Subject: Philosophy
Type: Expository Essay
Pages: 10
Word count: 2515
Topics: China, Individualism, Socialism

Outline the Individualisation Thesis, the key proponents, and their ideas

Individualisation is the state of an individualising process. In fact, it is a state of individualism. For long the concept of individualisation has been controversial because it comes with challenges upon humanity. People are subject to it by compulsion instead of their own volition. The systems work in such a way that each person is responsible and accountable for their actions resulting from the freedom guaranteed in a free society. Therefore, an unlimited freedom has the potential of leading people to commit certain regrettable actions, which is the paradigm shift in the neoliberalism approach to globalisation (Steiner & Usher, 2013: 76). Individualisation is subject to the utilities and losses arising from the state of individualisation. The concept of individualisation is essential in the decision-making process. Ulrich Beck and Marx have argued that people are solely responsible for their decisions of commission or omission. The highly competitive social groups is a result of the dynamics of individualisation. It is indispensable in the practice of consumer sovereignty and the sustenance of the enterprising nature of businessmen and women.  According to Beck and Beck-Gernsheim (2012: 54), the atomization of social relations is the basis of individualisation across the world. However, a social state cannot be achieved through individualisation. People always act contextually subject to their access to resources; hence the practice of individualisation promotes division and incongruence. By and large, individualisation is a necessary-evil for human social growth and development.

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The individualisation thesis and its ideas

Individualisation accrues various benefits to humanity, although it also causes some challenges. In addition, it enhances competition; hence boosts the enterprising culture in the business dimension. The freedom accorded to people is utilised in various ways, especially in the acquisition of resources through the adoption of acceptable business practices. Levy and Widmer (2013: 34) assert that individualisation boosts innovation because each individual is compelled to be competitive to survive in the competitive social environment. The fact that globalisation leads to high levels of responsibility and vulnerability to risks, is a manifestation of neoliberalism in the modern world. For this reason, individualisation enhances competitiveness in society. Creativity and innovation are the major contributions to societal developments. The renewal of society is possible through the practice of individualisation. Human mutuality is no longer relevant in the process of societal development. The reality of institutionalised individualism is a manifestation of the embrace of individualisation in the economic and societal growth and development.

Institutions promote the adherence to the civil, political, and social rights; hence the incorporation of the idea of individualisation enhances institutional growth. The training and mobility of the factors of production are based on individuals rather than groups. This enhances the optimisation of quality in the training process and the appreciation of the careers of various personnel. The practice of individualisation enhances the value system in institutions, which also enhances the competition of people within the social structures. Each person must individually practice the values and virtues practiced by others to be able to compete for economic and social space on a level ground. The model of individualisation determines the aspect of social coexistence and mutualism. It also enhances the distinction between subjective and objective analysis, and consciousness and class. The shift of the role of social production from the group to the individual is a paradigm shift in the modern social setting. According to Zorc-Maver (2011, p.61), the development is a culmination of civil industrialisation and globalisation.

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The free flow of resources between various regions has enhanced the private sector, whereby individuals are competing for markets and quality service delivery. There has been a shift from the aspect of ideology to economic relevance in which the focus on idealism has been outlived by modernity and economic dynamics. Talcott Parsons’ idea of linear self-reproducing systems underscores the concept of individualisation but in a different dimension. Sociability has been already overtaken by individualisation because individuals have already been empowered to adopt their acumen and know-how in the improvement of their products and services to emerge winners in the socially competitive world. It is a manifestation of the inequitable distribution of resource in the institution of government. For this reason, the paradigm shift is a reflection of the imbalance between the underlying global problems and the unstable individual. The Habermas concept underscores the ideal speech situation. The theory is related to the discourse because it establishes specific rules of engagement of people who are individually pursuing their goals.

The fact that individualisation is subject to decision-making implies that some compromise must be made in the process of individualisation. Beck and Beck-Gernsheim (2012: 97) assert that the pursuit of individualisation fosters accountability and integrity among people. Consequently, the practice enhances ethicality among people. It promotes diversity in all aspects including business ventures, and production of good and services. It fosters entrepreneurship and self-reliance in business and other ventures. The freedom guaranteed by individualisation enhances creativity and innovation because of the self-drive in the accomplishment of various assignments. It prevents laity, which is a common notion in teams and socialism.

On the other hand, the freedom can sometimes hurt the corporate agenda of corporate responsibility because of personnel pursuit of divergent goals instead of concentrating and focusing on the corporate goals. The unity of purpose is also compromised because of the urge for each employee to achieve respective individual goals. The social programs are also eliminated with the advent of individualisation because they are accomplished through collaboration between various parties (Levy & Widmer, 2013: 81). Consequently, the public good is compromised. The other disadvantage of the individualisation approach is that the government is easily influenced by the rich elite groups, which are usually few; hence leading to the inequitable distribution of resources. In the long-run, cartels and mafias are created and subsequent social delinquency is inevitable. It leads to unstable economic growth and development because monopolism is created in various sectors. It is because some individuals are privileged to have access to resources due to their networks and regional endowment. In this case, the lack of collaboration and cooperation with other parties creates monopolies, which hurts economies.

Evaluation of the thesis using theories/concepts of the theorists Anthony Godden’s and Ulrich Beck

The paradigm shift of individualisation has changed the functioning of institutions. Ulrich Beck underscores the concept of reflexive modernity and individualisation. The relationship between reflective modernity and individualisation enhances the understanding of the exposure of society to risk. In fact, Ulrich is a proponent of the second modernity of individualisation, which is a reality in the contemporary society. The theory of Ulrich decries the social institution’s compromise of the construction of selfhood. The theory advocates for the shift from the structure to the agency of an individual in the accomplishment of social and economic tasks. The concept of individualisation encompasses the identity and selfhood in the process of enhancing modernity, and Ulrich considers it as a second modernity because modernity utilised individualisation within governance structures (Giddens, 2011: 29). The structures, which are used in modernity, include family, gender, social class, and occupation. Individualisation was positively used under the aforesaid institutions. It is the value of individualisation within the structures that has culminated in the need for separate pursuit of it. In fact, it enhances globalisation, unlike social integration. In fact, the limitation of the institutional framework is ending with time to a low for the full implementation of Ulrich’s second modernity.

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The transformation of modernity to individualisation is beneficial to the social growth and development because people are no longer limited by the undue control of the corporates.  The aspect of risk management is also improved under individualisation as opposed to the situation of socialism. Ulrich’s concept is referred to as the reflexive modernity because it involves the systematic manner of managing hazards and insecurities, which are introduced by modernisation (Beck & Willms, 2014: 13). The shift of the role of risk management to the individual is crucial because the risk is automatically diversified in manageable proportions. Beck and Willms (2014: 17) assert that Ulrich’s concept of reflective modernity enhances selfhood. There are many factors that enhance individualisation. For instance, the fact that people are contextually situated in both time and space justifies individualisation in social growth and development as opposed to socialism. The transformation of place and the central nature of mediate experiences enhance the embrace of change at all times. In fact, the intrusion of distance into local activities is a manifestation of the individualisation at work.

Individualisation is a reality because the individual is flexible and mobile. This enhances the individual’s suitability in risk management and the economic progress and development. Anthony Godden’s holds the view that Individualisation is inevitable because of the unique nature of humanity. It is because localities are influenced by distance aspects, which is apparently the universal routine in social life. Experience enhances each individual’s action. In this regard, individualisation is the best ideology because it constitutes of actions resulting from a wide range of experiences among a multitude of people. Godden’s wholly supports the concept of individualisation claiming that it is appropriate for social development. An individual is dynamic and resistant to change unlike institutions, which always stick to the rule and procedure. Although individualisation accrues the aforementioned benefits to humanity, it seldom resolves the challenge of inequality. The political nature of individualisation is a still a problem in many instances. In fact, a dis-embedded individualisation process does not have empirical support because of the lack of ideology and principle in the process.

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Dawson (2013: 54) asserts that Ulrich has postulated that the late modernity is characterised by a risk society. The risk society is a formation of the individualisation process. However, Ulrich has also postulated that the second modernity has also created ways of coping with the risk, which has been caused by the process of individualisation. The coverage of existential risks is a manifestation of the value of individualisation in coping with the risk attributed to the individuals. The risks pose a threat to certain social phenomena such as the family and work. Individualisation has led to the achievement of various hallmarks. First, women empowerment is a culmination of individualisation. Moreover, the change of demographics in the family structure is a manifestation of individualisation. This is because women are more empowered and in control of their reproduction. Consequently, the number of family members per a family has considerably been changed. On the other hand, it has led to the inability of society to take care of the elderly. The aspect of individualisation has also been manifest in politics whereby politicians are at liberty to run their course in case of any ideological disagreement with their parties. De Tocqueville is an example of the change individualisation has brought to politics (Yan, 2014: 113). In fact, each person is able to take a contribution to social development instead of allowing a few majorities to sway the direction of social development through monopolistic powers.

Individualisation has led to diversity and exploitation of resources. In fact, the practice is the cause of civil industrialisation because of the urge to diversify and the lack of social limitation. Unlike in socialism whereby the societal structures limit the acts of its members, individualisation gives freedom to all individuals; hence promoting social satisfaction among them. The advent of feminism is one of the manifestations of the power of individualisation in the social development. The marvel of individualisation is that every person identifies themselves subject to their context. The concept of a runaway world is underscored is also underscored. The atomization of social relations is the hallmark of the individualisation process. In this regard, individuals are able to choose their destiny. When people are responsible for their actions the shift of blame for various errors is minimised. Consequently, people realise their dreams and discover their potentials in the social growth and development circle.

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However, individualism must be legally sanctioned to enhance its effectiveness in enhancing liberation for humanity. People are able to change their social aspirations in a bid to have a quality lifestyle through individualisation. It makes people realise the value of time as opposed to the value of financial reward minus the freedom; hence individualisation makes individuals balance between earning an adequate income, securing adequate freedom and living quality and satisfactory lifestyle (Dawson, 2012: 19). Godden’s highlights the fact that individualisation leads to powerlessness. The power of unity and teamwork is absent in the aspect of individualisation. Consequently, it is impossible for individuals to engage in risky ventures. For instance, institutions have the ‘veil of the company,’ which is usually exploited in entering into risky ventures. However, such a benefit is foregone in the case of individualistic ventures. An entrepreneur can only take calculated risks, which may not bring large amounts of revenues. In addition, Gidden’s confirms that the authority of institutions lacks in individualisation. For instance, religions are institutions that enhance the development of value and virtues among people (Ziebertz, 2013: 89). However, individuals cannot be institutions; hence there is lack of authority in individualisation. Consequently, some formalities cannot be accomplished because of the isolative nature.

Critical analysis of Individualisation in society

Individualisation is ideology and it does not underscore discrimination. It is helping in breaking social evils such as subjugation of the female gender rights in society through the emphasis on equality. Social exclusion is inevitable in individualisation; hence some people choose to be excluded from the proponents of socialism. This notwithstanding, the concept of individualisation is appropriate in capitalism economic approach. However, it prevents the achievement of social welfare because the latter requires collaboration and socialism to be achieved. For instance, the issue of externalities requires the cooperation and collaboration of people of a certain jurisdiction in a bid to pool resources together to enhance social welfare. Dawson (2013: 32) asserts that a welfare state cannot be achieved through the practice of individualisation. The practice cannot resolve poverty challenge because of the capitalist nature of the practice. When a person is striving to emerge the best in the production of good and services, only a few people are likely to succeed in the contest while millions suffer in poverty and anguish. Individualisation is not the best of approaches to adopt in social development because humanity is usually nurtured through social interactions with other people. It means that individualisation will always land a person in risks and problem because of lack of wise counsel and peer oversight. The pursuit of individualisation is a risk because of lack of majority power. A case in point, the majority of Germans killed the minority groups in 1930 (Yan, 2014: 23). It implies that individualisation is a weakness rather than strength for the people engaging in it. In addition, there is no opportunity for the sharing of knowledge and ideas, which is a crucial aspect of any society’s progress. Individualisation is subject to past experiences because of the lack of opportunity for sharing ideas. For instance, Americans embrace individualism; thus they have learned to relate their past experiences with their current developments and endeavours.

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  1. Beck, U., & Beck-Gernsheim, E. (2012). Individualisation: institutionalised individualism and  its social and political consequences. London, Sage.
  2. Beck, U., & Willms, J. (2014). Conversations with Ulrich Beck. [Place of publication not identified], Polity Press.
  3. Dawson, M. (2013). Late modernity, individualisation and socialism: an associational critique of neoliberalism. Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire, Palgrave Macmillan.
  4. Dawson, M. (2012). Reviewing the critique of individualisation: The disembedded and embedded theses. Acta Sociologica55(4), 305-319.
  5. Giddens, A. (2011).  Modernity and Self-Identity: Self and Society in the Late Modern Age. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
  6. Levy, R., & Widmer, E. D. (2013). Gendered life courses between standardisation and individualisation: a European approach applied to Switzerland. Wien; Münster: Lit, cop.
  7. Steiner, R., & Usher, S. E. (2013). Social and political science: an introductory reader. Forest Row, East Sussex, Sophia Books.
  8. Yan, Y. (2014). The individualisation of Chinese society. Oxford; New York: Berg Publishers.
  9. Ziebertz, H.-G. (2013). Religious individualisation and Christian religious semantics. Münster; London: Lit
  10. Zorc-Maver, D. (2011). Individualisation of youth in post-industrial society: dilemmas and perspectives. Frankfurt am Main, Lang.
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