Problems of Individual-Society Dualism and Agency-Structure Dualism in

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Problems of Individual-Society Dualism and Agency-Structure Dualismin

Conceptualizing the ‘Self’ in Psychological Social Psychology

‘Self’ is not a just a psychological idea. Various theoriesabout it have emanated from sociology, psychoanalysis, philosophy,and psychiatry. It is a concept that has been in vogue for a longtime in history, literature studies, and philosophy. Psychologistsbecame interested in it recently. For many years, while it was stillnot covered in psychology, other fields were producing logicallychallenging and conceptually elusive studies about it. This papergives an account of the diverse conceptualizations of the ‘self’and points out their conceptual differences in a way that illustratesthe binary thinking of individual-society dualism andagency-structure dualism. It also infuses the meaning of the dualismsand draws upon the social psychoanalytic approach to show how thesedualisms can be overcome with examples.

An Account of the Diverse Conceptualizations of the ‘Self`

To understand the concept of ‘self,` one should situate the socialpsychological argument in history within broader trends of socialthought and aim to show how distinct approaches to this conceptresult in its various images. It is also imperative to show socialand phenomenological psychoanalytic approaches to the idea of ‘self.`‘Self’ resides in language, body, or mind feelings or thoughtand unconscious motivations or conscious awareness. It can be bestconceptualized as fragmented or coherent, and realized with time orcreated at the moment [ CITATION Fro12 l 1033 ]. It can also beconceptualized as intersubjective or intra-psychic, passive or activeagency, a product of external influences, and formed by social forcesor existing before social interactions. These binaries allow one toput forward that if both/and replace either/or, then understanding ofthe ‘concept’ self can be better placed. However, it is quitechallenging to give an elaborate account of ‘self’ when theseconsiderations are combined into one consistent explanation [ CITATION Mea15 l 1033 ].

There are different conceptualizations about ‘self.` One conceptreports that ‘self’ resides in self-consciousness. Another theoryindicates that ‘self’ is based on the code of the mind’sreflexiveness – the capability to perceive oneself from anotherperson’s outlook or become an object to oneself like the waysomeone is an object to another person. That is based on the ideaother people’s reactions are like a mirror, which is held up to anindividual to produce a reflection of the ‘self’ one canevaluate, the same way one would appraise someone else. This idea of‘self’ seems to be having three primary fundamentals: theimagination of our look to another person, the vision of someoneelse’s judgment of that look, and self-feeling like mortificationor pride [ CITATION Par121 l 1033 ]. This distinction is takenfurther by relating it to the difference between ‘me’ and ‘I’(in language) based on pronouns: ‘me’ is an object observed by‘I.` Through this means, the idea of social `self` appears. Inshort, social ‘self’ arises from the proposition that an observed‘self’ and an observing ‘self’ and that the latter takes onothers’ views. This concept of self is positioned in the languagesurrounding us. That makes ‘self’ reflexive, meaning it isconsidered to be an indivisible unit (Hollway, Lucey, Phoenix, &ampLewis, 2012).

Another conceptualization places ‘self’ at the center of anypsychology purported to comprehend the behavior of human beings. Thatconsiders ‘self’ as ego. Another conceptualization is that ‘self’arises from the systems exchanged in the current relations in sociallife. Another conceptualization shows that ‘self’ is in continualdynamic tension between forces tending towards splitting (impelled byotherwise intolerable apprehension) and forces that tend towardsintegration (knowing evil and good in the same object) (Hollway,Lucey, Phoenix, &amp Lewis, 2012).

Conceptual Differences

Self-awareness, impacted by a consideration of language’s role inmodeling selves, resulted in the idea of dual self, the ‘me’ andthe ‘I,` as in language. This double self can be split easily inways, which reflect the two primary dualisms characterizing socialscience thinking: agenct-structure dualism and individual-societydualism. The latter is reproduced in departing ‘me’ from ‘I.`‘Me’ refers to the self, which is produced by the social effectsof other people’s perception, while ‘I’ refers to the singleindividual. The ‘I’ is also an active pronoun and the subjectwhere change occurs thus, characterizes the proxy inagency-structure dualism. The ‘me,` in contrast, is a verb’sobject in a particular sentence – influenced by the society,instead of choosing to act [ CITATION Hol12 l 1033 ].

Meaning of the Dualisms

Individual-society dualism is expressed in the tension between thesociological and psychological perspective. The first considers‘self’ to be organized in the intersubjective societal spacebetween human beings and in social implications that are available tothem. The second primarily focuses on the intra-psychic – thingsthat occur within a person, for instance, cognition/ thought oremotion/feeling, unconscious motivation or conscious awareness [ CITATION LeB12 l 1033 ].Individual-social dualism arises from the separation of ‘me’ and‘I.` The former refers to the created by the social effect ofperception of other people, while the latter relates to the singularperson [ CITATION Hol12 l 1033 ].

Mind-body dualism shows that the body and the mind are separate. Inthis perspective, the human subjective experience (thought,spirituality, and rationality) is considered to be discrete anddifferent from the world of matter, that of the body and the physicalenvironment. This form of dualism shows that the social andpsychological complexity of an individual’s body has been lost.Biologically-oriented psychologists have had the tendency to shrinkpsychology to biology (particularly the brain). Mind-body dualism hasbeen an issue of concern since it reduces an individual to his/hermind, or body or biology. It does not view a person in a manner,which recognizes the psychological, social, or biological. Its mainconsequence is the way in which the body has been perceived inpsychology. It has been reduced to biology or ignored [ CITATION Hol12 l 1033 ].

Agency-structure dualism runs through many related methodological andperspectival tensions, which plague sociology: subjective versusobjective, micro versus macro, and individual versus society. Thisdualism is almost similar to individual-social dualism and hassparked continual yet unresolved argument in social theory. Thebinary terms ‘structure’ and ‘agency’ mirror the binary terms‘society’ and ‘individual’ in that: if people are consideredto be independent of social influence, it is possible to theorizethem as agents of their destinies. Conversely, if social structureinfluence people’s actions, their desires, choices would beirrelevant. Social theory stresses on the capacity of socialstructures to govern the actions of people.

How These Dualisms Can be Overcome

These dualisms can be overcome by recognizing that the body is notjust biology, but it is the interface between a human being and thesociety. The body is an inherently social object. Proponents of thesedualisms have considered the body as a biological object, cruciallysignificant regarding human development or brain psychology but notsomething, which has been regarded as an essential subject in socialpsychology [ CITATION McD15 l 1033 ]. Nonetheless, when onerecognizes that people can relate to the world around them and otherpeople through the body, then somehow it makes sense. The body shouldbe seen as the vehicle necessary to carry out an individual’s dailylife and to communicate with others. One should not separate theirbody from who they are and what they do in the society. At all levels– relational, cultural, and individual – it is evident thatsomething as superficially natural and personal as the body isintensely social, as well. The two primary psychological viewpoints,which highlight this dimension of an embodiment include thephenomenological and discursive perspectives [ CITATION Hol12 l 1033 ].

It is imperative to recognize the interaction between the body,society, and psychology. Furthermore, agency and structure, thesociety, and an individual interpenetrate. Consequently, anembodiment is a societal, psychological issue and should not bereduced to biology alone. The body is intelligent, meaning, the mindand the body are the same thing and not merely biology. An individualis his/ her body and, through this, carry out selfhood. The bodilyexperience is usually pre-reflective – a person experiences anduses their body before they think. Besides, one can relate to otherpeople, perceive the world, and learn about themselves through usingthe body in day-to-day activities. Indeed, the body is the primaryvehicle of existing in the world and is integral to the understandingand perceptions of human experience. It should also be seen as thehorizon concealed in human experience and before each determiningthought. It connects every person to the world – if one taps intothe bodily experience – allows them to understand the world.According to many social psychological theorists, it there is a needto resist the agency-structure, mind-body, and individual-socialdualisms [ CITATION Hol12 l 1033 ].


‘Self’ is best conceptualized as a product of social influencesor existing before social interactions, a product of external forces,within an individual or between people, coherent, and produced overtime. This paper has also shown that social and personal dimensionsinterlink and something as ‘individual’ and ‘natural’ as ahuman being’s body is highly ‘social.` It has also managed toexamine the psychological approaches (both phenomenological anddiscursive) to the body and how they conceptualize the link betweenthe world and body differently. In some way, one can see the outlookscomplementary or compatible as they illuminate various dimensions ofthe bodily practices and experience. Nonetheless, they also giveopposing accounts, for example, how they hypothesize the role ofdiscourse and meanings, as well as in their methods. Indeed,embodiment’s multi-faceted nature is worth appreciating.Furthermore, the body of a human being is an openness to a world andforms the deepest relational interlinking with the world. Theboundary between the world and the body is porous, allowing ofunceasing inter-penetrability. That complexity makes the body asignificant feature of social psychology.


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