Identity in Modern Times

Updated April 25, 2022

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Identity in Modern Times essay

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In this essay I would like to talk about identity in modern times, because I think it is one of the most important aspects of our lives and it play a crucial role for people which wanted to be successful among other people. In today’s world, it is quite difficult to understand in practice what the term ‘identity’ means. What seems unique to us, on closer examination, will not be. Instead, we will see the already known and repeated many times in one or another matter. The concept of ‘identity’ implies sameness, similarity.

Some of the reasons for the formation of a person’s personality include the desire of an individual to identify himself with other people or a group of people, as well as his separate desire for self-identity, functionally aimed at his isolation, the isolation of himself from the environment of other people. In most cases, identification is an emotional and cognitive process of identification of the individual with other people, community, object. The process of human identification translates the requirements of the external environment, standing outside the individual, in a personally acceptable form for him, which begins to experience them as their own properties. Being one of the mechanisms of socialization, identification allows a person to join the life, culture of society in such a way that when choosing norms and rules of behavior he makes a decision consciously and finds satisfaction, feels his security, acting within the requirements of society. Such human self-determination is a multi-level creative process.

Today’s processes of globalization and transformation observed in the world violate traditional forms of identity, call into question the subjective feelings of self-identity of people and ethnic groups formed within the framework of previous traditions. This is particularly acute in relation to the problem of identity of representatives of small groups, ethnic, religious and cultural minorities. Their former sense of their own’ I’, which was provided by previous forms of identity, fell into disrepair. There was a break in continuity, when the destruction of one type of identity must be compensated by the identity of another type. Isolationism, in turn, has led to a tendency to reverse the localization of culture and traditions, lifestyles, thoughts and norms of human behavior.

However, we know in practice that identity in general is some stability of individual, social, cultural parameters, their identity. The initial levels of identity are associated with traditional culture, and their stability often leads to a confrontation with the modern updates of the era. Globalization and modern processes in the modern world are a real test for national and cultural identity. Dialogue and cultural continuity should be the main means of overcoming it. The specificity of the culture of a country must be determined by the unity of social, political, economic, spiritual interests and values of the peoples living in it. Without the universalization of values society cannot avoid the ideological deadlock, the overcoming of which is associated with the orientation of man not only on alternative ideas, but also on the invariants, which include respect for the perspective of «Another Person», another nation. This invariant remains unchanged in different cultural forms, in different historical epochs. But they can be difficult in case of identity crisis and noticeable changes in its forms, as well as the increasing factor of a person’s pluralistic perception of personal identity.

As it is known, in the modern world the problem of identity has become the main discourse both in science and in everyday life.

Many researchers and scientists such as Burke, Peter J., and Jan E. Stets (Identity theory); Goffman Erving (The presentation of the self in everyday life); MacKinnon, Neil J., and David R. Heise, Self (identity, and social institutions) have devoted their scientific works and research to the problems of understanding identity as a concept and phenomenon.

For example, working within the framework of the concept of symbolic interactionism, Peter Burke developed a new one in cooperation with his colleagues the theory of identity, which was called the theory of control identities. P. Burke is a Professor of sociology and co-Director of the research laboratory of social psychology at the University of California, has published more than 75 scientific articles, and is the author or co-author of four books, one of which is dedicated to control theory of identity and co-written with Jana Stats. I. Stets – social psychologist, Professor of sociology, University of California, Director of the sociology program at the National Science Foundation. I. Stets-micro-theorist, works in the field of self-government and identity, emotions, morality and social exchange. Important an aspect of identity control theory is the deviation from classical ideas of identity by E. Erikson and the consideration of this concept from the position of D. Mead, who studied the formation of personality under the influence of interactions with other people.

P. Burke and J. Stets, in turn, propose to understand identity not as a constant, but as a continuous process. In determining the identity of something we call and identify things and thus create generalizations and connect values with symbols and representations. It is difficult to define human life without using common markers such as ‘ it woman”, ‘he is a man’, ‘he is a criminal’, etc. the practice of identity plays a crucial role in making our lives clear. Every day we participate in the practice of “identification”: we assign names and labels to people and things. Social Sciences share personal and social identities. In fact, this is a rather conditional division: identity is not only describing us, it defines our place in society. The formation of identity is influenced not by only our personal biography, but also a broader collective the life in which we participate. For this reason, the identity studied in a wide range of social disciplines, ranging from ethnographic studies of the lives of individuals to large-scale quantitative studies covering the attitudes and behaviors of thousands of people.

Each person has a set of identities for each role in society, category and group to which it belongs. This complexity of personality with its multiple identities reflects the complexity of society. In the theory of identity control multiple identities are built into a hierarchy in which some identities are higher than others. They share high-level and low-level identities. The operation of the lower-level identity control unit generates behavior that maintains or changes values, that is, brings them into line with standards of identity. And the work of the high-level identity control unit changes the standards (identity values) for lower-level identities. Higher-level identities include such basic statuses as gender, race, class and many others.

Another person to examine the problems of the term “identity” was Erving Goffman, who described his thoughts in his book “The presentation of the self in everyday life”.

Goffman emphasizes (in particular, on the example of the total institutions studied by him) that a person cannot completely merge with the social system, always choosing a place somewhere between identification with the organization and opposition to it, moving in this space and constantly trying to maintain a balance. When interacting with society, there are usually numerous attempts to evade the entire social condition of the ‘I’, full identification never occurs, and these attempts to preserve themselves are, according to Goffman, the key to understanding human existence. In this regard, Goffman notes:

“… Full commitment and devotion to any social education presupposes a kind of self-denial. The meaning of our being a person can be determined by belonging to social formations, the meaning of our individuality is manifested through those few ways in which we resist the attraction of society. Our status is based on the solid building of the world, while the meaning of our personal identity is often in its cracks”.[footnoteRef:1] [1: Goffman E. The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, University of Edinburgh Social Sciences Research Centre, 1959.]

Many think that we live in an era of identity crisis. Culture, ideology, life style — everything is changing insanely fast. Individuality as such, it remains the only point of support in this world. Who am I, where is my place? These issues cannot simply be solved for ourselves — the derived formula must still be accepted by the society in which we live. The need to become what you are is a trait of living in conditions modernity. The meaning of ‘individualization’ is to free a person from the prescribed, inherited and innate predetermination of the concrete social role.

Modern man is moving from the identification of his individual and collective ideas to a sense of the gap between them and between the various collective identities, resulting in a situation of crisis of social consciousness. There is a need to create a research program with the involvement of concepts that correspond to this situation. One of these concepts is ‘identity’. The ongoing transformation of traditional models of human behavior in the community, when a relatively stable culture was the basis for the formation of ideological attitudes and norms, suggest an independent choice of individual identification guidelines.

Identity, on the one hand, is included in the structure of national consciousness as a kind of sociological form, revealing the social significance of the existence of the individual, his behavior, original development, on the other hand, goes beyond the epistemological status of the content of national consciousness, as identity – not only the subjective experience of one’s individuality, but also what is objectively defined as placement in a certain world and can be assimilated only along with this world, which emphasizes the existential-constitutive meaning of the role of identity in the modern existence of society.

Identity implicit as a social identity (identification with one community or the other community, the individual community) and individual (personal identity) identity. The identity of an individual in modern society is to some extent a free choice of several identities; as a result, the identity itself becomes problematic, which still needs to be identified with a variety of variable identities so that it can identify itself.

In conclusion, summing up all above, I’d like to admit that social identity in the modern social theory is considered as a characteristic of the individual from the point of view of his belonging to any social community, group. Thus, all personal descriptors directly relate to or imply identity. In this case, each person becomes the owner of several identities. Based on this, the problem of identity was studied in this work in the direction of clarifying its fundamental nature in the structure of social relations of the individual, as well as determining the relationship with individual identity and self-consciousness.

Studies of experts on the definition of the term identity are reduced to the fact that identity appears as a set of certain roles, to some extent, free choice of several social identities; as a result, the identity itself becomes problematic, which still needs to be identified with a variety of variable identities, so that it can identify itself with a variety of modern roles.

Identity can be understood as a complex, integrated set of possible forms of mental, physical, social activities that an individual learns in the process of mastering one of the role models, therefore, identity never ‘reflects’ reality, but is designed for its design and exists only to the extent that it forms a certain discourse, which is not only a means for determining, but also reflects the results of this process, correlates with various discourses (and identities characteristic of them).


  1. Burke, Peter J., and Jan E. Stets, Identity theory.
  2. Goffman, Erving, The presentation of the self in everyday life.
  3. MacKinnon, Neil J., and David R. Heise, Self, identity, and social institutions.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Personal_identity
Identity in Modern Times essay

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