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Compare And Contrast The Contributions Made By Any Two Perspectives To Our Understanding Of The Self.

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The social constructionist perspective holds the view that the self is continuing "shaped and reshaped through interactions with others and involvement in social and cultural activities" (Wetherell & Maybin, 1996, p 220). Social constructionist is concerned with explicating the processes by which people come to describe, explain, or otherwise account for the world (including themselves) in which they live (Gergen, 1971). Thus, the social constructionist approach implies that the self is shaped by social interaction within historical, cultural and social contexts. Social constructionist's apply an analysis of societal level which explain the self through social relations. Conversely, the psychodynamic perspective approach emphasises that much of the self of what we are driven by is hidden away in the unconscious and a battle for control takes place between the id, ego and superego. It is a very important point as it suggests that our internal representations of the world could be based on some innate propensities and these of course are unconscious. This interrelationship between world and the unconscious seek to rationalise that a self is produced through the internalization of the introjections of external people (Thomas, 1996). The essay will provide a brief introduction to the theory of the self as presented by both perspectives, then compare and evaluate the explanation offered by them.


Ethnographic accounts of incongruent cultures as provided by anthropologist are used to defend the argument that the self is socially constructed through socialisation processes (Sapsford, 1996). For example, Markus and Kitayama proposed that with the existence of social influence, there is a greater sense of autonomy in western cultures as compared to the eastern (Wetherell & Maybin, 1996). Therefore, the social constructionist point of view is that our personal private worlds are fused with our external environment's social contact. On the other hand, the self will continue to develop through the utilization of multiple internalisation's of social identities.

Harre believes that this internalisation can occur through language, linguistic practices and conversations. Language can be used for internal symbolisation. (Wetherell and Maybin, 1996). In order to explain the boundaries between an individual self and the society, Mauss proposed that the self identity comprise of two components, the "moi" provides awareness of one selfhood in the individual sense, whereas the "personne" comprises of social influences, such as appropriate social behaviour, which make up a society (Wetherell & Maybin, 1996). Therefore, the argument as presented by the social constructionist view is that self identity is shaped through a combination of interactions between the society and the individual (Wetherell and Maybin, 1996). An example to support would be social constructionist's Miller and Sperry whose finding discovered connections in the emotions of a child's and his mother's. Thus they believe that this finding proves that there is an internalisation and construction of one self through descriptive stories and social distribution (Wetherell & Maybin, 1996).

Both the social constructionist and the psychodynamic views adopt a hermeneutic epistemology, which centers on the analysis of a person's actions, their fundamental influences and how the external social world can be internalised and represented symbolically within an individual (Stevens, 1996). However, there are key differences between the two views. The social constructionist applies a societal study approach which converge the external society and the social relationships within it. This implying that the self is built-up and continually developed through multiple social networks (Sapsford, 1996). On the other hand, psychodynamic theories applies psychoanalytical methods to find out the basic unconscious motives and meanings derived from oral descriptions of subjective experiences, which eventually bring about selfhood as an idiosyncratic 'psychic reality, with its basis formed during the initial stages of one's life (Thomas, 1996). This intuitive reality one self can be influenced by intentions unaware, biological needs and interactions with the external world, especially "significant others" (Thomas, 1996). Also, an additional significant aspect as suggested by this intrapersonal view is that the self is made up of fragments which are connected by active internal processes (Sapsford, 1996).

There is inference from both views that the development of self hood is non-unitary. The social constructionist postulates that through participation in social relationships, characteristics are formed. As such, the self is dispersed within society (Wetherell & Maybin, 1996). Mead supports such social aspect of the self, through the use of "role play", whereby children internalise values of a multitude of people which are important for social and moral development (Wetherell & Maybin, 1996). Experience and meanings are exchanged as the roles of others are employed, which leads to internalisation, to become a part of one's self identity. (Thomas, 1996). Therefore, the distinction which Mead makes - that the self comprise of two aspects, is similar to Mauss. The self as "I" is intuitive, whereas the distinctive object "Me" is the development of generalised attitudes and morals of others which are shared and internalised. The modification of one's internalisation remains to continue and this can lead to potential conflicts between an individual's needs and the internalised group standards (Wetherell & Maybin, 1996).

Internalisation of others is also critical in the psychodynamic explanations of a self. However, these internalisation's happens through the unconscious introjections of knowledge structures of others, especially parents or guardians, who are extremely significant in early interactions. This therefore indicates that the conscious psychic reality is somewhat molded from an early age, which in actual fact, poses a contradiction to the social constructionist ideas of continual development. (Thomas, 1996). Moreover, Mead had only explained the development of self identity as a process of reflection, dispersion and internalisation. On the other hand, the psychodynamic view seeks to explain why introjection is a vital element of the psyche. In accordance to the psychodynamic theories, our conscious psychic reality is systematically distorted by unconscious processes to work against the neurotic anxiety of "psychological truth" and threats



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