Commentary On Self Concluded
Two Self-Concepts—The Difference
The major difference between Mead’s self concept and the Venn circles self concept is that the former is typically understood as a “description of self where in symbolic communication occurs,” while the self concept in the latter needs to be understood as a process of liberation that moves liberation forward. On a societal level, these two self-concepts occur in the middle of a controlling elite that takes advantage of the less powerful; put simply, the Venn circles self concept explains this controlling elite as a necessary condition of the occurring condition of self, i.e., a power relationship connects the Venn circles self to its own negative condition.
Society, old and new, is comprised of distributive arrangements of power and
burdens juxtaposed against the issue of scarcity. Spun from the union of these
three elements comes the recognizable web of social arrangements that constitute
any society. The nature and character of these social arrangements take on a
particular order depending on the historical context of the society. In general,
societies may be divided into needs based (tribes), rights based (Medieval
Kingdoms), and rewards based societies (Capitalism).
In a rewards based society power and wealth cannot be separated. For instance, in Thomas Dye’s 1990 book, “Who’s Running America” (obviously a woefully outdated book, but, when you compare the numbers of the 1% today with the 1990’s 1%, the nasty meaning behind the numbers mushrooms), we encounter a systematic study of the nation’s institutional elite, or the 7,3l4 elite positions which Dye calculated
to control more than half the assets in industry, communication, utilities,
insurance and banking. This select group of white males (in the 7,3l4 positions only
20 blacks and 3l8 women could be found), who are well paid and highly educated. The family background of 30% of these white, males reveals a family history of old money and great power, in other words, we are talking about the wealthiest class of
families in America. 54% of the top corporate leaders in America and 42% of our
top governmental leaders are alumni of just twelve well-known private universities (Dye, 1990, p. 278). When we compare the wealth of these individuals to the wealth of the total population of Americans, we find extremely disproportionate amounts of money.
“Personal wealth in America is unequally distributed: The top fifth of income
recipients,” according to Dye, “receives over 40 percent of all income while
the bottom fifth receives less than 5 percent” (1990, p. 276). Dye further
informs us, “In recent years the average compensation–salaries plus bonuses–of
CEOs of the nation’s corporations have jumped to approximately $1 million per
year……with Michael D. Eisner, chairman of the Walt Disney Company receiving
about 31 million; Jim P. Manzi, the 36-year-old chairman of Lotus Corp. taking
home $26 million, and Chrysler Chairman Lee Iacocca settling for about $18
million” (1990, p. 214). When you really sit back and think about the nature of
the unequal distribution of wealth in America, i.e., the 35 million poor and
homeless people who have a tough time feeding themselves, you have to ask the
question “why?” These statistics provided by Dye (in addition to a number of
other sociological studies I could refer to), strongly suggest to me, that
privileged positions of power and wealth are guaranteed by a social dynamic that
is driven by more than just lust for power and wealth.
In the Venn circles description of self, the self is predisposed to free itself
from its own negative condition. Via knowledge and power, the self gains control of its environment by becoming more mobile, controlling, securing—all of these “projects” represent the self’s accent toward more autonomy, and the intelligent use of knowledge here speeds up that process. But (and this “but” looms large in the scheme of things), if this process subverts the autonomy of other persons or groups of persons then this behavior is unfair and, at worst, criminal. When it comes to achieving some goals (like destroying resources necessary for the lives of the many in order to benefit a few)—power/wealth is not merely advantageous, it’s immoral and criminal! In a complex society there are myriad ways for behaviors, motivated by power and greed, to impose needless burdens and harms upon others. When it comes to reevaluating appropriate from inappropriate behavior—the Venn circles self concept not only is a more humane perception of the world, it also legitimizes challenges to inhumane distributive arrangements of power and burdens as they are juxtaposed against the issues of scarcity!