From class society to the individualized society? A critical reassessment of individualization and class

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The concept of ‘‘individualization’’ plays a central role in both classic and modern sociology. In modern sociology writers such as Beck, Giddens, and Bauman made the concept of individualization a key one in their theories of ‘‘late’’, ‘‘reflexive’’, and ‘‘liquid modernity’’. However, the emphasis which the sociology of individualization puts on ‘‘liberation’’, choice and social change is challenged by the sociology of stratification and power (Bourdieu, Dean, and others) with its greater emphasis on class, power and social reproduction. This paper seeks to ‘‘overcome’’ this schism between social change and social reproduction in the form of an attempt to think the differentiated (stratified) forms of individualization in reflexive modernity. The assumption is that there is adifferentiation in reflexive modern people’s ability to deal with the requirements of individualization, depending on their possession of economic, social and cultural capital.This is argued by means of a theoretical ‘‘reconstruction’’ of the insights and deficiencies of the sociology of individualization, and demonstrated—with a focus on youngpeople—by a number of empirical examples. In conclusion, the paper discusses the
possibility of a theoretical integration of the fundamental insights of both the sociology of individualization and the sociology of stratification.
TidsskriftIrish Journal of Sociology
Udgave nummer3
Sider (fra-til)229-249
Antal sider21
StatusUdgivet - dec. 2017


  • Individualization
  • Class
  • Young People
  • Risk
  • Reflexive habitus

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