Anthony Giddens- Who He Was, Theory of Modernity, and Sociological Views

Anthony Giddens- Theory of Modernity & Sociological Views


Anthony Giddens is a sociologist who was born on 18 January 1938. He wrote “The Constitution of Society,” which he considers as his most important work. His theories on modernity and society are what made him such an influential figure in the field of sociology.

He’s recognized as one of the founders of modern social theory. Giddens has been said to have had considerable influence on both sociology and classical social theory for over three decades. His theories have been based on the extensive work of his predecessors, including Emile Durkheim.

While studying sociology and economics at Cambridge University (UK), he took part in a student expedition to Borneo. He also engaged himself as a social worker for the poor people of London and taught middle school students math.

He served as a professor for the London School of Economics, where he was involved in social research projects and wrote several books. 

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Who Was Antony Giddens?

Antony Giddens was a British sociologist and the author of “The Transformation of Intimacy.” It discusses how intimate relationships are changing in contemporary society. He also wrote on globalization, modernity, and risk. His work is focused on social theory, emphasizing sociology’s relevance to everyday life and the importance of reflexivity about one’s position within society.

Giddens Anthony grew up during World War II as part of a close-knit family in rural Wales. After graduating from Oxford University with his Bachelor’s degree, he went to St Antony’s College for graduate study at Oxford University. He completed his doctorate in 1957 before becoming a lecturer there two years later. He was made Professor at Cambridge University in 1970 and the London School of Economics five years later.

From 1991-2000 Giddens was president of the British Sociological Association and the International Sociological Association (ISA) from 1994 to 1998. He is also a member of many other international professional associations, including social theory, sociology, and psychology.

How Does Giddens View Modernity?

Modernity is a central term in sociology that has been used to describe the social and cultural changes over time. Anthony Giddens views modernity as an ongoing change process with four stages: early, high, late, and reflexive.

Early modernity covers the period from the 18th century to around 1945. High modernity was from 1945 until around 1975, when postmodernism began to emerge. Late modernist society emerged in response to postmodernism and lasted until around 2000-2010. Finally, reflexive modernism started in the 2010s, but its future remains uncertain.

The first stage of early modernity arose after feudalism declined during the 18th century (Giddens). This period was characterized by industrialization, which led to social change and was the beginning of rationalization in politics.

High modernity started around 1945 and is characterized by mass production, consumption, and a social order based on technoscience where technological progress seemed limitless (Giddens). Continental European welfare states expanded during this period, and industrialization led to expanding the middle classes. However, in the 1970s, social unrest and ecological concerns emerged.

Late modernity began in the mid-1970s. The influence of postmodernism is more apparent during this stage, where society is characterized by a shift towards individualization, reflexivity, and identity politics (Giddens). There was also an increase in inequalities between social classes as well as within them.

The most recent stage is reflexive modernity which started in the late 20th century. This period is also known as neo-modernity and has transformed social relations (Giddens). The internet has become an important institution with a wide range of social networking sites. Social theorists disagree on whether this is another stage or merely a continuation of late modernity. 

Anthony Giddens has been hailed as one of the most influential sociologists of the 20th century, and his work is still widely read in universities around the world. He has also been a major contributor to other social sciences. They include psychology, anthropology, history, geography, literary theory, and economics. His theories are generally considered to be supportive of social democracy. His views are considered to be very influential in the political arena. 

Overall, Giddens is a key figure who has had a significant impact on sociology and other disciplines. He has provided extensive analysis of recent social change focusing on social institutions that have transformed human existence significantly.

He writes extensively about the impact of globalization, the information revolution, and new social movements and offers his views on a wide range of political issues. His work is regarded highly by other scholars, including prominent social theorists such as Anthony Elliott, who describes him as the ‘greatest British sociologist since Max Weber’ (Elliott).

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What is Anthony Giddens Theory?

Anthony Gidden’s theory states that modernity arises out of the four basic components. These are;

1. Capitalism – the system in which a country’s producers and distributors of goods are organized for profit

2. Bureaucracy – the organization of large enterprises (such as government agencies) in which authority is vested in impersonal rules

3. Science and technology – the development of scientific knowledge and its application in the technological means for producing goods

4. The nation – state is a political organization based on a territory with a centralized government (Giddens)

Anthony Giddens views modernity as complex, contradictory, and constantly evolving. He believes that modern society emphasizes rationality and leads to an emphasis on personal and subjective experience. Modernity involves a process of self-reflexivity and poses problems as well as solutions which in the end will lead to an open-ended future. Giddens also believes that modernity can be seen as the product of three historical sources: 

1. The first is capitalist economics, especially its emphasis on possessive individualism

2. The second is the growth of large-scale bureaucratic systems, especially in government and business that favor impersonal rules and regulations

3. Scientific knowledge, which has been applied to technology to produce new forms of industrialization (Giddens)  

Anthony Giddens suggests that individualization, experience, and reflexivity are among the most important features of modernity. This is partly due to the decline in traditional institutions such as the church and family (Giddens). Individuals have become increasingly independent and have become able to determine their own goals based on their interests. Due to this, social institutions such as the institution of marriage are declining at an alarming rate. This shows that many young people can live independently without depending on family or church for assistance.

Anthony Giddens argues that these features may be linked to the growth of social institutions. These include;

1. The rise of complex political structures such as nation-states, political parties, and parliaments

2. The growth of large bureaucratic systems in government, education, business, and medicine

3. The increasing influence of science and technology in producing new goods as well as weapons for war (Anthony Giddens) 

Criticics argue that Anthony Gidden’s theory may be too broad to be considered an effective theory. This is because it may be too difficult to obtain enough evidence of all four components for a theory to be considered valid.

Giddens has argued that there are two different types of modernity: an ‘atomized’ type and the other a ‘genetic’ form. The former is where the institution of science and technology plays a limited role. In contrast, the latter type is where bureaucracy and capitalism play a more prominent role.

Schneider brought up another criticism. He believed that Gidden’s theory lacked clarity on what is meant by ‘modernity. Schneider argued that modernity had been attributed to individuals, communities, and societies. He stated that Anthony Giddens seemed to use the term to mean a wide range of things, and therefore it could not be considered a valid concept. This has led him to question the idea that there are different forms of modernity.

The institution which is most important for Anthony Giddens‘s theory is the rise of the nation-state. He believed that this institution resulted from the process of modernity in which impersonal rules and regulations are essential to functioning bureaucracies.

Giddens Anthony believes that this institution is still important today. Still, he also suggests that nation-states may be weakening due to the increasing challenges posed by global issues such as terrorism, pollution, and poverty (Giddens).

Under modernity, Anthony Giddens believes the institution of science becomes dominant. He argues that science is often used in theoretical form to solve social problems and challenges facing

societies. However, he also points out that its use can sometimes lead to conflict. For example, “Nuclear weapons are a blatant example of this – created under the banner of science, but now a social institution with immense power” (Giddens).

This shows that in some cases, science can be used for destructive rather than creative purposes. He also argues that science has helped modern societies to develop new forms of industrialization which have transformed the way we live and work. It is these innovative ideas and inventions which have the potential to become an institution.

Giddens Anthony also acknowledges that religion can still play an important role in society. However, he states that it has weakened over time. Religion is not as important as it once was, mainly due to the growth of secularization, which has led many people to reject religious practices and values (Giddens). In recent times there has been an increase in religious fundamentalism, which can be described as a modern institution.

Fundamentalist groups often seek to change traditional values and beliefs by imposing their ideology on others via social institutions. Examples of these are; religious schools, charitable organizations (e.g., Church Mission Society), and military operations/terrorist attacks (Giddens).

What is Giddens Anthony Approach?

Anthony Giddens takes a theoretical approach known as structuration which is the study of social and cultural processes. It provides a middle ground between structure and agency. Giddens Anthony believes that structures do not dominate society. It is rather dominated by the “rules” or norms for behavior within society.

This theory “sees human practices as constituted through rules. At the same time, it stresses that rules are only one of several factors that shape what people do. Other factors include human agency, social representations, emotions, and so on.” (Pettit).

According to Giddens, structuration theory is “a version of the classic principle/agent model of social structure-agency. Social structures constitute agents—that is, they provide the resources that agents use and they “facilitate” their actions. Agents, on the other hand, are said to “act…on the basis of …the means afforded by social structures.” (Giddens).

Individuation is how people develop as social beings by taking part in practices, examining them for themselves.

What Views Do Gidden’s Theories Have?

Giddens is most well-known for his structuration theory, which is a structuralist approach to how social systems function. Structuration says that the actions of individuals take part in the formation and maintenance of social structures (Pettit). Structuration also says that how individuals can understand these structures depends on their prior experiences.

The concept of structuration says that there are both social structures and individual free will, so people have some control over the actions they take in their lives (Pettit). Structuration does not say that social structures are externally imposed on individuals, but rather that they feel its effects through internalization of these structures (Giddens). Giddens’s theory says that individuals, concrete objects, and social systems are mutually constitutive (Pettit).

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What Influences Did Anthony Giddens Have?

Giddens had several influences in his life. One of the first and most important was that of psychoanalysis and Sigmund Freud’s work (Kumar). He also drew inspiration from social theorists like Marx, Weber, and Durkheim (Social Theory Online).

Other sources include French structuralists like Levi-Strauss and Althusser and the British social theorist of deviance, Stanley Cohen (Weedon). He also drew upon notions from management studies and social policy, especially ideas about reconciling the growing complexity in modern societies with their increasing capacity for control through bureaucracies (Crossley).

What is the Major Work of Anthony Giddens?

The major work of Anthony Giddens in his book, “The Constitution of Society: Outline of the Theory of Structuration” (1991) spans six hundred and fifty pages. In this book, Giddens accounts for the major conceptual and theoretical developments in social theory from Durkheim to Parsons (Crossley).

In this book, he asserts that sociology is a distinct discipline with its subject matter. To make this argument, he examines the methodology of social sciences within the context of modernity. This is how he creates his Theory of Structuration (Crossley). His book, “The Consequences of Modernity” (1990), is also another major work. This book attempts to figure out the meaning of modernity in a world that has been taken over by science and technology. In this book, Giddens Anthony examines the social changes that are created by modernity. He does this by seeing how three linked processes are happening simultaneously (Crossley).

What Does Structuration Theory Explain?

Structuration theory explains what goes into the formation and meaning of social structures. Structuration theory explains what the institution is in terms of its social construction as a symbol, referred to as institutionality (Crossley).

Institutionalism consists of cultural norms and values, practices within an institution, actions taken by institution members, structural relationships between different institutions, rules that produce institutionalism, and institution members’ actions (Crossley).

Institutions are seen as socially constructed entities that arise from human action and act upon those same people as social structures. For example, an institution may be legally enforced by the government or institutionally produced when it comes to religion (Hughes).

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What is the Structuration Theory of Communication?

The concept of structuration says that there are both social structures and individual free will, so people have some control over the actions they take in their lives (Pettit). Structuration does not say that social structures are externally imposed on individuals. It says that they feel its effects through the internalization of these structures (Giddens). Giddens’s theory says that individuals, concrete objects, and social systems are mutually constitutive (Pettit).

General (Giddens). The issue of how much outside forces shape us is central to this perspective. The answer to this question, according to Giddens, depends on how much we internalize the norms of society and whether or not we are willing to challenge them.

What is Reflexive Modernity?

The concept of reflexive modernity became popular in social, political, and cultural analysis at the end of the twentieth century. This idea was developed from Giddens’s earlier work on late-modernity. He claimed it had replaced the industrial society with a post-industrial information age. A form of reflexivity is said to exist in all societies. By the late twentieth century, the growth of new media had enhanced this phenomenon in western society.

The result of reflexive modernity is that people become aware of their role within social institutions. They ask questions about how they fit into society, which leads to more social change (Giddens). The illusion that our decisions were based on personal consultation rather than outside cultural influences, such as mass media and advertising; postmodernity views this process of making conscious decisions as part of the problem. The self-reflexive person becomes aware that what they view as their own decision may be a social construction (Giddens).

The idea of reflexive modernity raises many questions. Giddens Anthony says that with an increased awareness of social and cultural factors that influence behavior, people become more likely to question their actions and question authority in general (Giddens). The issue of how much outside forces shape us is central to this perspective on modernity.

What Are the Sociological Views of Anthony Giddens?

Giddens Anthony was a sociologist who seemed to approach that favored social order over complete freedom for humans. His views of modernity are seen as very influential because he utilized his knowledge of sociology to define the term and teach others how it is still relevant in today’s world (Ritzer & Knodel).

According to Anthony Giddens, modernity is defined “as a situation where actions performed by individuals are aimed at the creation of a life-world that is wholly human in character” (Ritzer & Knodel). Giddens also taught others how to recognize and understand modernity, as he believed it had reached a point where modernization is becoming increasingly more difficult.

Through his writings, Giddens emphasized social order over freedom for individuals. In his book, “Modernity and Self-Identity,” Giddens uses extensive information to describe how individuals’ actions have come to be guided by social order rather than complete freedom.

He also explained how the modern self is different from a pre-modern self, mainly because of its ability to adapt to change (Ritzer & Knodel). Giddens’s approach to defining modernity is very similar to the work of Emile Durkheim, as both focus on explaining how social order affects individuals’ actions.

What Does Giddens Say About Identity?

Giddens believed that social systems shape identity. He explains this concept in his book, “Modernity and Self-Identity.” Giddens believes that modern identities are formed by an individual’s ability to communicate with others through language.

An individual’s identity also depends on how they interact with the world (Ritzer & Knodel). Giddens also believed that identity is not fixed but rather an ever-changing phenomenon.

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What is Family in Sociological Perspective?

Family in the Sociological perspective discusses how the family system developed and evolved with changing social, economic, and political conditions. The nature of the concept of family changed from being a private structure that interferes little or not with society to become one that interferes massively in almost all parts of society (Blaikie). Families influence and interrelate with their socio-economic environment, as well as other aspects of social structure such as intergenerational relationships, race relations, gender roles (Bourgois), living arrangements (Blaikie), the life-course, and social change (Halle).

Giddens’s theory defines family as the primary agency of socialization, intergenerational relationships, and intergenerational transmissions of culture (Sebelius). The family includes both the nuclear unit and extended family or other relatives who may not be present in the household but form part of a person’s identity (Blaikie). Family can also include foster carers and step-parents. The ‘family’ may not be a single household but is defined as multiple households related to each other, often with grandparents on one side and their children/grandchildren.

What is the Sociological Perspective of Education?

Education is a semi-public institution whose structure and functioning connect it to wider social structures such as labor market participation and intergenerational relationships (Blaikie). Education is viewed as an important means to social mobility and attaining a higher socio-economic status, which has become more valuable in recent times due to economic trends.

The structural perspective of education consists of looking at intergenerational links in the educational process, including family background, class, gender, ethnicity, and intergenerational relationships. Education is also interrelated with structures of social mobility and intergenerational relationships. Every society has educational processes, but they operate in different ways (Bourgois).

Education is seen as another means to the attainment of a higher socio-economic status. Rationalism theory believes that education provides individuals with knowledge, enabling them to adapt to changing conditions (Halle).

What is the Sociological Perspective of Work?

The social theorist Karl Marx developed a theory called the sociological perspective of work. He saw “work” as an activity involved in producing goods or services that have monetary value in exchange and which are used by others to satisfy their needs.

In Marxist theory, work was a major factor in determining a person’s place in the socio-economic structure (Halle). For this reason, Marx believed that the institution of work should be abolished and replaced by a social institution in which all people are paid according to their needs.

What is the Sociological Perspective of Gender?

Giddens explained the process of interrelationships between men and women in terms of “gender.” He believed that intergenerational relationships, intergenerational transmissions of culture, and gender roles were not biological differences but were socially learned.

Giddens developed this theory by looking at interrelationships within families, intergenerational relationships, and intergenerational transmissions of culture. He found that in intergenerational relationships, children are taught by their parents how to be a man or woman through a process called intergenerational transmissions of culture (Blaikie).

 Culture refers to the collaborative practice of routine, norms, and values shared by a group of people (Bourgois). Giddens concluded that gender is not biological but cultural.

What is the Sociological Perspective of Race?

Sociologists look at race as differences in physical features such as skin color. Some sociologists believe racial discrimination occurs because people are treated differently because of their physical features. Bourgois agreed with this viewpoint and stated that social inequality is produced when dominant groups maintain racial divisions through using different forms of institutions, such as law, education, and religion, to control minority groups. Race also relates to social class, and Bourgois believed that the institution culture reflected the dominant group’s culture, which was middle and upper-class.

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What is the Sociological Perspective of Religion?

Religion is a social institution, which most people participate in, and thus it has become an institution of modern society. The connection between religion and institution can be seen in many countries, such as the United Kingdom (Bourgois).

Sociologists’ view of religion was largely influenced by Durkheim, who believed that religion played an important part in society, “it can be seen as an institution and a source of social order.” He used the term institution to describe a phenomenon that is developed over time and through social interaction.

Thus we can see how the sociological perspective of the institution provides a structure to allow us to understand the institution of religion (Halle). Durkheim also theorized that social order was produced by collective beliefs and practices known as social facts.

Many sociologists today believe that institution is linked with social order. In Bourgois’ theoretical view, institution and social order are interrelated, but the institution is more important. We can see how an institution is critical to social order in the institution of religion because it provides fulfillment for individuals’ emotional and spiritual needs and social control (Halle).

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