Monday, November 13, 2017

Anthony Giddens - short summary of ideas

Anthony Giddens is a very committed sociologist: he wants to change the world. He developed a new formal theory: structuration theory. A social theory that bridges the difference between macro and micro sociologists. Central focus is the idea of agency.

Nation-states take on a new role in modernity, but they are still a crucial power container. Giddens says that the classics (Durkheim, Marx, Weber) were looking at the first shift to modernity. He found out that it is different because of changes in four institutions: Capitalism, Industrialism, Surveillance (the state), Military (the state). Market and politics have become separated, The state surveys, and this is backed up by their monopoly of violence (the military, in the end). All clusters are relevant at the same time, the classics looked at only one cluster. Reflexive modernity leads to time-space distantiation: social relations are stretched. People are also disembedded: no longer naturally connected to society. Globalisation brings some disruptions, but is not overall bad. Trust changes, and politics become life politics. Trust takes a different form: symbols (eco-labels) but also faceless commitments. It has to do with 1. Past performance. 2. Technology used. 3. People involved. Thus, active trust management is needed: at access-points their doubts are reassured (see Goffman). He has also done work on life politics: how should we live, but also connecting the personal and the planetary.
Giddens Distinguishes between emancipatory politics and life politics. The former is about overcoming tradition, and breaking illegitimate domination: you look at other people. It can take three forms: Exploitation, Inequalities and Oppression, though there is a lot of overlap. The answers are more clear: Justice, Equality and Participation are necessary. Emancipatory politics is about moving away from something, but it doesn’t state where you’re going. Life politics  is a politics of the self. It is about the choices you have after being emancipated. These individual choices affect politics: if all women work society can change. It is related to four themes. 1. Self-identity. Your identity involves actions, and to assert your identity you need to work on your body (e.g. to be healthy you have to eat healthy). 2. Reproduction. Because of new techniques, the definition of life is challenged. Biological reproduction is now completely social. And sexuality is no longer related to reproduction. 3. Globalisation. Choices of individual humans can have a large effect on the planet’s ecology. These new global problems require a global coordination, but this is hard as these global problems seem far removed from individuals. 4. Existence. Ehh? Individuals should be aware of the questions these themes raise, and they should try to answer them.