Individualisation, choice and structure: a discussion of current trends in sociological analysis

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Abstract

In this paper we seek to explore a tendency in current sociological thought to highlight notions of choice and autonomy in writings about contemporary Western societies. We wish to draw attention to some of the consequences of leaving out discussions of the structural aspects of societies and people's lives, for individuals as well as for the development and application of sociological theory and its ability to understand the connection between history and individual biography. Our discussion is based on qualitative research that we have conducted in recent years, and draws on focus groups with young people in Norway and Britain. From this critique we seek to demonstrate how concepts that take account of context and structure as well individual subjectivities can create a better ‘fit’ with complex and diverse realties.

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