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Making Social Life: Theories of Action and Meaning

  • Tony Bilton
  • Kevin Bonnett
  • Pip Jones
  • David Skinner
  • Michelle Stanworth
  • Andrew Webster
Chapter

Abstract

This chapter focuses on the following questions:
  • How do people create and re-create social life?

  • What skills and resources do they use to make and remake their social world?

  • How far is this action known to actors and under their control?

  • What is the nature of social identity in the contemporary world?

  • Can we each take charge of remaking our own social lives and identities?

It explores these questions by covering a range of contrasting theories which address issues of action, meaning and language:
  • The chapter begins by looking at theories where actors are shaped by society.

  • It then centres on active social action: the creative construction of social life by action in settings.

  • In the second part the emphasis shifts to language and discourse as the key to social life.

  • Finally, recent theories of the self and identity reinstate a belief in reflexive social action, in opposition to the postmodern ‘death of the subject’.

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Further Reading

  1. Ian Craib Modern Social Theory (Wheatsheaf, 1984, London) still gets a good response from students, with its light touch on a wide range of theories.Google Scholar
  2. George Ritzer Modern Sociological Theory (McGraw-Hill, 1996, New York) has the merits of being comprehensive, comprehensible and up-to-date. It also avoids being a mere succession of summaries through Ritzer’s critical edge.Google Scholar
  3. The Blackwell Companion to Social Theory (Blackwell, 1996, Oxford), edited by Bryan Turner, is very up to date and comprehensive, mainly on contemporary varieties of theory. The writers are an impressive company.Google Scholar
  4. Anthony Giddens continues to be depressingly prolific, but his concerns took a new direction in Modernity and Self-identity (Polity, 1991, Cambridge) and this remains an important alternative to the postmodernist assault on action and subjectivity.Google Scholar
  5. Of all the multitude of books on Foucault, Paul Rabinow’s edited collection The Foucault Reader (Penguin, 1984, Harmondsworth) still stands out in giving students an accessible means of judging Foucault for themselves, and getting a taste of the richness of his writing.Google Scholar
  6. Scott Lash and Jonathan Friedman have edited an exceptionally useful collection on Modernity and Identity (Blackwell, 1992, Oxford), which is an excellent source for authoritative essays on identity in modernity and postmodernity.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Tony Bilton, Kevin Bonnett, Pip Jones, David Skinner, Michelle Stanworth and Andrew Webster 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tony Bilton
  • Kevin Bonnett
  • Pip Jones
  • David Skinner
  • Michelle Stanworth
  • Andrew Webster

There are no affiliations available

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