Philosophy in the Contemporary World

Volume 1, Issue 1, Spring 1994

Ric Caric Northrup
Pages 26-33

Identity, Social Relations, and Time
The Implications of Mead for Democratic Social Theory

This essay analyzes the nature of social relations when individual identity is conceived as both autonomous and socially constructed. Viewing identity as autonomous and socially constructed makes it necessary both to conceive individuals as socially related to others in the present and past, and to incorporate individuals into multiple systems of social relations. I argue that George Herbert Mead’s theory of social systems provides a basis for performing these tasks. By adding a concept of “contemporaneous consciousness” to Mead’s notion of temporal systems, it is possible to view individuals as autonomous within a multiplicity of temporal systems.