The main premise concerning the concept of identity reads: self-identity and group-identity may be defined only with regards to relations with others, because there is no »me« which is not a part of »we« (E. Leach), i.e. it is necessary to determine where one belongs in order to discover his/her identity. However, the concept of identity has become too complex in the modern age, because the breakdown of the traditional close society has liberated a multiplicity of identities (status, class, professional, generational, ethnic, confessional, etc.), and pluralism of forms should be taken into account, for modernism is marked with difference and diversification. But post-modernism once more emphasizes the question of choice of identities, being a »generalized affirmation of pluralism and heterogeneity« (G. Mehennan).
Moreover, the problem of identity becomes particularly visible in times of social and civilizational crisis, when all the old values are questioned and the established life schemes destroyed; and a new search for identity is needed. Living precisely in a turbulent age, we have become aware of the significance of the problem of identity; therefore, social sciences nowadays focus their attention on the problem.
A developed personality who has attained self-identities characterized by: individual traits, the contents of a person’s thoughts and actions, his/her ideas and convictions, as well as personal interests and aspirations (Nuttin). But one of the main problems arises when speaking about the relationships of personal and group/communal identities (the dialogue between liberal and communitarian theories). The antithesis of individualism and sociologism is nothing but a reductionist point of view, which denies the fact that human beings have both a personal and social existence.
The concept of identity is usually defined as an »organization of mental structures of both cognitive and affective characteristics, which represent an individual’s perception (and also group perception) of himself as a different being« (P. Massen); or as »the complete consciousness of oneself as a person«, who has continuity in time as a unique personality.
A exceptional role when the concept of identity is concerned is played by the sense of belonging and of autonomy, which at first glance are opposed to each other. However, they represent two complementary dimensions of an individuals’ development and maturation. This is because personality formation does not go on in a vacuum but assumes close ties with the community. Therefore, self-identity depends on both perception and recognition from the others, to whom one is linked with common ties.
The author distinguishes the concept of identity from identification. The latter denotes the process of imitation when a child regards oneself as identical to his/her parents in terms of unconscious acceptance of cultural norms and demands; it is merely the first phase in the constitution of an identity, because it develops primarily a sense of belonging without independence and autonomy, i.e. it appears only as the process of the individuals’ adaptation to society and its standards. Identity presumes the individual’s capacity to distinguish between self-recognition and recognition by the others, as well as the awareness of one’s own dispositions irrespective of others’ images of the same person. When the process of personality development ends with identification, it produces an oversocialized person, cutting off the possibility of his/her individuation.
Identity formation is a continuous process and not a state, because individuals go through different life-spans and develop different needs and interests which may oppose one another; in order to reach integrity they should be modified and reconciled. The capacity to perceive one’s own self is a unique feature of man as a human being; thereby, identity is a specific anthropological category.
Another aspect which the author deals with is how personal and group/collective identities meet. It is the question of the »measure« of one’s adaptation to one’s own culture and his/her self-reflection by which he/she succeeds in becoming removed from environmental demands in order to constitute one’s own unique essence. Personal maturity is attained when no one is lost in the self-other relationship but each contributes to the affirmation and actualization of the other. This process consists of different levels: psychic, social and moral maturity. Self-identity thus represents realization of the ego in terms of its own biography (A. Giddens).
However, any human identity is social identity, because it relates to meanings which are always a matter of convention. Collective identity represents a continuity of generations’ experiences and the »common memory« of the collective history. Origin and history are related in the collective identity, as well as past and future, strengthening the sense of belonging and solidarity. The following collective identities may be differentiated: group identity, class identity, social and cultural identity, ethnic/national identity and professional identity. In this context the problem arises: how to reconcile certain fundamental dilemmas of human existence such as: how to solve the opposition between an abstract, depersonalized institutional order and an active life and individual consciousness; how to make an appropriate relationship between a common, collective identity and an individual, unique identity, i.e. how to reconcile sameness and difference; how to enable socialization to continue in terms of individuation; that is, how to make congruent cultural determinants with individual dispositions.
The answer may be found in the interaction of individual and collective identities, because personal and social dimensions are the complementary foundation of human existence; although many individuals fail to reach self-identity due to their overidentification with socio-cultural surroundings. Then one may speak of an identity crisis. Having in mind these two dimensions of identity, it is necessary to see the dynamics of its development in terms of both the process of socialization and a complementary process – individuation. Still, the process of socialization does not automatically lead to individuation, so one may speak of unsuccessful socialization, because merely adapting to the socio-cultural environment is insufficient to the formation of self-identity since an individual »revolt« and »departure« from the collective identity is what one needs for maturation.
The first phase of socialization is the so-called mirror phase (»looking-glass-self«). This, according to P. Berger, is a proto-cognitive phenomenon, for an individual automatically accepts certain general truths about his/her society; the second phase is the internalization of the objective structure of reality into the personality structure, i.e. the process of maturation progressively advances from merely a physical identification to the individual’s recognition of his/her subjective qualities, capacities and activities. But here the cognitive and motivational aspects are closely linked, that is, identity is constituted through the sense of identity, by the subjective feeling that he/she belongs to the unique personality. The following levels of identity development may be designated: identification, introjection and projection, but one author also mentions repression as such a phase when the individual recognition of the mental contents becomes unconscious (Storr). The theory of symbolic interactionism is one which links social structure and an individuals’ actions and may give a more complete answer to the question of how the formation of identity takes place. In this perspective both the structure of a situation and personality structure are seen in their mutual restructuration, which changes the matrix of both group and individual relations.
The next problem which the author considers concerns the question: how different types of modern societies influence the formation of personal and collective identity, i.e. whether the opposition of individualism and collectivism is transcended in the modern era, or is it rather more expressed; whether the idea of the alienation of modern man is still actual and in what way; why the discovery and realization of self-identity becomes subversive in certain types of modern societies; whether the tendency towards globalization, which certain authors characterize as a »new imperialism«, hides behind liberalism the thesis on the omnipotence of society over individuals? These are the problems of the effects of modernization on the development of personality and autonomous collective entities. A simplified division of the complexity of contemporary civilization into liberalism (individualism) and communism (collectivism) loses sight of the fact that growing conformity and institutionalized depersonalization are taking place in all modern societies, because the contradictory striving towards both individuality and loyalty to the group/basic collective (in particular the nation) has not yet been reconciled.
The quest for identity comes about when one is not sure where he/she belongs, i.e. identity is the name for escape from insecurity (Z. Bauman). Identity crisis, therefore, results from uncertainty and anxiety and is produced by social and cultural turbulence; it is expressed in terms of the disturbance of the continuity of meaning and uniqueness when individual identity is in question, and interferes with the basis of a common feeling of belonging to a wholeness when group/collective identity is concerned. The plurality of options which contemporary civilization offers has a twofold effect: on the one hand it fosters the development of personal and group potentials, but on the other, it generates confusion, uncertainty and insecurity about which choice is the »right« one. Two aspects of the identity crisis may be mentioned: 1) civilizational and socio-cultural, and 2) ontological insecurity. When does the identity crisis in terms of culture arise? The answer may read: a) when the given cultural patterns come to the clashes and challenge the existing paradigms; b) when a vacuum of cultural values appears, along with a disruption of the patterns of culture that create standards and norms of behaviour, and c) when the state imposes certain norms as the sole frame of reference without a possible choice. As far as the identity crisis as ontological insecurity is concerned, it is always present in a latent form as being a part of the existential contradictions of »human nature«; and it may be overcome only by constant individual effort to resolve the inner conflicts in the process of continuos formation which is never fully completed. The solutions that the post-modern era offers are nothing but illusions, because they do not concern the question of how to construct identity but rather how to escape fixation (Z. Bauman). The extreme relativization of all values is double-edged, because it denies any firm strongpoint, while a human being cannot survive without relying upon certain general values and criteria. Therefore, one should be aware that post-modern civilization confronts individuals with new problems and dilemmas. However, it sends us a message that  identity can no longer be considered the old way (Derrida).
In the further discourse the author reconsiders the following issues: civic and democratic identities, and ethnic/national identity vis-à-vis the genesis of neonationalism at the end of the 20th century.
In the conclusion the author states that multiculturalism in modern times is what can offer solutions to the problem of the development of both individual and collective forms of identity in their plural forms. Intercultural communication in a multicultural community offers much broader possibilities to individuals and social groups for the establishment of a modern post-traditional identity, which is liberated from isolation, closeness and monolitism.


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