“An idea is something you have; an ideology is something that has you” – Morris Berman
Of all intangible resources, identity is arguably the most important. Identity is contingent upon an individual’s position within a social milieu, and this social milieu is fundamental to a wide range of physical and mental well-being outcomes.
Since the mature adult’s identity is a function of a social context, it will always be constructed and defined in relation to the ‘other’. As the bestower of identity this ‘other’ is in possession of power either to grant or to withhold this scarce resource, and to utilise it as leverage with the intention of enforcing a desirable action or behaviour.
But around what exactly does an identity form? In what manner is it constructed, and in what way can it be defined? All identity formation takes place as the outworking of an underlying ideology; without an ideology – that is, a system of ideas, ideals, beliefs and assumptions upon which an understanding of society and the wider world is formed and through which knowledge and events are interpreted and made sense of – no identity can emerge. Each individual and every group identity is the outworking either of an explicit or of an implicit ideology. A shared ideology is a key component of group cohesion and the means by which resources pertaining to mental well-being such as social acceptance, physical security, and protection against external threat are extended.
Significant resources will be directed towards the promotion, embedding, and strengthening of the prevailing ideology and, where opportunity exists to promote an ideology that encourages identity formation of the type that serves the interests of the primary power-holding group, such opportunity will be taken; the granting of resources that meet a particular set of needs on the one hand, with the aim of removing other, more fundamental and valuable resources on the other, can be utilised Trojan-horse style, to great effect. As referenced in a previous blog post, ideology formation that encourages individuals and groups to self-identify as commodities in service to the greater capitalist cause, reduces the degree of resistance experienced when a policy of incremental and gradual resource removal is subsequently put into effect. Since many believe that capitalism is fundamentally unsustainable as a long-term economic model, based as it is upon the ever-increasing exploitation of a fixed amount of physical and human resources1 and upon the deliberate and unsustainable expansion of a global-scale credit bubble, certain quantities of human ‘fodder’ are required to keep the system afloat, at least until a substantial macro-correction is triggered. Caron Bradshaw of the CFG may be of the view that capitalism is “…still the best economic model“, however the main beneficiaries of this model are shielded from its impact; impacts that are typically most felt by those living in the developing world.
The promotion of any ideology that encourages such self-commoditisation, whereby an individual’s time and bodily resources can be exploited, serves this purpose well; significant societal changes over the past fifty years indicate that such a programme has long been underway: for example, the legalisation and widespread availability of pornography communicates the message that human bodies are mere resources to be utilised. The acceptance or imposition of a collective ideology distinguishes the in-group from the out-group and, therefore, identifies those with whom it is acceptable to share collectively held resources.
The corruption too of traditional identity roles through the promotion of a particular ideology, such as feminism2, is no accident; the battle for the resource of identity is the direct outworking of a battle between competing ideologies.
One recently emerged facet of the relentlessly promoted LGBT (etc.) ideology is the concept of gender fluidity, whereby the individual is led to believe that it is within their gift to self-identify insofar as gender is concerned. One of the consequences of the promotion of ideologies such as this, ideologies that seek to erode rather than to consolidate identity, is the formation of both an individual and a collective identity vacuum. This vacuum, once formed, can then be filled with any identity, or subset of identities, that have been formulated and promoted with the particular purpose of occupying this space; the resources of traditional identity formation have been apprehended and removed with the result that hungry souls are compelled to fill up on whatever scraps there are, regardless of their nutritional value.
Conceptually, self identification is consistent with the wider dehumanising ideology that promotes identity erosion, self-commoditisation and societal atomisation. This is achieved through the exchange of the lesser resources of apparent autonomy and self-determination, with the much more valuable resource of clear and established identity formation. This does not, however, reflect the individual’s lived reality, and falsely divorces the process of identity formation from its core social context. The truth of this becomes apparent at the very point where those who seek to ‘self-identify’ as a particular gender or non-gender, nonetheless insist upon the full buy-in of others. Thus, the way in which the ‘other’ identifies the individual is in fact an inescapably vital element of the way in which the individual self-identifies; it is clear that such a collaborative process is integral to identity formation, and its increasing replacement by coercion, threats of social exclusion, or even legal sanctions, serves only to confirm this.
Identity formation too is a contingent state, that is, a process within which certain conclusive positions are never achieved. As part of a social milieu, the validity of an individual’s self-identification is called into question whenever such an individual has the ability to alter and re-alter the way in which they self-identify. Self-identification is a function of the manner in which an individual perceives themselves and their wider context at a particular moment in time, and so the self selection of the gender element of identity is problematic because it must take place within the collective; identity is defined and determined not just by how we identify ourselves, but by how those around us – both the in-group and the out-group – identify us. Thus, it is argued, the removal of the process of identity formation from within the context of the social milieu, along with the creation of a construct that emerges from the coercion of those around us to assent to a self-defined label, cannot be considered true identity formation. Rather, it is a one-sided and individualistic pursuit, removed not only from its collective context, but also from established historical and cultural traditions that provide cohesion and indeed, meaning to society itself. The stripping away of meaning from the basic identifiers and symbols that underpin society will result in the eventual erosion and collapse of that society. It could be argued, given the deliberate channeling of resources towards the widespread and relentless promotion of this agenda and others like it, that the undermining of society has, in fact, been the very intention.
Erik Erikson (1959) describes the journey of identity formation, emphasising the importance of adolescence as a key stage in the emergence and consolidation of essential elements of identity. It is no surprise, therefore, that a significant battleground for competing ideologies is that which centres around this age bracket since, to define the individual and the collective identities of those under the age of sixteen, is to define the identity of an entire generation. Control, therefore, of the ideology underpinning the education system and of media and entertainment outlets aimed at the pre-adult audience, serves a crucial role both in establishing unquestioning acceptance of key ideological tenets and, with this, embedding the manner in which essential and enduring elements of identity take shape and become established. In this way new forms of individual and group identity can be constructed, new norms established, and entire societies remoulded.
1. Note, for example, the change in business terminology during the 1980s from ‘Personnel’ to ‘HR’/’Human Resources’; the person has been stripped of his or her personhood becoming, instead, a mere resource to be consumed in the pursuit of profit.
2. It is possible that feminism is a movement that has undergone ideological subversion (Schuman, 1984), whereby a well-intentioned campaign aimed at reducing the oppression of women has been co-opted by a set of powerful and influential individuals who ‘spoke’ for the cause and covertly directed its progress towards achieving a set of objectives that differed from the publicly stated aims. For example, it is stated by Aaron Russo, that the feminist cause has been funded by an elite group of wealthy bankers (including David Rockefeller) as a means of increasing tax revenues through the introduction of greater numbers of women into paid employment, and as a means of indoctrinating children from a younger, more impressionable, age via the state-controlled education system. The broader purpose behind both of these objectives being the erosion of the traditional family structure, with the intention of bringing the general population under greater governmental control.
Eriksson, E. (1959), Identity and the Life Cycle, International Universities Press
Schuman, T.D. (1984), Love Letter to America, WIN Almanac Panorama, Los Angeles