Department of Psychology, Pedagogical University of Cracow
In this commentary I argue that subjectivity is not a precise and unequivocal term but a diffuse concept that needs theoretical revision and operationalization in empirical research. As a starting point I propose a systematic analysis of the commonly used opposition, i.e. instrumental vs non-instrumental treatment of other people and of ourselves. I conclude that quite often we treat ourselves instrumentally. An interesting empirical question is identification of circumstances in which we do it. The other side of dehumanization of human beings is anthropomorphism or humanization of nonhuman entities, such as animals, machines, forces of nature or spiritual agents. This common inclination could shed more light on the question which is essential for human subjectivity. In accordance with the relatively new theoretical suggestion to draw an opposition between self-control and self-regulation, I suggest that the essential feature of subjectivity is a holistic experiencing and treatment of people (including ourselves) as opposite to a partial treatment. This distinction connects a democratic mode of self-regulation with agency in decision making, and an autocratic mode with partiality and instrumentality. It means that when we make decisions and act in an autocratic way, by treating ourselves instrumentally, we respect only a limited number of our internal personality agents. In a similar way, while interacting with other people in an instrumental manner, we evoke their responses (usually useful only for us) by reducing their internal resources and interacting with a limited number of their internal agents.
Keywords: instrumental vs non-instrumental orientation, anthropomorphism as another kind of subjectivity, self-regulation vs self-control, totality as subjectivity
Cite this article as:
Mudyń, K. (2012). Subjectivity. What does it mean? Psychologia Społeczna, 21 (2), 151-157.