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Discuss major theories regarding the nature of personal and social identity

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Introduction

Discuss major theories regarding the nature of personal and social identity. Richard Jenkins said that 'Without social identity, there is in fact, no Society'. Sociologists see identity as related to the society in which people live. They believe that our identity is formed against a social background, which tries to make social interaction meaningful, understandable and organised by categorising people in order of the group they belong to. Because we are categorised in such a way, we become recognisable as people such as mothers, daughters, students etc. The nature of identity is seen as a social phenomenon and a key factor of our social lives because our identities are also based on where we work, live and the community etc. The concept of identity relates an understanding of what and who we are and also what we and other people believe us to be. In order for us to develop this sense of identity we need to have a sense of self- awareness and this can be increased through socialisation where we can learn the morals of social interaction on the basis of various cultural identities. Our identity can also be seen as a social construct because once we have required a certain identity we acquire and display social characteristics. When looking as to how people obtain their identities the phenomenological perspective believes that we attach a meaning to reality and that we make sense of our experiences and by doing so we search for 'the self' and once we have found this we are able to construct our own meaningful identity. ...read more.

Middle

Gender identity circles around the view that we have things in common with others such as, people of the same gender have the same biology and have similar ways of perceiving and behaving within the social world. For example, men are seen as active, strengthful and aggressive where as women are seen as weak and feeble. Age also plays a major part in shaping our identity. In most societies there tends to be four age groupings: Childhood, youth, adulthood and old age. Each of these groups is able to give their members a sense of identity as they belong to a specific grouping wit it's own norms and values and forms of behaviour. We also develop roles and social characteristics with these groups and in general, we are encouraged to identify ourselves with the different kinds of behaviour that our based on our biological age and are then labelled accordingly such as youths and old age pensioners. Our nationality makes up part of identity because it means we are a member of another group possibly with our own language, social characteristics and set of behaviours and so we are given a national identity such as 'the welsh' and again, labelled accordingly. Research has also shown that genetics could play a part in the building of our identity, for example in 1975, Wilson and sociobiologists argued that human beings are a product of natural selection because are traits and characteristics which will increase our survival chances will be passed on to future generations. ...read more.

Conclusion

to change and we are able to achieve more statuses throughout our lives where in the past your status was fixed at birth and largely unchangeable. Post modernists also agree with this that our identities are no longer fixed and now continually changing and we are free and able to choose our own identities and are able to pick the social groups we interact with. From each of the perspectives we have considered most of them are in agreement with the belief that our identities are socially constructed and they reject the view that it's innate (apart from the biological), with the structuralist perspective placing great emphasis on socialisation as the key to creating a social identity. Most of them see socialisation as a great influence in terms of the way people are labelled and categorised into certain structures of cultural identities. Each of the perspectives has it's own view on how our identity is created and maybe because there are so many different explanations for it, then maybe it is created it lots of different ways from different people. Overall, as human and social beings we need to feel we belong to various groups and this is significant as it means we receive sense of identity from each of these groups we are members of and also the social interaction we receive from these groups allows us to feel a sense of belonging and so through this we are able to identify our identities and a sense of purpose in life. Word count : 1,912. ...read more.

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