Simmel & Mao on Root of Identity

Both Georg Simmel and Mao Tse Tung believed that the root of identity lay in contradiction. Simmel's stranger's identity is born from the contradiction that he represents, being simultaneously within and without society. Although he is not part of the society, his very identity depends on that fact, and he views the established group with freshened eyes. Mao, for his part, also believed that identity was rooted in contradiction. For Mao this contradiction, given the proper conditions, could juxtapose itself, just as the proletariat, given the right circumstances, could overthrow the bourgeoisie.

Georg Simmel's conception of individuals is rooted in their position in society. For Simmel, a person becomes what he is as a result of his interactions and relationships with others in society who assign him to a particular social archetype and expect him to act and behave in certain manners. A person's characteristics are thus, according to Simmel, an attribute of the overarching social structure in which the person finds himself.



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