23 January 2008
Yim, Jaeyeon. 'State Identity' and 'Collective Self': Problems and Solutions Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association, Hilton Chicago and the Palmer House Hilton, Chicago, IL, Sep 02, 2004. 2006-10-05 [http://www.allacademic.com/meta/p59936_index.html]
Abstract: While we take for granted the prevalence of “self” in key terms such as self-help, self-preservation, or self-determination in the theory of international relations, the ways in which the collective “self” should be conceptualized and applied to the analysis of conflicts between selves remain obscure. The constructivist perspective, as one of many efforts to understand interstate relations by way of situating a “self” with relation to an “other” positioned to play a counterrole at the interpersonal level, explains interactions between states by using the notion of “state identity.” This perspective offers limited insights due to the incompatible components of the term “state identity,” which is oriented toward an external, as opposed to internal, perspective of “identity.” As a result of using “state identity” in this way, we construe an actor’s identity not by what the actor does, but by virtue of how an author has ascribed a certain “identity” to the state; the term “identity” is treated as a mere taxonomic tool according to a particular author’s research focus, which is separate from the actor’s self-conception and the actor’s identification with and commitment to that “identity.” As a result, the distinct perspective resulting from such a consideration of “identity” leaves the real actors and their self-identification out of the study of international relations. In this paper I question the theoretical postulation of “state identity,” i.e., state as a unitary actor, in two ways: (1) I point out that the convention of seeing the state as a unitary actor who plays an assigned role is derived from a dramaturgical metaphor and I question how the metaphor can be adequately applied to the study of “state identity” by covering two important aspects of the actor––what constitutes the actor and the way in which an actor’s self-conceptualization affects his choice of action in different contexts; and (2) I reconsider the use of metonymy in ordinary language. Metonymy enables us to refer to the subject of an action as though it were a single coherent entity and I show that the concept of “state identity” is an example of metonymy.
Because the subject of “identity” shifts between individuals and groups, in order to make sense of an actor’s “identity” in international relations, we should examine the ways in which members of a nation interact with their political leaders in the process of identifying who they are, on the one hand, the ways in which political leaders as co-members of the nation implement certain national policies against other nations, on the other. Based on the insights of a social identity perspective from social psychology, I present “collective self” as a useful concept for international relations by focusing on people’s identification of “self” within the context of the group to which they belong. Viewed from the perspective of the subjective self or others, what the “self” is represents a different identity. I highlight the role of memory in the subjective meaning of one’s “identity” and sense of “self.” In further developing the notion of memory, I introduce three conceptual stages of “collective self”––remembering self, securitizing self, and legalizing self––as part of a larger conceptual framework which inks constitution of the “collective self” to the sources, formulation, and implementation of national security policy.
22 January 2008
It's a dead end discussion anyway. Easy enough to say that our socially-defined roles are in conflict with themselves, the functional role and the ideal role no longer corresponding to each other, but where do you go after that?
In other words: you may be a free individual, equal to me because of your humanity, but your a still just a janitor, how dare you say "hi' to the CEO.
But it is not the issue of conformance. It is the issue of abstracted ideals traditionally being the demense of the elite, and being elite, the elite were provided with a support structure that promoted this abstracted ideal self. But today, when everyone has an abstracted ideal self in a model of equality and freedom, the social support networks don't function, since they are still largely focused on one's role in society rather than the ideal they profess to support. It is not that the model is wrong, it is just that it has no support structure to bolster it, so it comes off feeling like nothing more than an empty promise to too many. Given our current political systems, the only way to preserve equality is through hierarchy ... go figure. If something requires that it be its own antithesis in order to function, what does that say about it? Definitely a thorny question.
But the point it was all coming out of was that the self of freedom and equality is an abstracted self, and in that sense a fictional, contrived, or constructed self that is often at odds with the socially perceived and socially defined self. Perhaps then the first step in the idea of constructed selves that is in line with modern attitudes toward self, as well as the ability of real people to become fictional through the process of media, as well as the ability of fictional people to become real through the same vehicle.
11 January 2008
Okay, last time I suggested that a strong platform of humans rights creates an interesting conundrum. It assigns an arbitrary, idealized definition of self to all individuals that has no bearing on nor interaction with their role in society. It is not a social standing, but an abstract ideal. Furthermore, I suggested that such an abstract ideal was formerly reserved for nobility and the clergy, the members of which represented high level abstract notions of nobility and divinity.
Although interestingly stated, we probably haven't escaped basic anthropology yet.
So the next step and question has to do with the significance of this assertion. What happens when people lose strong, clearl defined identities for abstract and arbitrary ones? What happens is lots of discourse about the loss of self. But interestingly, though some nobility and clergy have gone insane in dramatic ways, that can mostly be explained by huge amounts of inbreeding and the fact that power attracts the eccentrics. So, if the nobility and clergy of days gone by could keep their sense of self when functioning as metonym for social abstractions, why can't everyone else.
Well, it seems there are a few reasons. The simplest is that being a member of an exclusive club ensures that the number of people arguing about what it means to be a member of said exclusive club means. In fact, there is a strong impetus for conformity so that you don't get kicked out of the exclusive club.
In other words, and the more important reason, there is a social support network, either positive or negative in its agency, that assists in creating a strong sense of self for nobility and clergy.
However, when the idealized self is abstracted out to all people, the support network does not scale with it. This is where the problem resides, and where all the discourse about the current loss of self comes from. It is not the self that is lacking, but the social support network that is now faced with many contradictory messages. On one hand, the social support network is supposed to promote one's role in society. On the other hand, one's role in society has been redefined as mutuable and fluid, something to be countermanded by one's right to change their station in life. And this mutability is in direct conflict with older social networks which attempt to define one's role in older more static social models. We have conflicting social messages that are not necessarily commensurable.
So the question then is not how to instill a strong sense of self in people again (which would involve a rather draconian solution), but rather how to create social networks that can support and promote a sense of self within the context of a deep self that is, in the end, and unrealizable ideal. Certainly the unrealizable ideal is not the issue. Pure nobility and pure divinity are also both unrealizable ideals, and yet there were social support networks to keep them in place.
It should be noted that some people are perfectly successful in the new social model, so it is not something inherint in human nature, but rather a contextual factor. I would propose that these successful people come in two categories: those who cling successfully to the old models of social station, and those who have found away to define themselves comfortably as mutable and have found a sense of self external to social station.
So, if the latter is preferable, what is it about these people that allows them to comfortably define themselves as mutable? How broadly can such a definition of self be spread to others?
Which is a good question to end on.