Using illustrations, Discuss the Contention that Contemporary Social Conditions Give Rise to a ?Crisis of the Self? .


Sociologists have a cardinal involvement in modernness, and its planetary effects ( Bilton et al, 1996 ) . Social constructions are a two edged blade in that they both constrain and enable. In this manner they advantage some people and disadvantage others. With the oncoming of modernness came the rise of industrialization and capitalist economy and these had considerable effects for the bulk of ordinary people.

Modernity is normally equated with advancement, in societal, industrial and in philosophical footings. Enlightenment philosophers such as Kant and Hume questioned antecedently held ways of knowing and this served to loosen the clasp of spiritual authorization which until so had been regarded as the depository of knowledge.. Reason was the manner in which society would come on. Sociologists opine that modernness has planetary features. They do non all agree, nevertheless, on the impact of globalization or the factors that drive it. Hirst ( 1996 ) argues that the thought of globalization is overrated and the economic mutuality that we are witnessing is non new. Others argue that globalization is highly existent and its effects are being felt everyplace. In add-on to this there are the transformationalists e.g. Bilton et Al ( 1996 ) . They argue that although tradition remains in societies the planetary order is easy changing. Giddens ( 2001 ) contends that the globalization of societal life that we are witnessing is a alone characteristic of modernness and the advancement that is built-in in it.

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Globalization is, nevertheless, a complex procedure and should non be thought of strictly in internationalist footings, it besides has local and personal effects.. Bilton et Al ( 1996 ) say:

The oncoming of modernness unleashed procedures of planetary proportion-notably the development of industrial capitalist economy, the laterality of rational signifiers of idea and administration, the drawn-out range of the nation-state, and major alterations in societal relationships and in people’s sense of ego( Bilton et Al, 1996:49 ) .

This paper will look at the altering nature of modern society, with a peculiar focal point on globalisation and work. It will measure whether these conditions could be said to give rise to what has been called a crisis of the ego.

Globalization and Identity

What has become known as individuality crisis is a term that was foremost coined by Erikson in ( 1968 ) , so the statement that follows, while current, is non precisely new. This was a concern which well increased during the 1980s and ‘90s and gathered farther impulse in arguments about globalisation.

Globalization has affected people’s employment and the things they thought constituted their lives, therefore it is hard for them to claim an individuality for themselves. Jenkins ( 1996 ) maintains that individuality is closely allied to the power relationships that exist in society. Some members of society have less power than others in claiming an individuality, and those with the most power may sometimes impute individuality to others. Baumeister ( 1999 ) has observed that the turning concern over individuality is a contemplation of:

…a broader societal tendency in which the person ego has become a absorbing job ( reflecting ) how the ego has changed in recent history to go more hard, ambitious, and of import to research( 1999, p.3 ) .

Hall ( 1992 ) has argued in late modern societies things change so quickly that it makes it hard for people to keep on to a sense of themselves. He therefore maintains that what he footings disconnected individualities is a common happening in modern-day society. Social conditions such as globalisation give rise to an increasing figure of inequalities in society. Bradley ( 1997 ) takes the position that although structured societal inequalities may hold importance for how we might see ourselves individualities are non shaped by them in the same manner. In Bradley’s sentiment societal divisions and societal inequalities have much the same impact on individuality, therefore she writes:

It has become about a platitude to state that categories are gendered and that gender dealingss are class-specific. Similarly the other dimensions of race/ethnicity and age impinge on single category and gender experience and in any peculiar concrete illustration it is difficult to divide out the different elements( Bradley, 1997, p.19 ) .

Bradley contends that individualities are grounded in inequalities but their importance for individuality varies over clip and infinite. The primary characteristics of modern society, e.g. the deregulating of markets and the planetary nature of economic science has led to sociologists taking different positions of the ego in the modern-day universe. Sennet ( 1998 ) maintains that these conditions lead to a corrosion of the ego whereas Giddens ( 1991 ) maintains that alternatively of corrosion modern conditions give people a pick over individuality and lead to a greater reflexiveness overall. What he means by this is that instead than eliminating people’s sense of ego, the conditions of modernness help them to do and refashion it.

Globalization, Work and the Self

Numbers of observers maintain that work and our topographic point in society, which prior to industrialisation appeared preordained, are cardinal to any sense of who we are as people. The rapid gait of alteration engendered by the conditions of modernness has called into inquiry this sense of who a individual is or considers themselves to be. It is in this context that Giddens ( 1991 ) has argued that the quickly changing nature of modern capitalist society generates a sense of nonsense in people’s lives, but he does non see this as eating their sense of individuality. He maintains that despite the jobs many people face in the field of employment, employers and their organisations really provide the conditions for people to get by more readily with the such jobs. On the other manus Sennett ( 1998 ) is more inclined to hold with Hall ( 1992 ) when he claims that organisations really add to the jobs ensuing from globalization and contribute to the dislocation of a unafraid sense of ego. However, Webb ( 2004 ) does non see Giddens and Sennett’s representations of the ego as contradictory, instead they represent the different facets of modern-day society.

This is non to state that globalization does non impact people’s lives all over the universe as Giddens ( 2001 ) contends there is:

…a growingdivergence between the richest and the poorest states of the world….globalisation is bring forthing hazards, challenges and inequalities which cross national boundary lines and elude the range of bing political constructions( Giddens 2001:75-76 ) .

Because of this and the power of the multinational corporations and multinational capitalist economy, societal divisions are a planetary, if slightly fractured phenomenon. In malice of this Giddens ( 1991 ) is of the sentiment that globalisation has opened up the market and resulted in greater freedom of pick for persons. This is peculiarly the instance when it comes to work. The spread outing nature of modern-day society means that there are more chances for people, this coupled with an enlargement in accomplishments and a less autocratic attitude in the workplace gives people greater single freedom. Nevertheless, the go oning alterations taking topographic point in society, and the comparative nature of ‘knowledge’ requires that people develop a greater adaptability in respects to their personal individualities. They need to be ready to travel along with the rate of alteration and this requires a corresponding alteration in how they understand themselves. Therefore, for Giddens ( 1991 ) , the ego is an on-going undertaking whereby individuality is made and refashion to run into the conditions of modern life. The picks that a individual makes in this quickly spread outing universe hence say something to themselves and to others about what kind of individual they are. Giddens ( 1991 ) speaks, hence, of the ego as a go oning, automatic undertaking. Giddens ( 1991 ) further maintains that this reflexiveness represents a opposition against the consumerism and excepting forces of modern society and serves as the evidences for public argument on issues of societal justness.

In contrast to Giddens’ ( 1991 ) contention, Sennett ( 1998 ) is of the sentiment that the fluctuating and short term nature of the market conditions in modern society lead to a atomization of the ego. In this his statement is really similar to those of Hall ( 1992 ) and Bradley ( 1997 ) both of whom see the conditions of modern-day society, and peculiarly the universe of work, as ensuing in fractured individualities.

Prior to the addition in the forces of globalisation, Sennett ( 1998 ) argues, people had some sense of stableness and this had a corresponding consequence in how they saw themselves. Continued employment and a greater sense of community meant that persons felt that they were needed and this reinforced a positive sense of how they saw themselves. Current societal conditions, on the other manus, lead to a greater sense of isolation, organisations expect persons to take hazards and to be autonomous and this tends to weaken and devaluate the societal dealingss that contributed to people’s sense of individuality. Sennett ( 1998 ) contends that Giddens’ ( 1991 ) impression of reflexiveness efficaciously buys into this because it can go self-seeking and in this manner undermines values that relate to community and the public assistance of others. Where Giddens ( 1991 ) sees what he footings a political relations of individuality as forward looking and connected with personal pick and freedom, Sennett ( 1998 ) regards it as a response to insufficient control and hence modification and disempowering. He maintains that Giddens thought of a changeless revising of the ego is undermined by the conditions generated by globalisation and this consequences in the loss of intending going more widespread. Therefore he speaks of a disconnected and unstable ego that needs to be invariably renegotiated, and this leads to instability, self-interest and impetus.

Effectss of a Crisis of the Self

Edmundson ( 1997 ) maintains that the increasing acknowledgment that we live in a hazard society frequently means that the impression of hazard is directed inwards. This can ensue in mental wellness troubles because the internalisation of hazard consequences in a deficiency of trust in the ego which so gives rise to instability. Prager ( 1998 ) maintains that this is apparent in the increasing figure of people who lay claim to an individuality that is rooted in victimhood. Surely there is grounds of this in the world shows where people go on telecasting to state the universe how it has done them an unfairness. Gilroy ( 2000 ) maintains that the fluidness that some theoreticians ascribe to individuality means that governments have greater control over people’s lives, therefore back uping Sennett’s ( 1998 ) position that reflexiveness can ensue in a disempowerment of the ego. A cardinal job with all this, as Bendle ( 2002 ) points out is that the struggles created between individuality and globalisation are farther reflected in sociologists theorisation of those topics.


This paper has investigated the claim that the conditions of modern society give rise to a crisis of the ego. Clearly how we understand individuality in the modern universe is invariably switching, but this rests on the impression that past civilisations were much more certain about who they were and what their topographic point was in the universe. Whether the ego has of all time, or will of all time, be a inactive phenomenon is a questionable premise, why else would theologians invariably do mention to the inquiries generated by humanity’s experiential topographic point in the universe. Certainly theoreticians are divided on the topic of the ego and constructs of the ego. In decision nevertheless, it seems just to state that conditions in the modern universe have far runing effects on the lives of persons and that this might hence be evidences to contend that at nowadays there is a crisis of the ego.


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Erikson 1968Identity Youth and CrisisNew York, Norton

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Sennett, R. 1998The Corrosion of IdentityNew York, WW Norton

Webb, J 2004 “Organizations, Self Identity, and the New Economy”BSA Publications( 38 ) 4 pp 719-738


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