Review Essay: Inside the Ghost Train of Collective Identity. Lutz Niethammer's Criticism of the Concept's Boom

Dietmar Rost


NIETHAMMER offers an extensive, very critical, multifaceted and stimulating view on the successful history of the concept of identity. First, he indicates some early traces of that concept in the work of some outstanding intellectuals from the beginning of the 20th century. Since these early traces are already about collective identity, NIETHAMMER denies the common view, that after World War II, the concept of collective identity was developed from that of personal identity. Even in early manifestations of collective identity, the concept was situated in very different contexts. He regards identity as a "plastic word"—rich in connotations that cover more than it grasps. Because of that reason, (and backed by his analysis of the recent boom in the concept's usage), NIETHAMMER sharply criticizes collective identity as a notion that he would prefer to see abandoned. His strong criticism, however, doesn't fully apply to all variations of collective identity that he mentions. URN: urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs0302476


collective identity; personal identity; theory; history of a concept; identity politics; interdisciplinary approach

Copyright (c) 2003 Dietmar Rost

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