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Sociological Research Online 4 (3) almas
Keywords: Environment.; Food Scandals; Genetic Modified Foods; Health; Individualisation; Precautionary Principle; Reflexive Modernity; Regulation; Risk Society; Trust
Abstract: We are living in the age of mad cow disease. Through large scale bulletins in the media, we have learned about food scandals that threaten both our health and our environment. This has raised problems like: Who can we trust? And what type of food production can be regarded as ethically defensible in our day and age? And finally, how does the precautionary principle apply to the way we evaluate food and risk. The likelihood of becoming sick from the next meal has probably never been less than it is today. Yet at the same time, we know less than ever about the long-term consequences of today's food production. Ulrich Beck argued more than 10 years ago that we are moving from "industrial society" to "risk society". While industrial society was structured through social classes, risk society is individualised. Beck's individualisation thesis is central to being able to understand how individuals handle risks through composing their own risk identity profile. Because the different experts "dump their contradictions and conflicts at the feet of the individual" (Beck 1992:137), he or she has to find biographical solutions to handle risks. Where to live, what to eat, where to take a vacation, what clothes to wear, with whom to mingle and to have sex with is up to the individual. And it is not like in simple modernity anymore, when the regulatory authorities took care of the risks and kept the foods you should not eat out of the country. The reflexive burden is placed upon the shoulders of the individual. So is also the case when it comes to genetic modified foods and debates around this. Even if these new foods are labelled, the consumer has to choose which experts to believe before to buy and eat. It is not the case any more that all experts agree and that the public food control institutions will tell you what to do. In the future there will be new food scandals in Europe that will threaten health and the environment. Such food scandals will be a central feature in what people experience as "risk society". Expertise in the social sciences will gradually be given a new role as "experts on peoples' concerns".
Sociological Research Online 10 (1) klett-davies
Keywords: Choices/constraints, Individualisation, Lone Motherhood, Type Categories, Sense of Coherence Concept, Structural Background
Abstract: This article provides an empirical examination of how lone mothers who receive state benefits in Germany and Britain create meaning with regards to mothering and state dependency. It uses the concept of individualisation as it requires women to negotiate their own lives. But the concept of individualisation is limited as it insinuates a convergence in men's and women's work identities and aspirations and is in danger of reducing women's identity to their 'family-work' preferences that does not encompass the complexity of their lives. The article has both a methodological claim and a substantive claim: Methodologically, it explores how new type categories can be used as an analytical tool to help us understand how lone mothers create meaning and to make sense of the differences between the mothers' complex identities. Substantively, these type categories demonstrate that there are great variations and dynamics in mothers' identities despite their state dependency. Based on lone mothers' perceived choices and constraints they are categorised as pioneers, copers or strugglers. The pioneers view their situation as an opportunity to construct their lives actively in non-traditional ways. In contrast, the coper and the struggler types perceive a lack of choices and tend to have traditional gender role values. While copers view their situation as temporary and improvable, strugglers feel overwhelmed by constraints and perceive themselves to have no choices at all. This article discusses the construction and the characteristics of these categories while detailed case studies bring each type category to life and give them more substance. The data analysis also shows that besides values, lone mothers' structural background as well as the number and age of their children seems to be related to lone mothers' creation of meaning.
Sociological Research Online 11 (3) budgeon
Keywords: Friendship, Intimacy, Individualisation, Personal Relationships, Families of Choice, Ethics of Friendship
Abstract: Starting from the vantage point of a 'relational ontology' this paper explores the complex relationship networks of people who are single or are not living with a sexual partner. The ways in which people make sense of the boundaries of their connections is analysed. It is argued that the meaning of individual social bonds emerge relationally and that by asking why and how friendship matters to people, we begin to see what other kinds of interpersonal relationships also mean and why they matter. This lends insights into the ways relational networks operate within conditions of detraditionalisation and the emergence of non-linear life courses. In particular consideration is given to both the epistemic and ethical dimension through which friendship operate in daily life.
Sociological Research Online 15 (4) 7
Keywords: Bauman, Beck, Bourdieu, Capital, Class, Individualisation, Self-Perception
Abstract: One of the core contentions of individualisation is that the residents of contemporary Western nations are no longer willing or able to perceive the motors of their life paths as external, social forces such as 'class' or material resources and instead talk of internal, personal facets and motivations. This paper, grounded in a Bourdieusian understanding of class, engages with this prominent assertion through analysis of 55 life-history interviews with people from a mix of class positions. It reveals that though individualistic sentiments are present, the respondents were all too ready to cite various forms of capital as advantages or disadvantages as well, though the degree to which they were seen as 'external' or 'individualised' differed by class. Furthermore, when 'class' was brought explicitly into the frame it was generally seen as a playing a fundamental role in life's trajectory, but mainly through issues of interaction and (mis)recognition rather than deprivation and inequality. Insofar as individualistic schemes of perception and class thus intertwine these processes could be said to represent what Beck refers to as a 'both/and' situation, but since they are neither particularly new nor damaging to class analysis the individualisation thesis is put in doubt.
Sociological Research Online 16 (4) 13
Keywords: Bricolage, Agency, Individualisation, Families, Pragmatism
Abstract: Individualisation theory misrepresents and romanticises the nature of agency as a primarily discursive and reflexive process where people freely create their personal lives in an open social world divorced from tradition. But empirically we find that people usually make decisions about their personal lives pragmatically, bounded by circumstances and in connection with other people, not only relationally but also institutionally. This pragmatism is often non-reflexive, habitual and routinised, even unconscious. Agents draw on existing traditions - styles of thinking, sanctioned social relationships, institutions, the presumptions of particular social groups and places, lived law and social norms - to 'patch' or 'piece together' responses to changing situations. Often it is institutions that 'do the thinking'. People try to both conserve social energy and seek social legitimation in this adaption process, a process which can lead to a 're-serving' of tradition even as institutional leakage transfers meanings from past to present, and vice versa. But this process of bricolage will always be socially contested and socially uneven. In this way bricolage describes how people actually link structure and agency through their actions, and can provide a framework for empirical research on doing family.
Laura Watt and Mark Elliot
Sociological Research Online 19 (1) 13
Keywords: Relationships, Attitudes, Couples, Intimacy, Individualisation, Confluent Love
Abstract: Sociological theories can be viewed as models of (sub)-populations. In this paper we explore the possibility of representing social theories as attitudinal types rather than as descriptions of society at large. To test this idea we investigate the relevance of four different theories of couple relationships to the attitudes of 18 to 30 year olds. Rather than testing these theories via aggregate social trends, we investigate the plausibility of treating the four social theories as attitudinal types that can be used to distinguish between the thoughts and feelings of different young adults. A self-completion attitude measure is created and used to gather data from a pilot sample of 18 to 30 year olds living in Preston, UK (n=306). Cluster analysis is then used to identify potential attitude types from among the respondents which are discussed in relation to the four theories.