In Chapter 1 (Introduction) and in Chapter 2 (The concept of identity) of the Bhikhu Parekh’s 2008 book ‘A new politics of identity: Political principles for an independent world,’ the author provides readers with an insight into the very notion of one’s self-identity. He also elaborates on what he considers the effects of Globalization on the process of people’s existential identities being formed and comes up with the conceptual framework for the qualitative classification of these identities. The foremost ideas that are being promoted throughout the course of both chapters’ entirety can be summarized as follows:
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- The process of Globalization establishes objective preconditions for people’s sense of identity to be increasingly affected by their growing awareness of the fact that, regardless of what happened to be the specifics of their religious and socio-cultural affiliation, they are primarily the representatives of Homo Sapiens species. Hence, Parekh’s suggestion that, “We need to approach our problems in the spirit of human solidarity, and that this requires us to energize and consolidate our shared humanity, or what I call our human identity” (p. 2).
- There are three integral components to one’s existential self-identification: personal identity (reflective of how the concerned individual assesses the value/implications of his or her own sense of personhood), social identity (suggestive of the aspects of one’s affiliation with a particular ethnocultural/religious/social group, overall identity (representative of what account for the specifics of one’s emotional comfortableness with the idea that all people belong to essentially the same sub-species of primates).
- Different people tend to assess the actual significance of their self-identity differently, which in turn reflects the particulars of their upbringing, the varying subtleties of their sense of religiosity, and the qualitative characteristics of a socio-cultural environment that surrounds these people.
Nevertheless, even though that in Chapter 1, Parekh expressed his belief that his book does, in fact, contain a number of innovative insights as to what the notion of one’s self-identity stands for, I do not think that this is being the actual case. This is because, even though that the author did succeed in outlining just about all the factors that may have an effect on the formation of people’s sense of sense identity, and in explaining how this sense extrapolates itself culturally and socially, he omitted to mention something, of which today’s biologists and psychologists are being fully aware. Namely, the fact that the manner in which people position themselves in life, reflective of their sense of self-identity, cannot be discussed outside of what accounts for the genetically predetermined peculiarities of these people’s ‘brain wiring.’
After all, it does not represent much of a secret that there is a dialectical link between how individuals go about interacting with the surrounding reality and reflecting upon their place in it, on the one hand, and what happened to be the rate of their IQ, on the other. Moreover, it also represents a well-observed fact that the sheer strength of one’s sense of ethnocultural/religious identity negatively correlates with the measure of his or her intellectual advancement.
That is, the more a particular individual seems to be concerned with exploring its cultural or religious ‘uniqueness,’ the narrower is his or her intellectual horizons, and consequently – the lesser is the extent of this individual’s value, as the society’s productive member. Therefore, it is quite impossible to agree with Parekh’s culturally relativist suggestion that there can be no universally applicable instrument for evaluating the discursive significance of people’s sense of self-identity. This instrument does exist while being commonly referred to in terms of a ‘civilization’.
Once we deploy this instrument, while assessing different aspects of people’s sense of identity, it will appear that, regardless of what happened to be specifics of their physical appearance and their gender affiliation, just about everybody can be generally classified as ‘barbarians’, on the one hand, and ‘agents of progress’, on the other. The main identity-forming psychological traits of ‘barbarians’ are their intellectual inflexibility, tribal-mindedness, tendency to indulge in violence, willingness to adjust their lives to be consistent with meaningless ‘traditional rituals,’ and their pathologically acute sense of religiosity.
The identity-forming psychological traits of ‘agents of progress,’ on the other hand, are their non-religiousness, tolerance for the opinions of others, and ability to operate with highly abstract categories (high IQ), and the most important – their perceptual cosmopolitism. That is these people’s awareness of the fact that one’s true identity is being the least reflective of the concerned individual’s cultural or religious ‘uniqueness.’
Therefore, it will only be appropriate, on my part, to reinstate once again that, even though that the Chapters 1 and 2 from Parekh’s book do contain some interesting ideas as to how people go about constructing their sense of self-identity, they are much too politically correct to be considered truly enlightening. Apparently, Parekh considered the discussed subject matter highly sensitive, which in turn prevented him from being able to tackle it in an intellectually honest manner. My opinion, in this respect, is highly subjective. This, of course, means that it cannot be regarded as such that represents an undisputed truth-value.
Parekh, B. (2008). Chapter 1: Introduction. In A new politics of identity: Political principles for an interdependent world (pp. 1-7). New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
Parekh, B. (2008). Chapter 2: The concept of identity. In A new politics of identity: Political principles for an interdependent world (pp. 8-30). New York: Palgrave Macmillan.