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Chapter 9 INDIVIDUALISM AND INWARDNESS AS SOCIAL PRODUCTS IN THE PERSPECTIVE of IR chains, is there any place left for the individual ? It might seem that the theory fails to do justice to individuals, and especially to their autonomy, idiosyncracy, and apartness. The modal character of IR theory seems to be a gregarious extrovert, always caught up in the mood of the crowd or the buzz of a conversation, seeking attention, shunning solitude. What about the nonstandard personality , going his or her own way, the individualist, the nonconformist ? Can IR chains account for the introvert, the person who dislikes parties and noisy crowds, who prefers his or her own thoughts to others ’ conversation? Why are there persons who find books interesting and people boring? Why are there moments when we would much rather be alone watching the clouds taking their shapes across the sky? In short, can IR theory account for persons who are deep rather than shallow, independent rather than approval seeking? Since most readers of a book such as this, and most intellectuals generally , are likely to fall nearer the individualistic and introverted end of the spectrum, IR theory had better be able to account for them if it is to have any claim to general validity. In the Durkheimian tradition, the individual emerges by an apportioning out of collective energies and representations. When a particular human body walks away from a social encounter, he or she carries a residue of emotions and symbols, and what he or she does in those moments alone comes from their interplay, whether reflecting backward in time, forward to future encounters, or into an inner space of thought, mind, or subjectivity. Mead’s symbolic interactionism gives another version of the same: the self is internalized from interaction. This has been the core sociological position throughout the twentieth century; our researches have accumulated plenty of evidence to support it. The only issue, it seems to me, is whether we have the nerve to go all the way with it, to confront the biases of modern culture that, in Goffman’s terms, make a sacred object out of the individual, and carry on a cult worshiping the image of the self. The image, be it noted, since in Goffman’s interaction ritual it is a social representation of what the self is supposed to be, not a true, inner, autonomous self. As Goff- 346 CHAPTER NINE man said in the conclusion to The Presentation of Self (1959, 252): the self is the product of a successful interactional performance, “of a scene that comes off, and is not a cause of it.” Standing against this central sociological tradition there are, to be sure, some respectable alternatives. There is the rationally calculating, selfish individual of the utilitarian tradition, enshrined in economic theory, and in a good deal of modern political philosophy, with a bridgehead in sociology itself. There is Freud’s conception of the id, the unsocialized core of human desire. Perhaps most importantly for persons who think of themselves as intellectuals, there is the tradition of the free-thinking artist, the rebel, defying convention and scorning success in order to follow the dictates of his or her wild, impetuous, creative soul—I have purposely let the description get carried away into its full nineteenth-century Byronic rhetoric, to remind us that this way of talking about the individual self is a historically situated tradition . When we extol individual genius in its struggle against social conformity we are, far from rebelling and displaying our uniqueness, revealing our membership in a widespread modern cult movement. And finally, we might take note of a perspective that is not popular among contemporary intellectuals although it is there in the historical background: a religious perspective that holds that what is most real about the self is inward, not outward, not reducible to society or to anything else. Expressed in secular terms, this says that it is what happens inside that is ultimately most valuable, what takes place in your own consciousness, your particularized vantage point of the world and your own experience in it; that is what makes you what you are: “They may control my body, but they can’t control my mind; I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul.” With historical reflexivity one can see the social roots of this way of thinking; but that does not invalidate the substance of the argument: the inner individual is what counts. The weakness...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9781400851744
Related ISBN
9780691123899
MARC Record
OCLC
268794099
Pages
464
Launched on MUSE
2016-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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