No. 055



TR Young


Distributed as part of the TRANSFORMING SOCIOLOGY SERIES of The Red Feather Institute, 8085 Essex, Weidman, Michigan, 48893.

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The development of the self system is a social psychological process which is based on concrete and specific interaction. In mass society, typically the structure of interaction is bureaucratically organized. The need for instrumental control of behavior to purposes divorced from the life process in capitalist society has lead to the bureaucracy as the major instrument of social control. Interaction in bureaucracy and other formal organizations is so brief, impersonal, and narrowly focussed that the development of a self-system is difficult. In as much as rules, orders, and job descriptions mediate behavior in bureaucratically organized societies, the self system is superfluous. Suggestions such as that of Zurcher that the solution to the problem of self is a "mutable self" capable of functioning in such societies are excellently well suited to a society in which interaction is of short duration, episodic, purely instrumental and life is comprised of brief fragments of depersonalized encounters at work, school, church, clinic, and at the sports arena. Zurcher's model of self as a solution to the problem of alienation is rejected.

Introduction The study and theory of self has not developed much in American sociology since the work of Cooley, Mead and, in more recent times, Erving Goffman. As the indices of personal and social disorganization continue to increase--and as the contributions of social psychology in the West continue to be irrelevant to the development of a competent self system in a decent society, it becomes more urgent to reexamine the state of social psychology, identify its failings and move toward more adequate theories of self and society. A society moving toward more fragmented and predatory forms of self needs this self-knowledge more than it needs an army; more than it needs automobiles, more than it needs nuclear-based energy and more than it needs Monday Night Football.

The writings of Louis Zurcher (1977) provide the opportunity for such a critique of Western social psychology. Zurcher provides us with an effort to make visible a model of self which he sees as appropriate to the times. He locates himself within the framework of contemporary work in the field and aligns his model with the writings of the more popular and more engaging theorists in the field. Zurcher relies upon and departs from the writings of David Riesman, Philip Slater, Charles Reich, Robert Lifton, Victor Ferkiss, Abraham Maslow, Alvin Toffler and many, many others including the three reviewers quoted on the cover.

In that Zurcher has offered what he clearly believes to be a metapsychology for modern society and in that he anchors himself within every liberal camp existing, it is particularly useful to critique his work. In that Zurcher does not mention The Critical School, Structural Marxism, Adam Schaff, Mihailo Markovic, Jurgen Habermas, Wilhelm Reich, Mao, Herbert Marcuse or Fidel Castro, Zurcher provides the opportunity to construct a clear dialectic in opposition to bourgeois models of self. Zurcher has committed himself to the notion of a mutable self as a solution to the problem of alienation while radical social psychology oriented to the writings of Marx orients itself to a strategy of social revolution as the appropriate approach to the question of alienation. Zurcher says that alienation can be repaired within the structure of class, elitist society (p. 215; 218; 237): radical social psychology states that these very structures themselves must be eliminated before a competent self system is possible. Zurcher is excessively voluntaristic: in his world, people may choose, select, elect, prefer, accept, or decide which kind of self to create and present (The expository case is found on pages 185-219). In the Marxist model of self, action, will, and choice are variables intimately tied to the structures of domination (Trent Schroyer: 1973). In capitalist society, as in other class-based, elitist societies, the means to produce self are limited by the means of material production as well as the modes of distribution.

For Zurcher, the crucial dialectic for competent self system is one between modes of being: Mode A, Mode B Mode C, or D. For critical social psychology, (Defined below) however, I suggest the more relevant dialectic is between modes of social organization: between capitalist and socialist societies. Zurcher has reduced the question of human emancipation to a question of choice between jogging, working, reflecting on one's fate or meditating -- A, B, C, and D mode activity respectively. For the Marxist, the question of human emancipation is oriented to the reunification of production and distribution; to the reunification of self and society; as well as to the reunification of subjective and objective knowledge -- topics which Zurcher does not address. Topics such as praxis, distributive justice, objectification, coercion, monopoly, authority, power, false consciousness and class conflict are not the problematics of Zurcher's search for a competent self. What is the central problematic for Zurcher is a self system appropriate to a changing world apart from the direction of that change (p. 35). In particular, Zurcher advocates a self able to move easily between four modes of being and to integrate these four modes (p. 36).

The central thesis of this paper is that Zurcher's model of self is just that model of self appropriate to a mass, depersonalized society in which the structure of bureaucracy is the central organizing institution and in which the interest of bourgeois freedom permits the continued appropriation of social labor to the benefit of class elites. Zurcher provides just that theory and model of self which fits any mass society and therefore has a political dimension implicit in it. Zurcher, attempts to depoliticize social psychology and to lift the question of human emancipation from the shape and structure of the larger society. Zurcher performs the remarkable feat of stripping social psychology of its sociology.

It is against this model of self and against the effort to consider questions of self apart from those of the larger society that this paper is directed. It is against Zurcher's concept of the self, against his use of the concept of alienation, and against his mutable self which this paper stands. In place of the mutable self we offer the socialist model of self. Against Zurcher's notion of alienation-as-feeling we assert that alienation involves concrete social relations. Against Zurcher's problematic of social change as a given with a mutable self adapting to it, we insist that social revolution is the central problematic and political struggle central to it. The better question is, What kind of social change? Against Zurcher's running (p.211), stock-brokering (p. 211), and Za-Zen meditation (p. 212.) we offer resistance, rebellion and revolution. Against Zurcher's four modes of being, we offer the five moments of praxis identified by Crocker (1976) and Markovic (1974) as central to the self structure of an authentically social person. Against mass society and its inevitable companions; crime, depression, exploitation, demeaning welfare and family violence, we offer a struggle toward socialist society. Against Zurcher, there is much to oppose and to critique.

Self and Mass Society: The Data. The Zurcher data as well as a number of studies cited by Zurcher suggest a shift from B mode responses on the T.S.T. to C mode responses (p. 51). The T.S.T. is a twenty statement test in which people are asked to respond, up to twenty times, to the question, "Who am I?" The assumption is that the response pattern reveals the structure of self in that people take themselves as an object in ways which closely mirrors their self structure. "A" mote replies focus on the body in time and space; "B" modes reflect social relationships; "C" mode responses are oriented to personal style while "D" mode reports are detached from either physica1 or behavioral attributes. Responses which have abstract referents are coded "D" mode responses. While the data are probably valid -- the hundreds of T.S.T. administered by students at Colorado State University confirm the shift thesis -- the interpretation of that data is politically loaded.

Zurcher's interpretation is that people are moving from B mode to C mode self-concepts because the social structure is unacceptable or unstable (or perceived to be such). The C mode self definition represented a self which tended to be more situation-free (p. 58). C mode persons were more fluid, more able to accommodate change, more tolerant, more open to new experience and more reflective (p. 59). There is another interpretation. Perhaps people are not deserting a social order which is unstable in a "state of confusion." Perhaps the social order is more stable but less suitable as a structural basis for self system. Perhaps the four corner posts of the self system: family, work, school and church no longer present a structural basis for a self system. Perhaps the individual is not "stepping back" from the social order but rather a permanent and stable self system is no longer the solution to the problem of order in mass society. If so, the political consequences are significant. In Zurcher's formula, the solution is to a self capable of surviving instability. In opposition to Zurcher, this interpretation requires a social revolution from one kind of stability to another.

My interpretation of the data (1972) is that the social order in capitalist society no longer serves as an adequate basis for the self structure. The instrumental rationality of profit, growth, and control of the social environment which guides the modern corporation renders an interest in a strong and competent self redundant. In fact, a weak and adaptable self, easily shaped to the new roles, new fashions, new demands of monopoly capital is preferable. Zurcher sees the confused individual abandoning a social order that is becoming more unstable. I see the social order abandoning the individual while the social order thrives.

The world of work is a central anchorage point for the self system across the human history. In the past forty years; especially the last 20, there have been structural changes in the institutions of work. Agriculture, which lately provided a stable behavioral framework for over half of the population, has become a giant corporation using capital intensive means of production. Farmers are redundant. Industrial production has undergone great change as well--in the pursuit of stability, not away from it. Capitalists have moved their production from northern towns where wages were adequate to southern states where wages are lower. The profit picture improved. Capitalists have moved many lines of production to third world countries where labor conditions are "favorable" and where neofacist regimes guarantee stability (Chomsky and Herman: 1979). Capitalists involved in the production of apparel, shoes, watches, cars, television sets, computers, and food stuffs have abandoned the U.S. for low wages. The work world of capitalist production is hostile to a linkage between self and society.

In the work setting itself, an instrumentally nationalized productive process rejects the self-system as the primary mediator of behavior, Persons are not expected to organize their own behavior using a permanent occupational social identity as the mediator of any given line of activity. Instead, the worker sells his/her labor power and is required to use the order, the directive, the instruction from a supervisor as the mediator of behavior. The supervisor has effective control of worker's behavior (Braverman: 1974). For a worker to stand upon his or her rights as a competent person and to mediate the boss's command violates the control rationality of a division of labor which gives a monopoly to management over the behavior of the employed worker. Business colleges at Harvard, Michigan, Stanford and Ohio State are producing managers who have "better" administrative schemes. The modern industry has little interest in a competent self system. It is interested in hydraulic systems, assembly systems, computer systems, accounting systems, electrical systems and legal systems ...not self systems.

The retail industry selects, uses, and discards employees even as the retail corporation expands. Fast food stores use thousands of young people who bear no permanent relationship to their place of employment, good business practice avoids commitment to people. The corporation has title to the social position upon which social identity rests and discards people as they become unprofitable (Young: 1979). Braverman (1974) also reports how the world of work has been degraded for lower and middle echelon employees as considerations of profit shape the white-collar world. Ward's and G.M. have adopted a policy of using part-time employees and overtime to avoid permanent commitment to people.

The industrial, business, financial, educational and religious institutions have increasingly moved to the bureaucracy as a mode of social organization -- both employees and clients are better controlled-and discarded -- within bureaucracy than with smaller, more intimate work systems. We have moved from a society in which the primary mediating structure has shifted from self to bureaucracy. The self system is enemy to the bureaucratic administrative echelon. It is precisely the structural features of the bureaucracy in particular and the formal organization in general which produces a mass society (Young and Brouillette: 1976). It is the structure of self anchorage which disappears in mass society: not the formal organization and certainly not social organization. As behavior is rationalized in schools, shops, factories, offices and churches, the control of behavior is shifted to a managerial cadre and away from the self as a mediator of situated behavior. As the needs for profit and control continues, the self system is an obstacle. Depth psychology, behavioral modification, enlarged police forces and cash incentives come to supplement the administrative order as the mediator of behavior in mass society.

Millions of persons are surplus to the productive process as the quest for profit encourages high technology, high energy, capital intensive production. Millions more become surplus as markets are lost to socialist liberation movements as well as to German and Japanese competition. Millions more become surplus as capital moves to the third world. And millions more are surplus as welfare rolls are trimmed and war on poverty programs discontinued. In the U.S., the surplus population is about 55 million and growing. These persons cannot report socially anchored self attributes since they have none. They are deserted by capitalism and even by family and by church.

Americans are turning to new sources of self (Young: 1972) to replace those short episodic interactional encounters which mark social contact in mass education, mass sports, mass market, mass medicine, mass politics and mass industry and business. Some of those identities are adequate and some less adequate. The Zodiac, eastern religion, pop movements in psychology, personal attribute, animals, features of nature; and, very importantly, ethnic identities previously discarded are embraced once again by fourth and fifth generation Americans. It is less shameful to be Black, Jewish, Polish, Italian or Chicano than just thirty years ago.

The important thing to note is that the structural basis for self is eroded -- not that social institutions are evaporating or that people are turning away from the social order as Zurcher holds. A person could not have a mutable self with the option of a strong, permanent set of social identities anchored in work, play, school, church and family even if she/he wanted a mutable self. One has A, C, and D mode bases for self structure. One can emphasize muscle, thigh and breast as the defining character of one's persona. One can employ clothing, car or cosmetic as the essence of ones being. There are deviant identities available. One can identify with the cosmos, the universe or the ineffable but these have little behavioral meaning. A mass society is hostile to self as well as to the human process. The adjustments proposed by Zurcher are pathetically inadequate.

The Problem of Alienation. Zurcher erroneously identifies social change as his problematic and falsely pushes the mutable self as the solution. The central problematic remains that identified by Marx. People are alienated from the process by which the human being is constituted. The problem is not social change but rather the use and discarding of people for purposes of profit. That problem would remain even if social change ended this moment or if everyone had a mutable self. Central to the process by which people become human is the unification of subjective and objective knowledge (Appelbaum and Chotiner: 1979). By this is meant that the acting subject knows the "truth" of the physical and social world to the extent that persons participated insightfully in producing material and social reality. The acting individual must be the subject as well as the object of the productive process, else knowledge is diminished. The student must be the acting subject of her/his own education rather than the object of another's purpose else the educational experience is alienating. The same is true for work, religion and medicine.

A division of labor in which one echelon has subjective control over purpose and others can only act as objects of another's will constitutes alienation from the human process. Yet this is precisely the format of mass education, mass medicine, mass industry and mass sports. Without participation, the individual has no self since the individual does nothing of consequence which elicits responses of others in the first instance. All self theory is based on the assumption that self is constituted in the process of acting; of others responding to the response of others. In mass society, it is not the individual which is the object of interest but rather the mass differentiated only in terms of profit' considerations.

Unless others routinely take the individual into account and respond to that individual in ways which validate the individual, the individuating process does not occur. For mass socialization, mass education, mass production as well as mass medicine the individuating process cannot occur. Persons cannot take themselves as the subject of their own actions since the routines of the bureaucracy require standardized routines applied impersonally to the flow of persons through the system and (since persons are often treated rather than individually) This bloc treatment is, of course, more rational in terms of the sad rationality of profit and efficiency but it defeats the process by which a stable, competent self emerges, capable of mediating behavior across a wide variety of social occasions.

If the individuating process does not occur in the context of adoption of a socially esteemed social identity, self and society are no longer twin born and both deteriorate to the savage world of privatized survival. The technology of control required to solve the problem of order distorts all political, scientific and therapeutic processes. Politics, science, and medicine take a frightful path....a path which leads to the new sciences of technological fascism. This involves behavior modification, various forms of "chemotherapy," psychoelectronics as well as police, psychotherapy, guidance and "counseling", secret policing systems, wiretapping, electronic surveillance and a wide variety of prisons, group "homes," and halfway houses controlled by the state. These directions in fascism are justified in terms of the deterioration of behavior unmediated by a self system oriented around a fairly permanent social identity anchored in a network of productive social relations. Fascism is the price one pays for a mass society -- a society where profit and class advantage take priority in the social allocation of resources and where retributive justice displaces distributive systems of justice.

It does not suffice to shift between A, B, C, and D modes of self as Zurcher suggests. The B mode must be central if self and society are to emerge. However it is not just any B mode is adequate. The social identities central to the self systems must be of a particular kind. They must be socially honored, they must be adult in terms of having full rights to participate in the construction of forms of social reality and in the forms of culture. They must be productive in terms of socially necessary goods and services. To hold, as does Zurcher, that the mutable self is fully compatible with military societies, class structure societies or to societies oriented to change, however senseless that change, bespeaks a fine indifference to the human condition. The self process is distorted in a wide variety of societies Zurcher accepts uncritically. In class societies, those whose labor is exploited come to have poor self conceptions as they are mystified about the worth of their labor, being and doing. Presumably persons in a slave society need only to jog, meditate or seek to be the perfect slave as a solution to the problem of self. Zurcher's formula does not preclude such. As in class societies, in sexist societies the mutable self is no answer to the loss of human capacity engendered by these "social" relations.

It is not a mutable self which is the answer to a good and decent society; it is a good and decent inventory of social roles, their associated social identities, supportive social relations as well as a socialization process competent to inculcate those social identities into the self system. Beyond that is the necessity that those social identities be used by the individual to mediate behavior and that the presentation of a productive social identity be honored in the course of everyday life. The growth of self requires the affirmations of self.

The use of a stockbroker named "James Tempus" as an example of the mutable self underscores the uncritical character of Zurcher's effort to solve the existential problem of being in class society. A stockbroker is not a productive worker. She/he does not add value to the resources found in nature. A stockbroker is an instrument by which the wealth produced by the social power of workers is appropriated by an unproductive class elite. The stockbroker contributes to all the problems which destroy the self process for lower echelon workers and/or the surplus population in class structured societies. That Zurcher cannot make that connection does not, by that fact, obviate that connection. Indeed, the chief function of the new middle class is to manage a variety of problems of capitalism ranging from the realization of profit to the management of alienated students, workers and many, many sectors of the surplus population. The existential solution to the problem of self is to establish a social anchorage for the self process of those sectors; not to manage that disoriented behavior after capitalism has excluded people from productive labor and from the social life world.

Praxis and Socialist Models of Self. In opposition to the mutable self, critical theory is oriented around praxis and a socialist model of selfhood. Markovic (1974: 64-69) has abstracted five moments of praxis central to a competent self system in an authentically socialist society. It is not that one shifts from one mode to another as Zurcher urges but rather that one incorporates all five moments in the same activity. It is not that one abandon one's social identity (B mode activity) as Zurcher recommends but rather that all praxis moments orient and constraint the embodiment of all social identities as they become situationally relevant.

Praxis behavior centers around sociality as its primal moment. In work and in other productive activity, people who are oriented to sociality are careful that their activity enriches the lives of others and contribute to the socially necessary production of goods and services. In contrast, for alienated labor there is only concern for wages and personal security. Praxis establishes warm and supportive links with other humans. In capitalist society, what one produces is irrelevant as long as one has a job. Sociality precludes the use of one's human abilities to produce harmful goods, dangerous drugs, ecological poisons or cater to false needs. In capitalist societies, work is oriented to profit motives and encourages such insults to health, economy and environment.

In praxis, self-realization is a second essential moment. It is that activity in which one realizes the full wealth of one's best potential. Self-realization realizes the self in that one takes great pleasure in one's own activity however much energy, time, and effort is involved. Self realization stands in contrast to motivational schemes which program behavior by external rewards: bonuses, prizes, rewards, wages, positive reinforcement or the manifold forms of sanction and coercion. Self-realization in conjunction with sociality means that all production and use of material culture be oriented to the affirmation of social relations. The privatized use of sex, food, sports, drugs, leisure is precluded by this conjunction. The separation of production and distribution is precluded as well.

Praxis is rational in that people move progressively away from a world in which they are subjected to the blind forces in nature and in alienated society. Rationality in conjunction with the two previous moments requires collective knowledge and collective control of the means of survival, This conjunction precludes the thin rationality of bureaucratic control. Such bureaucratic control offers a division of labor in which the "top" echelon claims the right to establish rules and procedures to which students, workers, customers, prisoners, soldiers, and welfare recipients are blindly subjected. Rationality is a moment of praxis requires a healthy public sphere in which positive knowledge of social structure and function is available; in which extrapolations to the future are publicly known and in which goals are collectively selected as well as are the means to satisfy those goals. Sociality precludes the selection of goals which benefit only sectors of a population or are harmful to health and nature. Sociality precludes the selection of means, however efficacious, which transfer the costs of goal attainment to some sectors of the population.

Praxis, as a socialist mode of human activity unites intention and behavior, thought and action, theory and method. This moment, intentionality, is the basis for the objective validity of knowledge in marxist theory in that one knows truly what one has constructed and what exists when intentionality is present. There is a long history concerning the nature of alienation here which I will not now develop. However intentionality separated from behavior reduces people to objects. However desirable this objectification might be from the perspective of owners, managers, bosses and social engineers, it is hostile to the human condition and precluded in authentically socialist models of self and society.

A fifth moment of praxis is that of creativity. Creativity restores history to the human enterprize. It demands that every new occasion be organized, collectively, to suit the special conditions of nature, persons, resources, and society at that time. Sameness, routine, standardization, repetition and mass processing is precluded by the moment of creativity. Every act of love, every act of child care, of teaching, of playing music, of games and sports must be imbued with creativity. Sameness, repetition and routine may be appropriate in processes without history or in which history is two dimensional--as with chemistry, physics and mechanical engineering. However for human beings and human society, history is variable and in its variation is found the possibility for creativity. Creativity is of course constrained by the moments of sociality as well as the other moments of praxis. This constraint precludes creativity in designing poison gases, in designing instruments of torture and in pursuing scientific means of circumventing the self system.

To summarize, a socialist model of self incorporates a set of social identities oriented to productive work. These social identities mediate behavior and are the primary means of social control. The five moments of praxis permeate and constrain the range of social identities permitted and the embodiment of any given socia1 identity in any concrete setting. All social identities are embedded in a network of friendly, supportive social relations. Such a model of self requires a specific kind of society. It cannot be a class society, a mass society or a society which transfers alienation to other societies or to sectors of its own population. Socialist society is not comprised of formal organizations processing masses of faceless persons through the routines of the day. Such a society may have state ownership of the production of material, ideological and political culture but it is not a praxis society and thus not authentically a socialist society--however useful and progressive it might be in certain historical periods. Only when these and other moments of praxis are possible for every human being in a routine basis will it be possible for a given society to claim for itself the title of a socialist society. There is much to do and many social transformations to come before a socialist society is possible. That does not preclude specific individuals from creative and progressive praxis but it does make such work difficult. It is to the eternal credit of the human species that people can, once in a while, transcend particular nonpraxis social arrangements and move toward social revolution.

The task of social revolution is not the mutable self of a stockbroker; it is not the creation of a self system oriented to change per se. It is not Jogging, meditating or acts of pretty criticism. Social revolution requires the elimination of those structural features of a society which obstruct and distort the self process. Social revolution requires the replacement of existing modes of production and distribution with socialist modes. The human process requires that each person have access to the material basis with which to sustain life; to the social basis with which to create social life and to the cultural basis with which to enrich social life. These are possible. Class, racist, sexist, feudal and elitist societies reduce those possibilities. Efforts to justify stratified societies; efforts to promote reform of stratified societies or efforts, such as those of Zurcher, to put forward false solutions to the problem of alienation impede social revolution and are to be opposed.

An adequate self system requires an adequate society. The material bases for a strong and competent self system is a socialist society infused with the sort of Marxist humanism discussed so forcefully by Schaff (1970). An exploitative, crime-ridden society eternally in economic crisis and using war as a way to win markets and minds is scarcely the grounding for a good and decent self system. Zurcher fails to the extent he forgets to link the fate of self to that of the society in which one must manage. In this book, the linkage between self and society is tenuous indeed. Zurcher has considerable talent and a commendable grasp of the literature. I would like to see him use that talent to better purpose. My suggestion is that he, and others who presume his mission, read Schroyer, Ollman, Schaff, Habermas, Markovic, and others in the critical school. Then, I would like to see his books and articles. As long as Zurcher stays within the literature of liberal capitalism, he will fail in what clearly are well meant efforts.


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