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Subject Psychology
Sociology » Social Psychology, Sociological and Social Theory

Key-Topics identity

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405124331.2007.x


This concept originated in Kenneth Gergen's 1991 volume The Saturated Self (Gergen, 2001 [1991]). In that work Gergen proposed that the emerging 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 an increasing array of relationships, projects, and commitments. Further, in this socially saturated condition, the person is immersed in an extended world of “ought” – a world of 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” is used, in particular, to refer to the individual's experience of conflict in values, ideals, opinions, and motives. Such conflict not only leaves one awash with material for reaching decisions, but generates a sense of pervasive inadequacy and a suspicion of the “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, by undermining the tradition of a singular and unified self, the condition of multiphrenia lends itself to being ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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