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What is Identity?

The one that is common sense to most people is the concept of the individual that expresses the individual in terms of an independence from the set of social relations in which each person is embedded. Here, distinct individuals emerge when human beings are defined against society. Featured in this understanding of the individual is some aspect of the individual that has to be preserved and protected from society or social interests. Key to this understanding of the individual is a potential threat that society poses to some aspect of an individual’s existence. This ‘threat assessment‘ is a determining factor in how some groups and persons identify themselves. They recognize and respond to ‘the other’ as a threat.

Instead of pretending an answer to this question, time would be better spent outlining how to think about it. Identity is a notion that depends on which concept of the individual structures your framework for thinking about how groups of those individuals in society define and recognize each other. There are two basic concepts of the individual that can serve as inputs into evaluations and definitions of identity.

The one that is common sense to most people is the concept of the individual that expresses the individual in terms of an independence from the set of social relations in which each person is embedded. Here, distinct individuals emerge when human beings are defined against society. Featured in this understanding of the individual is some aspect of the individual that has to be preserved and protected from society or social interests. Key to this understanding of the individual is a potential threat that society poses to some aspect of an individual’s existence. This ‘threat assessment‘ is a determining factor in how some groups and persons identify themselves. They recognize and respond to ‘the other’ as a threat.

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The People Called “Lazy” by the Rich Work the Hardest

The individual understood as an expression of social relations is counter intuitive to most people. There is a salient objection to this notion of the individual based on the misunderstanding that it does not allow for unique and distinct individuals. It is difficult to advance the argument that this notion of the individual allows for distinct individuals as unique social products. Emerging out of very personalized sets of social relations, here the individuality of the individual is not defined against social relations but rather as developing in and out of social relations with a constant and dynamic reference to the internal social relations of society. Key to this concept of the individual is an understanding of society as being essential to the nurturing, preservation and protection of the individual.

Once you have figured out which ‘individual’ you want to privilege in your definition of identity, the next step is to determine how a group of your individuals function to define each other in groups and as a group. Here, it is assumed that ‘identity’ is not an individual exercise but an exercise of collective consciousness regardless of which notion or type of individual you choose to frame questions and understandings of identity. Identity is an exercise of collective consciousness that is a-priori recognition. In other words, birds have the same feathers before they flock together.

Middle Class Identity vs. Middle Class Reality

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Review Of The Logic Of Collective Action  By Mancur Olson

If you choose to define the individual in/as a product of society that emerges out of the unique set of social relations in which each person is embedded, identity is a microcosm of society expressed in terms of how a group of people realize individual and social interests that they have in common. If you allow the pejorative notion of the individual that most people recognize as being rugged and emerging out of a state-of-nature as opposed to a set of social relations, identity is expressed in terms of private interests that a group of people pursue in society. Here there arises a complication when the concept ‘private’ and ‘individual’ become conflated to mean the same thing and to express a ‘rugged’ individualism. This complication obscures the distinction between the personal and private.

Affluenza

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How Mexico Became So Corrupt

“In the early 1960s a psychologist named Douglas McGregor observed two basic theories of management. Theory X assumes that most people are naturally indolent and seek to get away with something for which they are not entitled. Theory Y assumes the reverse — that most people are basically honest and hardworking and, if provided with reasonable expectations of satisfactory performance, strive to achieve it.

It may come as no surprise that Mexican companies are overwhelmingly theory X organizations.”

Now in terms of a definition, the question is what is the difference, if any, between people realizing their interest and pursuing their interest. It is a difference that is somewhat specific to this attempt to think about identity. The idea is that realizing interests highlights a process of actualizing or becoming that goes hand-in-hand with the notion of the individual as a social product forged in his or her distinctiveness in a given set of social relations.

Big Campaign Spending: Government by the 1%

The pursuit of interest is more akin to the notion of the individual defined as a distinct distinction from society ‘realizing‘ private interest in a social setting that is instrumental to ‘realizing’ and recognizing the private interest of atomized ‘rugged’ individuals. These individuals form a coalition to exploit the social relations in which they are embedded.

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Suzanne Mettler Talks Our Hidden Government Benefits

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America’s new aristocracy

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This image perfectly sums up inequality in America, according to the Internet

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Slumming It
Shantytown resorts, homeless hotels, and other tasteless vacations for the 1 percent
by Catherine A. Traywick

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Curriculum Vitae

Tom L. States PhD Candidate

Fields of Interest: Political Theory, International Relations, Marxist Political Economy

Research Topic: eRacism - Conflicts of Difference

Education History: Williams College, BA Political Science; New York University, MA Politics; York University PhD Candidate

Languages: English, German

Hometown: Greenwood, Mississippi

Words of Wisdom: “IT” is what you are when you are young. Your youth mistakes certainty of the few things that you think you know for knowledge of things that it takes a life time to understand. With time and a few life experiences “IT” becomes the thing you pursue to give your life meaning. Somewhere along the way of having or getting “IT” you ask yourself, ‘Is this “IT”? Panic sets in when you realize that “IT” is your life. Fear and insecurity is that feeling you get when “IT” has not been worth a life time.

Bookshelf

Harvey, David. Justice, Nature, and the Geography of Difference. New York: Longman, 1996.

Fanon, Frantz. Black Skin White Masks. Trans. Charles Lam Markmann. New York: Grove Press. 1967.

Cancian, Francesca M. Gender Politics: Love and Power in the Private and Public Spheres. Gender and the Life Course. Ed. Alice S. Rossi. New York: Aldine, 1985.

Sand, Shlomo. The Invention of the Jewish People. New York: Verso, 2009.

Lay, Shawn. The Invisible Empire In The West: Toward a New Historical Appraisal of the Ku Klux Klan of the 1920's. Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2004.

Journal

Carothers, Thomas. Think Again: Civil Society. Foreign Policy Date, (Winter: 1999-2000).

Ober, Josiah. The original meaning of "democracy": Capacity to do things, not majority rule. Princeton/Stanford Working Papers in Classics. American Political Science Association meetings, Philadelphia, (2006).