Response to Benjamin’s Argument

Jessica Benjamin’s argument is that individuality comes from a combination of separation and connection with other people. Essentially, a person’s subjectivity comes from them being recognized by a subject by someone who is recognized as a subject by the person. This is in contrast to Freud’s beliefs about individuality. Freud believed that a (male) person’s individuality first begins to develop when he realizes that he is distinct from his mother. Freud believed that a person’s individuality is developed through their recognition of their separateness from others. Another part of Jessica Benjamin’s argument is that when this delicate balance of mutual recognition breaks down, it leads to a power struggle between those involved. When one person stops recognizing the other person as a subject and diminishes their individuality, the other person affirms their own individuality, which forces the other person to affirm their individuality in return, leading to a power struggle.

Benjamin’s theory helps me understand why people develop a sense of individuality. Her theory may also explain why relationships fall apart and a power struggle forms. As the two people stop recognizing each other as individuals, they try to impose their individuality on them, causing the other to reciprocate by doing the same. Benjamin’s theory also made me think about the human need for socialization. I think that it may explain one of the reasons humans need socialization. Without others to recognize a person’s subjectivity, their sense of individuality falls apart. People who are lonely are more likely to anthropomorphize inanimate objects, and according to Benjamin’s theory, people need their subjectivity to be recognized by another to maintain a healthy sense of individuality. So I thought that people might anthropomorphize objects when lonely/isolated as a subconscious attempt to get that recognition.

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