The Reflexive Imperative in Late Modernity

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1 The Reflexive Imperative in Late Modernity This book completes Margaret Archer s trilogy investigating the role of reflexivity in mediating between structure and agency. What do young people want from life? Using analysis of family experiences and life histories, her argument respects the properties and powers of both structure and agency and presents the internal conversation as the site of their interplay. In unpacking what social conditioning means, Archer demonstrates the usefulness of relational realism. She advances a new theory of relational socialization, appropriate to the mixed messages conveyed in families that are rarely normatively consensual and thus cannot provide clear guidelines for action. Life-histories are analysed to explain the making and breaking of various modes of reflexivity. Different modalities have been dominant from early societies to the present and the author argues that modernity is slowly ceding place to a morphogenetic society as meta-reflexivity now begins to predominate, at least amongst educated young people. margaret s. archer is Professor of Social Theory at Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne and Directrice of its Centre d Ontologie Sociale. She was Professor of Sociology at the University of Warwick from 1979 until She has written over twenty books including Making our Way through the World: Human Reflexivity and Social Mobility (2007), Structure, Agency and the Internal Conversation (2003) and Being Human: The Problem of Agency (2000).

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3 The Reflexive Imperative in Late Modernity Ecole Polytechnique FédéraledeLausanne

4 cambridge university press Cambridge, New York, Melbourne, Madrid, Cape Town, Singapore, São Paulo, Delhi, Mexico City Cambridge University Press The Edinburgh Building, Cambridge CB2 8RU, UK Published in the United States of America by Cambridge University Press, New York Information on this title: / C 2012 This publication is in copyright. Subject to statutory exception and to the provisions of relevant collective licensing agreements, no reproduction of any part may take place without the written permission of Cambridge University Press. First published 2012 Printed in the United Kingdom at the University Press, Cambridge A catalogue record for this publication is available from the British Library Library of Congress Cataloguing in Publication data Archer, Margaret Scotford. The reflexive imperative in late modernity /. p. cm. ISBN (hardback) 1. Socialization. 2. Families. 3. Reflection (Philosophy) I. Title. HM686.A dc ISBN Hardback ISBN Paperback Cambridge University Press has no responsibility for the persistence or accuracy of URLs for external or third-party internet websites referred to in this publication, and does not guarantee that any content on such websites is, or will remain, accurate or appropriate.

5 With gratitude to all my students at the University of Warwick from 1973 to 2010, good years for me and I hope for them

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7 Contents List of figures Acknowledgements page viii x Introduction 1 1 A brief history of how reflexivity becomes imperative 10 2 The reflexive imperative versus habits and habitus 47 3 Reconceptualizing socialization as relational reflexivity 87 4 Communicative reflexivity and its decline Autonomous reflexivity: the new spirit of social enterprise Meta-reflexives: critics of market and state Fractured reflexives: casualties of the reflexive imperative Conclusion 292 Methodological appendix 316 Index 330 vii

8 Figures 1.1 Modes of reflexivity page Structural and cultural configurations reproducing morphostasis in society and agency From primary to collective agency Structural and cultural configurations generating morphogenesis in society and agency How market financialization and state redistribution work together The basic morphogenetic sequence Types of knowledge and the three orders of natural reality Conditions for the generalized other to govern socialization in modernity Family relational goods and necessary selection The reflexive pursuit of the good life Aristotle s ideal: plural final ends but one life Frankfurt s revenge: a man cannot serve two masters The relational matrix of the communicative reflexive (extreme type) Modes of reflexivity and friendship patterns Emily s inability to shape a life as an undergraduate Expressive responses to the mental activities constituting reflexivity Summary of findings 293 A.1 Dominant modes of reflexivity 318 A.2 Modes of reflexivity endorsed in the Coventry sample 319 A.3 Modes of reflexivity endorsed by first-year university sociology students 319 A.4 Modes of reflexivity endorsed by first-year sociologists five years on 320 A.5 Modes of reflexivity of entrants to different departments, viii

9 List of figures ix A.6 Assigned scores as percentage of total populations 321 A.7 Modes of reflexivity at point of entry among those interviewed over their undergraduate course 321 A.8 The socio-economic background of first-year respondents parents 322

10 Acknowledgements This book starts its life deeply in debt. Without my respondents generous gift of their time over the last three years there would have been no book. I had never done longitudinal research before and it is amazing how the textbooks dehumanize it. Of course, we all know abstractly about interpretation and its pitfalls. But, what is hardly mentioned is the huge hermeneutic responsibility I came to feel towards my subjects to hear more than their words, to listen to what was not said and to grasp what they were articulating as much to themselves as to me. There were quite a few sleepless nights spent pondering over the real meanings behind the transcripts. I can only hope that no one feels they have been misconstrued but my sincere apologies go to any who may do. Equally, I had no idea how concerned I would become that each interviewee s life project worked out well and came to care very much that this was the case. Quite a lot is said in the text about friendship and its importance, but there is a very special bond between a writer and those few to whom fledgling ideas are exposed trustingly. My deepest thanks go to three special ones, who have done this before and I hope will do it again. Firstly, to my indispensible friend Pierpaolo Donati who has read every chapter, was always urging me on to the next and, in the meantime, was developing my ideas well beyond what they had in them. Next, to Doug Porpora, especially for a week at the Alpbach Forum also spent talking and walking thank you for patiently waiting for me to catch up with both. Finally, a big thank you to my goddaughter Nicoleta Cinpoeş, friend, supporter and grammarian extraordinaire, for correcting the errors I could no longer see. There are many others that I can only acknowledge collectively, but particularly my realist friends in Britain and Italy for giving me opportunities to try out some of these ideas in public and for their detailed s full of comments and encouragement. Lastly, a big thank you to the Independent Social Research Foundation (ISRF) for enabling these themes to be developed further, to the Ecole x

11 Acknowledgements xi Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne for appointing me to do so and to my lakeside commune in France, which gives the most beautiful view possible from any study window and whose mayor cheerfully stops to get my car going. Margaret Archer Maxilly-sur-Léman

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