Individual Identity In European History

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Individual Identity in European History

Individual Identity in European History

Individual Identity

Identity is an important central concern of sociology, especially within the subfield of social psychology. The work of sociologists C. H. Cooley, George Herbert Mead, and Irving Goffman is central to the study of identity. While not all social psychologists agree on its exact nature or definition, identity is generally agreed to be a social construct that refers to how the individual is perceived and labeled by the self and by society. The nature of the construct may be determined by group memberships, categories, social roles, physical attributes, or behaviors that determine the structural position of an individual in the social world. Identity is the most public aspect of the self and forms the basis by which the individual relates to society (Haumann, 2002).

The study of identity is a primary focus in social psychology and the related fields sociology, psychology, clinical psychology, cultural anthropology, and political science. But each field approaches the study of identity differently. Sociologists and social psychologists tend to focus on the process of identity formation and identity display and the consequences for social relationships. Identity may be studied from micro (individual) or macro (societal) perspectives. Some theories use identity to link micro and macro processes. Much work in this field has attempted to define the content and meaning of identity and to use identity as a basis for understanding social behavior and social structure.

Individual Identity in European History

Seen from the inside, Europe possesses no identity. There is not only one Europe, but many: the Europe of the European Union (EU), the European Economic Area, the Western European Union, what remains of the European Free Trade Association, the Council of Europe, and the Europe of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the North Atlantic Treaty Alliance (NATO), two organisations with non-European member states.

The question of identity can be meaningfully put only with respect to Europe in the form of the EU. It is true that the EU's 27 members do not come up to the current figure of 46 members for the Council of Europe, but nowhere other than in the EU can one find such a high degree of integration, i.e. of institutional and constitutional deepening and indeed intertwining. As a result, for most European states who are not yet members of the EU, the perspective of joining plays a decisive role which will help shape the political, social, economic and cultural development of the coming years (Lichte, 2002).

Against this attractive force of the EU, there is an endless series of internal crises which cause one repeatedly to despair of the goal of European unity. If all countries ratify it, the Treaty of Lisbon will now end the crisis over the European Constitution which the No votes in France and the Netherlands in 2005 had unleashed, but it also contains within it the germ of new crises to come, because individual countries were granted exceptions which constitute juridical grey ...
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