Re: [xmca] Vygotsky on Identity?

From: Andy Blunden <ablunden who-is-at>
Date: Thu Nov 22 2007 - 15:57:43 PST

Wow! that's an answer, Erik!

So putting Tony's and your answer together, Erik, I think we have it that
lack of interest in identity is something that reaches back into a cultural
legacy that preceded and underlay the Soviet experience, yes? And we assume
that "lack of interest" in identity amongst path-breaking psychologists
means that the concept was invisible for anyone in those communities, and
we suspect that the same goes for other peoples who have not had the
pleasure of modern corporate capitalism. Tony cites Erik Erikson as putting
it down to Luther, i.e., the idea of a personal conscience and the idea of
personal access to God. It always seemed to me that Luther and his fellows
were able to form this idea of God because His representative on Earth was
so remote. ? The further you were from God's representative on Earth, the
more it made sense to rely on your conscience. The connection with
incipient capitalism is also clear enough, with every person having to
become a trader in their own right in order to live, rather than simply
getting to know their station in life. In any case, we surely then have to
include in our account of identity, the conditions which make consciousness
of identity possible, before we get to the interpersonal transactions which
are generally seen as lying at the base of identity-formation?


At 11:44 PM 22/11/2007 +0100, you wrote:
>Identity ... personality - tricky words...
>Eric Ramberg wrote some interesting things a couple of months ago (?) on this
>issue - apparently mesmerized by the unexpected prospects of not having a
>"personality when I am by myself…":
>"Personality surely develops as a social formation but once formulated I
>do not believe it is only a social entity that results from group
>activity. Human personality is far more sophisticated then being able to
>be whittled down to the social and cultural interactions a person has in
>their life."
>Eric is "greatly interested in reading what the current Russian scholars have
>to say," and Mike confirms that "there has been a lot of attention in Russian
>psychology to ‚€˜the subject‚€™ or subjectivity."
>The very translation of the Russian term ‚€˜lichnost` (‚€œpersonality‚€)
>to be surrounded by uncertainties. According to the Russo-American scholar
>Kharkhordin (1999), the difficulty in translation stems from the richness of
>meanings of the word ‚€˜litso‚€™ in contemporary Russian. As Kharkhorkin has
>pointed out, the Russian term for ‚€™person‚€™ (litso) has several meanings,
>related to some extent to the original translations of the Greek word
>or the Latin word persona. Lichina was a medieval term linked to litse,
>designating the masks of the Russian popular minstrels (skomorokhi), who
>were denounced by the Church for their pagan rites and plays, hence the
>term‚€™s derogatory connotation. The word could also mean the image or
>depiction of a human. A seemingly simple word ‚€˜lik‚€™, in the sense of
>‚€œdepiction‚€ and ‚€œimage,‚€ is registered only in 17th-century sources. A
>completely etymologically unrelated ‚€˜lik‚€™ meaning ‚€œa choir‚€
>(likovat‚€™, to
>sing, to rejoice), existed since the 11th century, lik in the meaning of
>‚€œimage‚€ is an homonymic later creation (according to Barkhudarov,
>russkogo iazyka). Russian lexicologists seem to agree that the term
>lichnost‚€™ appeared in the middle of the eighteenth century but acquired
>its modern meaning only in the middle of the nineteenth. One of the later
>creations is oblik (in the sense of outward appearance), which was also a
>frequently used term for an entity revealed during the purges. This word
>was most often used in Bolshevik discourse in the stable expression
>moral‚€™nyi oblik, ‚€œmoral character.‚€
>Several scholars have pointed out a startling similarity of the practices of
>the Communist Control Commissions and monastic disciplinary practices and the
>practices of ecclesiastical courts which followed the tripartite Orthodox
>law process to denounce, to admonish and, if necessary, to excommunicate.
>Among the Josephites the individual monk had been under constant
>surveillance by a core group of ‚€˜bigger brothers‚€™ who enforced
>congregational discipline. The Russo-American scholar Oleg Kharkhordin
>suggests that the Soviet collective was structured on the model of a
>virtuous Orthodox congregation and that these practices soon pervaded
>every social body so that every lichnost‚€™ lived under the tyranny of a
>multitude of sanctimonious bigger brothers. The rejection of the
>personality cult (kul‚€™t lichnosti) was just an extreme case of this
>general tendency. Although there is a difference between the organically
>grown Gemeinschaft of the Russian tradition and the state-created
>collective, it was less the imposed discipline in the collective which
>irritated its members than the suspicions, the informers and the
>artificial and arbitrary reconstructions of social life.
>According to A. Buss ("Russian Orthodox Tratdition and Modernity", 2003:186),
>"Russians have traditionally believed that their country is the land of
>the one and indivisible truth (pravda, which means both truth and justice)
>which can be discovered only by the community as a whole. There is in
>their tradition no concept of a relative truth or of the possibility of
>many aspects or versions of the truth. Laws or even a constitution
>achieved by a compromise between independent and autonomous individuals or
>parties may therefore seem of inferior value to them; they may be useful,
>but they are not pravda."
>There was, according to Kharkhordin, a transition from analysis of
>‚€œessential class features‚€ to the analysis of the self, revealed in
>demonstrated deeds in all spheres of life, perhaps facilitated by the
>discovery that establishing the class essence does not guarantee the
>loyalty of the Party member. Starting from the 1933 purge one of the main
>subversions was seen as dvulichie and dvurushnichestvo, as
>‚€œdouble-facedness‚€, ‚€œdouble-handedness‚€ and ‚€œdouble-dealing.‚€
>Apparently a
>check of outward appearances did not reveal double-dealing enemies. They
>had two faces, and the hidden one was to be unveiled by the analysis of
>actual deeds. Therefore, a search for a true self hidden under the outward
>appearance of loyalty also contributed to an emphasis on the revelation of
>inner, invisible qualities. Analysis of demonstrated deeds sought to
>uncover something more profound than outward features: certain hidden
>psychological states were to be imputed as the source of observable
>By the 1970s, the transition from revealing a certain visible essence of
>the individual to an inner hidden self was already complete. This inner
>structure of the self was revealed by observable deeds and captured by the
>word lichnost‚€™.
>xmca mailing list

  Andy Blunden : tel (H) +61 3 9380 9435,
mobile 0409 358 651

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Received on Thu Nov 22 15:58 PST 2007

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