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Kenneth J. Gergen

Subject Psychology
Sociology » Social Psychology, Sociological and Social Theory

Key-Topics identity

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405124331.2007.x


The concept of multiphrenia originated in Kenneth Gergen's 1991 volume, The Saturated Self . In that work Gergen proposed that technological developments of the past century increasingly expose the individual to multiple opinions, values, and ways of life. In doing so, they draw the individual into a growing array of relationships, projects, and commitments. Further, in this socially saturated condition, the person is immersed in an extended world of “ought,” or criteria for social acceptability. As a result, the traditional ideal of a single, coherent self is gradually replaced by a sense of self as fragmented and decentered. The term multiphrenia was used, in particular, to refer to the individual's experience of conflict in values, ideals, opinions, and motives. Not only does such conflict leave one awash in reaching decisions, it also generates a sense of pervasive inadequacy and a suspicion of “best rational choice.” The concept was specifically not intended to designate a disease, but rather an increasingly common form of cultural life. Although Gergen's account exuded a certain nostalgia for a simpler and more coherent life, his analysis also gave way to a more inviting view of the future. Specifically, he proposed that in undermining the tradition of the singular, unified self, the condition of multiphrenia lends itself to understanding oneself as created within relationships. ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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