November 12, 2019 in Sociology

Identity Essay (Social Sciences)

This research paper undertakes an analysis of current explanations of identity that appears to be a complicated as well as an unclear concept that nonetheless participates in a central duty in the ongoing debates in almost all subfields of social science. Identity as mostly stated derives the work of renowned psychologists such as Erik Erickson back in late 1950’s.  However; dictionary meanings haven’t caught up and thus failing to grab the identity’s current meanings in contexts of social science. Thus, identity can be defined in three ways.

  • A social grouping delineated by some membership rules as well as characteristics attributes and or the expected behaviors.
  • Socially distinguished kind of features that an individual takes a unique pride in and perceives as unalterable but socially consequential. 
  • In the latter definition, the word is more of an advanced version of pride as well as dignity.

The word implicitly bonds honor and pride and the other mention trait to social categories. Compared to the glosses presented by the political scientists, this statement is arguably concrete. This statement also permits in the classification of how identity aids in the explanations of some political actions. It does so to some connotations of claims that identities are basically constructed socially. Analyzing using the common language is important and perhaps proves to be a vital means of classifying concepts of social sciences that possess rigid basis in day to day speech.  

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Recently, scholars undertaking a wide array of the social sciences as well as humanities have developed an interest in queries concerning identity. Though within the political scope, the concept of identity is at the helm of lively debates almost in every key subfield. Scholars of the American politics have devoted fresh research to identity politics, mainly of sexuality, race, and gender. Within comparative politics, for instance, identity plays a major role in the duty of nationalism and the ethnic conflict. In the international relations, the concept of national identity is at the center of constructivist critiques, mainly of realism and state sovereignty analyzes. Within the political theory, identity questions present several arguments on culture and nationality about the liberalism and the alternatives associated with it.

In comparison to recent scholarship in humanities, the political scientists continue being laggards while working on identities. As a result of influences that range from great philosophers such as Michel Foucault to multiculturalism debates, historical constructions and the cultural ones relating to the identity of all kinds of late, appear pre-occupational for social historians and the scholars of culture. Though almost every individual has an idea of how to apply the word correctly in ever single day discourse, it demonstrates difficulty in issuing a precisely summarized statement that can capture the extent of its recent meanings. Considering this concept’s centrality to so much current research, especially in social sciences, where intellectuals perceive identities as something that can be explained, and that possess explanatory force. However, philosophers indicate that it would be fine at the very least if there is a concise phrase of the meaning of identity in a simpler language that presents justice to its recent intentions. 

This research article distils a very clear assertion of the interpretation of the word identity from the present usage of the word and analyzes it in a more clear and ordinary language. It is employed in a duo connected senses in recent times. These kinds of senses may be termed as personal as well as social sense. In the latter, the word is perceived as a social classification or category, a collection of individuals who are marked by a specific label of which is differentiated by some regulations as well as rules that play a part in deciding the membership in a certain group and the characteristic features of individual members4. In the other kind of sense, it is perceived as a distinguishing trait that an individual takes pride5.


A person’s distinctive attribute is simply identity. This term also means those traits shared by persons of a given social group. It is rather easy to distinguish between the word identity and what is meant to be identification. While the latter is the work of classifying, identity is can be regarded as a label. The former is preeminently construed as rather contextual as well as relational. Identification, the act itself is better perceived as a procession that is completely inherent4.

Development of an identity of an individual occurs via the person’s identification with momentous others; primarily with that person’s guardians and more other people around him or her in life and during that persons’ biographical experience. The other mentioned people can benign-such a manner as to aspire to each trait, belief as well as the values in them. Idealistic identification is the rightful term to describe this phenomenon or, in other words, can be referred to as malign.

Psychological identity sort of identity signifies the self-image of a person, in other words, the mental model of an individual. Still it indicates the self-esteem and the individuality of that person. Accordingly, a person’s identity can also relate to an individual’s self-construal. This is whereby a person construes oneself in an attempt of expressing oneself in present times.   

Explanations of identity aspects appear and include individual’s ethnic identity that is defined as the totality par of an individual self-construal constituting of the dimensions that articulate continuity between past ancestry of an individual construal and the future aspirations of that person about his or her ethnicity. Gender identity delineates a noteworthy component of psychological identity. It tends to dictate in a certain level the manner in which a human being perceives oneself as an individual and also about ideas of different human beings.

Some identity aspects such as the occupation as well as religion are also significant in various situations. Cognitive psychology, however, tends to place the word as a capacity for self-awareness.

Why bother with identity or identification?

Given the enormous interest in this word as well as identities across a wide spectrum of subjects, one might at first expect it to be simple to come up with statements of what people mean when they use the concept. Overwhelmingly, academics who employ the word feel a little urge to explain the meaning of the concept, especially to readers. The understanding of the readers is taken in most cases for granted, even when the word is the core dependent variable of the author, and this is perhaps unsurprising while the source of the current understanding of the word lies in academics, the idea is regular in popular discourse. Since people know how to use the word in everyday conversations and comprehend it in other individuals’ sentences, why bother with its explanations and definitions? 

Secondly, in popular discourse, the word is treated as an ineffable thing or even something scared, while, in academics, the word is treated as a complex thing or even ineffable. An individual hesitates to attempt to define the ineffable or the sacred and to an extent the complex. Of course, an individual may find several clarifications and definitions in various sources. These control the gamut, ranging from evocative glosses to various fairly complicated as well as opaque formulations. Here are various examples, culled from international relations10:

  • Identity can be described as individual’s concept of whom they are, or the kind of persons they are and the manner in which they relate with others.
  • It can also be seen as the manner in which set of persons define themselves. The manner in which other people describe them in terms of language or ethnicity among other attributes.
  • Can also be seen as the manner in which collectivities and individuals are differentiated in the way they relate socially with other collectivities and individuals. 
  • National identity presents that state whereby a group of persons has developed a similar identification with the state symbols. 
  • Identities are comparatively role-specific expectations and understandings about one-self.
  • Social identities are a pack of definitions that actors attributes to while undertaking other peoples’ perspective, as a social object. They are cognitive schemas enabling an actor evaluate who he or she is in a position or situation in a social responsibility structure of expectations and understandings.
  • Social identity is some aspiration for group position, dignity, and distinctions within the historically certain discourse concerning a structure, character and boundary of an economy and polity.
  • By convention, it refers to mutually constructed images of an individual and others.

Identity Construction

It is arguably confusing whether a national identity is actually a reflection of that country all the times or just the state f being that specific country and not a different country. Certainly, this concept involves the notion of spatial as well as temporal continuity. However, the research of a national identity of a certain country would not entail the same contents as a research content of a different one.

Social Identity and Social Identification

A common answer to what identity is; is the answer one gives when asked who he is. Many academic scholars provide concise clarification of their meaning of the word, and mostly they issue the answer that, a person’s identity is who she or he is.

Individuals would answer the question totally different from others, in that one would answer; am an American, the other one would answer, am a professor. By this little evidence, it is trivial that an individual would have so many answers to that question since the way you answer that question highly rely on specific context.

So, the following is a cut at a description. An identity can be specified as a Y in the phrase; ‘I am a Y.’ In logical conditions, an identity relates to a predicate that may apply to an individual, that is the quality or the character of the individual, and this isn’t complete since it permits things that wouldn’t fit as legitimate identities even using the wide sense of identity. For example, if Y= an individual with seven fingers, alternatively, Y=an individual having 2 moles on left arm, or even Y= an individual who visited a dentist last week. With that, the identity ought to be a specific kind of predicate that is attachable to a particular individual. Now the question is; what kind of that predicate?

Following the route absorbed by philosophers who have for long engaged in endless debates concerning the technical comprehension of the word, in this sort of debate, a thing’s identity and not only an individual articulate certain properties in the virtue of which it is exactly that thing. Meaning, if you altered those qualities mentioned it would cease being that thing and ending up being something else. Inquiries in this word in this particular sense causes emergence of conundrums such as; ‘what makes this tree the same one that was present here twelve years ago?’ On the other hand, if we consider a human being, ‘what would have to be unusual about a person that would stop being whom he is?’

In this sense that is philosophical, personal identity can be regarded as the predicates of that individual, which if altered, would no longer be the same individual, the qualities that are vital to him being that individual instead of being mere contingent. For instance if one loses a single finger, people would still regard you as the same person, though if the same person suffer advanced Alzheimer’s state people might not. What philosophers give as an explanation of the word is not exactly what common people mean in their social life or popular discourse. For instance, if someone is a big fun of a certain kind of music if that person ceases to be a fan of that music it doesn’t render him or her a different person. That person, in particular, might consider his or her identity to have changed. 

The same case happens to national identity if someone changes national affiliations. Still a qualification is highly required on the description that proclaims an identity is a Y that satisfies the statement ‘I am a Y’ in a certain situation or context. Considering the usage, the distinctive predicate in most cases is a social category, as in instances stated earlier in this paper. Consider, that an explanation that states that identity is a social category, and to possess a certain identity it calls for assigning oneself to a specific social category and or to be assigned, and to render this research complete, this explanation needs a statement that would clearly state what social category is. 

Social Category

A social category is a group of individuals designated by a certain label usually issued to, used by, a group of people. The label has to be invoked severally or in significant situations that are sufficient, and those individuals condition the behaviors they have or the thinking on that label. For instance, individuals can think of the category of persons with more than five fingers in a single arm, but this is irrelevant since there aren’t any behaviors that caused this condition. Thus, this should not be admitted as a social category.

Social class possesses two features in a separate manner. Those who are demonstrated or described according to a collection of persons assigned and those who are not assigned to a category and this is by virtue of implicit or the explicit membership rules. Social categories still are comprehended in the form of a collection of traits like the moral commitments and the physical attributes among others. 

Identity politics as used by political scientists is actually term given to describe contention of set membership rules as well as moral valuations and not forgetting political treatments present in social categories.

Describing Actions Using Identities

If a single side of the description of the word is actually the basis of an individual’s dignity, then it ends up being less mysterious the way this ambiguous construct may inspire various actions in a powerful manner. Identity is highly employed in explanation of certain actions and this subject, the learners surely wishes that this concept would do this task. Identity is arguably interesting and has significant attributes in that it tries to elaborate various actions that other present approaches fail to; such approaches include ration choice.

Standard rationalist descriptions of actions have to presume identity account to begin with and a precise account of identity, meaning would appear to be a precondition for developing such discussions coherently.  Identity can contribute to the explanation of actions in various ways which parallels both sides of current meaning of identity. Identity can elaborate actions in the sense that attachments in a social category may explain actions. Also the desire to attain a certain level of dignity and defend it may explain actions. An example to support this is, for instant; 

  • Why did X grab a mug, pour the drink, hand it to Y, and finally took some cash from Y, because X is a bartender. 
  • Why is this person having a turban, because the person is a Sikh.
  • The Germans inside the house didn’t participate in singing the Marseillaise
  • Though the girl was excessively tired, she came up with a pleasant talk since she was a guest-of-honor.

Personal Identities/ Identity of Corporate Actors

In most cases when individuals are urged to elaborate personal identity a high percentage describe using the common idea or the usual formulations in that; one begins to giving his or her descriptions who he is or who she is or how she understands herself. Identities are no only applied to human beings but also other things and objects. States possesses identities as well as churches. Institutions do have identities and not forgetting political parties. Like the states, corporate actors in more ordinary language are perceived and applied in a social scientific manner as metaphoric individuals or persons who are endowed with much agency as well as will. 

Gender Identity

An individual’s gender, typically whether a woman or a man is arguably the most mentioned identities in moments when individuals are requested to describe themselves. It is also the category that other people describe other people. Developmental psychologists have so much researched about this topic in recent years, and this is because it is a fundamental category and it is not surprisingly that its implications and meanings are largely associated with gender. Personal traits like being aware of other people’s feelings, role behaviors, like taking care of young ones, others undertaking leadership roles, physical traits like having wide shoulders or a deep voice, and several other associations can be connected to gender. Research shows that it is not that appropriate to consider gender as the only social classification but calls for the conception of gender identities that identifies or recognize a variety of social identities easily influenced by any gender.

Relationships, as well as occupational considerations have various implications on gender, for instance if someone is a lady, her female identity may differ radically in that the woman has an option of regarding herself as a traditional sort of a lady or accept her feminism. In espousing a perspective concerning the gender identities, a person or an individual may attempt to acknowledge his or her gender comes up with various identities and the social identities may overlap and or intersect with one another.

Ethnic and National Identities

Ethnicity is a key element in defining oneself. However, it ends up being a significant social identity. In ancient times, social scientists classified people regarding primary racial categories, for instance, Asian or the Negroid, but with growing awareness of the arbitrary condition of the race’s social construction, they are less employed nowadays. Nowadays, the commonly employed is classification based on ethnicity, which is defined in the form of language and culture as well as the nation of origin.

Nationality may be intimately connected with the ethnicity identity though it mostly represents a unique manner of categorizing oneself. In states like Finland, an individual being an ethnically Finnish is highly overlapping identification base with being a citizen of the country. In contrast, in America, an individual may possess an identity as American and still possess an identity as an African-American. National identities are subjectively defined and flexible. These two identification bases may inhibit different explanations for friendship networks, cultural activities, and social activities, and to an extent marriage as well as families. It is highly recognized that individuals are not necessarily obliged to opt one of two equally exclusive identities, rather they maintain double identification instead, or may employ both identity source as the foundation of a fresh emergent kind of social identification, for instance, as a biracial person. 

Sexual Orientation

A lot of individuals employ social orientation as a key grouping of social identification. As it is often the issue, members of the small group, that is the lesbians, and the gay are highly likely to issue prominence to this kind of social identification than people in the majority group, in this instant the heterosexual. Several analyzes of lesbians and gay identification have commonly posited developmental stage models, which analyze the process by which individuals come to apprehend and later endorse the sexual orientation in them. These models consider the fact that many people come to realize their sexual orientation in the adolescent stage. A critical aspect of the lesbian and the gay identity is that in certain segments of the society, it is largely stigmatized. Discrimination as well as the prejudice experience that this small group undergoes, brings complication in the social identification process of the group in the society. This is mostly because the positive values that each and every person associates with the group aren’t shared by the society exclusively.

Identification in the form of sexual orientation demonstrates clearly the overlapping state of identity categories, specifically with the gender one. 

Multiplicity and Intersectionality

It would seem easy to speak regarding multiple kinds of identities, for instance, having different identities as a woman, a spouse, at the same time a mother, a spouse. In fact, various theoretical traditions found in psychology as well as sociology and including symbolic interactions and role theory encourages people to figure out regarding the distinct groups mentioned. In contrast, theories mainly emanating from renowned psychologists concentrate on possibilities for joining multiple identities into one. 


Motivation in this research has been to demonstrate and advocate usual language analysis to clarify the concepts of social sciences. There are arguments stated above that when an unclear and complicated concept is employed by social scientists, explication of its meaning in ordinary language is a valuable point to begin. Social scientists standard practice in this circumstance is to legislate a meaning. But legislation in the absence of a fine initial comprehension of what the users already imply is a dangerous thing. To an extent, the definition that is legislated diverges from the usual understanding. Individual risks confusion and this applies to both the reader and the author, and there is little means to measure this without explicating the normal language meaning. 

Identity demonstrates intuitions that administer common language use and may reflect implicit conditions that are largely nuanced and subtle compared to the efforts of the academics at legislated glosses. At a minimum, the social scientists who are interested in clarifying contested and significant concepts might affix this kind of approach in their arsenal of techniques. 

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