Where are the boundaries between our group and ourselves?

Glenn Loury reflects on the issue in the Boston Review (h/t: Pablo Policzer):

[A]s an American intellectual of African descent, making my living as a teacher and writer during a period of great transformation in our society, I have often experienced this dissonance between my self-concept and the socially imputed definition of who I am supposed to be. Many of us, I dare say most, in one way or another have to confront a similar dilemma. I have had to face the problem of balancing my desire not to disappoint the expectations of others with a conviction that one must strive to live authentically.

This does not make me a heroic figure; I eschew the libertarian ideologue’s rhetoric about some glorious individual who, though put-upon by society, blazes his path all alone. I acknowledge that the opposition I am presenting between individual and society is ambiguous: the self is inevitably shaped by the objective world and by other selves. I know that what one is being faithful to when resisting the temptation to conform to others’ expectations by “living authentically” is necessarily a socially determined, even if subjectively experienced, version of the self.