We have charted some of the big issues that are the subject of contemporary debate and identified some of the ways in which these issues have been addressed within the social sciences. Most of these 'big issues' are associated with change and transformation. For example we have considered the role of identity in a world that has fast-changing modes of communication and representation and a rapidly changing political landscape. Identity is a key concept for the exploration and understanding of the links between the personal and the social, that which connects the individual to the wider society. This has particular resonance in a world that appears to have become more uncertain as a result of economic, social, technological and political changes and developments, and has seen an increasing interest in the self in western societies. A focus on identity provides a means of assessing the impact of change and the ways in which people attempt to secure their identities in the midst of both continuities and transformations. The discussion of multiple identities draws in many of the other dimensions of social relations and organization, all of which are implicated in the relationship between the individual and the society.
The question of citizenship raises debates about changing social relationships and identities and the ways in which some groups of people have challenged their exclusion from the mainstream of social, economic and political life as represented by a full participation in citizenship. Citizenship offers another means of interrogating the extent of change and the forms it takes. As a re-formed category the notion of citizenship permits a fuller discussion of what is involved in the exclusion and marginalization of some people and, to counter this, the key elements in the promotion of greater social inclusion.
Another key area of change is the transformation of the role of consumption and of the relationship between production and consumption. The notion that we live in a 'consumer society' lends the term some status and centrality in contemporary debates. The extent of this change of emphasis has been both endorsed and challenged and the apparent shift towards patterns of consumption as assuming particular importance in contemporary societies has been the subject of some