The reflexive self and culture: a critique

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This article attempts to engage with a tendency in the theorization of social change and self-identity, evident in the work of a number of contemporary social theorists, to place an extended process of reflexivity at the heart of modern identity. As symptomatic of 'neo-modern' accounts of selfhood, critical readings of Giddens, Beck, Castells and some aspects of social theory more generally, and their account of modern reflexivity's relationship to culture, are assessed. In light of these criticisms, ways in which culture might still play an important part in the shaping of identity are considered. The relationship between language, culture and reflexivity, drawing from philosophy, sociology and G. H. Mead's own brand of social psychology, are all utilized in establishing a critique of the role Giddens and others designate for culture in the constitution of the contemporary self. By potentially repositioning self-identity in its connection to culture, the overall bearing of reflexivity upon the processes of self-identity is thus questioned. It is argued that a culturally-situated, yet fluid and multifarious account of self-identity is a necessary analytical and normative alternative.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)221-238
Number of pages18
JournalThe British journal of sociology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2003


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