Thursday, June 09, 2005

Identity as wound

In The Managed Heart Hochschild suggests this about the splitting of one's ego under work pressures to contrive certain moods for the benefit of customers:
In the end, it seems, we make up an idea of our "real self," an inner jewel that remains our unique possession no matter whose billboard is on our back or whose smile is on our face. We push the "real self" further inside, making it more inaccessible. Subtracting credibility from the parts of our emotional machinery that are in commmercial hands, we turn to what is left to find out who we "really are." And around the surface of our human character, where once we were naked, we don a cloak to protect us against the commercial elements

This seems a fair assessment to me, but I wonder if it's not the process of commercializing feeling that instigates the quest for the real self, if the real self is not itself a product of the reifying and selling of emotions to begin with; in other words, before we are expected to pretend to certain feelings, we don't ever worry about an authentic self, meaning we don't worry reflexively about identity at all. No identity pre-exists the "subtraction" of part of it to tithe over to industry. In this theoretical pre-lapsarian world of character, we instantaneous self-identify, without a gulf between thought and action. Not to wax too Lacanian here, but selfhood, identity would then be the product of alienation, an entry into the commercial world that is already always prepared for us when we are born into capitalism. Far from an "inner jewel" the real self is really the scar of commercialization, the wound that won't heal. We are convinced it is valuable to compensate for the original wounding, the original cleavage of self from community.

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