The Social Creation of “You”
by Brian Lowery
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Pub Date 28 Mar 2023 | Archive Date 23 May 2023
Social psychologist and Stanford professor Brian Lowery presents a provocative, powerful theory of identity, arguing that there is no essential "self"—our selves are social creations of those with whom we interact —exploring what that means for who we can be and who we allow others to be.
There’s nothing we spend more time with, but understand less, than ourselves. You’ve been with yourself every waking moment of your life. But who—or, rather, what—are you? In Selfless, Brian Lowery argues for the radical idea that the “self” as we know it—that “voice in your head”—is a social construct, created in our relationships and social interactions. We are unique because our individual pattern of relationships is unique. We change because our relationships change. Your self isn’t just you, it’s all around you.
Lowery uses this research-driven perspective of selfhood to explore questions of inequity, race, gender, politics, and power structures, transforming our perceptions of how the world is and how it could be. His theory offers insight into how powerful people manage their environment in sophisticated, often unconscious, ways to maintain the status quo; explains our competing drives for deep social connection and personal freedom; and answers profound, personal questions such as: Why has my sense of self evolved over time? Why do I sometimes stop short of changes that I want to make in life?
In Selfless, Lowery persuasively breaks down common assumptions and beliefs; his insights are humbling. Despite what many may think, we aren’t islands unto ourselves; we are the creation of the many hands that touch us. We don’t just exist in communities, we are created and shaped by them. Our highs and lows are not only our own but belong to others as well. By recognizing that we are products of relationships—from fleeting transactions to deep associations—we shatter the myth of individualism and free ourselves to make our lives and the world accordingly.