Postmodern Lives?

  • Jenny Hockey
  • Allison James


The question mark which punctuates the title of this chapter reflects a pervasive critique of postmodern approaches to social life. The notion that we can exercise choice and agency in our lives is often met with hollow laughter, the product of day-on-day frustration with unbending institutions or bureaucracies and wilfully non-compliant bodies. Laurie Taylor (1982), for example, introduces an account of the social construction of middle age with a description of his failure to exercise control over his ageing body at the health club:

For the first six months I was along there three times a week, riding bicycles into the ground, running no further than the spot on which I stood … this was the way to give new meaning to life, the key to a vigorous and productive middle age … it took me time to realise that the damn weights were interfering with almost every other aspect of my life … I was also permanently tired — something which wasn’t helped when a colleague pointed out that my second-floor health club was located directly above a business which described itself as The Tyre and Exhaust Centre (Taylor, 1982: preface).

Taylor then finally abandons his attempts to ‘look ten years younger’, choosing to settle for ‘the old comfortable version’ of middle age (1982: preface). Whilst acknowledging such criticisms of postmodern perspectives, this chapter makes their contribution to social theory its core focus. It does so by asking whether, and if so how, some of the inadequacies of structuralist and political economy accounts of human ageing discussed in previous chapters might be remedied by the postmodern focus on agency and choice.


Social Identity Parental Home Health Club Ageing Body High Modernity 
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© Jenny Hockey and Allison James 2003

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  • Jenny Hockey
  • Allison James

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