Random Theory: The Socially-Defined Self

A statement is not ultimately identifiable by its anatomy.

Let’s unpack that.

Starting at the ends, by ‘anatomy’ we can give words as a potent example, especially if by ‘statement’ we mean something linguistically expressed. And it’s no great jump to presume applicability across communications forms: words in a sentence, visual components of an image, the delivery of a physical performance, etc.. In fact, such generalizing is justified by the point of the statement: whatever these constituent elements might be, they do not individually possesses the essence of the information being communicated.  One step further: they don’t even do so altogether, in this precise combination.  And this is for the fact that, in each utterance of a statement, the context is altered, even if only by the previous utterance of the statement.  Take ’99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall’ as an example: even though there is strong resemblance between the verses—only a single difference separating any of them, really—it is that one, consistent  difference that provides the exact positioning of each verse in the entire song.  Take one down, move it around, and you don’t have ’99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall.’  Likewise, any human expression is subject to several forces, including the perceptions and perspectives of everyone involved in the statement’s creation and reception.  In that process, discourse itself, the valuation, the social placement, of that statement, will be established via its relationship to other statements, such as criticisms, elaborations, refutations, rephrasings, reappropriations, and a bunch of other ‘re-‘s that, in the Hegelian sense, are too numerous in their possibilities to really even fathom.

And this is all just how language treats itself.  There is little if any meaningful difference in how it treats its subjects, linguistic or narrative.  The socially-defined self is the subject in the real situation of their absolute, greater-than-life-long immersion in the linguistic order, in a perpetual state of contextedness, of the impossibility of the absolute removal of the self from the environment of the symbolic order that, itself, has served to constitute that subject in ways that transcend and, really, obviate the limitations of physicality.  The socially-defined self is the discursive subject, and even our own perceptions of ourselves, being filtered through the language that has produced the very notion of identity, are the undeniable product of sociality, of the self’s social presence and constitution.


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