Freedom of Constructing Identity?

Topics: Sociology, Pierre Bourdieu, Gender Pages: 14 (4125 words) Published: April 23, 2014
Assessment Title: Assignment 1: How much freedom do individuals really have in the creation of their identities? Critically discuss by drawing on the theories and concepts of Interpretivist sociology (such as the work of Erving Goffman and ethnomethodology) and one of the following: 1)Michel Foucault (Post-structuralism)

2)Pierre Bourdieu (Structuralism)

Assessment Task: A 3500 word assignment which meets learning outcomes: 1 & 3.

Number of Words: 3816/3500.

Pages: 20.

In sociology, there has been debate into how identity is constructed, with major differences into how identity is constructed depending upon on which epistemological position is taken by sociologist of whether the social structure or the agency which is the most influential in society and whether or not either should or can be studied in order to study society due to its limitations either on whether it can be studied or not or whether or not it would be useful to study it exclusively.

In the investigation of identity, it is important to understand that there is great knowledge offered from both sociology as well as social psychology in understanding identity. However, for the purposes of this essay, the focus will be on the sociological explanations of identity, with focus on the workings of Erving Goffman on symbolic interactionism and ethnomethodology as well as on Michel Foucault on the his version or his contributions to post-structuralism or social constructionism.

Identity is defined as being the categorisations made by ourselves of who we are as well as by others in society, categorising on who we are. Many forms of groups of identities in society of which most if not but all of us belong to are age, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, social class, as well as many others. Often, identity is focused upon in times of what is described as identity troubles or identity conflicts (Lawler, 2012); whereby social conflicts such as riots and violent attacks occur between different communities who have different identities. Some examples of this involve cases of terrorism such as the 7/7 bombings as well as the Northern Ireland “troubles”. However, it is important to investigate the deeper concept of identity of how it is constructed, and what it is, as well as how it functions and influences us, rather than only focusing on the identity troubles or conflicts as is the main focus in society’s thinking or public opinion or in the media.

There are many different forms of identity ranging from personal identity, political identity as well as many others. The focus of this essay will be on social identity due to its close proximity and relationship with the theories and research focused and produced by sociology. Social identity is the focus on studying the social groups in society of who are categorised or identified by a significant factor which can be studied and is the subject of being studied sociologically.

There is also a long-standing debate in sociology of whether structure or agency should be focused on in investigating society as well as in producing theory or conclusions of society.

The view that social structure is the most influential in society (Giddens, 1976) is widely associated with the belief that individuals have very little if not, any freedom at all in constructing their identity, due to its deterministic position that it takes in believing that the social structure around us in society determines our actions and is external to us, thus resulting in us having very little control of ourselves in society and of who we are.

However, on the other hand, the alternative or opposite view taken of the belief that agency is more influential as argued by Archer (2003) and should also be the focus on sociologists when studying society takes the view that although there may be social forces in society, it is important to investigate the agencies such as the social institutions, social forces and social contexts in...


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