Symbolic Interaction as Music: Esthetic Constitution of Meaning, Self, and Society

Document Type


Publication Date

Winter 2006


Analytical frameworks such as dramaturgy and narrative analysis are respectively grounded in metaphors of life as theater and life as a story. In related fashion, in this article the authors argue for the creation of another metaphor: life as music. Viewing selfhood and symbolic interaction as music sensitizes us to observe and understand an important but much too neglected dimension of social life: the esthetic. Drawing from the pragmatist philosophy of John Dewey, the authors argue that the realm of the esthetic should not be confined to museums and art galleries, for the intentional perception of beauty constitutes the very foundation of individuals' embodied experiences of their lifeworlds. From within our metaphor of life as music we conceptualize beauty as the diverse rhythms, melodies, and harmonies contributing to the constitution of both subjectivity and intersubjectivity.


Sociology and Corrections

Publication Title

Symbolic Interaction