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Individualization and the aporias of modernity

Argyrou, Vassos


Vassos Argyrou


Ulrich Beck’s musings on individualization have been described as a theory that provides a convincing explanation of what is happening in society, but has it seemed convincing because of its superior explanatory power or because it says what those who have been convinced wanted to hear anyway? This paper argues that, far from explaining more or better, the theory is haunted by intractable contradictions and paradoxes and that, at the root of these problems, is the sociological imagination itself, which insists on treating modernity as an empirical reality. This paper’s contention, by contrast, is that there is no such thing as modernity in society and history. It is an empty signifier, a phantom or, to use Beck’s own colourful terminology, a ‘zombie category’.


Argyrou, V. (2014). Individualization and the aporias of modernity. International Political Anthropology, 7(2), 3-18

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date 2014
Deposit Date Jan 25, 2017
Publicly Available Date Jan 25, 2017
Journal International political anthropology
Electronic ISSN 2283-9887
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 7
Issue 2
Pages 3-18
Keywords Aporias, Autonomy, Beck, Individualization, Modernity, Sociological imagination
Public URL
Additional Information This is a copy of an open access article published in International Political Anthropology, 2014, v.7 issue 2. The journal is accessible by registering an individual account at


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