The expression ‘modernity’ represents the progress of societies from undeveloped civilisations which slowly evolved over long periods of time and through recognisable stages where they arrived at a modern age symbolised by industrialisation, urbanisation and capitalism (Giddens, 2002). Another important step in the process of modernisation is the realisation of democracy which came from a society of free-thinking people following the Industrial Revolution (Browning, Halcli and Webster 2000, p. 166).
This case study will focus on modernisation and more specifically will examine the effects that individualisation and consumerism have had on the modern world. The case study will involve an interview with a family member, (Elizabeth*). The information obtained from this interview will be used to understand how these modernisation processes have affected Elizabeth’s’ life. Information will also be gathered from a number of other sources and there will be a literature review to further study the aforementioned processes’ impact on modern life. The findings from both the literature review and the interview to determine a key time in which these events took place and to establish whether there are relevancies between the two.
Individualisation has emerged mostly in the second half of the 20th century and continues to evolve. The desire to ‘lead a life of one’s own’ is referred to by Beck and Gersheim-Beck (2001 p. 22) as the most widespread ambition in the Western world. As a society, we are drifting away from the traditional social order and class. There is a strong will for people to break through this custom and take control of their own lives, to create new and exciting experiences and to achieve individual self-fulfilment.
A fundamental consideration of individualisation has been the increase of social equality for women. As Ballantyne, (2006 p. 384) explains, since the time of the ‘hunter gatherer societies’ men and women have had their place in different occupations and social roles. Men have mostly been associated as being the ‘bread winner’ for the family, while the woman stayed home to care for children of the house hold and tend to ‘homely duties’. The ‘sexual revolution’, which arose at the beginning of the 1960s, as Ballantyne, (2006 p. 384) states, challenged the traditional normality and position of women in society. This, however, has mainly affected developed countries. With this change came a shift in gender equality, women began entering the workforce in larger numbers, considerable numbers of women began to gain tertiary education at universities and women became more active and self-governing of their own lives.
Consumer capitalism has developed over the last 150 years as society progressed from a self-producing civilisation into an industrial society. People had less time to grow or make things because they were spending more time working. Langer (1996 p. 62) explains that the creation of the consumer society is best understood as a shift in economic and social logic rather than a simple change to capitalist domination. The large amount of people entering the workforce created a demand for mass-production of consumer items. With this shift in industrial capitalism came the expansion of commodity goods and commodity services. As Langer (1996 p. 61) explains, the manipulation of anxiety to promote consumption was used, the body in particular became a site rich for consumer potential. The rise of advertising established ‘problems’ and offered consumer ‘solutions’ to these issues by spending money on consumer products.
With the large move of production to consumption, shopping and consuming has become a major part of everyday life. As Macionis and Plummer (2012 p. 525) explain that throughout history shopping was usually in the ‘open air market’, but today with the arrival of large department stores and the rise of advertising, goods moved from being…