One of the challenging conclusions of status-power and reference-group theory is that the concept of the self may be extraneous. I explored this possibility in Kemper (2011). In this chapter I want to develop the argument further through an examination of some of the work of George H. Mead, the foremost expositor of the self and the even more brilliant theorist of mind. I acknowledge that it is ironic to pursue in Mead a line of thought that can lead to the dismissal of his most famous result. That this may be the case can be thought of as the dark side of Science. Theories may be heedless of reputation, but they are pursued to make a reputation. That is no less the case here. But it is not all ego folly. Science promulgates standards for the evaluation of new arguments: logic, empirical support, coherence, breadth of implication are some of these.1 They are supported by reference groups and they are to be applied to what follows about the self. Despite the voluminous attention allotted to the self in the psychological and sociological literature, I have proposed (Kemper 2011) that we do not need the concept of the self for an adequate understanding of the person. I am not, however, proposing a simple abandonment of the self, leaving nothing in its place. Rather, I am suggesting that it would be more fruitful, practically and theoretically, to focus on other aspects of the person and his or her situation and that this re-orientation will provide a better understanding than we now get from probing the self. It is not as if abandoning the self is like abandoning a limb. The self is not a natural feature of the person, but is, rather, grafted on from a theory of the person. To omit the self is not to lose the person, since the self is left out of accounting for the person in various theories. For example, Hume ([1739] 1963; and see Giles 1993) could not detect the self as a discrete entity and certain Buddhist ontological doctrine (see Harvey 1995) rejects the self as an illusion. PostModernists, measuring the person against the complexity and instability of present-day media-driven society (Baudrillard [1981] 1994; Lyotard 1984; Gergen 1991; and see Gubrium and Holstein 1994), view the self as fractured, transient and de-centered-a mere figment of language-lacking a consistent “I.” “Who you are is neither more nor less than who you are in the process of telling yourself-or others-that you are” (Anderson 1997, p. 43, emphasis in

original). Perhaps accommodating the Post-Modern argument, Leary and Guadagno (2011) call for a “hypo-egoic” approach to happiness, where the self is muted. Maybe the self is useful as a folk concept. Yet even that is debatable, what with people so often asking, “Who am I and what do I want?” Rather, I propose, people should be asking, “Who are they and what do they want?” “They” are the array of others who, as James ([1890] 1918), Cooley ([1902] 1964) and Mead (1934) have told us, are the sources the self. Instead of looking at the self, the product, we should be looking at what those others want, since it is they who created the product, the person fit to act in society. They provide the prescriptions (do X), instructions (how and when to do X), preferences (I’d like it if you did X), moral evaluations (it is right and good to do X), consequences (I [and God] will love you if you do X or I will “whale the tar out of you” if you don’t do X), ideologies and rationales (our kind of people do X), judgments (you did X pretty well), identity labels (what to call yourself so that others know you can be relied on to do X) and so on that conclusively determine virtually all of what the person does, thinks and believes. Regrettably, once the content provided by others is absorbed into memory, the others ordinarily fade into obscurity so that we cannot recall who programmed us to do, think or believe what we do. This need not and, from the perspective of an adequate social understanding of the person, should not be the case. Nor is the suggestion to focus one’s main attention on the others who are understood to constitute the self an eccentric proposal. It has already been implemented in abbreviated form in some psychotherapies. Among the hundreds of schools and approaches in psychotherapy (see Henrick 1980) some are distinctly “other”-oriented. Among them are the therapy based on the work of French psychiatrist Jacques Lacan, whose “Big Other,” usually the mother, is understood as the primary influence on the child (Evans 2005); Object Relations therapy, with its similar focus on early experience with family members (Scharff and Scharff 1997); Systematic Family therapy, with its “circular questioning” as a way of getting at how different family members view the client (Brown 1997); Relational therapy, with its focus on the dynamics of existing relationships between the client and others (Stuart 2006); and Dialogical Self therapy, with its interest in the interplay between the self and its determining voices (Hermans 1996, 2001; Oles and Hermans 2008; Hermans and Hermans-Konopka 2010). Each of these approaches looks into the role of others in the psychotherapy client’s life according to the slant of the particular theory. However, none of them defines the person in the locus of others as completely as is proposed here. In what follows I will examine the work of G. H. Mead to build a rationale for looking beyond the self in order to better understand the person. First, I will consider the question of “Who speaks?” That is, whose voice represents the individual in thought and action. Second, I will review Mead’s profound contributions about symbols, mind and thinking and how these arise and function in social interaction. Third, I will examine and extend Mead’s treatment of the organism, especially in the acquisition of language signifying status enhancement

and status loss; fourth, I will examine how status groups pre-empt a focus on the self. Finally I will address a set of methodological questions that arise from focusing on reference groups instead of the self.