The Political Consequences of Late Modernity

  • Peter Kolarz


The utopian realist perspective enables a reading of Giddens that makes his analysis of late modernity defensible in relation to its critics; however, there is no indication of how exactly his analysis of late modernity points towards social reform or transformation. This is problematic, firstly because Giddens explicitly notes that this is the aim of his work, and secondly because without a clear focus on how to achieve social transformation, his analysis of late modernity is vulnerable to charges of elitism. To address these points, we need to consider one further element of his analysis of late modernity. Having told the story of globalization, post-traditionalism and reflexivity, and having provided evidence that he is essentially aware of structural constraints inhibiting these developments, The Consequences of Modernity and Modernity and Self-identity both conclude with a discussion about the need for political action.1 In both works, he makes the distinction between ‘emancipatory politics’ and ‘life politics’ (1990: 156, 1991a: 209–10). This distinction lines up with the tension identified in his analysis of late modernity between the potential for a more empowered, reflexive self on one hand and the forces inhibiting its emergence on the other. Emancipatory politics is the term Giddens chooses to summarize what most scholars of politics will identify as the principal well-established struggles between the political left and right:

… in all cases, the objective of emancipatory politics is either to release under-privileged groups from their unhappy condition, or to eliminate the relative differences between them …. Emancipatory politics is concerned to reduce or eliminate exploitation, inequality and oppression.

(Giddens, 1991a: 211)


Single Mother Structural Constraint Political Consequence Life Politics Policy Position 
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Copyright information

© Peter Kolarz 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Peter Kolarz
    • 1
  1. 1.Technopolis GroupUniversity of SussexUK

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