Self-Identity and Its Discontents: Sociology in the 1990s

Skinner, David; May, Vanessa and Rollock, Nicola. 2016. Self-Identity and Its Discontents: Sociology in the 1990s. Sociology, 50(6), NP13-NP23. ISSN 0038-0385 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

This article introduces one of four e-special issues designed to celebrate 50 years of Sociology by showcasing the depth of material in the journal’s archive. ‘Identity’ was chosen as the focus for an e-special issue about the 1990s as this was an important period in the development of public and academic discussions around this slippery concept. A review of the journal’s content from that era reveals a surprising dearth of work on the politics of group identity. In contrast, British sociology’s growing interest in questions of self, subjectivity, lifestyle and life course is well represented. Much of this work was developed in critical dialogue with the ‘individualization thesis’ that argued that people increasingly acted as choice-making individuals in control of their own lives. Through sophisticated use of theory, research and case studies many of the articles included in the e-special challenge the simplifications of this thesis. The selected articles are grouped in four sections: the first looks at attempts to theorize self-identity in late modernity; this is followed by three articles on consumerism and lifestyle; the next section contains articles on biography and the life course. The selection finishes with two articles that reflect on how sociology teaching and research might be reconfigured to acknowledge explicitly the experiences and identities of those involved.

Item Type:


Identification Number (DOI):


biography, individualization, life course, lifestyle, self-identity, 1990s

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Educational Studies > Centre for Identities and Social Justice


1 November 2015Accepted
7 March 2016Published

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

13 Dec 2018 11:59

Last Modified:

29 Apr 2020 17:01

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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