Sociology Index


Collective identity refers to a set of individuals' 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. 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. In 'The Process of Collective Identity' Alberto Melucci argues for collective identity as a useful analytical tool to explain social movements.

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.

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.

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 and Social Movements
Annual Review of Sociology, Vol. 27: 283-305 (August 2001).
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.