What is the place of personal identity in the society? How can we draw a borderline between societal identity and personal identity judging from their relatedness? How can we separate between ideas and opinion that are formed by person and that which is formed by the society where the person lives in? To what extent do these two relate? These and many more questions are what we bare in mind when we talk about self and society. In this essay, my task will be to explore and evaluate these two ideas with the purpose of curling out a model of spotting identity of the self from that of the society.
This I plan to achieve by a critical analysis of some terms and concepts that connects both concepts together. The first concept that I will be discussing is what we mean when we talk about the concept of sameness and difference. Evaluating personal identity from the perspective of sameness and difference, we are faced with the problem of relatedness. Assuming that characters A, which is represented by the self, and B, which is represented by the society have the same C, which is identity. For instances, we hold some certain believes that we also find as societal believes.
Of course the society existed before the individual and so this poses a problem which is the place of individual identity. Since the society existed before the individual and they both share the same believes, it then follows that there is no difference between personal identity and societal identity. However, this does not give place to the mental attributes of man. If we are to follow this claim, then we will be forced to deny the place man’s rational abilities. But there are some aspects of human life that validates human mental abilities. Furthermore, one can not speak of identity without understanding the “self”.
Williams James, once said of the concept “self” that it is “the most puzzling puzzle with which psychology has to deal,” The self determines our understanding of the world. The way we understand the concept is determines the way we view, understand and build our person in the world. Although we don’t know where the “self” resides but we are sure that there is the self. The self is what gives us the ability to form opinions and personal ideals and principles. The self is the individual thing that confers difference, uniqueness and distinctiveness to man.
It is that thing that draws man away from the universal to the realm of the particular. There are, however, cases where people have a problem with multiple identities. This happens when one is thorn between two extremely contrasting personalities. This might happen if a person belongs to two different social identities. With the growth of globalization, it is not strange to see people having multiple identities. For instance, given the case of an Iranian who lives in America? In this case, it is impossible to rule out a personality clash between the two extremely distant social identities.
In identifying personal identity, another concept that must be discussed is the concept of the self “I” and the self “me”. The distinction between these two conceptions of self resides in the fact that when we talk about the self “I”, we are speaking of the self as the subjective knower while the other self, Self “me” talks of the self as the objective knower or what is known. Explaining this further, we can say that the first sense of self is the active knower while the other is the passive knower, the object of what is known. As human beings, we are social animals who want a sense of belonging.
As a way of achieving this, we associate ourselves with several associations; people that share the same views as ourselves so that we can have a platform to express our personal identities. These associations use symbols that produce a sort of psychological, societal and psychic relationship between its members such that when these symbols are seen on e would readily identify with these people. Symbols are thus used to create uniqueness for these associations and overtime, the members come to identify with these signs such that it is difficult to separate them from these signs/symbols.
In the social context, interpellation is the association with an idea or a concept. It is generally a way by which people come to identify themselves with certain ideas, ideals such that when such things are referred to, one simply knows that it is referred to in relation to you. An example of this is names, gender, preferences like being gay and other personalized ideas that have become a necessary part of the person in question. Interpellation therefore is the identification of oneself with a particular idea, word or some other personalized concepts.