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Gidden's Reflexivity

Gidden's Reflexivity

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How useful is Giddens’ ‘Reflexivity’?

Michael Handelman
Throughout the 1980s, ‘reflexivity’ became a concept that became increasingly associated with the work of Anthony Giddens. But in contrast to Bourdieu―another major theorist who has become associated with reflexivity―Giddens treats reflexivity as a property of human beings, rather than as a strategy of turning one’s intellectual gaze onto oneself (the ‘researcher’) as a strategy for gaining better knowledge of the world. In other words, Giddens’ treats reflexivity as an ontological concept, rather than as an epistemological principle. What I want to do in this paper, is to demonstrate that the way Giddens uses reflexivity is not particularly helpful in highlighting the nature of social life. Far from deepening our understanding, it at best provides a very superficial understanding of the social world; at worst, we get ontological incoherence, in which far from overcoming the dualisms he so strongly criticizes [e.g. Giddens 1984], he ends up reproducing some of the worst forms of subjectivist empiricism, and voluntarism at the micro-level and extreme determinism at the macro-level. It is not an understatement to say that for Giddens, reflexive modernity’s macro-determinism means that the best (and perhaps only) politics in the contemporary social world is the politics of being a dandy/demimonde. To demonstrate this, I will first explicate (the lateri) Giddens’ understanding of reflexivity with an emphasis on clarifying the meaning of reflexive modernity. Then, I will use the ‘competing system’ of Habermas and Offe’s work on legitimation crisis as a means to highlight an alternative (conjunctural) understanding of reflexivity. To offer a contrasting position on neo-liberal modernity, I will use Habermas’ work on the ‘colonization of the lifeworld’ to provide a corrective to Giddens’ macro/determinist, and micro/voluntarist account of contemporary social life. In this section, I will suggest that it is not enough to emphasize that people ‘see’ they have ‘choices’, it is also useful to a) understand the mechanisms behind these choices; b) understand what we are forbidden from choosing. Giddens’ notion of ‘reflexive modernity’ Perhaps the most confusing aspect about Giddens’ deployment of the term reflexivity, is that he uses it in so many different ways (social reflexivity, reflexive modernity, institutional reflexivity; one wonders what isn’t reflexivity)ii. However in this section, I will only focus on a few of Giddens’ uses


present. In other words.of ‘reflexivity’: I will first examine transhistorical reflexivity and the reflexivity of modernity. Furthermore. you don’t really have to justify choosing A). I call it transhistorical because it is a universal feature of all human beings―irrespective of whether they are in ‘modernity’ or ‘non-modern’ societies. as a means to clarify the meaning of reflexive modernity. and future. there is the reflexivity of modernity: “Modernity’s reflexivity has to be distinguished from the reflexive monitoring of action intrinsic to all human activity. these in turn being structured by recurrent social practices” [Giddens 1990:37]. it is a useful starting point to compare traditional and modern societies: In traditional societies. we are expected to follow a tradition because we cannot imagine any alternative. one is by definition a reflexive actor. if asked to elaborate discursively upon those reasons” [Giddens 1984:3]. to chronic revision in the light of new information or knowledge” [Giddens 1991:20. Giddens wants to emphasizes people’s inherent knowledgability about the world. see also Giddens 1990:36-42]. Modernity’s reflexivity refers to the susceptibility of most aspects of social activity and material relations with nature. -2- . who both has reasons for his or her activities and is able. tradition does not require any sort of linguistic (discursive) justification for one’s behavior―since one cannot imagine that there can be another way of ‘doing things’ (if one sees A as one’s ‘only’ choice. Since Giddens derives this conception of reflexivity from the classical theorists’ effort to distinguish pre-modern and modern societies [Tucker 1998:20]. Thus. as a human being. This conceptualization is one he derives from phenomenology and symbolic interactionism: against treating human beings as passively controlled by the structure (‘judgemental dopes’ to use Garfinkel’s term). As Giddens explains “It [tradition] is a means of handling time and space. Transhistorical reflexivity “should be understood not merely as ‘self-consciousness’ but as the monitored character of the ongoing flow of social life. which inserts any particular activity or experience within the continuity of past. By contrast. To be a human being is to be a purposive agent.

As Giddens puts it. Finally. in reflexive modernity. This ‘doubt of science’ transforms the relationship between experts and laypeople. the rise of science promotes a more critical attitude towards tradition―the methodical doubt that is necessary for science. starts to demonstrate that tradition ‘does not need to be followed’ [Giddens 1990:38-39]. Giddens identifies several explanations for the new forms of reflexivity that are generated by modernity: capitalism and industrialism tend to promote rapid change―and this destabilizes people’s attachment to their tradition. this is because tradition requires a belief in an unchanging world [Giddens 1990:103].g.. rather than displacing it. All of these phenomena promote a more questioning (reflexive) understanding of what the world is. “the advocacy of unfettered reason only reshaped the ideas of the providential. but modernity undermines this immobility― since people are increasingly forced to move (e. tradition also requires a relative immobile population for tradition’s hold on their consciousness. and the recognition of the dangers of science (and this knowledge is partly a product of the politicization of science by the New Social Movements) means that lay-actors must become somewhat knowledgable -3- . But if it is the case that modernity promotes reflexivity.With the reflexivity of modernity. allows people to see other traditions in the world―thus denaturalizing their own tradition. the scientific doubt becomes radicalized against itself [Giddens 1990:49]. As well. By contrast. the development of new communication technology.. of empirical observation) and divine providence was replaced by providential progress” [Giddens 1990:48]. people start to realize that there are other ‘ways of life’ that are different from the prescriptions of tradition [Giddens 1990:38].e. then how do we distinguish between the reflexivity of modernity and reflexive modernity―given the fact that modernity by definition is reflexive? Giddens’ answer is to highlight the fact that early modernity replaced one faith in one tradition with a faith in a scientific tradition. The pluralization of experts (i. for finding employment) [Giddens 1994a:84]. a situation where different experts disagree with each other).divine law was replaced by another (the certainty of our senses. Furthermore.

the development of the birth control pill. Thus. What is more. the existence of choice means that people have to constantly discursively justify their choices (e.. our ‘lifestyles’ increasingly become a matter of choice―rather than being governed by tradition [Tucker 1998:57. While. the choices we have in terms of our lifestyle is now a form of political power (‘life-politics’) to shape the world [Giddens 1994a:91]. may alter how experts understand knowledge. but now also believe that they have a choice as to which science they believe (Feyerabend 1979)” [Fuller 1999]. As Fuller puts it. 60].. Giddens’ argument about science is his best argument about how reflexive modernity is different from ‘non-reflexive modernity’iii―there are other factors which suggest that reflexive modernity is less a ‘break’ with ‘plain modernity’. As a result of this. than an intensification of ‘modernity’iv: medical and scientific advances have further opened the door to increased individual control over life―so for example. expert knowledge diffuses within the general public (e. globalization has produced geographic dislocation. Furthermore. further disembedding people from tradition.. this transformation of knowledge by laypeople.g. At the micro-level. through mass communication devices) and it becomes appropiated and transformed. my decision to buy a certain item of clothing has implications not simply for the international division of labour but also for the Earth’s ecosystem” [Giddens 1994:5]v. As Giddens explains. “Local lifestyle habits have become globally consequential.people continue to believe in science. Thus. in turn. Reflexive modernity also alters political life quite dramatically. there is an increasing interactivity (a feedback loop or what Giddens refers to as ‘institutional reflexivity’ [Giddens 1994b:91]) between experts and lay-people. means that people are now ‘forced’ to choose if and when they want to have children [Giddens 1992:2. 27]. finally. the new social movements have denaturalized social relations: from our relationship to nature to familial relations―no longer can we simply assert that our relationships are ‘natural’. “why choose A rather than B”) [Giddens 1994b:105-106].about science―so they can make choices about science. “.g. the fact that -4- .

and the role of New Social Movements in the contemporary period. “Giddens believes that truly innovative social movements must offer the “utopian” possibility of changing the fabric and texture of human relationships. the welfare-state has collapsed due to reflexive modernization. it hence also presumed the patriarchical family” [Giddens 1994a:139]. To elaborate on this. the preservation of different species and a care for future as well as present generations” [Tucker 1998:149].. As Tucker puts it. we must accept some form of neo-liberalism―since only neo-liberalism allows us to exercise our capacity to choose our lifestyles. At a more macro-level. But these similarities should not obscure the differences. values. and Giddens on the other.for the first time in history emotionally healthy people can share universal. In fact... Habermas and Offe: From Legitimation Crisis to the Colonization of the Lifeworld There is a certain amount of resemblance between Habermas and Offe on the one hand. in a situation where everyone is convinced of the facts of the crisis and where general agreement exists regarding its symptoms and course of development. cosmopolitan. but -5- . such as the sanctity of human life.we must construct our identities―rather than simply accept them. the title of one of Giddens’ chapters is entitled ‘Contradictions of the Welfare-State’ [Giddens 1994a]―which is exactly the same title of a book by Claus Offe [1984]. In other words. as Offe has commented. the ‘naturalness’ of these social relations was put into question by the ‘reflexivity’ of the feminist movement―thus undermining the welfare-statevi. In view of such unanimity [over the crisis of the welfare-state] we must ask whether the theoretical differences separating the liberal-conservative and materialist approaches in the social sciences have actually evaporated and whether the differences result less from the analysis itself than from the normative criteria and political aims with which the analysis is associated. one is faced with the question of the specific political-theoretical role of crisis theories. the welfare-state was dependent on “equating work with paid employment in the labour market. As a result of this is. means there is the possibility of remaking ourselves in an emancipated fashion. [Offe 1984:74] This is precisely the point: We all may agree that the welfare-state went into crisis in the 1970s. As well. the centralized bureaucratic organizations of the welfare-state is inconsistent with the values of choice that reflexive modernization promotes [Giddens 1994a:142]. they both recognize the importance of the ‘crisis of the welfare-state’.

to ‘disaggregate’ what Giddens refers to as ‘reflexivity’. I will use Habermas’ work on the colonization of the life-world. Disaggregating Reflexivity As I have suggested previously. I will first use Habermas’ Legitimation Crisis and Claus Offe’s Contradictions of the Welfare-State. By contrast. Giddens’ makes two claims that should be treated separately: the nature of ‘reflexivity’ (specifically the reflexivity of reflexive modernity) and what is happening in post-1970s capitalism. as an analytic that is superior (to Giddens’) in terms of its descriptive capacity to understand contemporary social life.g. But it is not simply confusing―it also allows one to (illegitimately) link radically different phenomenon together under the aegis of reflexivity. Offe and Habermas are much less willing to regress to those deterministic conclusions. and environmental movements challenged the instrumental conception of the economy. feminism challenged the naturalness of patriarchy. I want to go back to Habermas and Offe’s seminal analyses of the crisis of the welfare-state in the 1970s. The starting point for Habermas and Offe is Weber’s insight that in modernity. The reason for this ‘move’. The problem is that in the contemporary period. this is in the sense that institutional arrangements were open to question (delegitimized): e. political. So Giddens sees both (neoliberal) ‘globalization’ and NSMs as examples of reflexivity. one of the confusing aspects of Giddens’ argument. as indicative of the rise of reflexive modernity―which he views as having certain inevitable political conclusions at the macro-level. many NSMs oppose neo-liberal globalization [Crossley 2003a]! Thus to disaggregate reflexivity. there is the autonomization of value spheres [Habermas 1984:166-167]. is that I feel this period is the height of ‘reflexivity’.Giddens takes the crisis of the welfare-state. Civil Rights Movement challenged segregation and racism. is that he uses reflexivity in too many ways. In my second section. cultural spheres -6- . The economic.

increased the probability of questioning and challenging the social order―in the form of social revolts [Collins 1979. Out of this. see also Habermas 1987:347-349]. rich in practical consequences. So for instance. My examples highlight the ways in which contradictions between different value-spheres may -7- . Furthermore. in the socio-cultural domain. Habermas 1975:81-82. This disjuncture between the socio-cultural promises and the economic reality. is remarkably akin to Giddens’ notion of reflexivity―namely “a questioning. the family becomes increasingly recognized as a political phenomenon―thus opening the door to political revolts―like the feminist and gay social movements [Kellner 1989:218-219]. 91]]. In a similar fashion. the family). there was a ‘promise’ that higher education would guarantee a ‘respectable job’. tends to denaturalize it in the socio-cultural realm. this was increasingly less likely. the state’s increasing involvement in social reproduction (e. As Habermas puts it. “While the state compensates for the weaknesses of a self-blocking economic system and takes over tasks complementary to the market. which can come into conflict. it is forced by the logic of its means of control to admit more and more foreign elements into the system” [Habermas 1975:47.g. However. it may lead to the state’s incapacity to steer in the interest of capitalist accumulation [Offe 1984:68]. What is perhaps most significant in terms of the issue of reflexivity. is the way in which different crisis-tendencies tend to ‘denaturalize’ the social. this may create new crisis possibilities: since the state can be influenced by popular pressure. This is an instance of a motivational crisis―and these types of crises tend to force people to re-think their social existence [Habermas 1975:75]. From the standpoint of labour-markets (given that there is a limited number of ‘respectable jobs’). the welfarestate existed primarily through redirecting the crisis-tendencies (and class conflicts) of the economic sphere into the political-administrative sphere (so labour now has a political voice in decision-making). of the norms that still underlie administrative action” [Habermas 1975:69].all have become relatively autonomous spheres. Habermas’ account of the effects of these crises-tendencies of welfare-state.

that were advanced by the NSMs]” [Offe 1984:69]. In contrast. commodification. state. [mh: italics are my own]” [Crossley 2003b: 46]. expectations and responsibilities [i. deregulation) come from [Offe 1984:69]. These social crises were interpreted as instances of ‘ungovernability’. Thus for Habermas and Offe. “Discursive persuasion [which is the crux of Giddens’ argument. but how reflexive are we to the law. Or as Goldthorpe puts it. reflexivity primarily seems to be geared towards exploring one’s ‘identity’―and not a critical questioning of institutions. Thus. simply highlights his failure to comprehend that these phenomena (neo-liberal globalization and the NSMs) emerged in opposition to each other. Habermas and especially Offe raise the importance of the ruling class response to the social crises of the 1960s/1970s. Giddens is suffering from what Habermas refers to as ‘hermeneutic idealism’ -8- . Giddens sees globalization as a ‘process’ in which human beings took no part in constructing (this is why I consider him to be extremely structurally deterministic at the macro-level). this is a far more ‘genuine’ conception of reflexivity than the one proposed by Giddens. This ‘strategy’ should be understood as to where many of the constitutive elements of ‘globalization’ (privatization. In today’s society we may be more ‘reflexive’ towards the family. marketization. in Giddens’ account. and the market? As Crossley puts it.e. Furthermore. the solution that was eventually advanced by the ruling class was one of retrenching the welfare-state. we must understand neo-liberal globalization as originating in a ruling class project to deal with the insurgent movements of the 1960s/1970s.provoke ‘reflexive’ attitudes towards a variety of institutions. with no clear specification of the causal processes supposedly linking one to the other. This was a strategy to “diminish the overloading of the system with claims. see Giddens 1994a:6] is not necessary for effective legitimation most of the time because much of the consent that agents grant to the state and the status quo is granted at the level of habitual assumption. as it is incomplete.] attempts to show the connection with globalisation [and the transformations that the NSMs have generated] amount to little more than placing two trends of change alongside each other. However. Castells etc. Indeed. their [Giddens and other similar theorists like Beck. Giddens’ effort to link globalization with the new social movements as instances of increased reflexivity. [Goldthorpe 2002:28] Reflexive Modernity or the (Economic) Colonization of the Lifeworld? Giddens’ account of what life is like in neo-liberal modernity is perhaps not so much wrong.

This is the sphere of “cultural reproduction. he is grounding his epistemology on people’s subjective perceptions of the world (hence ‘subjectivist empiricism’). but to be epistemologically sceptical: how do we know we have so much ‘choice’? Implicitly. Habermas saw that the system has increasingly colonized the lifeworld. But what are the ‘forbidden choices’―namely the choices we are not allowed to make? In order to answer this question. this is manifested in the way in which citizens became objects of political intervention and manipulation by state bureaucracies―rather than as subjects who were politically engaged within the public sphere (there is a shift from ‘citizens’ to ‘clients’) [Habermas 1987:350. following Crossley [2003a]. However. and this will allow us to ‘see’ what is forbidden by the structure. we can reconceptualize contemporary social life. Unfortunately. in terms of the economic colonization of the life-world rather than in terms of the political colonization of the life-world. and socialization” [Sitton 1998:63]. This -9- . Habermas conceptualizes the social world in terms of the system and the life-world: the system is the “subsystem of the capitalist economic system and state bureaucracies governed through the media of money and power [and instrumental rationality]” [Kellner 1989:199]. where we attempt to achieve mutual understanding (communicative rationality) about the world [Sitton 1998:63]. the lifeworld is the realm of everyday life. we need to explore the mechanisms that produce particular types of subjectivity. social integration. In other words. In my view.[McCarthy 1984:xvi] or what I call ‘subjectivist empiricism’: Giddens is constantly talking about how in reflexive modernity. we have so much ‘choice’ in terms of our life-styles and consumer practices. Habermas’ account of colonization is limited because it is an exploration of the welfare-state at its high-point (1960s)―rather than in the contemporary neo-liberal period. Habermas’ notion of the colonization of the life-world provides such an analytic tool to explore these issuesvii. by contrast. Sitton 1998:69. Giddens seems to think that because people subjectively perceive that they have choice. the choice must be ‘real’. see also Crossley 2003a:294].

for example. not all scientific knowledge gets diffused equallyix. tactics. The subject is increasingly interpellated by ideology as a ‘consumer’ (and the consumer identity demands that ‘choice’ be seen as a sacrosanct principle)―rather than as a ‘citizen’ or as a ‘client’. and the similar range of effects that are discernible in relation to various popular televisual and artistic publics [Crossley 2003a:297]. the waste industry encouraged ‘recycling’ as the solution to . By contrast. Giddens has no conception of structural selectivity―namely the way in which structures “selectively reinforce specific forms of action. or strategies [or knowledge] and to discourage others” [Jessop 2005:49]. the political choices have narrowed considerably over the last 30 years. the way. “you can choose any politics you want..10 - . To offer a concrete example of this structural selectivity: Heather Rogers has highlighted how in response to environmental struggles. with the effects this has for student activity. But what is crucial is that the choices which do not conform to the logic of consumerist capitalism have become forbidden. For instance. the ‘colonization of the life-world’ model allows us to identify a rather serious problem with the idea that contemporary social life is characterized by a reflexive relationship between scientific experts and laypeople: namely. one is suggesting that it can be challenged and overthrown. in which town centres are being replaced by private shopping malls and every blank wall is becoming advertising space. the expansion of Giddens’ much vaunted ‘choice’ in contemporary social life―is something of an illusionviii.the many ways in which public space has been invaded and subject to new forms of corporate regulation. From this angle. To be more specific. Giddens does not think about why certain types of knowledge get diffused―and conversely. As well. produces a particular type of subjectivity. course content and even the existence of some courses and departments. why other knowledge does not get diffused. as long as it is neo-liberal”. the way in which university campuses and even courses are increasingly corporate sponsored. but it seems eminently feasible to resist the economic colonization of the lifeworld―just as it was possible to resist the political colonization of the life-world in the 1960s. Habermas’ emphasis on structural phenomenon like the market (which is in turn structured by corporate power) means that the scientific knowledge that is diffused―is much more likely to be consistent with hegemonic interests. It is hard to imagine how people can practically oppose ‘reflexive modernity’.economic colonization can be seen by . This objective fact of the economic colonization of the lifeworld. As a result. this is because anything that deviates from a politics rooted in commodification and consumerism has been excluded from the ‘allowable’ choices.. By identifying the causal mechanism that produce consumerist subjectivity. To paraphrase Henry Ford.

Tradition and Aesthetics in the Modern Social Order. In contrast. London: Academic Press. In other words. Beck. New York . is much more likely (structural selectivity) to be consistent with the continued operation and reproduction of a neo-liberal society. by working on ourselves to become more emotionally fulfilled people. if people ‘diagnosed’ ecological problems in terms of the pathological effects of the economic colonization of the lifeworld? A severe legitimation crisisxi.11 - . In both cases. what would happen to the social order. 227]. As a result of this. this is in sharp contrast to C. Collins. we can solve our emotional problems. fluid self-identity becomes part of the problem―rather than the solution to social problems. psychologizing discourse..e. (1979). Perhaps. people may end up suffering from ‘reflexive misrecognition’: there has been a diffusion of ecological knowledge among the population (producing a reflexive attitude towards the environment). this highlights how the knowledge that is diffused amongst the population. what is most troubling is that Giddens’ argument is ‘anti-sociological’: we can abolish environmental problems by changing our values [Giddens 1994a: 225. rather it may serve to misdiagnose and mask the nature of social injustice under the rubric of personalistic. As a counterfactual. but they treat environmental problems as purely the result of individual ‘choices’ (i. The Credential Society: an Historical Sociology of Education and Stratification.. A. Habermas and Offe remain wedded to an analysis that links ‘character’ to ‘social structure’ in a way that is consistent with Mills’ sociological imagination. R.garbage problems [Rogers 2005:157]. Reflexive Modernization: Politics. Cambridge: Polity in association with Blackwell. U. & Lash. perhaps? To reiterate. Giddens.e failure to recycle)―and not as the result of structural forces like the market economy externalizing environmental costs (i. Habermas and Offe recognize that fluid self-identity may not be the solution to social problems. S. Giddens has converted public issues into personal troubles. people suffer from misrecognition)x. (1994b). if efforts to transform one’s identity is detached from collective projects of social change. Conclusion This paper has both attempted to explicate Giddens’ notion of reflexivity and to suggest that it is theoretically inadequate to capture what life is like in neo-liberal modernity. . Wright Mills’ sociological imagination―which always attempted to link personal troubles to public issues.

D. London: Heinemann. Globalisation and Social Class. Cambridge: Polity Press. Cambridge: Polity. J. Goldthorpe. N. (1999). 10. 56(1).12 - .Crossley. C. A. Giddens. Crossley. The Consequences of Modernity. Even Newer Social Movements? Anti-Corporate Protests. Habermas. Capitalist Crises and the Remoralization of Society. (1989). (2002). A. (2003b). Beatty Memorial Lecture at www. Offe. Sexuality and Eroticism in Modern Societies. & Keane. Modernity and Self-Identity: Self and Society in the Late Modern Age. 'Toward a Re-enchantment of Science: A Fit End to the Science Wars'. J. Jessop. Contradictions of the Welfare State (Contemporary politics). Oxford: Polity Press. N. (1991). New Formations. 4. Critical Theory. (1990).alp. (1992). (1984). A. From Reproduction to Transformation: Social Movement Fields and the Radical Habitus. K. N. Theory.mcgill. . Boston: Beacon Press. Legitimation Crisis. Habermas and Bhaskar. Critical Realism and the Strategic-Relational Approach. (1984). S. (2004). (1994a). Marxism and Modernity. The Constitution of Society: Outline of the Theory of Structuration. J. Giddens. Giddens. Society. Giddens.htm Giddens. Routledge. Pleasants. West European Politics 25(3) Habermas.-M. (1999). Cambridge: Polity Press. Can Bourdieu’s Critical Theory liberate us from the Symbolic Violence? Cultural Studies <=> Critical Methodologies. A. Kim. B. (2005). Kellner. Wittgenstein and the Idea of a Critical Social Theory: Giddens. (1976). Fuller. (2003a). A. Cambridge: Polity. Beyond Left and Right: the Future of Radical Politics. (1984). Organization. London: Hutchinson. The Theory of Communicative Action.ca/sci_soc/steve_fuller_lect. J. The Transformation of Intimacy: Love. Culture. Cambridge: Polity in association with Blackwell. 20(6).

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In contrast by the late 1980s. “my point is not that everything is bad. since we the threat of VD no longer scares us into accepting traditional sexual behavior. ii I am not the only person who has observed this. but everything is dangerous”―so while the welfare-state may have its origins in the reproduction of patriarchical society. I strongly suspect that this is the case. towards a much more meta-theoretically careless project. vi This seems to be a remarkably dubious argument. where the welfare-state is inherently patriarchical. Giddens is critical of methodological individualism. since the way in which patriarchical ideas structured welfare-policy (e. E. For a much more sophisticated empirical critique of Giddens (and for that matter Beck) along these lines. I strongly suspect it has something to do with which theorist Giddens was trying to emulate at the time: Constitution of Society has a certain ‘family resemblance’ to Habermas’ Theory of Communicative Action (they use similar theorists. in Constitution of Society [1984]. Giddens’ argument seems to be rather essentialist. v This clear regression to methodological individualism and voluntarism clearly violates a lot of what he argued in Constitution of Society. Norway. “According to Bourdieu. but we can disprove things. Habermas and Bhaskar is not amongst those theories which exercise a powerful . his emphasis on the importance of a ‘durable structure’ that is resistant to the actions of agents (see his examination of Willis’ study on working class resistance to schools―which had no effect on the school system. despite the considerable ambiguity of Giddens’ multifarious predication of reflexive. For example. what is true today. It seems to me. Goldthorpe [2002:21] comes to very similar conclusions about the difficulty of demarcation lines (and we came to it independently: Curtis Jones told me about this article―well after I had written this footnote). since the social democratic welfare-states (Sweden. see Goldthorpe 2002. Following Foucault. reification. Why doesn’t Giddens see that as the beginning of reflexive modernity (1920s)? Similarly. Giddens’ arguments starts to sound a lot less like Habermas and a lot more like Beck (and we should remember that Risk Society came out in the original German in 1986―and Giddens is likely to have read it in when it came out in the original German). Rather. that Giddens’ is so entranced with his theory of reflexive modernity. that he refuses to examine empirically some of the claims he makes. Empirically. we should treat the welfare-state in more agonistic terms.g. So why not classify reflexive modernity around 1950? iv The reason why I consider these as intensifications of modernity.g.i I say ‘later’ because the earlier Giddens is quite critical of many of the things the later Giddens did.g. because it is still an accentuation of already existing trends: e. the development of antibiotics signifies our greater sexual freedom choice. may be falsified tomorrow―thus. inherently there is greater doubt about the truth claims that science makes. voluntarism etc―all things the later Giddens suffers from. “However. just like one’s individual’s choices in terms of consumption will not have much effect [Giddens 1984:289-304]). As well. we could place reflexive modernity about the time when verificationism (Vienna Circle/Logical Positivism) gave way to falsification (Popper) because falsification essentially makes science much more provisional and thus more open to doubt. rather than ‘breaks’ is because none of these things are not particularly new. it can be transformed for more gender egalitarian purposes. Bourdieu is also quite useful critic of subjectivist empiricism. This ‘shift’ undermined the meta-theoretically cautious Giddens. since globalization began at least since the beginning of capitalism. less stigmatizing and more generous. his rejection of methodological individualism [see Giddens 1984:213]. We can no longer prove anything. this is not what he means by ‘reflexive modernity’” [Pleasants 1999:87] iii Even this notion of the doubt about science as constituting a ‘break’ between modernity and reflexive modernity seems problematic. Furthermore. dealing with similar meta-theoretical problems etc). ix Another illustration of structural selectivity has been highlighted by Pleasants: “It can be reasonably concluded that the critical social theory of Giddens. demands for universal child care are clearly calls for an expansion of the welfare-state and (at least) gender egalitarian policies.” [Kim 2004:363] viii I think this is another example of the radical duality between the micro and macro level in Giddens’ account: freedom of choice at the micro-level (‘lifestyles’) and lack of choice at the macro-level (‘politics’). we could see that as the start of ‘reflexive modernity’. Denmark) are both the most expansive welfare-states and the most gender egalitarian. they must go beyond the self-understanding of the agents and should offer a critique of current practice so that the social agents can liberate themselves from the grip of the legitimated social classification. e. sociologists must not be simply satisfied with the description of how agents’ self-understanding of their institution and society is displayed in their interaction. I think it would be useful to examine whether feminist movements have attempted to defend and expand the welfare-state to improve the lives of women. vii In this regard.g. The intensification of already existing processes does not suggest a way of demarcating between plain modernity and reflexive modernity. the stigmatization of single mother families on welfare) could only have been solved by making the welfare-state more universalist.

when in fact they really aren’t doing much to stop ecological degradation. one wonders wouldn’t changing our values so their inconsistent with the needs of capital accumulation. Recycling itself may act as a form of greenwashing―in which people think they are helping the environment. xi It is interesting that Giddens’ solution to environmental problems is about changing our ‘values’ (not to be productivist [Giddens 1994:227]). not generate a motivational crisis as a result of the disjuncture between the economic and socio-cultural realms? .influence on large numbers of people’s minds and actions” [Pleasants 1999:178] x Rogers points out. that despite “[probably] more Americans recycle than vote―yet greater amounts of rubbish are going to landfills and incinerators than ever before” [Rogers 2005:176].

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