisiting Mead on Pragmatic "Fusion": From Emotion to Function

Andrew J. Weigert


A recent biography and re-issue of George H. Mead's Mind, Self, and Society emphasize the emergent meanings of his work and of self's cognitive and affective dimensions in interaction. Erving Goffman likewise posits an interaction order based on individual and social identity. Mead's metaphor of fusion furthers recognition of an emotional merging of selves with each other and with emerging community. He initially characterizes this experience as "precious" and illustrates its presence in interactional domains such as teamwork, religion, and patriotism. Among other scholars, Charles Taylor uses fusion to interpret aspects of the contemporary secular age. Application to terrorist identities finds that emotional fusion motivates actions that threaten the moral imperative informing presentation of selves that grounds public order. From a pragmatic perspective, selves in pluralistic contexts must subordinate emotional fusion to functional fusion within an interaction order that fosters a larger self and more inclusive community to address common issues.

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