The damaged lives we live in the context of modernity can, to a large extent, be traced to the operations of ideological formations set up by the colonization of the lifeworld. Armed with a critical concept of ideology, we can now examine how the disruption of the symbolic processes of the lifeworld produces the psychopathologies of modern times. Here we will finally begin to understand the process through which modernity destroys the psychosocial foundations for the subjective sense of meaningfulness.
First, a brief commentary on the nature of symbols is in order. Meaning depends on the interplay of symbols. One way of understanding symbols is to see them as effects produced by relations between signifiers (e.g. a flag, a cross) and signifieds (e.g. patriotism, Christianity). Since the realm of that which is signified is always heterogeneous, signifiers shift and slide in relation to each other as they are used in communication referring to the signified. As a result, symbols constantly undergo processes of decoding and receding. Meanings are thus always ‘under construction’.
Meanings related to personal identity are regularly reworked in the same fashion (Jackson 1984; Wiersma 1988). Identity or self could be construed as a process of positioning a signifier (the ‘I’) in relation to a field of signifieds (‘me’). Symbols of self (I-me structures, images of self in relation to others) contribute to the construction of meaning by positioning core conscious self-images (i.e. ‘consciousness’) in relation to the flow of experience. Memories of the past, awareness of the present and anticipated futures make available multiple aspects of self for use as meanings are constructed in an ongoing fashion: feelings, intentions, hopes, the sensed expectations and desires of particular others, and a more generalized social world.
This view of symbols as they relate to personal identity suggests the idea that a connection between rich textures of self-images to broad,