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Collective Identity in Post-ideological Societies. Nationalization of the Classes

15 marzo 2019 -
Collective Identity in Post-ideological Societies. Nationalization of the Classes

Contributo selezionato da Filodiritto tra quelli pubblicati nei Proceedings “5th ACADEMOS Conference 2018”

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Contribution selected by Filodiritto among those published in the Proceedings “5th ACADEMOS Conference 2018”

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Andrei ȚĂRANU[1], Adela Mihaela ȚĂRANU[1] 

[1] National University of Political Studies and Public Administration, Bucharest (ROMANIA)

 

Abstract

The populist movements became one of the most discussed topics in political science theory, but they are analyzed mainly on the perspective of political action, and recently in terms of discourse. But it seems the populist policies of member recruitment are merely neglected because this kind of policies is quite different from party to party and from country to country.

Populist movements acts toward society in a very peculiar manner: they are not coming to the society but they act like they are emerging from the society – and that makes them populist: they declare themselves as pure representatives of the people as the entire People. This why in contemporary societies populist movements have a different discourse that it was decades ago – poorer, culture less and mass oriented. Our hypothesis is that happened because the mass culture became poorer and mainly based on the same cultural recipe: good vs. evil, the bad guys against the good guys etc. The populist movements try to justify their acts in same manner in order to offer to their supporters a collective identity where they can recognize each other as part of the People (or Nation in different societies). The ideological cleavage is overtaking in an ethical manner, all ideologies are wrong so we are not acting ideological but according with the interest of the People. National or ethnic identity is call to become a collective identity but this identity is defined and shaped by the populist parties who impose themselves as the saviours of the People.

 

The concepts of Identity

The concept of identity keeps coming back into the political and cultural analysis along with the cleavage generated by the new populist/extremist trends in Europe and the United States.

Throughout the western world, political correctness as an inclusive ideology is abandoned in order to return to an exclusive policy model, obliviously based on identity constructions.

Thus, the paradox of economic globalization has led to an increase of political and discursive nationalisms: Donald Trump’s discursive model is taken from the European populist discourse – we and the others, the others being valued exclusively negative.

Therefore, we consider that an analysis of the principles of collective identity is more than necessary, because it has been theorized during the development phase of inclusion, and less analysed a perspective of exclusion. In addition, as seen essentially in the theory of collective identity, it becomes predominant by including the collective identity into national identity.

Thus, nationalism tends to homogenize all social groups (as it did in the 30’s with social classes) under the spectrum of the nation, where the individual and the group membership is melted in a single concept.

Identity is a descriptive element or, in other terms, a definition for existence and belonging. Identity is based on two pillars, both important: the identified and the identified. Which means that the individual is identified and identifies itself as the Self, while the society is identified as the Other. There is an alterity – the belonging to the Other and at the same time identification with the Self, because the Self is being defined by the Other, which is both contentious (as social environment) and content (as an education object). Jacques Derrida argues: “all identities can only exist with their „difference”. There is no culture or cultural identity that does not have the Other’s one Self” [1]. Thus, the identity originates from a confrontation between the universes of “subjectivity” (the self) and “objectivity” (the society understood as the Other).

It is not in the same way that collective identity is formed, because it should be the self- identification of the Other with itself, a complicated and quite incomprehensible process if there is no art as expression and language of self-referential mirroring. Going beyond the philosophy, which was and continues to be the cornerstone of existentialist philosophy, social sociology and psychology have shown an important interest in this concept.

It is beyond doubt that identity – especially collective identity – is an analysis key factor and an extremely important social marker. Social groups – equally studied by sociology and social psychology – formed either by vicinity (the sociological analysis of local communities) or common social bonds (in the area of social psychology) – develop collective identities represented by values, principles and traditions [2]. Thus, social groups – with presumptively different collective identities – represent the bricks of social construction that increasingly becomes subject of analysis in political sciences. And it is natural to be this way as this concept has been taken as an explanation for what it is usually denominated as “nation building” or national consciousness.

On the other hand, as we will see, the sociological theory has strangely utilized this concept because it has analyzed it rather ideologically than experimental.

The first theory – the essentialist theory – assumes that the collective identity is predetermined and hence it is fundamental for the members of a community. “Translated into assumptions upon identity, we find this idea – for examples see Brubaker and Cooper [3] or Cerulo [4] – under the following forms:

1. Collective identity is something natural, essential, permanent that is found in al people;

2. Collective identity pre-exists for all social actors, it is a biological, psychological, cultural or regional emergence;

3. The members of a community internalize the same essential characteristics in a unitary way, which suggests a determined, unique social experience.” [5, pp. 32-33]

Such a vision was also assumed by Ferdinand Tönnies [6] conservative perspective for which the Gemeinschaft (community) was natural and “organic”, while the Gesselschaft (society) was artificial and “mechanical”. Thus, the essentialist vision of collective identity represented the basis for the formation of the concept of national “conscience”, as a natural (even biologically racial) form.

Marxism has violently rejected this perspective by believing that national identity is a “false conscience”, because any conscience appears only as an expression of social existence – “it is not the conscience of men which determines their existence, on the contrary, their social existence determines their consciousness” [7].

On the contrary, collective identity – as class identity – was considered to be the direct expression of social existence, as a social class represents, in Karl Marx’s perspective, “a group of individuals in a similar position to the means of production, playing the same role in the process of producing and appropriating the economic surplus” [7, pp. 320]. This identity is gained through the social experience of each individual, as a part of the class it represents, as an experience that shares the same social (and economic) practices, which conscientiously shapes them.



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