ABSTRACT

So far I have presented individualisation not only as something that is structurally enabled and increasingly systemically compelled, but also as a key factor in the reproduction of systemic dependencies. In this Chapter I deepen my argument by suggesting that what characterises contemporary individualisation is the need and ability to individually negotiate the normative boundaries between systems and lifeworlds. I describe the ability to negotiate as normative individualisation and I elaborate the concept in in three steps. Firstly, by looking at the formation of the ‘social self’, I portray socialisation as an individual’s learning of their society’s normative infrastructure. With the aid of a brief differentiation between social character and identity, I argue that hyper-differentiation prolongs and transmutes socialisation into a continuous state of becoming, in which individuals constantly have to re-learn, adapt and cope with fast changing and contradictory norms in late modern societies. Yet importantly, individualisation also comprises the abilities held by individuals to make a difference to the normative infrastructure in which they live. That is, it is through the process of individuation (a process not the same as individualisation; more will be discussed on this below) that individuals develop the capacity to respond to their normative infrastructure. Accordingly, and secondly, I contend that normative individualisation means that individuals have to increasingly use their qualities and abilities to negotiate the divide between systems and lifeworlds. However, it is this ability to negotiate on an organisational level which underpins the risk of normative individualisation being instrumentalised into ‘organised individualisation’. Thirdly, as the demarcation between systems and lifeworlds is turned into an individual task, integration also becomes an individual responsibility as processes of hyper-differentiation appear to challenge existing forms of integration. I claim that an individualised form of integration can only be successful – if it can be successful at all – on the basis of a balanced combination of structural and normative aspects of individualisation, while it is important to see that normative individualisation is not possible without a social sphere that structurally enables individuals to negotiate norms and values in the first place.