Re: Introductory Comments

W Ramsay (
Thu, 16 May 1996 16:56:40 +0100

Dear Bob,

Your reply to my question:

>>we construe the 'self' - indeed if 'self
>><-> non-self' is a construct, then 'self' has (or is it _is_?) a replication
>>which is either stable or "reconstruing its replication from - when? -
>>moment to moment, hour to hour?"

in these terms:

>I wouldn't want to suggest that the self is brought into being on a second
>by second basis, willed by the thought of its own construct. What I have in
>mind is that in construing someone as an "other"....a mother or brother or
>stranger, a child creates a self over against that other... much as Piaget
>helps us to understand the creation of a schema of the physical self in the
>process of acting on the physical world. implied in the construct. Thus,
>the constructs of "son", "brother" and "stranger" are attributed to a
>"self", when from another perspective these constructs are constitutive of
>self. My parents die, my loving brother becomes a teenage tyrant, and the
>stranger next door becomes my lover. As my constructs of others change, my
>self construct evolves in varying degrees.

Neat, clear and leaves me satisfied.

You go on to say:

> I suppose this apparatus is less necessary than simply to say that an
>"identity" is constructed out of possibilities a society presents for a
>"self".... in African society, the mothers brother may be more important
>for self than my biological father. In American society, the absent father
>may leave the self construction process in limbo... or someone may with
>determination give significance to a political hero. My generation may well
>be defined by the significance of John F. Kennedy at a crucial time in our
>identity formation.

This paragraph may be one of the scariest things I've read, for reasons that
I'll have to go off and think through but which are connected with the
current state of UK society, and the possibilities and the ways in which it
presents them to young Brits these days, as I construe them.

Your comment on Kennedy actually led me into an on-line reconstruing of
Kennedy's assassination. The received wisdom seems to be Kennedy as Eagle,
but, in view of your comments, I suddenly wondered whether, on account of
his death, he became an Albatross around the necks of the American people?
(I hope this doesn't offend too many of you out there. It's not a criticism
of JFK, rather a speculation about US citizens' construing of him, and its
consequences for identity building.)


>>And, to get to the point, can a political
>>system (which implies stability) be established by any community of such
>>selves? (The other extreme would be an ant-hill, presumably).
>I guess thats the payoff question. Can a political system be established by
>a society that gives so few meaningful contexts for significant
>identification of interests and construction of a stable identity... can
>such a society maintain a stable political community.

Tied in beautifully with the question of self raised and disposed of above.
Is, then, political maturity a function of the construction of a stable
identity? Taken along with my fears expressed above it would explain a lot
about the current relationship between the UK and the EU.

On the other hand, perhaps identity can be _too_ stable and lead to
political immaturity through inability or reluctance to reconstrue oneself
(e.g. follwoing JFK's death)? Organisations such as the IRA and Hamad
spring to mind. You may think of others.

I'm afraid this isn't likely to be much methodological help, except insofar
as it may model what can happens when people are stimulated into
(re-)construing thier political ideas! Thanks for the goad.

Best wishes,


Bill Ramsay,
Dept. of Educational Studies,
University of Strathclyde,
Jordanhill Campus,
G13 1PP,

'phone: +44 (0)141 950 3364
'fax: +44 (0)141 950 3367