From Anthony Giddens, Modernity and Self-Identity: Self andSociety in the Late Modern Age, Stanford, CA: Stanford UniversityPress, 1991, pp. 187-201.
In conditions of late modernity, we live 'in the world' in adifferent sense from previous eras of history. Everyone stillcontinues to live a local life, and the constraints of the bodyensure that all individuals, at every moment, are contextuallysituated in time and space. Yet the transformations of place, and theintrusion of distance into local activities, combined with thecentrality of mediated experience, radically change what 'the world'actually is. This is so both on the level of the 'phenomenal world'of the individual and the general universe of social activity withinwhich collective social life is enacted. Although everyone lives alocal life, phenomenal worlds for the most part are truly global .
Characterising individuals' phenomenal worlds is difficult,certainly in the abstract. Every person reacts selectively to thediverse sources of direct and mediated experience which compose theUmwelt. One thing we can say with some certainty is that invery few instances does the phenomenal world any longer correspond tothe habitual settings through which an individual physically moves.Localities are thoroughly penetrated by distanciated influences,whether this be regarded as a cause for concern or simply accepted asa routine part of social life. All individuals actively, although byno means always in a conscious way, selectively incorporate manyelements of mediated experience into their day-to-day conduct. Thisis never a random or a passive process, contrary to what the image ofthe collage effect might suggest. A newspaper, for example,presents a collage of information, as does, on a wider scale, thewhole bevy of newspapers which may be on sale in a particular area orcountry. Yet each reader imposes his own order on this diversity, byselecting which newspaper to read--if any--and by making an activeselection of its contents.
In some part the appropriation of mediated information followspre-established habits and obeys the principle of the avoidance ofcognitive dissonance. That is to say, the plethora of availableinformation is reduced via routinised attitudes which exclude, orreinterpret, potentially disturbing knowledge. From a negative pointof view, such closure might be regarded as prejudice, the refusalseriously to entertain views and ideas divergent from those anindividual already holds; yet, from another angle, avoidance ofdissonance forms part of the protective cocoon which helps maintainontological security. For even the most prejudiced or narrow-mindedperson, the regularised contact with mediated information inherent inday-to-day life today is a positive appropriation: a mode ofinterpreting information within the routines of daily life. Obviouslythere are wide variations in terms of how open a given individual isto new forms of knowledge, and how far that person is able totolerate certain levels of dissonance. But all phenomenal worlds areactive accomplishments, and all follow the same basic psychodynamics,from the most local of ways of life to the most cosmopolitan.
'Living in the world', where the world is that of late modernity,involves various distinctive tensions and difficulties on the levelof the self. We can analyse these most easily by understanding themas dilemmas which, on one level or another, have to be resolved inorder to preserve a coherent narrative of self-identity.
The first dilemma is that of unification versusfragmentation. Modernity fragments; it also unites. On thelevel of the individual right up to that of planetary systems as awhole, tendencies towards dispersal vie with those promotingintegration. So far as the self is concerned, the problem ofunification concerns protecting and reconstructing the narrative ofself-identity in the face of the massive intensional and extensionalchanges which modernity sets into being. In most pre-modern contexts,the fragmentation of experience was not a prime source of anxiety.Trust relations were localised and focused through personal ties,even if intimacy in the modern sense was generally lacking. In apost-traditional order, however, an indefinite range of possibilitiespresent themselves, not just in respect of options for behaviour, butin respect also of the 'openness of the world' to the individual.'The world', as indicated above, is not a seamless order of time andspace stretching away from the individual; it intrudes into presencevia an array of varying channels and sources.
Yet it is wrong to see the world 'out there' as intrinsicallyalienating and oppressive to the degree to which social systems areeither large in scale or spatially distant from the individual. Suchphenomena may often be drawn on to supply unifying influences; theyare not just fragmenting in their impact on the self. Distant eventsmay become as familiar, or more so, than proximate influences, andintegrated into the frameworks of personal experience. Situations 'athand' may in fact be more opaque than large-scale happeningsaffecting many millions of people. Consider some examples. A personmay be on the telephone to someone twelve thousand miles away and forthe duration of the conversation be more closely bound up with theresponses of that distant individual than with others sitting in thesame room. The appearance, personality and policies of a worldpolitical leader may be better known to a given individual than thoseof his next-door neighbour. A person may be more familiar with thedebate over global warming than with why the tap in the kitchenleaks. Nor are remote or large-scale phenomena necessarily factorsonly vaguely 'in the background' of an individual's psychologicalmake-up and identity. A concern with global warming, for example,might form part of a distinctive lifestyle adopted by a person, evenif she is not an ecological activist. Thus she might keep in closecontact with scientific debates and adjust various aspects of herlifestyle in relation to the practical measures they suggest.
Fragmentation clearly tends to be promoted by the influencesemphasised hy Berger and others: the diversifying of contexts ofinteraction. In many modern settings, individuals are caught up in avariety of differing encounters and milieux, each of which may callfor different forms of appropriate' behaviour. Goffman is normallytaken to be the theorist par excellence of this phenomenon. Asthe individual leaves one encounter and enters another, hesensitively adjusts the 'presentation of self' in relation towhatever is demanded of a particular situation. Such a view is oftenthought to imply that an individual has as many selves as there aredivergent contexts of interaction, an idea which somewhat resemblespoststructuralist interpretations of the self, albeit from adiffering theoretical perspective. Yet again it would not be correctto see contextual diversity as simply and inevitably promoting thefragmentation of the self, let alone its disintegration into multiple'selves'. It can just as well, at least in many circumstances,promote an integration of self. The situation is rather like thecontrast between rural and urban life discussed previously. A personmay make use of diversity in order to create a distinctiveself-identity which positively incorporates elements from differentsettings into an integrated narrative. Thus a cosmopolitan person isone precisely who draws strength from being at home in a variety ofcontexts. 
The dilemma of unification versus fragmentation, like the othersto be mentioned below, has its pathologies. On the one hand we findthe type of person who constructs his identity around a set of fixedcommitments, which act as a filter through which numerous differentsocial environments are reacted to or interpreted. Such a person is arigid traditionalist, in a compulsive sense, and refuses anyrelativism of context. On the other hand, in the case of a self whichevaporates into the variegated contexts of action, we find theadaptive response which Erich Fromm has characterised as'authoritarian conformity'. Fromm expresses this in the followingway:
The individual ceases to be himself; he adoptsentirely the kind of personality offered to him by cultural patterns;and he therefore becomes exactly as all others are and as they expecthim to be . . . this mechanism can be compared with the protectivecolouring some animals assume. They look so similar to theirsurroundings that they are hardly distinguishable from them. 
In such circumstances, we might argue, the false self overridesand blankets out the original acts of thinking, feeling and willingwhich represent the true motivations of the individual. What remainsof the true self is experienced as empty and inauthentic; yet thisvacuum cannot be filled by the 'pseudo-selves' brought into play bythe individual in different contexts, because these are as muchstimulated by the responses of others as drawn from the person'sinner convictions. Ontological security in this situation is asweakly founded as in the case of the rigid traditionalist. Theindividual only feels psychologically secure in his self-identity inso far as others recognise his behaviour as appropriate or reasonable.
A second dilemma is that of powerlessness versusappropriation. If there is one theme which unites nearly allauthors who have written on the self in modern society, it is theassertion that the individual experiences feelings of powerlessnessin relation to a diverse and large-scale social universe. In contrastto the traditional world, it is supposed, where the individual wassubstantially in control of many of the influences shaping his life,in modern societies that control has passed to external agencies. Asspecified by Marx, the concept of alienation has served as thecentre-point for analyses of this issue. As the forces of productiondevelop, particularly under the aegis of capitalistic production, theindividual cedes control of his life circumstances to the dominatinginfluences of machines and markets. What is originally human becomesalien; human powers are experienced as forces emanating from anobjectified social environment. Not only the followers of Marx haveexpressed such a view; it is also found, in somewhat different guise,in the works of the theorists of 'mass society'. The more extensivemodern social systems become, according to this position, the moreeach particular individual feels shorn of all autonomy. Each, as itwere, is merely an atom in a vast agglomeration of other individuals.
The ideas I have sought to develop in this book are distinctivelydifferent from such a standpoint. In many pre-modern contexts,individuals (and humanity as a whole) were more powerless than theyare in modern settings. People typically lived in smaller groups andcommunities; but smallness is not the same as power. In manysmall-group settings individuals were relatively powerless to alteror escape from their surrounding social circumstances. The hold oftradition, for example, was often more or less unchallengeable. Thereare many other illustrations. Pre-modern kinship systems, forexample, were often quite rigid, and offered the individual littlescope for independent action. We would be hard pressed tosubstantiate an overall generalisation that, with the coming ofmodern institutions, most individuals either are (or feel) morepowerless than in preceding times.
Modernity expropriates--that is undeniable. Time-spacedistanciation and the deskilling effects of abstract systems are thetwo most important influences. Even if distance and powerlessness donot inevitably go together, the emergence of globalised connections,together with high consequence risks, represent parameters of sociallife over which the situated individual has relatively littlecontrol. Similarly, expropriation processes are part and parcel ofthe maturation of modern institutions and reach not only spheres ofday-to-day life but the heart of the self.
If we understand such processes in dialectical fashion, however,and if we see that globalisation produces not just extensional butintensional change, a complex picture emerges. We cannot say that allforms of expropriation necessarily provide the possibility ofreappropriation, certainly on the level of individual conduct. Manyof the processes transformed by disembedding, or reorganised in thelight of the intrusion of abstract systems, move beyond the purviewof the situated actor. On the other hand, others make possible formsof mastery over life circumstances unavailable in pre-modernsituations.
Powerlessness and reappropriation intertwine variously indifferent contexts and at varying times: given the dynamism ofmodernity, there is little stability in the relations between them.An individual who vests trust in others, or in a given abstractsystem, normally thereby recognises that she lacks the power toinfluence them significantly. Yet the vesting of trust can alsogenerate new capacities. Consider the example of money. In order toutilise money, an individual must participate in systems of economicexchange, banking and investment and so forth, over which she haslittle direct control. On the other hand, this process allows theindividual--given sufficient resources--a diversity of opportunitieswhich would otherwise be absent.
The experience of powerlessness, considered as a psychicphenomenon, naturally always relates to aims, projects or aspirationsheld by the individual, as well as to the composition of thephenomenal world. Powerlessness experienced in a personalrelationship may be psychologically more damaging and consequentialthan powerlessness felt in relation to more encompassing socialsystems. Of course, these may feed into one another in various ways.Diffuse anxieties about high-consequence risks, for instance, mightcontribute in a general fashion to feelings of powerlessnessexperienced by an individual in more local contexts. Conversely,feelings of personal impotence may become diffused 'upwards' towardsmore global concerns. It seems reasonable to posit that connectionsof this kind are likely to underlie a 'survival' mentality. A'survivor' is someone who feels deprived of adequate social masteryin a threatening series of personal and social environments. Yet asurvivalist outlook carries connotations of appropriation as well asof powerlessness. Someone who concentrates on surviving in personalrelations, as in other spheres of life, cannot be said to haveabandoned all autonomy over his or her life's circumstances. Even ifonly in a somewhat negative sense, the individual clearly seeksactive mastery: to survive is to be able in a determined way to rideout the trials life presents and overcome them.
Once again, the dilemma of powerlessness versus appropriation hasits pathologies. Where an individual feels overwhelmed by a sense ofpowerlessness in the major domains of his phenomenal world, we mayspeak of a process of engulfment. The individual feelsdominated by encroaching forces from the outside, which he is unableto resist or transcend. He feels either haunted by implacable forcesrobbing him of all autonomy of action, or caught up in a maelstrom ofevents in which he swirls around in a helpless fashion. At the otherpole of the powerlessness/ appropriation divide isomnipotence. Like all personality pathologies, it is a fantasystate. The individual's sense of ontological security is achievedthrough a fantasy of dominance: the phenomenal world feels as if itis orchestrated by that person as a puppeteer. Since omnipotence is adefence it is brittle, and often links psychologically to the otherpole of the powerlessness/ appropriation composition: in other words,under pressure it can dissolve into its contrary, engulfment.
A third dilemma is that of authority versusuncertainty. In conditions of high modernity, in many areas ofsocial life--including the domain of the self--there are nodeterminant authorities. There exist plenty of claimants toauthority--far more than was true of pre-modern cultures. Traditionwas itself a prime source of authority, not located within anyparticular institution, but pervading many aspects of social life.Diffuse though it may have been, tradition was in an important sensea single authority. Although in the larger pre-modern cultures theremay quite often have been clashes between rival traditions, for themost part traditional outlooks and ways of doing things precludedother alternatives. Even where there were vying traditions,involvement in a traditional framework was normally quite exclusive:the others were thereby rejected.
When we speak of specific institutions of authority, religionobviously has a leading place. In virtually all smaller pre-moderncultures there was only one main religious order--although suchcultures have had their share of sceptics, and magicians andsorcerers were available to those diverging from religious orthodoxy.Yet these alternatives were scarcely substitutes for the overarchingauthoritative reach of the dominant religious system. In largertraditional societies, where religious orders sometimes were morediversified, there was little pluralism in the modern sense:orthodoxy confronted various heresies. The local community and thekinship system were two further sources of stabilising authority,directly relevant to the sustaining of trust relations in traditionalcontexts. Both were the source of 'binding doctrines' as well as offorms of behaviour endowed with strong normative compulsion.
Submission to traditional authorities, no matter how deep, did notremove uncertainty from day-to-day life in traditional cultures. Thestrength of pre-modern forms of authority could almost be understoodas a response to the very unpredictability of daily life and to thenumber of influences felt to be outside human control. Religiousauthorities in particular quite often cultivated the feeling thatindividuals were surrounded by threats and dangers--since only thereligious official was in a position to be able either to understandor to seek successfully to control these. Religious authority createdmysteries while simultaneously claiming to have privileged access tothem. 
In modern times some forms of traditional authority continue toexist, including, of course, religion. Indeed, for reasons that areto do precisely with the connections between modernity and doubt,religion not only refuses to disappear but undergoes a resurgence.Yet there is now a basic contrast with the past. Forms of traditionalauthority become only authorities' among others, part of anindefinite pluralism of expertise. The expert, or the specialist, isquite different from the authority', where this term is understood inthe traditional sense. Except where authority is sanctioned by theuse of force (the authorities' of the state and legal authority), itbecomes essentially equivalent to specialist advice. There are noauthorities which span the diverse fields within which expertise isclaimed--another way of repeating the point that everyone in modernsystems is a lay person in virtually all aspects of social activity.Authority in this situation is no longer an alternative to doubt. Onthe contrary, modes of expertise are fuelled by the very principle ofdoubt; in assessing the claims of rival authorities, the layindividual tends to utilise that principle in the sceptical outlookwhich pluralistic circumstances almost inevitably presuppose.
Of course, day-to-day life is not ordinarily experienced asperennially 'in doubt'. The reorganisation of daily life throughabstract systems creates many routine forms of activity having ahigher level of predictability than most contexts in pre-moderncultures. Through the protective cocoon, most people are bufferedmost of the time from the experience of radical doubt as a seriouschallenge either to the routines of daily activity or to morefar-reaching ambitions. The dilemma of authority versus doubt isordinarily resolved through a mixture of routine and commitment to acertain form of lifestyle, plus the vesting of trust in a givenseries of abstract systems. Yet this 'compromise package', underpressure, can begin to disintegrate.
Some individuals find it psychologically difficult or impossibleto accept the existence of diverse, mutually conflicting authorities.They find that the freedom to choose is a burden and they seek solacein more overarching systems of authority. A predilection fordogmatic authoritarianism is the pathological tendency at thispole. A person in this situation is not necessarily a traditionalist,but essentially gives up faculties of critical judgement in exchangefor the convictions supplied by an authority whose rules andprovisions cover most aspects of his life. We should distinguish thisattitude from faith, even faith in fundamentalist religious codes.For faith almost by definition rests on trust. Taking refuge in adominant authority, however, is essentially an act of submission. Theindividual, as it were, no longer needs to engage in the problematicgamble which all trust relations presume. Instead, he or sheidentifies with a dominant authority on the basis of projection. Thepsychology of leadership plays an important role here. Submission toauthority normally takes the form of a slavish adherence to anauthority figure, taken to be all-knowing.
At the other pole, we find pathological states in whichindividuals are virtually immobilised through a tendency towardsuniversal doubt. In its most marked versions, this outlook takes theform of paranoia or a paralysis of the will so complete that theindividual effectively withdraws altogether from ordinary socialintercourse .
A fourth dilemma is that between personalised versuscommodified experience. Modernity opens up the project of theself, but under conditions strongly influenced by standardisingeffects of commodity capitalism. In this book I have not sought totrace out in a detailed fashion the impact of capitalistic productionon modern social life. Suffice to affirm that capitalism is one ofthe main institutional dimensions of modernity, and that thecapitalist accumulation process represents one of the prime drivingforces behind modern institutions as a whole. Capitalism commodifiesin various senses. The creation of the abstract commodity, as Marxpointed out, is perhaps the most basic element in the expansion ofcapitalism as an overall production system. Exchange-value is onlycreated when use-values become irrelevant to the mechanisms wherebythe production, sale and distribution of goods and services arecarried on. Exchange-value thus allows for the disembedding ofeconomic relations across indeterminate spans of time-space.
Commodification further, crucially, affects labour power: in factlabour power as such only comes into existence when separated as acommodity from 'labour' as a whole. Finally, commodification directlyaffects consumption processes, particularly with the maturation ofthe capitalistic order. The establishing of standardised consumptionpatterns, promoted through advertising and other methods, becomescentral to economic growth. In all of these senses, commodificationinfluences the project of the self and the establishing oflifestyles.
We can detail the impact of commodification in the following ways.The capitalistic market, with its 'imperatives' of continuousexpansion, attacks tradition. The spread of capitalism places largesectors (although by no means all) of social reproduction in thehands of markets for products and labour. Markets operate withoutregard to pre-established forms of behaviour, which for the most partrepresent obstacles to the creation of unfettered exchange. In theperiod of high modernity, capitalistic enterprise increasingly seeksto shape consumption as well as monopolise the conditions ofproduction. From the beginning, markets promote individualism in thesense that they stress individual rights and responsibilities, but atfirst this phenomenon mainly concerns the freedom of contract andmobility intrinsic to capitalistic employment. Later, however,individualism becomes extended to the sphere of consumption, thedesignation of individual wants becoming basic to the continuity ofthe system. Market-governed freedom of individual choice becomes anenveloping framework of individual self-expression.
The very corruption of the notion of lifestyle', reflexively drawninto the sphere of advertising, epitomises these processes.Advertisers orient themselves to sociological classifications ofconsumer categories and at the same time foster specific consumption'packages'. To a greater or lesser degree, the project of the selfbecomes translated into one of the possession of desired goods andthe pursuit of artificially framed styles of life. The consequencesof this situation have often been noted. The consumption ofever-novel goods becomes in some part a substitute for the genuinedevelopment of self; appearance replaces essence as the visible signsof successful consumption come actually to outweigh the use-values ofthe goods and services in question themselves. Bauman expresses thiswell:
Individual needs of personal autonomy,self-definition, authentic life or personal perfection are alltranslated into the need to possess, and consume, market-offeredgoods. This translation, however, pertains to the appearance of usevalue of such goods, rather than to the use value itself; as such, itis intrinsically inadequate and ultimately self-defeating, leading tomomentary assuagement of desires and lasting frustration of needs. .. . The gap between human needs and individual desires is produced bymarket domination; this gap is, at the same time, a condition of itsreproduction. The market feeds on the unhappiness it generates: thefears, anxieties and the sufferings of personal inadequacy it inducesrelease the consumer behaviour indispensable to its continuation. 
Commodification is in some ways even more insidious than thischaracterisation suggests. For the project of the self as such maybecome heavily commodified. Not just lifestyles, but self-actualisation is packaged and distributed according to marketcriteria. Self-help books, like Self Therapy, stand in aprecarious position with regard to the commodified production ofself- actualisation. In some ways such works break away fromstandardised, packaged consumption. Yet in so far as they becomemarketed as prepackaged theorems about how to 'get on' in life, theybecome caught up in the very processes they nominally oppose.
The commodifying of consumption, it should be made clear, likeother phenomena discussed earlier, is not just a matter of thereordering of existing behaviour patterns or spheres of life. Rather,consumption under the domination of mass markets is essentially anovel phenomenon, which participates directly in processes of thecontinuous reshaping of the conditions of day-to- day life. Mediatedexperience is centrally involved here. The mass media routinelypresent modes of life to which, it is implied, everyone shouldaspire; the lifestyles of the affluent are, in one form or another,made open to view and portrayed as worthy of emulation. Moreimportant, however, and more subtle, is the impact of the narrativesthe media convey. Here there is not necessarily the suggestion of alifestyle to be aspired to; instead, stories are developed in such away as to create narrative coherence with which the reader or viewercan identify.
No doubt soap operas, and other forms of media entertainment too,are escapes--substitutes for real satisfactions unobtainable innormal social conditions. Yet perhaps more important is the verynarrative form they offer, suggesting models for the construction ofnarratives of the self. Soap operas mix predictability andcontingency by means of formulae which, because they are well knownto the audience, are slightly disturbing but at the same timereassuring. They offer mixtures of contingency, reflexivity and fate.The form is what matters rather than the content; in these storiesone gains a sense of reflexive control over life circumstances, afeeling of a coherent narrative which is a reassuring balance todifficulties in sustaining the narrative of the self in actual socialsituations.
Yet commodification does not carry the day unopposed on either anindividual or collective level. Even the most oppressed ofindividuals--perhaps in some ways particularly the mostoppressed--react creatively and interpretatively to processes ofcommodification which impinge on their lives. This is true bothwithin the realm of mediated experience and of direct consumption.Response to mediated experience cannot be assessed purely in terms ofthe content of what is disseminated: individuals activelydiscriminate among types of available information as well asinterpreting it in their own terms. Even young children evaluatetelevision programmes in terms of their degree of realism,recognising that some are wholly fictional, and treat programmes asobjects of scepticism, derision or humour.  The fact thatcommodification is not all-triumphant at a collective level is alsoimportant for realms of individual experience. Space, for example,becomes commodified as a fundamental part of disembedding processes.However, space does not thereby become fully commercialised orsubject to the standardising impact of commodity production. Manyaspects of the built environment, and other spatial forms too,reassert themselves (through the active engagements of agents) indecommodified modes. Commodification is a driving force towards theemergence of internally referential systems; but, as will bediscussed in the following section, external anchorings in aestheticand moral experience refuse to disappear completely.
It is against this complicated backdrop that we should understandprocesses of individuation. The reflexive project of the self is insome part necessarily a struggle against commodified influences,although not all aspects of commodification are inimical to it. Amarket system, almost by definition, generates a variety of availablechoices in the consumption of goods and services. Plurality of choiceis in some substantial part the very outcome of commodifiedprocesses. Nor is commodification merely the same as standardisation.Where mass markets are at issue, it is clearly in the interests ofproducers to ensure the large-scale consumption of relativelystandardised products. Yet standardisation can often be turned into amode of creating individual qualities--as in the previously quotedexample of clothing. Mass produced clothing still allows individualsto decide selectively on styles of dress, however much thestandardising influence of fashion and other forces affect thoseindividual decisions.
A prime type of behaviour pathology associated with commodifyinginfluences is narcissism--in this respect Lasch's thesis is valid, ifover-generalised. Of course, narcissism springs from other sourcestoo, especially as a deepseated phenomenon of personalitydevelopment. But in so far as commodification, in the context ofconsumerism, promotes appearance as the prime arbiter of value, andsees self-development above all in terms of display, narcissistictraits are likely to become prominent. Individuation, however, alsohas its pathological aspects. All self- development depends on themastering of appropriate responses to others; an individual who hasto be 'different' from all others has no chance of reflexivelydeveloping a coherent self-identity. Excessive individuation hasconnections to conceptions of grandiosity. The individual is unableto discover a self-identity 'sober' enough to conform to theexpectations of others in his social milieux.
Unification versus fragmentation: the reflexive project of the self incorporates numerous contextual happenings and forms of mediated experience, through which a course must be charted.
Powerlessness versus appropriation: the lifestyle options made available by modernity offer many opportunities for appropriation, hut also generate feelings of powerlessness.
Authority versus uncertainty: in circumstances in which there are no final authorities, the reflexive project of the self must steer a way between commitment and uncertainty.
Personalised versus commodified experience: the narrative of the self must be constructed in circumstances in which personal appropriation is influenced by standardised influences on consumption .
Back tothe Syllabus