Dialectical Anthropology

, Volume 42, Issue 3, pp 277–291 | Cite as

Individualization, inequality, and labor: a qualitative approach

  • Marta M. LobatoEmail author
  • José Luis Molina
  • Hugo Valenzuela-García


In this paper, we show how we came to explore Beck’s theory of individualization in the light of a qualitative study of livelihood strategies in post-2008 Spain and Cyprus. We observed that experiences of downward social mobility in contexts of welfare retreat and precarious labor conditions were compelling people to build marketed individualities and to create individual biographies with recourse to a highly individualized rhetoric. However, analysis of a very diverse sample of subjects from different socio-economic backgrounds showed us that individualization theory must be conceptualized within a framework of social structures, and that Beck’s individualization theory fails to recognize its persistence in contemporary societies. We therefore propose looking at individualization as a contemporary process through which class differences are expressed. Only in this way can it serve as a useful theoretical tool with which to understand the workings of contemporary capitalism and the ways in which new values and moral frameworks are being formed.


Individualization Livelihood strategies Crisis Labor 



The article’s main author, Marta M. Lobato, would like to thank anonymous reviewers, especially reviewer number one, for their valuable comments and suggestions.


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Universitat Autònoma de BarcelonaBarcelonaSpain

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