The Relationship Between Group and Individual Identity - Essay Sample

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  4
Wordcount:  1076 Words
Date:  2022-12-01


Group identity refers to the social identity of an individual within the society. Whereby,various set of characteristics makes the person belong to the society as a group and who share common attributes. Self-identity, on the other hand, refers to the sets of characteristics that distinguish individuals from others. These are the characteristics that define the uniqueness of a person and their relationship to society and the outside world. Essentially, it is the awareness of personal identification as oneself and separates from others. In this paper, the relationship between individual identity and group identity will be analyzed using the evidence from Ignatieff and Scott readings.

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According to Ignatieff, the narcissism of minor difference is the major cause of various ethical brutalities in society today (N.p.). Whereby, different ethnic groups once existed and; lived peacefully, the decline of a state causes universal insecurity hence forcing people to get into groups. However, these little groups have very little to distinguish between individuals; they legitimize their efforts and struggles. Leaders emerge and rely on the minor differences to enhance, glorify one group and at the same time demonizing the other.

Group identity supports individuals' sense of being part of the group and needs to conform and take part to facilitate the rights of the group against their perceived interests. Scott asserts that the power differences between individuals' causes a rise in subordinate groups that mutually reinforce ways through which they can interact with the dominants. Through the "Behind the Official Story" (Scott, 12) describes that in normal discourse, the routinely expressions that are exchanged between individuals or groups such as smiles and pleasantries may be deceptive as they do not reflect on the group or self-identity. In this case, a certain level of discourse is initiated to enable the group and individuals to negotiate the power difference that exists in mutually reinforcing ways through which to mask candor. Here, individual act mutually to fulfill each other'sinterest individually and as a group.

Also, Scott identifies relationships in society through which a public transcript occurs. This is through the subordination of the workers to their boss, tenant to the landlord, slave to Master, or one member of a certain race to the other of the dominant race. Scott uses the notion of Public transcript as a shorthand to describe the various ways through which an open interaction can be created between the subordinates and dominates. This creates a mutual relationship between both the groups affected in society. In the case of employer-employees scenario, the employer through the public transcript can reinforce their interests as well as the worker's public discourse ensures their location of subordination reinforces their interest too.

Group identity fosters group belonging. Individuals always voluntarily belong to groups that conform to their interests. Despite individuals getting involved in a group voluntarily because of a common goal or a self-interest, some people are either forced or belong to groups involuntarily just because of the pressure against them. In his arguments, Ignatieff proves that ethnic hatreds arise from the various challenges that have been caused by modernity rather than proposed historical foundations. This factors and challenges force individuals into groups whereby they can fulfill their personal and ethnic identities. For instance individuals may be forced to lose past friends and become part of a new group.

If the differences between the two groups are lesser substantial, there is more struggle for both parties to portray the differences as an absolute or unique culture. According to Ignatieff, the aggression that is needed to hold the group should not be directed outside but within the group to eliminate the differences that distinguish the particular group identity to individual identity. Therefore, individuals should pay a high price for group belonging. Individuals own interest should not surpass the group's desire. Hence the aggression should be directed to and conform to the group.

Ignatieff insists that, for an individual to repress their individuality, they need to have certain violence with themselves so that the mask of hatred can fit and enable them to conform to the group identity (MayN.p). Scott insists on the point that subordinates need these masks to help them just the way their dominator needs them to interact with them. Thus, this significantly reveals true self is the identified autonomous individual, and the group is the detriment of the described individual identity.Individuals are more conforming to groups identified in public more than they do in private places. According to (Scott, 15), people behave differently in public as different from how they act in private. He insists that for the relevance of group interest the notion of public performance is needed for the various individuals to elaborate on the forms of social and group subordination. For example, the veil among Muslim women as mandated by the law as in Iran is not clear if women were because of public image or individual's personal and religious motivation.

Also, individuals may say something in public but are different from what they mean in private. This is distinguished by Scott through the Private and public transcript (The Morningside ReviewN.p). In this analysis, he distinguishes between public verbal utterances and those done in private. He questions whether individual's utterances in private interaction, as opposed to public interactions, may be genuine. Here individual identity does not match individuals group and public identity. Hence, individuals tend to pretend when in a group as opposed to what they need or want to say in the individual or private level.


In conclusion, individual identity and groups collective identity is vital for any society. However, individuals should go beyond their individuality to conform to the public, group or collective identity. Scott questions the functioning of various power structures and how they dominate in society. He analyzes the notion of public and private transcript and how it affects individual and group identity. On the other hand, Ignatieff examines how narcissism of smaller differences causes ethnic violence and how such insecurity forces individuals to conform to certain groups.

Works Cited

Ignatieff, Michael. The narcissism of minor difference, 1998

Khan, Sarah. Looking Beyond the Veil: Hidden Transcripts in Persepolis. The Morningside Review,

May, Alistair. The body for the Lord: sex and identity in 1 Corinthians 5-7. Vol. 278. A&C Black, 2004.

Scott, James C. Domination and the Arts of Resistance: Hidden Transcripts. New Haven and London. Yale University Press, 1990. Pg 1-16. Retrieved from

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