Discuss the different ways in which the psychodynamic and social constructionist perspectives see the self as fragmented and distributed.
An autonomous, bounded and unitary perception of self identity is believed to be essential for 'healthy' people, particularly in western societies (Thomas, 1996, p.319). However, the social constructionist perspective argues that the self concept is constructed by an amalgamation of influence's dependant on social interaction with others and the impact of culture (Kondo, 1990). Thus, the social constructionist approach implies that there is no singular self but rather selfhood is distributed and continually evolving through external interactions which fuse with our private inner world, hence constructing internalisation's of multiple social and historical identities (Wetherell and Maybin, 1996, p.230). Social constructionist's utilise a societal level of analysis involving social relations to explain the non-unitary self. However, the psychodynamic perspective incorporates an intrapersonal explanation focusing on interactions between the unconscious and society (Sapsford, 1996, p.68-72). This intrapersonal explanation concentrates on how introjections of external people are internalised to produce a fragmented self (Thomas, 1996, p.290). Nevertheless, a sense of unity is produced by unconscious defence mechanisms, which suppresses this fragmentation from conscious awareness. However, this conscious reality of selfhood is argued to be partial or a defensive illusion of the real self (Thomas, 1996, p.312). The essay will begin by briefly outlining the theory of the self proposed by both perspectives, then compare and evaluate the non-unitary explanation offered by them. Finally the essay will examine how postmodernism affects the fragmented and distributed self.
Anthropologist's ethnographic accounts of disparate cultures are utilised to support the argument that the self is socially constructed through socialisation processes (Sapsford, 1996, p.68). For example, Markus and Kitayama proposed that a greater sense of autonomy in western cultures compared to eastern cultures was due to social influence (Wetherell and Maybin, 1996, p.233). Thus, the social constructionist perspective believes that our private inner worlds are merged with the social context of our exterior environment, while the self continually develops employing multiple internalisation's of social identities. This internalisation Harre believes occurs through language, linguistic practices and discourse. Language is also utilised for internal symbolisation (Wetherell and Maybin, 1996, p.224-229). To clarify the boundaries between the individual and society Mauss suggested that self identity consists of two constituents, the 'moi' provides awareness of selfhood in terms of individuality, while 'personne' consists of social influences that are constructs of society offering commonalties such as appropriate social behaviour (Wetherell and Maybin, 1996, p.230). Hence, the social constructionist perspective argues that self identity is constructed through a fusion of interactions between society and the individual (Wetherell and Maybin, 1996, p.265). For example, social constructionist's Miller and Sperry imply that they found connections between a child emotions and its mother's emotions, which they believe demonstrates an internalisation and construction of the self through narrative stories and social distribution (Wetherell and Maybin, 1996, p.255-258).
Both the social constructionist and psychodynamic perspectives apply a hermeneutic epistemology, thus, centring on interpreting peoples actions, their underlying influences and how the external social world becomes internalised and symbolically represented within the individual (Stevens, 1996, p.81-83). Nevertheless, there are fundamental differences between the two perspectives. The social constructionist utilises a societal analysis which converges on wider...
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