Reflexive Modernisation, Existential Anxiety and Sense of Identity: An Exploration of ‘Perceived’ Identity in Crisis

By Alan Grattan.

Published by The Diversity Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

For many nations and communities when undergoing either gradual or 'eruptive' political, social and economic change, the result is often seen as a process of 'reflexive modernisation'. This process often brings with it the creation of societal or communal uncertainty following the decline or erosion of hitherto 'institutional'and 'cultural' certainties. In the midst and aftermath of this process there is often at one level or another an attempt to re-establish or recreate a sense of order and stability. Often a potentially negative social response is what may be referred to as 'counter modernisation'; a response often based upon nationalism, xenophobia, ethnocentrism and violence. Hier (2003) and Sennett (1974) agree that one of the central characteristics of a 'counter modernisation'social response by a society or community is often based upon 'emotion'. Indeed, Sennett (1974) argues 'emotion' is a crucial ingredient in relation to the defence and maintenance of identity and community. It is the contention of this paper that, for some communities and societies, a further and integral consequence of 'reflexive modernisation' often results in mass 'existential anxiety' and 'emotional' uncertainty in relation to their 'perceived' identity. This can have political, social and cultural consequences. This paper is based on on-going theoretical and empirical research.

Keywords: Reflexive Modernisation, Counter Modernisation, Mass ‘Existential Anxiety’, Sense of Identity

International Journal of Diversity in Organizations, Communities and Nations, Volume 7, Issue 4, pp.93-102. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 544.949KB).

Dr. Alan Grattan

Lecturer, Faculty of Law, Arts and Social Sciences, University of Southampton, Southampton, Hampshire, UK

My main research interests include young people and political participation as well as identity and diversity, 'communities in conflict' and the processes of post conflict reconstruction and reconciliation. I was a member of the 'Youth Work in Contested Spaces' Project which was a joint project between the University of Ulster, YouthAction Northern Ireland and Public Achievement. This was a three year partnership project involving academics, policy makers and practitioners. The project involved researching and sharing ideas on working with young people in conflict and post conflict environments. This project took my research to South Africa, Israel and Palestine, Croatia, Serbia and Bosnia as well as Northern Ireland. Previously I was a Junior Research Fellow at the Institute of Irish Studies at the Queen's University, Belfast as well as teaching Sociology and Irish Studies at St. Mary's University College, Twickenham, UK and Community Studies at the University of Ulster, Northern Ireland. Before entering higher education as a lecturer I worked on many anti-sectarian and diversity projects as a community education organiser in Belfast, Northern Ireland. I am now a lecturer in the Faculty of Law, Arts and Social Sciences at the University of Southampton, UK.

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