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Is identity given to us or do we create our own?

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Introduction

Is identity given to us or do we create our own? The fact that our society, social institutions, arrangements and practices existed before we were born meant that we make associations with the living and the dead, in a socially constructed world created by past and present generations: 'The individual ...is not born a member of society, but becomes a member of society'. (Haralambos, 1980 p.3) In order to develop a sense of identity it is necessary to have self-awareness. As infants we have a lot to learn: 'It (new born baby) must learn a way of life; in sociological terminology, it must learn the culture of life'. (Haralambos, 1980 p.3) Every culture contains a large number of norms that guide our action and define what is acceptable and what is not. Unlike norms values are something's that are good or desirable. Values define what is important. Many sociologists believe that shared norms and values are essential for an ordered and stable human society. Culture has two essential qualities. First it has to be learned and second it has to be shared. ...read more.

Middle

Interactionists believe that individuals are conscious, self-aware and that their individual social action is not simply a reaction to external forces. The first school of Interactionist thought is from Max Weber (1864 - 1920) who wanted to explain how our social actions have meaning to us. He believed that our individual behaviours and actions would take into consideration the reaction of others. Also that this action would be interpreted/understood in different ways. Weber distinguishes two types of understanding. First aktuelles Verstehen (or direct observational understanding) and erkalarendes verstehen (or explanatory understanding). These understandings would mean that as individuals we are conscious and self-aware as to why we do certain things. George H. Mead (1863 - 1931) who also argues in 'Mind, Self and Society' that we are each conscious, thinking, individuals and the way choose to behave is conditioned by the social context of that behaviour. Our behaviour argues Mead is conditioned by two aspects of self-awareness, I and Me. I is based around your opinion of yourself as a whole. Me is based around what other people expect. The I and Me are called The Self. ...read more.

Conclusion

Under Marxist theory social class is the most important source of self-image and self-identity. To answer the question of whether identity is created or given to us I have used two different sociological approaches, structural and social action. In my conclusion I would like to mention one last theory by Anthony Giddens who incorporates both structure and agency in his theory. Giddens believes that there is a complex interplay between structures in society and our social action as agents: 'A double involvement or interdependence in which human beings create society and at the same time are created by it....sometimes referred to as a dialectical relationship'. (Bilton, Bonnet, Jones, Lawson, Skinner, Stanworth, Webster 2002 p.18) I agree with this view that the process in which my identity is created is a result of social structures and human creativity interacting rather than them being separate. As C. Wright Mills observed: 'Every individual lives, from one generation to the next, in some society...he lives out a biography, and...he lives it out within some historical sequence. By the fact of his living he contributes, however minutely, to the shaping of his society and to the course of its history, even as he is made by society and by it's historical push and shove'. (Mills, 1970 p. ...read more.

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