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Sociology: Identity

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  • Pages: 8
  • Word count: 1759
  • Category: Sociology

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Identity has been defined as ‘a sense of self that develops as the child differentiates from parents and family and takes a place in society. ‘ (Haralambos et al. , 2008, p665) The communities are widely considered to have gone through multifarious fundamental alterations; namely, from urban industrial capitalism economy to post-industrialism economy; from modernity to postmodernity.

This essay will critically examined the view with regard to contemporary individuals are no longer firmly bound into fixed communities rather having a greater choice as to identify with each other. Initially, the nature of communities’ shift will be analysed, followed by discussions of the factors and manifestation of theories inherent. Industrial capitalism seems to be eventually steered to urbanization of society. In particular, construction of manufactories and basic transportations such as railways had contributed significantly (Fulcher and Scott, 2007, p501).

In days gone by, manufacturing sector which emphasized on production and consumption of goods, involved great deals of physical and nature resources; thus, it acquired numerous manual workers, as a result of which industrial societies were emerged to be neighbouring factories due to long working period. The workers socialized within centralised area and had shared basic lifestyle and culture (e. g. folk culture), which gradually formed permanent identity and sense of solidarity; for instance, through inter-marriage, education, religion, occupation and family.

High degree of immobility and interaction stimulated them attached into distinct social class. Isolated areas which had inadequate amenities including institutions and communication, subsequently conducted to social isolation, absence of community and suggested by Marx, the ‘false class consciousness’. ‘Industrial societies not only produce and distribute goods and services, they also produce and distribute information and entertainment. ‘ Industrialism has created mass production as well as mass media (ibid, p370).

Instant communication has made information available to the societies promptly, conveniently and precisely. Contents interpreted by media are said conditioning media audience, for instance, magazine virtually supervise consumption tendency which interrelated with individuals’ identities. Besides, excessive violence and obscenities on screen may results in loss of innocence in childhood and increase of crime rate. Moreover, advent of it seems to have profound influence in the sustained and rapid growth of post-industrialism as well as globalization and consumerism.

Since 1980s, the old industrial societies that had manufacturing as fundamental economy was argued to be phased out and superseded by post-industrialism. It appears probable that development of mechanism, communication and information technologies were the constituent elements which spurred the rose of innovation, long distance trade and transport ameliorations (e. g. canals and roads); correspondingly, led to the downward trend of manufacturing sector (working class) and unprecedented increment of service sector (middle class) including widespread of institutions such as education, law and healthcare.

Giddens and Castells argued that globalization is ‘a central driving force behind the rapid social, political and economic changes that are reshaping modern societies and world order’ (In Held et al. , 1999). Globalisation seem to demolish barriers within and amidst the communities which ‘intensification caused by interconnectivity’ (Rantanen, 2004, p11). In economic globalisation, transnational companies (e. g. IT and fast food industries) are observed to infiltrate into region states, which bring about the issues as local economy being undermined consequently increasing international inequality.

Global culture is seen as challenging the importance of national and local cultures, and nationalism as a source of identity. A clear shift in the nature of social relationships is believed to arise. ‘Close intimate and thus genuine relationships are being replaced by new mass-mediated experiences’ (ibid, p11). Robertson (1992, p8) defined globalisation is ‘the intensification of consciousness of the world as a whole’ (In Held et al. , 1999).

Greater global awareness through media coverage might have stimulated global tourism and established new consumption patterns. Ease and frequency of the internet technology and communication spurred consumption extended across national boundaries. The emergence of consumerism was claimed not only about institutional change but also involved shifts in attitudes and behaviour.

‘The decline of class and community as sources of identity and the growth of individualism meant that consumer goods were seen increasingly as an expression of personal identity. (Fulcher and Scott, 2007, p695) In other words, individuals could manipulate their identities through personal appearance that the flexibility and diversity of choices gradually form individuals’ fluidity and fragmented identities. Global communication has assisted the growth of transnational movements (e. g. labour movement) by enabling them to spread messages and mobilize international opinions (ibid, p653), which virtually embolden the rise of sub-culture (e. g. homosexual sub-culture) and positive identification.

Moreover, the world capitalist economy has indirectly encouraged immigrations that resulting in ethnically diverse societies and demographic effect; for instance, Chinese in Britain which has formed a sub-culture, shares ethnic and racial characteristics and Johal (1998) suggested they may adopt ‘hybrid identities'(In Aiken et al. , 2008, p56).

There are manifest alterations in women’s tendency, which Wilkinson called as ‘genderquake’ (ibid, p52). In old communities, women were generally expected to have lesser education and engaged in domestic work (e. . housewives); whereas in contemporary communities, women are gaining equality rights as men. General account of women could be seen held higher qualifications and entered the paid employment, which the growth subsequently led to the recruitment of labour (e. g. maid) from other countries. These have eventually driven to the radical alteration in family structure; whereas Woodward believed, including the decline in marriage and increases of divorce rate (Haralambos et al. , 2008, p694).

Primary socialisations which occurred within family and kinships connection appears to have profound influence in shaping youth behaviour and identities. In detail, child abuse and single parenthood, which are increasing in contemporary societies, could lead to anti-social behaviour. Correspondingly, intermarriage between ethnicities might undermine certainty of national identity whilst contemporary technology could undermine biological aspects of identity. There are various sociological theories which may have conflict perspectives.

Amongst the most influential ones are postmodernism, ‘death of class’, Marxism, functionalism and feminism. Modernity is claimed to be fragmenting and dissolving, and being superseded by postmodern world (Aiken et al. , 2008, p27). Characteristics of postmodernism have been identified in various aspects such as work (e. g. rise of service sector), culture, identity, globalisation and knowledge. The two main characteristics are ‘the search of truth is abandoned as denotative language-games fall into disrepute’ and the latter are superseded by technical language-games (Haralambos et al. , 2008, p892).

Postmodernism, according to Lyotard, rests upon ‘miniaturization and commercialization’ of machines whereas computer technology has become the principal ‘force of production’ (ibid, p892). Postmodern culture is about ‘mixing and matching seemingly contradictory styles’ (Aiken et al. , 2008, p27). Popular culture is said should be seen as valued and worthwhile as high culture is; howsoever, contemporary society is observed being ‘media-saturated’. Hall and Bauman claimed relatively stable identities which based upon social factors (e. g. class), have moved towards more fragmented identities.

People no longer possess a single unifies conception of who they are, but instead possess ‘several, sometimes contradictory or unresolved identities’, as Bauman identified, four postmodern life strategies are the stroller, vagabond, tourist and player. In additions, consumption is suggested being determine our identity, which are possessions, lifestyle choices, personal preferences and sexuality (Haralambos et al. , 2008, p696-699). Contemporary individuals is said to be ‘more pessimistic about the future’ including lost faith in science power, inevitability of progress and perfectibility of humanity.

Pakulski and Waters believed that social class has losing its significance and only exists if there is a ‘minimum level of clustering or groupness’ (ibid, p84). It is no longer relevant as having influence in individuals’ identity (e. g. marriage-partner choice, occupational (im)mobility and home-ownership). Contemporary societies have changed from being organized class societies to a recent phase, ‘status conventionalism’, which demonstrates inequalities are the result of distinctions in status(prestige), lifestyle and consumption patterns favoured by related status groups, mainly due to globalisation.

Property ownership has become dispersed which making property ‘a decreasing source of power’, wealth gradually became more identically distributed in capitalist societies (ibid, 85). Apparently, inequality still remaining due to groups attempt to achieve higher status, wealth and power; whereas consumer power has increased. The underprivileged, Pakulski and Waters referred as ‘ascriptively disprivileged underclass’, being marked out by their inability to engage in ‘status consumption’.

It could be said that consumption and income perceive individuals’ status and identity. Symbolic values’ is crucial factor that shapes stratification instead of economic inequalities. Alteration in stratification system in status conventional societies has four key features that are ‘culturalism, fragmentation, autonomization and resignification’. Class politics is dead due to ethnicity, gender, religion and cultural differences are more vital (ibid, p84). Marxism conducted society as based on infrastructure, with superstructure rising above it. Relationship between classes, ruling class and subject class, is based on conflict and antagonism.

Marx expressed the idea that proletariat has been exploited by bourgeoisie and described them as ‘wage slaves’. Social classes and social control are argued to be involved in relations to exploitation as institutions preserve capitalism thus led to false class consciousness. Religion is a reflection of a more fundamental source of alienation. Exploitation of women in marriage and family life are acknowledged and emphasized on the relationships between capitalism and family (ibid, p466).

‘Functionalism views society as a system: that is, as a set of interconnected parts which together form a whole. (ibid, p856) The sum of all social relationships is the structure of society, which major aspects including family, education and work. These social institutions have concessions on socializing individuals with values and norms to maintain the social order and stability of society (ibid, p857). However, it tends to ignore coercion and conflict and concerned with structure not individuals. There are several feminist approaches. Radical feminism blamed the exploitation of women on men and observed society as patriarchal.

Marxist and socialist feminism related women’s oppression to the production of wealth and emphasized on exploitation of women in paid employment. Liberal feminism is based upon male assumptions and norms, whereas black feminism see the difference between women are as vital as similarities and shared interests (ibid, p101-104). Some feminists argued that gender remains the dominant source of identity, and that media content sustains and perpetuates the capitalist system and the support role of women. Taking everything into consideration, certain conclusion can be drawn.

Globalisation, which is cultural, political, technological and economic, interrelated with consumerism seem to be the main force that has stimulated the growth of ‘cultural supermarket effects’ which has made cultural identities detached from a specific times, histories, traditions and places, and appear ‘free-floating’ that subsequently lead to fragmented identities. Individuals consequently no longer firmly attached to fix communities. Howsoever, identities tend to be grounded in inequalities, social divisions and differences.

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