- Shopping Bag ( 0 items )
The Construction of Identity Identity is people's source of meaning and experience. As Calhounwrites:
We know of no people without names, no languages or cultures in which some manner of distinctions between self and other, we and they, are not made ... Self-knowledge - always a construction no matter how much it feels like a discovery - is never altogether separable from claims to be known in specific ways by others.'
By identity, as it refers to social actors, I understand the process of construction of meaning on the basis of a cultural attribute, or related set of cultural attributes, that is/are given priority over other sources of meaning. For a given individual, or for a collective actor, there may be a plurality of identities. Yet, such a plurality is a source of stress and contradiction in both self-representation and social action. This is because identity must be distinguished from what, traditionally, sociologists have called roles, and role-sets. Roles (for example, to be a worker, a mother, a neighbor, a socialist militant, a union member, a basketball player, a churchgoer, and a smoker, at the same time) are defined by norms structured by the institutions and organizations of society. Their relative weight in influencing people's behavior depend upon negotiations and arrangements between individuals and these institutions and organizations. Identities are sources of meaning for the actors themselves, and by themselves, constructed through a process of individuation.' Although, as I will argue below, identities can also be originated from dominant institutions, they become identities only when and if social actors internalize them, and construct their meaning around this internalization. To be sure, some selfdefinitions can also coincide with social roles, for instance when to be a father is the most important self-definition from the point of view of the actor. Yet, identities are stronger sources of meaning than roles, because of the process of self-construction and individuation that they involve. In simple terms, identities organize the meaning while roles organize the functions. I define meaningas the symbolic identification by a social actor of the purpose of her/his action. I also propose the idea that, in the network society, for reasons that I will develop below, for most social actors, meaning is organized around a primary identity (that is an identity that frames the others), that is self-sustaining across time and space. While this approach is close to Erikson's formulation of identity, my focus here will be primarily on collective, rather than on individual, identity. However, individualism (different from individual identity) may also be a form of "collective identity," as analyzed in Lasch's "culture of narcissism.
It is easy to agree on the fact that, from a sociological perspective, all identities are constructed. The real issue is how, from what, by whom, and for what. The construction of identities uses building materials from history, from geography, from biology, from productive and reproductive institutions, from collective memory and from personal fantasies, from power apparatuses and religious revelations. But individuals, social groups, and societies process all these materials, and rearrange their meaning, according to social determinations and cultural projects that are rooted in their social structure, and in their space/time framework. I propose, as a hypothesis, that, in general terms, who constructs collective identity, and for what, largely determines the symbolic content of this identity, and its meaning for those identifying with it or placing themselves outside of it. Since the social construction of identity always takes place in a context marked by power relationships, I propose a distinction between three forms and origins of identity building: . Legitimizing identity: introduced by the dominant institutions of society to extend and rationalize their domination vis d vis social actors, a theme that is at the heart of Sennett's theory of authority and domination,' but also fits with various theories of nationalism.
Naturally, identities that start as resistance may induce projects, and may also, along the course of history, become dominant in the institutions of society, thus becoming legitimizing identities to rationalize their domination. Indeed, the dynamics of identities along this sequence shows that, from the point of view of social theory, no identity can be an essence, and no identity has, per se, progressive or regressive value outside its historical context. A different, and very important matter, is the benefits of each identity for the people who belong.
In my view, each type of identity-building process leads to a different outcome in constituting society. Legitimizing identity generates * civil society; that is, a set of organizations and institutions, as well as * series of structured and organized social actors, which reproduce, albeit sometimes in a conflictive manner, the identity that rationalizes the sources of structural domination. This statement may come as a surprise to some readers, since civil society generally suggests a positive connotation of democratic social change. However, this is in fact the original conception of civil society, as formulated by Gramsci, the intellectual father of this ambiguous concept. Indeed, in Gramsci's conception, civil society is formed by a series of "apparatuses," such as the Church (es), unions, parties, cooperatives, civic associations and so on, which on the one hand, prolonging the dynamics of hte state but, on the other hand, are deeply rooted among people....
|List of Figures|
|List of Tables|
|List of Charts|
|Preface and Acknowledgments 2003|
|Our World, our Lives||1|
|1||Communal Heavens: Identity and Meaning in the Network Society||5|
|2||The Other Face of the Earth: Social Movements against the New Global Order||71|
|3||The Greening of the Self: The Environmental Movement||168|
|4||The End of Patriarchalism: Social Movements, Family, and Sexuality in the Information Age||192|
|5||Globalization, Identification, and the State: A Powerless State or a Network State?||303|
|6||Informational Politics and the Crisis of Democracy||367|
|Conclusion: Social Change in the Network Society||419|
|Summary of Contents of Volumes I and III||464|