Individual in Society Term Paper

Pages: 4 (1421 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1+  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Sociology  ·  Buy This Paper

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[. . .] For Freud, the human was not something that could be changed, and all of society's social controls and jostling came from the sexual impulse.

The rapacious sexual drives of the individual human animal determined the shape of society. But rather than speculating about the individual first, and then analyzing how society shaped those drives, in contrast, the collective experiences were stressed by Durkheim, how society shaped the individual will and the individual's drives. Even if all individuals had the same basic drives, society provided the ways to articulate those drives. An individual seeking carnality might supplant this desire into making money, and to make money might forgo easy enrichment to advance his or her life through education. Thus society shaped basic animal drives.

Rather than focusing upon the individual's Oedipal conflicts within the nuclear family, Durkheim saw the social role of institutions such as religion, and their potential to create belief systems that kept the individual connected in a positive fashion to the community. He believed that industrialization had ruptured such old institutions with its fragmented and irreligious induced state of anomie, or despair. Without societal influences, individuals were adrift, and eventually moved to create negative, rather than positive social associations out of despair.

In contrast to Durkheim, Max Weber believed that industrial, individualized society had in effect sprung forth from a religion, that of Protestantism and the Protestant work ethic. He too stressed the creative use of societal institutions to positively shape the individual. But ultimately, Weber believed that as this religion emphasized one's interior relationship with God in an unmediated form, outside of communal religious worship, individuals felt free to embark upon secular life, making money and creating a capitalist society of more fluid status in terms of class structure and communal affiliations.

Of course, Weber wrote of a relatively homogeneous society, as distinct from modern Britain, which has exhibited diversity not simply in religious affiliations, but national, linguistic, and racial ruptures that cannot always be healed, even with increased class mobility.

Modern sociologists such as Abercrombie and Warde have also noted that this industrialization and creation of the individual in Britain may have ultimately intensified the structure of the class system as well as ruptured and created new divisions within its fold, even while it sowed the seeds for the generation of a new Middle class. But this new middle class was perhaps even more dependent on societal and commercial symbols to reaffirm its status. Capitalism allowed for a new middle class and new social mobility, and new empowerment for the individual outside of the collective and past, assigned familial roles, but as these roles were more unstable the individual sought new forms of identification according to national, regional, and ethnic affiliations.

Thus a paradox -- modern capitalism created a more mobile society for the individual, with more spheres of identification, but as society grows more individualist, today, individuals seek define themselves by social groups and affiliations with perhaps even greater desperation, from street gangs, football clubs, to social gatherings. Psychology's stress upon a sense of individual validation is heralded in the self-help books, and as noted by Seale in his book on Researching Society and Culture, individuals under the societal lens often take umbrage at being regarded as mere numbers or subsumed under a singular label of a group -- but the individual's need for identification beyond the self has not gone away, even while the stress upon autonomy and personal fulfillment has grown.

Works Cited.

Abercrombie, N. And Warde, A. Contemporary British Society. Cambridge: Polity Press, 2000.

Durkheim, Emile. Suicide, 1929.

Freud, Sigmund. Freud's Collected Writings, 1924.

Marsh I. Sociology: Making sense of Society. 2000.

Mason, D. Race and Ethnicity in Modern Britain. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.

Seale C., Researching Society and Culture. 1998.

Taylor P. Sociology in Focus. 1995..

Weber, Max. The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism.

Ian Marsh, Sociology: Making Sense of Society, (Prentice Hall: 2000)

Emile Durkheim, Suicide, 1929.

Sigmund Freud, Freud's Collected Writings, 1924.

Max Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism

D. Mason, Race and Ethnicity in Modern Britain, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000)

N. Abercrombie, and A. Warde, Contemporary… [END OF PREVIEW]

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