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Robin Matthews
Kingston University London
Moscow School of Social and Economic Sciences


Let us imagine a scenario. Dorian Gray faces a wall. On the left hand side is the portrait of Dorian Gray himself, disfigured by the ravages of life and time and on the right hand side, a mirror reflecting his beautiful pristine face. Dorian Gray slashes the portrait in self disgust with the same weapon he used to murder its creator, the artist. At that point the position is reversed. The corpse takes on the visage of the portrait and the portrait returns to the unblemished image. Where does identity lie? In the observing Dorian Gray? In the portrait? In the mirror image? In the corpse? In the mind of the artist? The reader? The scene raises many the common questions about the nature of identity . What does it take to persist from one time to another? What is necessary and sufficient for some past or future being to be you or I? What does it take or mean to be you or I? When did we begin? What will happen when we die?
Most of the major figures in philosophy have discussed these issues which can be partitioned as follows; arising from time, change and impermanence; from concern with uniqueness or separateness - can we sensibly speak of a single observing being; concern with authenticity, when identity, is represented and reproduced as in the Dorian Gray scenario; concern with the extent to which it is manufactured, altered or manipulated in society.  Such a list of issues is immensely intimidating: so much so that to attempt to tackle them in an essay such as this, invites parody; attempting a thumbnail sketch of the meaning of life.
The essay is not concerned with problems of being identified with but with the identity in relation to being itself. Identity in the sense of gender, class, nationality or race is being identified with something else: nor is it concerned with collective identity and its construction, but with identity in the sense of being.  Identity in the sense of being, that is,the existence of an observing consciousness, is taken for granted. Yet as Heidegger points out, the history of philosophy is the history of the forgetfulness of being (Heidegger, 1996). Being is like nothing, an empty category, the copula is. Identity in the sense of being identified with (with something else), is in contradiction to identity as being. Iago interprets identity through a conundrum, I am what I am: an affirmation. Iago the trickster could equally have said I am not what I am

The paper continues, in section 2, by developing the relationship between two streams of thought, first postmodernism or post structuralism and second mysticism through the respective processes of deconstruction and unveiling or using the sufi term tajalli . Their approaches to the problem of identity in the sense of being (rather than being identified with), are surprisingly similar. Both are related to the concept of multiple planes (or levels) of being. In deconstruction, as in mysticism, planes of being are planes of understanding. Section 3 follows the idea of multiple levels of being through to the concept of synchronicity in Jung and Swedenborg’s notion of correspondences: understanding of both hangs on the existence representations of one level of being in another. Deconstruction and tajalli are concerned with uncovering implicit hierarchies, or organizing principles rooted in representations on one plane of being that condition and distort understanding of correspondences with other planes and the existence of synchronistic relationships between planes of being. In section 4 we outline the context of the essay, Kronos capitalism . Facing the dilemma of its own dynamism and success capitalism, as a self adaptive system, has evolved a system of manufacturing identity in the form of signs and symbols designed to ensure that endless stream production and reproduction is consumed or devoured: hence Kronos capitalism. Kronos capitalism is itself a correspondence. Manufacturing identity confronts us with the problem of loss of identity: a sense that Havel (1996) describes as going through a transitional period, when it seems that something is on the way out and something is on the way in, a cusp or critical point which he describes a postmodernism. Section 5 concludes the paper.

The conundrum, the affirmation/negation of identity is approached in the context of evolutionary capitalism. The evolution of societies, organizations and science has progressed further than evolution within the person. One of the themes of the paper is that this has become an urgent issue. Mystical disciplines have well developed methodologies that address personal evolution by deconstructing or unveiling identity by revealing different levels or planes of being: a process summarised by know yourself. It is appropriate to introduce these methodologies into the study of organizations and business.

One of the objectives of this paper is to point to the contribution of mystical sciences to understanding identity in modern capitalism which we term Kronos capitalism.  Capitalism suffers from the dilemma of its own success. Driven by and driving science and technological change in a self adaptive or self reinforcing mechanism, it is constantly challenged by the threat of over production. Capitalism has responded in the manner we might expect from a self adaptive system, by the manufacture of identity, for its own purposes: conspicuous consumption and demonstration effects; being identified with status and position in society (Veblen, 1899). Capitalism has evolved from production of use and exchange value through to mechanical reproduction and the performance of formerly purely cognitive tasks by information technology and eventually to the manufacture of signs and symbols in order to forge an unbreakable link between consumption and production. A new version of Says law of markets emerges in which demand is identified with supply. Symbols and signs are jointly produced with objects, symbols which signify a mix of anxiety and eroticism, supplying need which is satiated by devouring the objects: satiated, that is temporarily, until a new set of objects and symbols emerge. Identity is manufactured in the marriage of consumption and production; a modern conjunctio in which birth (production and reproduction), and death (consumption) are united in marriage (of production and consumption). Thus we have the phenomenon of Kronos capitalism; emerging from the need of capitalism, like Kronos, to devour its own reproductions in order to survive.

The Dorian Gray scenario or text is an illustration of the lack of a single identity; across space, time and planes of being. The scenario also illustrates that the many representations of identity disguise identity which exists at some other level of being. Postmodernity or perhaps we should say poststructuralism and the process of deconstruction, in the denial of meta narratives, uncover the lack of a single identity. The foundations of mystical traditions are that what we habitually perceive as reality, including the reality of a unique and separate identity, is an illusion and that knowledge of reality is brought about by abandoning the structures and hierarchies of thought that condition perception. There are many different techniques for achieving this. In Sufism the technique is known as tajalli, or unveiling: structures and hierarchies of thought in fact veil reality. Tajalli or unveiling is a process in mysticism closely corresponding to deconstruction.

Click here to read full version of -Manufacturing Identity: Synchronicity and Correspondences in Kronos Capitalism