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Culture, Capitalism, and Democracy in the New America$
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Richard Brown

Print publication date: 2005

Print ISBN-13: 9780300100259

Published to Yale Scholarship Online: October 2013

DOI: 10.12987/yale/9780300100259.001.0001

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The Dialectics of American Selfhood: Individualism and Identity in the United States

The Dialectics of American Selfhood: Individualism and Identity in the United States

(p.142) Chapter 5 The Dialectics of American Selfhood: Individualism and Identity in the United States
Culture, Capitalism, and Democracy in the New America

Richard Harvey Brown

Yale University Press

In the United States, the concept of the self has sparked a debate between pessimists and optimists. Pessimists denounce the current fragmentation of lifeworlds and contexts for self-presentations, while optimists rejoice over the new breadth and richness of identity choices. Modernity gives rise to a more complex division of labor, resulting in more specialized and differentiated social roles and thus, more complex and differentiated selves. Central to American discourse on identity is whether the self remains unified or fragmented. This chapter, which explores the concepts of self and selfhood, individualism and identity in the United States, first considers concepts and values of individualism in American ideology before turning to the screen persona of John Wayne as a prime icon of rugged individualism. It then discusses the individuation of the American unconscious, along with hyper-rationalization and radical subjectivism.

Keywords:   self, selfhood, United States, ideology, individualism, John Wayne, unconscious, hyper-rationalization, radical subjectivism, identity

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