In this modern age, society has undergone evolution, making man’s life far more complex and diverse compared those of his predecessors. Once the dominant figure in the society, an individual’s influence over his self-identity has greatly been reduced and he has been a subject of change and development based on social forces. One of the theories that explore this modern development is Anthony Giddens’ theory of structuration, wherein he explores and attempts to determine whether it is people who shape their social reality or modern social forces.
Giddens (1992) cited that it is the individual who serves as the catalyst for social reality through the process of structuration, wherein social structures are seen as influential agents of change. He further emphasized that social structure contain system that actors (individuals) learn to use after experiencing it and moves towards its application in an actor’s culture. Changes with oneself and identity transpire with information, something that coincides with Giddens’ view of a reflexive identity.
Reflexive identity is often identified as an endeavor, in which individuals seek to observe and reflect on their identity and work on it. He also emphasizes the process of repetitive social interaction to formally develop one’s self-identity, in which reactions of others are deemed important in order to attain growth and development. He addresses this as the narrative identity in which an individual continues to welcome events and integrate these into his life for developmental purposes.
Giddens’ Theory of Intimacy and Self-Identity in Modern Society In his work, Giddens (1992) has broken down the possible changes that have taken place in the realm of intimate relationships, causing developments that shake teleological understanding. Using the American society as its model, Giddens (1992) cited that the supposed unity among marriage, sexuality and reproduction has been broken down by these changes and that it represented a new image of what is the new intimate relationship, something that is at par with modernism.
Under these developments, couples could live through a compassionate marriage, and that it is also possible to nurture each other without the need to involve the opposite sex or a child as a medium of love. According to Jamieson (1999), what Giddens has cited in his works are probably what people call or view as “pure relationship” where intimacy matters less and that relationship itself matters more. This is seen among couples who do not conceive children all throughout their relationship.
However, Giddens (1992) cited that the focus of the social order still lies on the heterosexual marriage and that there have been numerous advantages in entering such relationship. This led into what Giddens (1992) calls “plastic sexuality” where the discussion was centered on having attained or surpassed the needs of phallus in a relationship. Here, Giddens’ (1992) views intimacy as equal to sexuality. Giri (1994) cited that Giddens’ (1992) use the term phallus to describe the male experience or the intimate moments shared with the human male species.
Giddens (1992) cited that “plastic sexuality” frees individuals from the needs of reproduction which characterizes heterosexual marriage. Much of the analysis of Giddens’ theory of identity will confirm that “plastic sexuality” commonly refers to the third sex, more commonly known as gays and lesbians. The relationship between individuals of the same sex has been one of the favorite topics of debate as early as the 1990s. It was criticized for being indecent mainly due to the concept of having physical and emotional relationship with the same sex.
Giri (1994) cited that same sex relationships became a taboo, and were regarded as similar to incest relationships. Yet in the work of Giddens (1992), he cited that “plastic sexuality” was a decentralized form of sexuality which is not bound by traditional or conventional relationships. This is the reason why many have viewed Giddens’ (1992) work as something out of the ordinary, and at par with the changes occurring in society (Giri, 1994). As mentioned earlier, he brought a new definition to intimacy and expanded its application to a certain degree.
Using the American and European society as its model, Giddens (1991) showed the transformation of intimacy to a new degree. Giddens (1991) cited that the third sex – lesbians and gays – aside from being involved in “plastic sexuality” are also tied with what he calls reflexive sexuality. This is where an individual’s sexuality serves as a property of oneself, while having its own qualities. However, the evolution of intimacy has produced transmutations of biological categories, between male and female, such as the degradation of the male’s sexual organ.
The core idea in Giddens’ (1991) view of intimacy is close to the degradation of the male’s phallus or the function of the male’s sexual organ, and the fortification of the third sex. By emphasizing a relationship that is free from reproduction and moving away from the confines of the heterosexual marriage, Giddens (1991) indirectly pointed his views of intimacy as being directly justifying lesbians and gays relationships. In his work, he cited that women could now see men on the cognitive level at the very least. Schiffrin (1996) cited that it emphasized gender empowerment in terms of being involved in a relationship.
He also supported one of Giddens’ (1991) view about self-identity in which fragmentation versus unification influences the formation or development of self-identity. In here, Giddens’ (1991) view of intimacy moves away from the widely perceived; although it still pays importance to physical contact, its significance lies in its support and empowerment of the third sex. As cited, Giddens (1991) also has views about the formation and development of self-identity. Unification versus fragmentation was cited earlier and there are still three other dichotomies of self-identity.
Unification and fragmentation in simpler terms mainly focus on what cultural patterns offer against an individual whose self evaporated into a variegated context of action. Giddens (1991) cited that an individual constructs himself within the boundaries of his environment, culture or even his own parents. Unification is solely based on the emulation of something or someone that is recognized by the public (Giddens, 1991). On the other hand, fragmentation represents individuals who adjust themselves in relation to what is needed or demanded in a particular scenario or environment.
Schiffrin (1996) cited this as “authoritarian conformity,” wherein an individual adapts to its surroundings until he is barely recognizable. The dilemma between the two is that the true self would feel empty and inauthentic (Giddens, 1991), and anything else could not fill it easily. The end result is likely an individual who acts and behaves reasonably or appropriately in front of the public, bringing in a sense of psychologically security; and yet the same individual may be feeling empty in relation to his true self. The second dimension is that of powerlessness versus appropriation.
Giddens (1991) cited that powerlessness focuses on the alienation suffered by individuals in the context of modern society. Under the influence of capitalistic production, the individual loses its dominance over machines and markets. Giddens (1991) cited that in the process, what used to be human now seems alien and that in the so-called “mass society”, as such society becomes more extensive, individuals are more sheared with autonomy. On the other hand, Giddens (1991) describes appropriation as a complex picture between extensional and intentional change in a world under rapid globalization.
It is a form of expropriation, wherein an individual undergoes a transformation that is characterized as disembedding, and moving away from the interest of any actors. Giddens (1991) also cited that it could also be a form of mastery of life only available in modern situations. Moreover, according to Giddens (1991), an individual would feel engulfed, being dominated by force that he could not transcend or resist. Unlike the first dilemma, in here, the dominating forces are compelling. The individual ends up having a feeling of helplessness due to loss of his autonomy.