Narrative identity as a bridge between two historical models of identity: a sociologist’s perspective

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Zsuzsanna Bögre

Abstract

The current concepts of identity widespread throughout social sciences are basically linked to two historical models. One is connected to psychology, while the other is related to sociology. In psychology, the concept of identity is traditionally considered to come from the work of Erik Erikson, who considers that identity is to be found in the deep structure of personality. Erikson studies the development of identity. He attributes central importance to the question of man’s inner unity. In sociology, the concept of identity is usually linked to George Herbert Mead, who traces identity back to interaction between the individual and society. According to this, identity is shaped by social conventions, which can be conveyed by a profession, a role or a social situation. As those constantly undergo change, the individual’s identity is continuously changing as well. Erikson’s is regarded as an essentialist approach, whereas Mead’s is called a constructivist one. The problem is not that there are differences between these two historical models, but that their adherents never or hardly ever reflect upon each other’s views. A solution to this problem could be offered through the concept of narrative identity, to which the author of this study attributes a bridging role, due to the recent appearance of several new theories which consciously undertake to “reconcile” the two historical models (“the double track”). The present study starts by describing the development and deepening of the current chasm between the two historical models. Next, it outlines several theories of narrative identity which are becoming increasingly popular both in sociology and in psychology. While the influence of the two historical models can also be detected in the theories of narrative identity, they make a perceivable effort to play a bridging role. If sociology wants to use narratives as sources in the research of identity, it should take into account the fact that the individual is striving to reach a kind of inner identity and stability even in late modern circumstances. Likewise, if narratives are to be used for research in psychology, it must be acknowledged that social circumstances in our modern world are extremely changeable, which hinders the formation of a stable, inner identity core. I suggest that that narrative identity started to be seen as bridge. In sociology, no reflection upon this process has begun yet. The aim of this study is to articulate the problem and to promote further reflection in sociology and psychology as well.

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Author Biography

Zsuzsanna Bögre, Pázmány Péter Catholic University

Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, Budapest, Hungary.

E-mail: bogre.zsuzsa@gmail.com.

How to Cite
Bögre, Z. (2021). Narrative identity as a bridge between two historical models of identity: a sociologist’s perspective. Sociologie Românească, 19(1), 55-69. https://doi.org/10.33788/sr.19.1.2

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