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A Sociology of No-Self: Applying Buddhist Social Theory to Symbolic Interaction


Direct all correspondence to Matthew Immergut, Purchase College, 735 Anderson Hill Road Purchase New York 10577, USA; e-mail:


Although fraught with complexity, the self is a central phenomenon of discussion and analysis within sociology. This article contributes to this discourse by introducing the Buddhist ideas of anatta (no-self) and prattyasamutpāda (interdependence) as analytic frameworks to deconstruct and rethink the self within sociology. We argue that the sociological self, most clearly articulated by symbolic interactionism, is premised on a self-other dualism. This dualism leads to a conceptualization of the self as constantly threatened and anxious. Using these Buddhist concepts we propose an alternative interpretive schema, a sociology of no-self, for analyzing social interaction and understanding the roots of social angst.