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Anthony Giddens:

Choose your future

In the post-traditional era, since social roles are no longer handed to us by society, we have to choose a 'lifestyle' - although the options are not, of course, unlimited. 'Lifestyle choices' may sound like a luxury of the more affluent classes, but Giddens asserts that everyone in modern society has to select a lifestyle, although different groups will have different possibilities (and wealth would certainly seem to increase the range of options). 'Lifestyle' is not only about fancy jobs and conspicuous consumption, though; the term applies to wider choices, behaviours, and (to greater or lesser degrees) attitudes and beliefs.

Lifestyles could be said to be like ready-made templates for a narrative of self. But the choice of one lifestyle does not predict any particular type of life story. So a lifestyle is more like a genre: whilst movie directors can choose to make a romance, or a western, or a horror story, we - as 'directors' of our own life narratives - can choose a metropolitan or a rural lifestyle, a lifestyle focused on success in work, or one centred on clubbing, sport, romance, or sexual conquests.

Beyond tradition

[...] The choices which we make in modern society may be affected by the weight of tradition on the one hand, and a sense of relative freedom on the other. Everyday choices about what to eat, what to wear, who to socialise with, are all decisions which position ourselves as one kind of person and not another. And as Giddens says, 'The more post-traditional the settings in which an individual moves, the more lifestyle concerns the very core of self-identity, its making and remaking' (1991: 81).

[...] The importance of the media in propagating many modern lifestyles should be obvious. [...] The range of lifestyles - or lifestyle ideals - offered by the media may be limited, but at the same time it is usually broader than those we would expect to just 'bump into' in everyday life. So the media in modernity offers possibilities and celebrates diversity, but also offers narrow interpretations of certain roles or lifestyles - depending where you look.

For more, see main Anthony Giddens page.

This is only an edited and simplified version of material which will appear in this book.

Please don't use this text without this credit.

© David Gauntlett 2002.