Symbolization of the "We-Efficacy"
Over and over again we have been taught the importance of confronting our problems and moving on like it's nobody's business. Often we do it alone, and when we fail, we sometimes hit rock bottom and feel like there is no way out. But what if I told you there was? And what if I told you that it started with the self—that the critical part of rising up only required reaching out? Gordon (2004) and Collins (2000) directly emphasize that to make unquestionable progress, one must recognize the need to share the pain with other individuals who may be in a similar situation or simply wants to lend a hand. Including the self with others is a realization that the self is only the surface of the flesh—that there is more to an individual’s mere physical and mental being. Collins strongly advocates this by asserting that the "self is found in the context of family and community" (113). Your relationships with others build on your individuality as you share values, beliefs, and desires together. This larger self allows utopian thinking into perspective when utilizing the components (larger self) that build it. Here, we shall oppose the derogatory definition of "utopian". We shall define it as a type of thinking that is "oriented towards the future, but not futuristic... [and] involves dreaming, but... also involves risks" (Gordon 2004, 196). The aim here is not necessarily for a revolution to take place; it does not call for a new world—just a better one. In addition to Gordon and Collins, Lipsitz (2008) also provides us with experiential support (discussed later). Overall, they prove even the seemingly "pessimists" (or "realists"), like Marx and Engels (1848)/Marx in McIntosh (1997), that there are—not imperatively permanent solutions—but alternatives, if only people would notice their potential. They believed that the formation of Capitalism would only tear individuals apart socially and economically than bring the people together due to the labor exploitation that largely contributes to its success.
Although this is partially true, I beg to differ that it's the end of the good society. By persistently reinforcing the larger self, anything is possible.
This act of togetherness is what I like to call the we-efficacy. It is not suggesting that the self cannot handle making changes alone. It only suggests that facing what is killing you does not have to mean dealing with it alone. In one of Toni Cade Bambara's (1977) short story, "The Organizer's Wife", she exceptionally illustrates the importance of this as her main character, Virginia, faces the political struggles with her community instead of doing it on her own as she formerly did; Gordon (2004) beautifully utilizes Bambara's narratives to depict what it means to "face what is killing you" (193). Collins (2000) also does an exceptional job conveying this. In Black Feminist Thought, one of the ways she illustrated social bonding was through the participation of black women singing or playing Blues, a genre they considered as African-American music. This art medium enabled them to "'create with their music an aesthetic community of resistance, which in turn encouraged and nurtured a political community of active struggle for freedom'" with the use of lyrics and unique instrumental sounds (Jackson (1981) in Collins, 105). It created hope and trust, as well as an ongoing support system that "was a way for dealing with pain" (105). This was then passed down and shared with others either to "lend a hand" or to make a political statement demanding for equality, or both. In general, this we-efficacy act essentially symbolizes utopian thinking and contributes heavily towards the theme of a good society. The thought of moving forward and transforming our society through the revolution of self and practice of collective power even just through small behavioral and attitudinal adjustments can place liberation into prospect.
One major example we can utilize to better examine my concept are the struggles of the working class that Marx and Engels (1848)/Marx in McIntosh (1997) describes. It is essential to understand their views so that we can further comprehend the issues at hand and see how we can incorporate this utopian thinking that Gordon (2004) explicitly promotes to better our contemporary
social living conditions. s she asserted, Η͙Utopian thinking doesn't wait for authorization from a superior system or a higher power to direct our fate͙ It is in us, a way we conceive and live in the here and now" (Gordon 2004, 126). Lipsitz (2008) accentuates this point as he asserted how "... neighborhoods [can] generate a spatial imaginary that favors public cooperation in solving problems" (56). In other words, people (in this case, the African Americans) do not have to wait around for those in power/authority to step in when they have a group of individuals that form a kinship community willing to find other ways of living their lives in democracy. By digging deep and then allowing the self to absorb what is "killing" you, you can then dig deeper to find what is truly missing that could potentially help you find an alternative direction that can then be shared with others.
I would like to clarify that finding what is "missing" does not necessarily mean what isn't there, but what is already there. Too often we neglect our present selves, our present lives. We are either past- oriented or future-oriented, but rarely in the moment. Because of this, we usually gloss over the positive aspects and get too focused on the negative. For instance, in The Souls of Black Folk, DuBois (1969) viewed double consciousness as a problem for the Negro resulting from the roots of racism and prejudice: "The Negro is... gifted with second-sight in this American world,—a world which yields him no true self-consciousness, but only lets him see himself through the revelation of the other world" (45). He implies that only being able see one's self through the eyes of others does not allow for the self to feel/be complete.
In juxtapose, Collins (2000) provides an alternative by re-evaluating the meaning of having double consciousness. Instead of viewing it as a veil, which DuBois describes as a wall between the self and society (44), Collins views it as "living two lives, one for them and one for ourselves" (100). A "silenced" self from the society's view does not mean having to completely shut one’s self down. llowing so only means accepting one’s “fate”—but whose decision is it really to make?
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- University of Redlands
- karl marx george lipsitz avery gordon patricia collins social theory theory sociology alienated labour classical sociological theory toni cade bambara w.e.b. du bois labor efficacy utopian community kinship power