Politics, society and identity - Politics and society - No such thing as society?

7 important questions on Politics, society and identity - Politics and society - No such thing as society?

What lies at the heart of the trend of thinning of social connectedness?

The rise of individualism.
People used to be seen as members of the social groups to which they belonged: family, village etc. Their lives and identities were largely determined by the character of these groups.

Rise of individualism is largely seen as a consequence of the establishment of industrial capitalism as the dominant mode of social organization.
Industrial capitalism --> more choices and social possibilities. Started acting in accordance with their own interests.

--> Rise of eonomic individualism

What has strengthened individualism even more?

- The consumer society
- Shift in favour of neoliberal economics.

How do people define themselves compared to how they used to define themselves in earlier versions of industrial capitalism?

People's status was linked to their productive roles (demonstrated by importance placed on social class, consumer capitalism).

Individualism encouraged people to define themselves increasingly in terms of what and how much they own.   

Emphasis on production tends to foster social solidarity (highlights what people have in common), while consumerism encourages to think and act more in individual terms, seeing consumption as a form of self-expression.
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What are the negative implications of the spread of individualism?

- Weakened community + sense of social belonging --> increasing individualism and competition.
- Weakening of social codes and norms had resulted in the spread of anomie (weakening of values and normative rules, associated with feelings of loneliness, isolation and meaninglessness). --> more suicides.
- Growth of egoism and atomism led to weakening of social duty and moral responsibility.
- Loss of sense of importance of the public good.

What are the positive implications of the spread of individualism?

- Mark of social progress. spread of progressive, even enlightened social values (notably toleration and equality of opportunity).
If humans are thought of as individuals, they must be entitled to the same rights and respect.
- Link between individualism and the expansion of choice and opportunity has been highlighted by spread of social reflexivity (tendency to reflect, implying higher levels of self-awareness, self-knowledge). Because of:
> mass education and intensified cultural flows between societies.

What are the benefits and dangers of social reflexivity?

Benefits: widened sphere of personal freedom, ability of people to define who they are and how they wish to live.

Dangers: strengthening of consumerism and materialist ethics.

What are the best examples of anti-individualist societies and what has this led to?

Asia; Japan, China and Asian 'tiger' states (Taiwan, South Korea and Singapore).

This has led to to a debate about the viability of so-called Asian values as an alternative to the individualism of Western, liberal societies.

+ there is a also evidence of resurgence of 'thick' social connectedness: through the rise of identity politics and growing importance of ethnicity, gender, and religion.

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