The Social Self



This IS hard reading. The vocabulary tends to be "serious" and the arguments complex. You are, to some degree in most of these readings, entering an ongoing conversation among participants who are really smart and who really know what they are talking about. It IS a struggle to follow them. Luckily, the conversation is written down so we can take our time, re-read as necessary, and consult other sources without interrupting the flow of the conversation.


Before we start, let's put these authors on a time-line.
Thinker 1840 - 1850 - 1860 - 1870 - 1880 - 1890 - 1900 - 1910 - 1920 - 1930 - 1940 - 1950 - 1960 - 1970

Are These Folks Interesting?

  1. The individual, so obviously a unitary "object," is in fact a thing with an inside, with parts and components.
  2. The self, rather than just being what it is, follows a developmental trajectory.
  3. The components of the self rather than being in harmony, may, in fact, be in tension.
  4. Civilization, usually taken to be the measure of the good, could, in fact, be neurotic.

Micro Outline

Next, let's just visit each thinker and remind ourselves of main ideas/concepts.

  1. Thinker and Main Idea
    1. James, William (1842–1910) "The Self and Its Selves" (1890) (161-166)
      • James shows that the self has structures, facets, that it has social parts, that the experience of its coherence is analyzable.
    2. Cooley, Charles Horton. (1864-1929). "The Looking-Glass Self" (1902) (189)
      • We know who we are and what to do by thinking about how we'll feel about how others will see us.
    3. Du Bois, William Edward Burghardt (W.E.B.). (1868–1963). "Double-Consciousness and the Veil" (1903)(167-172)
      • There is a group identity in addition to individual identity and we need to investigate how it works…
    4. Saussure, Ferdinand de. (1857-1913). "Arbitrary Social Values and the Linguistic Sign" 1906-11 (152-160)
      • Language as model for how self enacts and is constrained by the social and the special unitary (dialectic) nature of its structure.
    5. Freud, Sigmund. (1856-1939) "The Psychical Apparatus and the Theory of Instincts" (1900-39) (130-133)
      • Tripartite self: id, ego, superego. Superego is society, Id is primitive and unruly, ego wants to manage things. Reality plays a role.
    6. Sigmund. (1856-1939) "Civilization and the Individual" 1930.(149-151)
      • An analogy can be drawn between individual development and societal.
    7. Mead, George Herbert. (1863-1931) "The Self, the I, and the Me" ca.1929.(224-229)
      • Self is a social product.
    8. Parsons, Talcott. (1902–1979) "The Unit Act of Action Systems" (1937) (13-215)
      • Act is the atom, Actor a component. Means/Ends. Means subject to normative constraint.
    9. Erikson, Erik H. (1902–1994) "Youth and American Identity" (1950) (334-337)
      • Identity as new concept. Stages of ego development. Vulnerability to group identification varies over life course.
    10. Goffman, Erving. (1922–1982)1955. "On Face-Work" (1955) (338-343)
      • Face as ritual value of the self that is put "on the line" in interaction.

The Overall Story Line?

  1. Self un-analyzed (atomic, no inside) — implied by all but we didn't read anyone with this idea
  2. Can we say what all of these authors are trying to do (or what we are making them try to do — these are excerpts chosen by us for our purposes)?
    • What is my model of the human person such that I can use it as the basis for thinking about how society emerges when a whole bunch of them are put together
      • BUT: several of my theorists are warning me that there is not a self

Drawing a Family Tree

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