Twenty-first century dis-ease? habitual reflexivity or the reflexive habitus

Sweetman, Paul (2003) Twenty-first century dis-ease? habitual reflexivity or the reflexive habitus The Sociological Review, 51, (4), pp. 528-549. (doi:10.1111/j.1467-954X.2003.00434.x).


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While certain theorists have suggested that identity is increasingly reflexive, such accounts are arguably problematised by Bourdieu's concept of habitus, which – in pointing to the 'embeddedness' of our dispositions and tastes – suggests that identity may be less susceptible to reflexive intervention than theorists such as Giddens have implied. This paper does not dispute this so much as suggest that, for increasing numbers of contemporary individuals, reflexivity itself may have become habitual, and that for those possessing a flexible or reflexive habitus, processes of self-refashioning may be 'second nature' rather than difficult to achieve. The paper concludes by examining some of the wider implications of this argument, in relation not only to identity projects, but also to fashion and consumption, patterns of exclusion, and forms of alienation or estrangement, the latter part of this section suggesting that those displaying a reflexive habitus, whilst at a potential advantage in certain respects, may also face considerable difficulties simply 'being themselves'.
'I noticed how people played at being executives while actually holding executive positions. Did I do this myself? You maintain a shifting distance between yourself and your job. There's a self-conscious space, a sense of formal play that is a sort of arrested panic, and maybe you show it in a forced gesture or a ritual clearing of the throat. Something out of childhood whistles through this space, a sense of games and half-made selves, but it's not that you're pretending to be someone else. You're pretending to be exactly who you are. That's the curious thing.' (DeLillo, 1997: 103)

Item Type: Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI): doi:10.1111/j.1467-954X.2003.00434.x
ISSNs: 0038-0261 (print)
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ePrint ID: 33967
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Date Deposited: 16 May 2006
Last Modified: 16 Apr 2017 22:14
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