Sociology Index


Collective identity refers to a set of individuals and their sense of belonging to the group. The collective identity of a group are often expressed through the group’s cultures and social customs and traditions. Marxist concepts of class consciousness can be considered to be at root of collective identity. In 'The Process of Collective Identity' Alberto Melucci argues for collective identity as a useful analytical tool to explain social movements. Collective identity is only formed upon the group members’ acceptance of the identity.

Disagreeing with Karl Marx's focus on production Max Weber suggests that social class, social status, and party form the three sources of collective identity. David Emile Durkheim argues that collective identity helps create bonds between individuals through shared morals and goals.

Collective Identity is the idea that through participating in social activities, individuals can gain a sense of belonging and in essence an identity that transcends the individual.

According to Alberto Melucci, collective identity is an interactive and shared definition produced by several interacting individuals who are concerned with the orientation of their action as well as the field of opportunities and constraints in which their action takes place. The application of collective identity to explaining and describing the international system is the basis of constructivism.

Alberto Melucci published Nomads of the Present, introducing his model of collective identity based on studies of the social movements of the 1980s. Melucci based his ideas on the writings by Touraine and Pizzorno, specifically their ideas on social movements and collective action respectively. - Touraine, Alain. An Introduction to the Study of Social Movements. Social Research,1985. According Alberto Melucci "collective identity is an interactive and shared definition produced by several individuals, and concerned with the orientation of action and the field of opportunities and constraints in which the action takes place."

Collective identity is “an individual’s cognitive, moral, and emotional connections with a broader community, category, practice, or institution.” Though defining collective identity to be a self-central concept, they emphasize on its distinction from concepts like ideology, motivation, and personal identity. - Polletta, Francesca, and Jasper, James M. Collective Identity and Social Movements. Annual Review of Sociology, 2001.

Collective Identity in Social Movements: Central Concepts and Debates - Cristina Flesher Fominaya.
Abstract: The concept of collective identity has been used extensively by social movement scholars seeking to explain how social movements generate and sustain commitment and cohesion between actors over time. Despite its wide application, collective identity is a notoriously abstract concept.

The central elements of collective identity in the social movement literature are developed, and some key differences in interpretations are highlighted. Finally, some contemporary debates around the continuing usefulness and limitations of the concept of collective identity are explored, with a special emphasis on the challenges of applying the concept to movements that define themselves in terms of heterogeneity, diversity and inclusiveness.

Collective Identity and Social Movements - Francesca Polletta, James M. Jasper.
Sociologists have turned to collective identity to fill gaps in resource mobilization and political process accounts of the emergence, trajectories, and impacts of social movements. Collective identity has been treated as an alternative to structurally given interests in accounting for the claims on behalf of which people mobilize. Collective identity has been treated both too broadly and too narrowly, sometimes applied to too many dynamics, at other times made into a residual category within structuralist, state-centered, and rationalist accounts.

Who Is This “We” You Speak of? Grounding Activist Identity in Social Psychology
Jonathan Horowitz. Abstract: What is an activist identity? Prior answers have focused almost exclusively on collective identity, without

a) considering the possibility of role-based identities or

b) grounding collective identities in broader social-psychological theories.

The present study investigates activist identity through the lens of role-based and category-based identities, and reports two major findings.

That there is a distinct role-based activist identity, one that involves internalizing role responsibilities and the expectations of friends and family.

That collective identity represents a relationship between a social identity and an injustice frame; it either involves incorporating an injustice frame into a pre-existing social identity, or using the injustice frame to create a new in-group.

The present findings help to illuminate the processes underlying collective identity, indicate that a great deal of role-based activist identity is mistaken for collective identity, and suggest new directions for the study of micro-mobilization and organizational forms and tactics in social movements.