Traditionally the self and the individual have been treated as micro-versions of larger social entities by the social sciences in general, and by anthropology in particular. In Self Consciousness, Cohen examines this treatment of the self, arguing that this practice has resulted in the misunderstanding of social aggregates precisely because the individual has been ignored as a constituent element. By acknowledging the individual's self awareness as author of their own social conduct and of the social forms in which they participate, this informs social and cultural processes rather than the individual being passively modelled by them.

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