Identity Social Research Paper

Pages: 5 (1406 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1+  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: Master's  ·  Topic: Government

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[. . .] Smith postulates the importance of myth building in the construction and maintenance of social identity. Myth building is not unique to nations in diaspora, either, but impact the United States and other nation-states as well. Social identity is the means by which individuals pledge allegiance to a flag, its symbolic visions and goals. The ends may include the willingness to die for country.

Anderson attributes the formation of nation-identity on three main features: the generation and maintenance of a script-language, the hierarchical social order, and the linking of cosmology and history. These three features are all related to myth building. Social identity is created and nurtured with myth; myth helps to maintain social identity over the course of time. The importance of script-language cannot be underestimated, as language "offered privileged access to ontological truth," beyond that which is available in the oral domain (Anderson 36). Writing provides a timeless, tangible inscription and encryption of social identity. In this sense, the script-language enables the link between cosmology and history. Written texts transcend time, and can be passed down from generation to generation as living proof of one's membership (or exclusion from) a social or ethnic group. Access to the language is ironically not a prerequisite for membership in the ethnic group, and is also not an automatic entry key. Rather, the written language is also a means to an end.

The second most important component of national identity, according to Anderson, is that societies were believed to be (whether they actually were or not) "naturally organized around and under high centers -- monarchs who were persons apart from other human beings and who ruled by some form of cosmological (divine) dispensation," (36-37). In other words, the political elite is instructional in creating national identities via myth construction. Mythologizing and collective ethnic narratives in turn depend on the first feature of nation-identity, which happens to be language. The written language and printed texts of a nation, whether Hebrew, Chinese, Sanskrit, or Greek, is one of the means by which social identity serves the end of community. This is how language and social hierarchy are linked. Historically, language was far from the egalitarian and populist tool it is today. Now, language is a critical tool of the perpetuation of social identity and national identity.

Third, Anderson discusses the concept of temporality "in which cosmology and history were indistinguishable," (37). Social and political hierarchies are social structures and institutions that can be perpetuated over time, encoded and ensconced in constitutions and other written documents. These documents affirm the political structures within the nation-state. A social hierarchy becomes codified, and it also becomes integral to the social identity. Even the social hierarchy and political structure is a means to an end: the end being stability and cohesion as well as the sharing of national resources. In the United States, the populace agrees to the sharing of some national resources to serve the goals of mutual support and national security. Were it not for the "myths, memories, symbols, and values retained by a given cultural unit of population," it would be practically impossible to maintain social order in a nation as heterogeneous as that of the United States. (Smith 30).

Thus, it can almost be said that the more heterogeneous the composition of the society, the greater the need for national myths. National myths and social identity are critical components of phenomenon like the willingness to fight for country, or even in more extreme cases, be complicit in crimes against humanity. Heterogeneity beings to light Anderson's analysis of how dominant groups threatened with marginalization or exclusion from an emerging nationally-imagined community resort to dysfunctional or violent strategies (Anderson 104). Social identity, which is "taught" as a form of verbal and nonverbal communication is the means to the end of social stability (Anderson 60). As it must be taught, it is categorically constructed. Social identity can be used to create boundaries between the community and its perceived enemies, thus perpetuating dysfunctional relationships between groups of people .

Works Cited

Anderson, Benedict. Imagined Communities. New York and London: Verso, 2006.

Gellner, Ernest.… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Identity Social.  (2014, May 11).  Retrieved December 12, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/identity-social/9310226

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"Identity Social."  11 May 2014.  Web.  12 December 2019. <https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/identity-social/9310226>.

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"Identity Social."  Essaytown.com.  May 11, 2014.  Accessed December 12, 2019.
https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/identity-social/9310226.