by Ted Cleaver

We live in an individualistic society. Surprisingly, an overwhelming amount of individual traits, from life trajectories to consumer preferences, can be predicted based on upbringing or your postal code, respectively. No matter how complex our lives are, the rules governing social reproduction are exasperatingly pervasive. Judges I, because I prefer eccentrics to uniforms. Here are some thoughts on individuality versus conformity.

Georg Simmel distinguishes subjective and objective culture. Everything subjective stem from your internal creative capacity. Whatever it is, whatever you call it, it is there, and it is what makes you a unique individual. Objective culture is just about everything else. Through the rise of cities people are in contact with each other much more frequently and much more superficially. Our senses are bombarded with an unmanageable volume of information every day, a situation which has been exasperated with the rise of multi-media. Fashion trends, memes, viral videos and must-have gadgets are all part of a continuum that suggests, if not dictates, how you should express your individuality. This is obviously entirely paradoxical. What’s more, at the point you create something as an individual, it immediately becomes part of the range of “objective” influences on other individuals. Simmel made a passionate plea for subjective creativity.

Moreover, he associated the individual’s needs for conformity and individuality with time vectors. Our biography is in charge of belonging. Memories of our histories and personal past grow every second. They negatively influence our ability to come up with something different and new. In contrast with history, there is teleology. We cannot know the future, but we know there is a future point in time that we are moving towards. Asserting how we want to stand out once we get there is an individual expression. To be honest, the time vector part of Simmel’s teachings is not one I spent a lot of time on. Nonetheless, combining it with the distinction between subjective and objective culture, and you can derive a beautiful proposition. What will you leave behind that is truly unique to you? Next question, how would you go about creating something unique? The proposition is thus, achieving self-realization in the future is a creative process of adding to objective culture, not consuming it.


Ipatch will be continued tomorrow.