The process of individualization in global society : Concerning epistemological analysis from the dialectic of the concrete and critical theory

By: Victor Hugo Lopez Llanos

Given the current process of globalization many of the structures we knew before are undergoing a process of transformation: the state, governance, democracy and society itself are suffering drastic changes in the values ​​previously characterized them and gave them reason.

For example, the state is now in question because the sovereignty and legitimacy that form it are in question, this is the role it plays in the big picture the new transnational power, international institutions and logic market, democracy is increasingly delegitimized, the decimated governance, and society (within the meaning of the Civil) as the field where before trait of community and social responsibility reproduced has been changing radically by the sense of individuality and personal interests.

While true that the above argument stems discussion and analysis, especially if we look at the Latin American reference, I believe that we should not leave out the transformations that contemporary society to globalization processes.

That is why in this text is addressed in general the problems that brings the process of individualization in global society; set roughly what factors by gushing, weak or solidly, the processes of individualization of society are. Critical Theory of Max Horkheimer and the Dialectics of the Concrete Karel Kosik: as a justification and epistemological interpretation from texts is also made

Starting from the modern concept of society that many disciplines of social sciences defined as a tool to explain the phenomena historically occurred (dialectic of knowledge).

Subsequently, the role played by new institutions of motivation and desire that promotes market will also address a number of core questions that are not answered even in this text, seeking to settle the debate and reflection on the process established individualization in global society.

Society, ¿Individualized?

In sociology, the concept of empirical description structured society, described how objects take societal systems behavior and relationships between individuals.

Individuals acquire through their experiences modulated existence through moral and religious norms; as well as different patterns of behavior who make their relationship with politics, economics, technology and now recently with the ecology.

However, civil society suffers gradual gap facing drastic changes to other types of behavior, this due to many factors depending from the point of view of discipline who observes and explains.

For example, economists argue that society changes depending on economic revolutions that are made in the media and production systems, since the value of objects, individuals sue on deals to be consumed.

On the other hand, political scientists who study the apparatus of power, consider that the State’s relationship with the Company, individuals create models of behavior through regulation and enforcement and institutions coerce life modern societies.

Anthropologists and historians consider culture as the transverse axis of behavior, since according to their contributions nomadic man became a balanced being, creating civilizations, where agricultural production scheme demanded and created the necessary conditions of subsistence long term.

Subsequently, the birth of industrial society, greatly accelerated the system of social reproduction inciting individuals to be machined to tame machines, and establish a speech worthy and fulfilling life. To end up with a society of information or knowledge, where the main techniques of partnership and interaction are framed in the use of new technologies, both for the case to communicate (chat), for information (blogs, e-zines) to participate in political affairs (social networks) or for entertainment (digital cinema, video) and to establish relations of commodity production and financial mobility.

Therefore, the individual and society in general is undergoing a process of individualization, and for the first time ever, people are becoming what they really are: isolated subjects, with experiences that only relate to each other, to meet, politically, and economically essential physiological needs and manufactured.

While it is true that scholars of the social sciences, the concept of society continue to be associated with the spaces of political participation, today, has become a term that is in question, this is thanks to the new features that globalization imposes on the socio-political life.

Historically and as a product of modernity, society has been coined by a number of features that made sense and reason.

The first approach is found in Aristotle, the term societas civilians, translated into Greek as Kononia politike which means political community, then Hobbes and Kant used the term as a synonym for state. It was to Hegel made a clear distinction between state and civil society.

In the famous Hegelian triad of ethics, he identified three instances of human interaction: “The first on blood ties and mutual effect resulting in the construction of human relationships (the family), another linked to the field of social relations -economic derivatives workforce and commercial (Civil Society), and the last linked to space policy deliberation and decision. ” (Ruslan, 2010: 92).

From the above arguments, the company acquires the sense of where the conflict of public interest are resolved, therefore, it is here where the company acquires trait civil, by the mechanisms of political participation, economic reproduction of civilizing processes based on ethics and religion, comprised mostly of individuals who maintain identity and a way of socializing. However, all the above has been drastically changed by the effects generated by globalization.

This new reality raises several questions, for example: What has been one of the main factors by which society is no longer considered as a place where playing the sense of community and social responsibility ?, The identity of consumerism is one of the main factors which society has been individualized and atomized ?, Can there be an individualized society involved in the fields of politics, economy, ecology and culture in the global era ?, Is individualism way society is expressed today ?, What are the factors that trigger the process of individuation of a certain global society ?, What are the new identities that individuals are generated through a individualizada- globalized society?

I believe that one of the main arguments that can bring us closer to answering these questions, but above all explain this phenomenon, part of the idea that individualization is a global sociological mutation close to what Castoriadis called the “host imaginary signification” whose result It is synergistic organization and meaning of actions and values ​​acquired by new subjects in an individualized society, in other words, individualization is a historical product generated by globalization.

It is not intended to show the individualization as a product of labor flexibility, or as the result of changes to the traditional family, much less as a radical change of consciousness, but rather analyze and reflect individualization through new forms of socialization through new digital patterns of behavior and new generations of so-called “liquid identity” (Bauman, 2005: 99).

Understanding individualization (for purposes of this research), as the way in which society organizes and directs its way to manage their behavior.

It is now and not before, when in the society of this “second modernity” (Ulrich Beck), and the individuals who make up have failed to act on the rigid political, economic and cultural structure modulated to society.

Now society increasingly demand possible private choices, the minimum and maximum austerity drive.

Although the above seems a little obtuse and objective statement, I would say that individualization processes are generated from the logic of the new institutions of motivation and desire generated by the market, strengthened and reproduced in democratic systems, to the extent that new institutions encourage the participation of politics, ecology and sustainable means, enable free time (from outsourcing and new labor contracts with expiry date), encourage leisure entertainment (movies, video games, interactive museums, homogeneous music), digital multiculturalism (social networks) is strengthened and encourages psychologizing of ephemeral fashion as new individual socialization.

In other words, society is gradually becoming a kind of self-managed community, individualistic needs and desires. A single saw, global companies acquire new hedonistic values, for example: respect for differences, the cult of personal freedom, relaxation, mood sincerity and free expression, that is, the new society that is rebuilding, re-it signifies the sense of autonomy and self-self, leaving behind the old unsustainable and systematic voluntary expressions of the old authoritarian regimes, not only in Mexico but in much of Latin America and the world.

Moreover, in the XXI century, various moral and political values ​​have led to significant changes both in the way of structuring the political life of a society, as well as organizing social and cultural patterns of the weak US-National.

The trait of freedom, has removed the stickler idea of ​​the unique expressions of modern societies, the decades of the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s and 90’s of the twentieth century. The rigid practices of politics, productive and moral life have disappeared, or the best are in the process of death.

The old modern ideal of subordination to the individual to the rational rules of the community, are in question, or are being pulverized by the exercise of freedom, mobility and cyber life, or in the words of Lipovetsky ” pour la vie nouvelle qui produit à la lettre hyper-modernité “(for the new life to the letter produced hyper-modernity) (Lipovetsky, 2003: 64).

Because now the new postmodern ideal of individuality is embodied in the transformation of lifestyles, aimed at consumer life, and in that sense, this activity has allowed, paradoxically, the development of rights, desires and pleasures of individuals.

Epistemological analysis of the process of individuation

To address the process of individualization in global society, it is necessary to define and justify the epistemological theoretical field that will give this character of scientific research, or at least give results and contributions to inter-subjective approach to the phenomenon studied.

The different theories that were addressed to explain the process of individuation, consider the epistemological positions that are taken to better interpret this phenomenon are especially critical theory texts and the Dialectics of the Concrete.

I believe that the process of individuation saved himself, in his explanation and interpretation different contradictions are contrasted with reality, especially when analyzed society from the field of civil, as the sense of community is denied and social responsibility.

However, there are other interpretations that explain from tangible variables such phenomenon. From labor flexibility, re-structuring of the state and of the new institutions generated by the market and democracy as the only form of relationship between individuals.

Some scholars on the subject dare to explain this phenomenon from positivist methodologies, this in order to classify their contributions, the sense of objectivity and scientific approach, but all have shown in their research contributions are abstract, flimsy, and deducted prepositions often unrealistic. Therefore, “if there is a contradiction between experience and theory must be discarded” (Horkheimer, 1974: 224).

The theoretical to analyze and interpret the process of individuation, system consider that there must be a certain harmony excluding contradiction superfluous, abstract and univocal components.

That is, to explain the process of individuation should set aside the positivist-mathematical interpretation, because I believe that for the study of society, not only be studied from deductive objectification, much less be reduced to logic elements but they can be understood from the bond with real social processes. Because society must be understood as a space that plays in time, but mostly as a changing entity in constant transformation. Therefore “social knowledge is an intra-scientific process, ie, time and type of society” (Horkheimer, 1974, 230). So the process of individuation must not explain under trait of logic, but rather has to be understood through critical dialectical method (Kosik, 1984: 36).

But for this phenomenon can be explained critically necessary that the explanation thereof is located on the ground of revolutionary praxis, not associating revolutionary praxis with old proletarian groups, but with new subjects of politics, these are: citizens turned into actors of their interests and collective goods.

Therefore to gain knowledge, as stated Kosik, we must start from the decomposition of everything and understand society from their particular-individual unit, because through this decomposition we can interpret the phenomenon (individualization) and substance (individual ) and show its internal coherence. Only in this way can we reach the world of the realization of truth and dismantle the world of pseudo-realization with the surrounding society as individualistic trait in relation to the new institutions of motivation and desire that promotes market .

On the other hand, in paragraph I stated that the process of individuation is the product of a sociological mutation generated through economic changes that were raised throughout history, especially since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the birth of the It is known as globalization.

In this regard and as famed for attaining the objective it is necessary to place the individual in history and the context in which their identification is promoted, and with it, new processes of socialization with new structures. In other words, the individual and society are moving parts that are transformed and acquire new traits relationship through history, but this mobility is not given only by physical, biological and social issues, but also by the material issues.

So if the individual is a product of history and the social, observation and understanding of revolutionary praxis, it will lead us to that reality checked through the materialist theory of knowledge advocating observing the substance understanding to this “as the thing in motion” (Kosik, 1984: 41).

Hence the phenomena being studied in society (and in this case the individualization process) should not only be reduced to simple logic-reductionist assumptions, but should be studied by the thing (society) in motion. Because: “The movement of the thing through sensitive to rational observation is the method of dialectics of the concrete totality (…) Example: We study the motion and subject-object, all the contradiction and the essence and the phenomenon “(Kosik, 1984: 43).

So to analyze this new reality of society is necessary to consider and from the whole as a perfectly structured and dialectical, which can be understood rationally any done.

So our scientific method to explain the process of individualization in global society will be through the study of concrete reality that emerge through historical phenomena. Analyzed and reified through the materialist theory of knowledge and from history itself.

On the other hand, I consider that to analyze society and the individual under the globalizatorios processes is necessary to generate a new species of native knowledge of the individual “sovereignty understood as the creative thought” (Horkheimer, 1974: 252). This new kind of thinking must correspond to a set of relationships that responds to their collective and private needs. Since the individual, as we mentioned, you accept his world in which it has been usurped, but also modifies and persists with its revolutionary praxis. “Therefore, human production contains some systematic, to the extent that the fact that the individual is added externally to the theory, it is socially produced. This fact must be present on reason “(Horkheimer, 1974: 259).

However, to explain the process of individualization must not only be in the limitation of history, but is also necessary to place the contradictions in the system of relations of individuals with other entities, primarily the economy (division of labor and productive means), by the company itself (classes or social strata), cultural issues (moral, customs and identity) and politics (the State, the government and laws). Achieving locate the contradictions of these entities and as factors in the process of individuation, we can only achieve through behavior and critical thinking.

Precisely this kind of thinking will help us to confront the bourgeois thought, but especially to contrast the process of individualization as a product of capitalism and the new institutions and logic of the global market. Thus we conjugaremos the appearance of critical theory in relation to the practice of individuals, civil society and globalizatorios processes.

In this sense, just as we said Castoriadis to understand the composition of society as individuals, not as a set of individuals. So that the individual is the factory essence of society itself.

Therefore, when individualization understand as historical and social product and as a weak trend towards transformation or separation of institutions that once gave rationale, it is important to apply the necessity of being of society. Since society itself remains the real and imaginary space that itself establishes itself, and therefore creates different forms of socialization.

So that individualization is not the destruction of the areas of relationships, or give rise to atomized, selfish individuals of their own passions and interests, but that individualization is creating and autoafirmando the individual and what has really always been: A isolated individual, with life and experience that only their need to survive in society relates to the other, giving off different values ​​and political, economic actions, ethical and civilizational.

In the words of Castoriadis: “Therefore, the need to postulate another level of being, socio-historical, social imaginary as instituting, creating field in ways that arises as there is a multiplicity of humans, but unobservable in their origins as humans never find more than socialized “(Castoriadis, 2004: 37).

Under the logic of Kosik and Castoriadis, the dichotomy individual / society no contradiction between them or disappearance of some of them, since the individual as single monolithic material remains the concrete representation of society and society is phenomenal device with fear of contradiction, one could say that then society is the essential representation of individuals in their concrete form. “It is so because the individual is a product of society, a social fabrication by which society perpetuates and really exists.” (Castoriadis, 2004: 38).

This argument completely opposes the claims that the company, under the globalizatorios processes between the process of individuation, denies and seeks to wipe out the company itself. As if society as a whole depended on a single economic dimension.

Consequently, society in any transformation that develops throughout history to be glimpsed through critical thinking, but should also be perceived through ideal types in order to pursue the evidence in the interpretation of phenomena that manifest in this If the process of individualization of new global partnerships, should be observed from the revolutionary praxis of individuals and within the meaning of their action.

Final Reflections

Individualization is a product of sociological mutation, changing values ​​established democracy, and the new institutions that generates the logic of the market.

While it is true that more needs to discuss the issue of the relevance and problems resulting individualization in society, and the validity of the theories that this new phenomenon is explained, I believe that the social sciences, in an effort categorize and explain the changes experienced by the individualistic society and new subjects; It is the responsibility of those engaged in the social sciences with a commitment to explain, or at least understand, the new structures that give cohesion and support to public and private life of individuals.

Besides the epistemological reference with which I will analyze, observe and study the process of individualization in global society through the use of critical theory and contributions to the work of the dialectic of the concrete, they grant me easier to understand this phenomenon but also I try to raise my research, the first place the individual in history, materialist dialectics to approach and observe the revolutionary praxis of individuals embodied in people pursuing their collective and private property. As well as put into question, accept or reject the theories of those who say that society as civil trait is a process of individuation.


Castoriadis, Cornelius. (2004). Subject and Truth in the social historical world, Argentina: FCE.

Horkheimer, Max. (1974). Critical Theory, Buenos Aires: Routledge.

Kosik Karel. (1984). The dialectic of the concrete, Buenos Aires: Grijalbo.

J. M. Mardones and Ursúa N. (1983). Philosophy of human and social sciences: materials for a scientific foundation, Barcelona: Fontanarama.

Further reading:

Bauman, Zygmunt. (2005). Identity, Buenos Aires: Losada.

Lipovetsky, Gilles (2003). The era of emptiness, Barcelona: Anagram.

Posadas, Ruslan (2010). Liquid realities, zombies concepts: the lexicon of politics in globalization: Alfer.

Beck, Ulrich (2003). Individualization. Institutionalized individualism and its social and political consequences, Barcelona: Polity Press.



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