[Paleopsych] Hedgehog: Joseph E. Davis: Identity and Social Change: A Short Review

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Joseph E. Davis: Identity and Social Change: A Short Review
The Hedgehog Review - Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture

          Issues of self and identity have been a preoccupation in the
    social sciences now for several generations. This short review of the
    extensive literature touches on some of the most influential early
    writers and then briefly discusses the several directions in which
    more contemporary scholarship on identity has traveled.

Points of Departure

          Up through the late 1960s, a considerable body of literature was
    produced on personality and the self-concept, on the conflict between
    individual needs and social demands, and on the effects of this
    conflict and rapid social change for the adapting person. The
    principal figures during this period were psychologists, including
    Erik Erikson, Sigmund Freud, Erich Fromm, Abraham Maslow, and Harry
    Stack Sullivan; sociologists and anthropologists, such as Ruth
    Benedict, Erving Goffman, Helen Lynd, David Riesman, and Georg Simmel;
    and philosophers and existentialists, including R. D. Laing, Herbert
    Marcuse, George Herbert Mead, and Alfred Schutz.

          In this older literature, the self-society nexus was a central
    problem, along with a concern over the disruptions in self-concept and
    personality brought about by significant social dislocations and
    transformations--urbanization, bureaucratization, the rise of a
    consumption ethic, technological advances, the decline of major
    institutions, and so on. For many writers, these disruptions were seen
    to lead to painful uneasiness and destructive alienation and
    instability. For others, however, the effects of change were
    considered more salutary, leading to experimentation with new and
    adaptive ways to meet social demands and efforts to break free from
    narrow and restrictive social roles. The following titles are a
    Benedict, Ruth. Patterns of Culture. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1934.
        Erikson, Erik H. Identity: Youth and Crisis. New York: Norton,
        Freud, Sigmund. Civilization and Its Discontents. New York:
        Norton, (1930) 1961.
        Fromm, Erich. Man for Himself: An Inquiry into the Psychology of
        Ethics. New York: Rinehart, 1947.
        Goffman, Erving. The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. New
        York: Doubleday, 1959.
        Laing, R. D. The Divided Self: An Existential Study in Sanity and
        Madness. Baltimore: Penguin, 1965.
        Lynd, Helen Merrell. On Shame and the Search for Identity. New
        York: Harcourt Brace, 1958.
        Marcuse, Herbert. One-Dimensional Man: Studies in the Ideology of
        Advanced Industrial Society. Boston: Beacon, 1964.
        Maslow, Abraham H. Toward a Psychology of Being. Princeton: Van
        Nostrand, 1962.
        Mead, George Herbert. Mind, Self and Society. Chicago: University
        of Chicago Press, 1934.
        Riesman, David, with Nathan Glazer and Reuel Denny. The Lonely
        Crowd: A Study of the Changing American Character. New Haven: Yale
        University Press, 1950.
        Schutz, Alfred. The Phenomenology of the Social World. Evanston:
        Northwestern University Press, 1967.
        Simmel, George. On Individuality and Social Forms. Chicago:
        University of Chicago Press, (1903-1921) 1971.
        Sullivan, Harry Stack. The Fusion of Psychiatry and Social
        Science. New York: Norton, 1964.

Persisting Concerns and Lines of Theorizing


          More recently, studies of self and identity have moved in a
    number of diverse directions. However, two primary sociological texts
    that continue the discussion of the older concerns with the
    self-society connection and the impact of larger social forces on
    consciousness are:
    Berger, Peter L., Brigitte Berger, and Hansfried Kellner. The Homeless
        Mind: Modernization and Consciousness. New York: Vintage, 1973.
        Giddens, Anthony. Modernity and Self-Identity: Self and Society in
        the Late Modern Age. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1991.

Individualism and Self-Fulfillment

          Among others, two works that continue the concern with the self
    spurred by Maslow, Carl Rogers, and others in the Human Potential
    Movement of the 1950s and 1960s, and address the contemporary
    "identity crises" and "tribulations of the self" are:
    Cushman, Philip. Constructing the Self, Constructing America: A
        Cultural History of Psychotherapy. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley,
        Lasch, Christopher. The Minimal Self: Psychic Survival in Troubled
        Times. New York: Norton, 1984.

          For explorations of the changes in the ways people structure
    their sense of self and/or pursue an ethic of self-fulfillment, see:
    Bellah, Robert N., et al. Habits of the Heart: Individualism and
        Commitment in American Life. New York: Harper & Row, 1985.
        Clecak, Peter. America's Quest for the Ideal Self: Dissent and
        Fulfillment in the 60s and 70s. New York: Oxford University Press,
        Hewitt, John P. Dilemmas of the American Self. Philadelphia:
        Temple University Press, 1989.
        Russell, Cheryl. The Master Trend: How the Baby-Boom Generation is
        Remaking America. New York: Plenum, 1993.
        Veroff, Joseph, Elizabeth Douvan, and Richard A. Kulka. The Inner
        American: A Self-Portrait from 1957 to 1976. New York: Basic,
        Yankelovich, Daniel. New Rules: Searching for Self-Fulfillment in
        a World Turned Upside Down. New York: Random House, 1981.

Personality, Character, and Social Change

          Many works trace the emergence of a new personality type or
    character, shaped by or adapted to the changing social, cultural, and
    economic conditions of postindustrial or postmodern life. The new
    personality type has been variously categorized as an "antinomian"
    personality (Adler), a boundaryless self (Bell), a narcissistic
    personality (Lasch, Sennett), a "subject-directed" character
    (Leinberger and Tucker), a protean self (Lifton), a therapeutic
    personality (Rieff), and a "postmodern" (Wood and Zurcher) or
    "mutable" self (Zurcher). As with observers of an earlier generation,
    changes in personality or character are alternatively characterized as
    destructive or liberating, as a sign of cultural decline or a
    potentially fruitful adaptation to contemporary social conditions of
    flux and fragmentation. See:
    Adler, Nathan. The Underground Stream: New Life Styles and the
        Antinomian Personality. New York: Harper and Row, 1972.
        Bell, Daniel. The Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism. New York:
        Basic, 1976.
        Lasch, Christopher. The Culture of Narcissism: American Life in an
        Age of Diminishing Expectation. New York: Norton, 1979.
        Leinberger, Paul, and Bruce Tucker. The New Individualists: The
        Generation after the Organization Man. New York: HarperCollins,
        Lifton, Robert Jay. The Protean Self: Human Resilience in an Age
        of Fragmentation. New York: Basic, 1993.
        Rieff, Philip. The Triumph of the Therapeutic: Uses of Faith After
        Freud. New York: Harper & Row, 1966.
        Sennett, Richard. The Fall of Public Man: On the Social Psychology
        of Capitalism. New York: Knopf, 1977.
        Wood, Michael R., and Louis A. Zurcher, Jr. The Development of a
        Postmodern Self: A Computer-Assisted Comparative Analysis of
        Personal Documents. New York: Greenwood, 1988.
        Zurcher, Louis A., Jr. The Mutable Self: A Self-Concept for Social
        Change. Beverly Hills: Sage, 1977.

Technology and Identity

          Finally, recent studies also continue a concern with the impact
    of technology on consciousness and identity, though new technologies
    have raised new issues. Some works focus on how new communications
    technologies, including the Internet, which free interaction from
    physical co-presence, are affecting the experience of the self as
    unified and coherent and changing the context in which identity is
    constructed. For instance:
    Gergen, Kenneth J. The Saturated Self: Dilemmas of Identity in
        Contemporary Life. New York: Basic, 1991.
        Meyrowitz, Joshua. No Sense of Place: The Impact of Electronic
        Media on Social Behavior. New York: Oxford University Press, 1985.
        Reeves, Byron, and Clifford Nass. The Media Equation: How People
        Treat Computers, Televisions, and New Media as Real People and
        Places. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1996.
        Turkle, Sherry. Life on the Screen: Identity in the Age of the
        Internet. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1995.

          Another emerging interest concerns the new psychopharmacology.
    For a provocative examination of the effects of mood-altering drugs on
    the experience of self, see:
    Kramer, Peter D. Listening to Prozac: A Psychiatrist Explores
        Antidepressant Drugs and the Remaking of the Self. New York:
        Viking, 1993.

New Issues and Directions

          In addition to broad thematic continuities, recent identity
    studies have also departed from the older literature in significant
    ways. The most consequential of the new developments has been to shift
    attention away from a concern with the individual's sense of self to
    issues of collective identity and political action.

Constructionism, Collective Identities, and the Body

          One stream of the new scholarship, the social constructionist,
    has concentrated on identities of race, ethnicity/nation, gender, and
    sexuality. In these studies, collective identities are treated not as
    some primordial property of a group's members, but as interactional
    accomplishments that must be continually renegotiated. The following
    are a few notable examples:
    Anderson, Benedict. Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin
        and Spread of Nationalism. 2nd ed. New York: Verso, 1991.
        Waters, Mary. Ethnic Options: Choosing Identities in America.
        Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990.
        Nagel, Joane. American Indian Ethnic Renewal: Red Power and the
        Resurgence of Identity and Culture. New York: Oxford University
        Press, 1996.

          A notable subset of the constructionist literature questions the
    meaning of biological distinctions, such as the inscription of gender
    on the body and the growing importance of the body to individual and
    collective identities. For example:
    Martin, Emily. The Woman in the Body: A Cultural Analysis of
        Reproduction. Boston: Beacon, 1991.
        Schilling, Chris. The Body and Social Theory. London: Sage, 1993.

Identity Politics

          Following on the politicization of identity by the new social
    movements of the 1960s and 1970s, another, and closely related, stream
    of research has emerged on the constitution of collective identities
    and the political implications that result from group struggles to
    self-characterize and claim social franchise. This is the literature
    on "identity politics," which has been principally, though not
    exclusively, concerned with identities of race, ethnicity, gender,
    sexuality, and social class. For instance:
    Balibar, Etienne, and Immanuel Wallerstein. Race, Nation, Class:
        Ambiguous Identities. London: Verso, 1991.
        Castells, Manuel. The Power of Identity. Vol. 2, The Information
        Age: Economy, Society and Culture. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 1997.
        Dudley, Kathryn Marie. The End of the Line: Lost Jobs, New Lives
        in Postindustrial America. Chicago: University of Chicago Press,

Academic Postmodernism

          Finally, the academic discourse of postmodernism has also been
    centrally concerned with an erosion of the belief in an essence or
    substantial identity defining the person. In fact, Robert Dunn argues
    that "the concept of the postmodern itself was an attempt to
    articulate a growing sense of the problematization of identity as a
    generalized condition of life in postwar Western society" (Identity
    Crises, 2). The literature on the politics of identity, itself a
    version of postmodernism, involves a critique of social hierarchies
    and emphasizes the negotiated and contingent nature of identity,
    difference, and the rules of inclusion and exclusion. Academic
    postmodernism, by contrast, influenced by French poststructuralism,
    involves an epistemological critique and abandonment of the rational
    and unified subject of Enlightenment philosophy. The many works of
    such prominent postmodern theorists as Jean Baudrillard, Jacques
    Derrida, Michel Foucault, and Jean-François Lyotard, all attempt in
    their various ways to "decenter" the subject and deconstruct
    established identity categories and their accompanying power-discourse
    formations. For examples of this type of postmodern theorizing and
    helpful discussions, see:
    Baudrillard, Jean. Simulacra and Simulation. Ann Arbor: University of
        Michigan Press, 1994.
        Best, Steven, and Douglas Kellner. Postmodern Theory: Critical
        Interrogations. New York: Guilford, 1991.
        Butler, Judith. Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of
        Identity. New York: Routledge, 1990.
        Deleuze, Gilles, and Felix Guattari. A Thousand Plateaus:
        Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota
        Press, 1987.
        Derrida, Jacques. Writing and Difference. Chicago: University of
        Chicago Press, 1978.
        Dunn, Robert G. Identity Crises: A Social Critique of
        Postmodernity. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1998.
        Foucault, Michel. Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other
        Writings 1972-1977. New York: Pantheon, 1980.
        Harvey, David. The Condition of Postmodernity: An Enquiry into the
        Origins of Cultural Change. Cambridge, MA: Blackwell, 1989.
        Lyotard, Jean-François. The Postmodern Condition: A Report on
        Knowledge. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1984.

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