Vygotskian Writings Теоретическая психология Выготскианские тексты


The social relevance of a psychosocial identity



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The social relevance of a psychosocial identity


The claim to have a given social identity imposes the criterion of considering certain criteria as indispensable for belonging to this category, with such evidence that is not contested even by those who lack these criteria. This can be illustrated by the phenomenon of the sinner’s remorse. A sinner is someone lacking acts that serve as criteria of belonging to a social category valued ideologically and, for this reason, finding himself excluded by those who legitimately belong there. The sinner, smitten with remorse, excludes himself and by doing so, together with authentic representatives of this category, shows that he belongs to it, too. Sinners who repent are highly valorized by ideological categories because it is this paradox of their social identity that perhaps best distinguishes social identity from natural identity (in which, let us remember, none can show his belonging to a category without producing what is considered as its signs).

So far, the matter in question is about really lacking acts that are the criteria of a claimed social identity and, consequently, finding himself enclosed in a paradoxical dilemma: whether to claim the social identity in question and, in this way, add to a lack on the object level another on the meta-level’(i.e. add to acting inadequately thinking inadequately on that act), or, to punish by excluding himself from the community of that social identity and, thus, redeem the lack at the object level by this fervour at the meta-level.

Another type of paradox of social categorization, quite different from the previous one as to its structure, is that of confession of non-committed crimes. The whole generation of people committed to the left-wing cause has made efforts to find out the horrific secret of social psychological drives of those accusers of the Moscow (see Medvediev, 1972), Budapest (Savarius [Szasz], 1963) and Prague trials (London, 1976) who displayed compliance with the violent demand of confessing merely imagine acts of high treason supposedly committed against the Communist Party in order to display their intransigent devotion to this party. The matter is that the very act of insisting on not having done anything against the Party would constitute the act itself against the Party, as far as the Party is identified with the directives issued by its leaders and when these latter prescribe precisely the confession of non committed acts against the Party. (For other aspects of paradoxes of social identity see Garai, 1977, 1981, 1983, 1985; Garai & Eros, 1976; Garai et al., 1979.)

With the paradoxical definition of social identity, social reproduction is at stake. In each society there exist cultural (both technical and moral) models of well defined social identity with a high reproduction rate, while differently identified models have a more or less lower chance to dispose of material conditions of their reproduction. There exists a correspondence between the socio-economic identity defined by the distribution of these material conditions of social reproduction between social categories, on the one hand, and the psychosocial identity defining the attribution of more or less value to social categories, on the other.

Socio-economic identity endows psycho-social identity with an energetic aspect defining to what extent social categories in a given historical period of a given society are or are not able to tolerate each other’s existence or being included in a given (familial, friendly, club, work etc.) setting, individual cases . of belonging to both categories, etc. On the other hand, the psycho-social identity endows the socio-economic one with an informational aspect that defines what kind of social (economic, national, religious, cultural etc.) categories are included in and excluded from the disposition of material means of reproduction.

Now, this two-way determination becomes accessible for investigation as far as the two level organization of relations and its paradoxes are taken into consideration. Thus, for example, investigations about intergroup relations (such as the Bogardus survey), taking into consideration only the object level of really existing, socio-economically created interaction of groups, had almost no psycho-social character. When Sheriff (1966) got interested in the matter of this latter character he created artificially this aspect by means of an experimental manipulation of such formal components of the meta-level as co-operation and competition. On the contrary, Tajfel (1981, pp. 228-253 and 268-287) discovered that the real social context imposes upon an experiment not only an object level of the real socio-economic membership groups of its subjects, but also a meta-level of their willingness to establish psycho-social groups of any kind and categorically exaggerate the internal similarities and external differences of both the pre-existing and the newly established groups.

The same is true for the opposite form of the above relations. There is probably not much possibility of demonstrating that a psycho-socially founded category becomes a socio-economically relevant one (claiming, for example, that such-and-such psycho-social group becomes the dominant class). Nevertheless, we know the investigation of Voslensky (1980) about the Nomenklatura. The Nomenklatura is a set of key positions interrelated with each other in the social structure of “really existing socialism” and a set of people who can exclusively occupy these positions. Now, the author provides the richest picture of a psycho-social game regulating the matter of who occupies which position, and he succeeds in outlining how this game regulates the socio-economic structure of a society because both the latter’s object level and its meta-level are concerned with a paradox introduced by the former. The nature of this paradox is as follows:

Those in more central positions subsequently define the rules of the game according to which they are previously elected, or members are subsequently elected for more central positions entitling them to define previously the rules of this game. In such a system social identity once defined by psycho-social means is reproduced according to socio-economic ends.

But taking into account the paradoxical structure of social identity we may advance toward a psycho-economic theory comprehending both psycho-social definition and socio-economic reproduction of patterns of social identity.52

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