‘Modernity is a risk culture’ Giddens

I am investigating the idea of the self-reflexive individual as part of constructing one’s identity, in this case, the cultural entrepreneur’s identity. I have studied Modernity and Self-Identity by Anthony Giddens

He describes modernity as full of uncertainties, choices and doubt in all aspect of everyday life; as existential. As internally contested. And that a person’s experience helps to develop expertise and authority but this is always potentially contested.

‘Modernity is a risk culture’

The cultural entrepreneurs I am interviewing for my research are grappling with what Giddens describes as: ‘The reflexive project of the self, which consists in the sustaining of coherent, yet continuously revised, biographical narratives, takes place in the context of multiple choice as filtered through abstract systems.’

Daily reinventing themselves and acting out their interpretation of the character of the cultural entrepreneur, choosing from a range of options. This is described as the post-traditional order, in which self-identity is renegotiated on a day to day basis. It can be perceived as a burden, with individuals, consciously or not, enduring the daily strain of having to make choices and decisions with regards to their identity.

Giddens also suggests that through this process, ‘the self becomes a reflexive project.’  Instead of identity being modelled through traditional and ritualistic cultural activities, it is continuously up for grabs and can be altered through social connections. This perpetual reflexivity for the project of the self, enables individuals to be able to articulate and interpret their behaviour.

The continuous monitoring of the self suggests the researcher’s intervention is simply an opportunity for the interviewee to plug in to that self awareness and express it. What is captured by researcher, is the cultural entrepreneurs constructed self identity of that given moment, and in the context of the specific personal and social interactions between the two individuals.

My interviews include a historical exploration of the individuals experiences, education and networks. The autobiography, as Giddens outlines, is ‘a corrective intervention into the past, not merely a chronicle of elapsed time’. Jokingly, I often refer to the interviewing process as ‘therapy’, indeed, interviewees often describe the experience in that way. The autobiographical nature of the interview facilitates a revisionist approach helpful for self-therapy and creating the means of putting the past to rest to focus one’s potential.

‘The author of the autobiography is enjoining both to go back as far as possible into early childhood and to set up lines of potential development to encompass the future.’

In this context the future offers opportunity and risk depending of self expectations and the individual’s ability to manage themselves and control their environment.

Giddens also talks about lifestyle as important in contextualising the external & internal environment within which the individual is being reflexive.

‘A lifestyle can be defined as a more or les integrated set of practices which an individual embraces, not only because such practices fulfil utilitarian needs, but because they give material form to a particular narrative of the self-identity.’

Life planning is discussed as a tool for organising ones future as part of the reflexive construction of self-identity. An individual attempting to think ahead, to intervene and to control. In my interviews I have examples of cultural entrepreneurs discussing how they manage their time, getting the balance between work & life and how one encroaches on the other. Or making time to ‘give something back’ and ‘support others’, demonstrating how time and planning forms part of a set of values associated with being a collaborative and supportive individual. Equally, potentially the opposite of our conventional notions of the capitalist entrepreneur, just out for him/herself.

Reflexivity enables narratives of the self to describe a version of the past, present and future – our ideal self perhaps? The reflexive process suggests understanding oneself in order to make decisions about what to reject/accept in the creation of our identity. But the process is not purely self-reflexive, we also react to our environment and our social interactions. In a professional context that can be linked to normative behaviour in a work place.

At this point, I need to go back to Paul Du Gay

    • Bob Peapell
    • October 11th, 2012

    great blog with direct issues to our community within HE… this research explains a great deal about our challenges around the HE enterprise offer..

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