Is Giddens' concept of 'reflexivity' a form of 'wish fulfillment'?

Essay by EileenmaloneUniversity, Bachelor'sC+, April 2007

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This paper will look at Giddens’ concept of ‘reflexivity’ and whether or not this concept is a form of ‘wish fulfillment’. Let it be known that this is a complex question, so therefore by providing specific evidence, also could be seen as arguable to others depending on individual beliefs. Therefore I have chosen to be selective, as no attempt will be made to be encyclopedic, rather I have selected some of the cardinal strengths within the subject matter.

The centrality of the notion of risk in Gidden’s account of contemporary existence echoes many of the ideas of the German sociologist Ulrich Beck. Like Beck, Giddens rejects postmodernism claiming that postmodernism gets it wrong on three counts: - ‘it neglects the institutional realities of living in the twenty-first century’, ‘it wrongly sees the human individual as powerless in the face of discursive influences’ and ‘it cannot make any useful contribution to the business of making our world a safer and better place because it denies that we can ever have the capacity to know how things really are’.

(Jones, P 2003). All three counts will be discussed as this paper progresses. Both Beck and Giddens acknowledges both the accelerated pace of change and the unprecedented level of change that has occurred in high modernity. All aspects of social life and social structure undergo rapid transformation. As human beings interfered more and more with nature, new unpredictable risks were born and so modernity transformed into the ‘dangerous adventure’ that is called reflexive modernization (Beck, U. & Giddens, A. & Lash, S (1994). Societies modernize through industrialism, globalization and for the most part through capitalism. In high modernity, social relations are no longer embedded in localized contexts, due to increased technological developments. Advances in communication for example, practically eliminate the...