Social Theory, Social Policy and Ageing

By Carroll L. Estes; Simon Biggs et al. | Go to book overview

3 Age and identity

Key points:
Stability and fluidity in ageing identities.
Sources of choice, grounding and fragmentation.
The relationship between bodily and social aspects of ageing.
Age identity as negotiated and managed.

Introduction

The previous chapter established the broad characteristics of social theory in gerontology. The next two chapters narrow the focus somewhat, starting first of all with studies concerning the changing nature of identity in old age. Debates about age and identity are often arguments for or against taking a particular stance toward the personal and social experience of growing older. The contested nature of ageing as a social phenomenon is in part a consequence of identity as a meeting point for various attributes that are, more often than not, taken to be bipolar and mutually exclusive. The list extends beyond personal and social factors to include phenomenal and structural ones, the distinction between internal and external worlds, and agency versus determinism. The concept of identity, of selfhood as experienced reflexively by the self and observed by others, stands at the crossroads of these different perspectives. It also crosses disciplinary boundaries, most notably between social and developmental psychology and sociology, but also extending to include biology and medicine. It tells us who we are as we age and what we can expect from life. As such, it is perhaps unsurprising that ageing identities, both as a medium for active subjectivity and as subject to institutional control, have also been the object of considerable political and policy interest (Phillipson 1998; Biggs 2001; Estes et al. 2001b).

The purpose of this chapter is to begin to analyse some of the social theories

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Social Theory, Social Policy and Ageing
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Acknowledgements viii
  • 1: An Introduction to Social Theory, Social Policy and Ageing 1
  • 2: Social Theory and Ageing 8
  • 3: Age and Identity 25
  • 4: Feminist Perspectives and Old Age Policy 44
  • 5: Productive Ageing, Self-Surveillance and Social Policy 63
  • 6: Biomedicalization, Ethics and Ageing 79
  • 7: Ageing and Globalization 102
  • 8: The Politics of Ageing 122
  • 9: Conclusion 145
  • Bibliography 155
  • Index 185
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