A sociological conceptualization of personal reflexivity
Sociology CIES-ISCTE Lisbon, Portugal
In recent sociological work, the notion of reflexivity appears implicitly (rather than explicitly) as referring to an integral part of the daily experiences of individuals in contemporary societies. However, not much has been said about the operating processes through which people reflect about the social world and the ways they act in social contexts. This paper is part of a PhD research with the main goal of contributing to the understanding of the processes and mechanisms of personal reflexivity. The analysis focuses on higher education students due to their participation on a privileged (educational) context for the promotion of reflexivity and because they address the need to make choices in contexts of multiple articulations and transitions between phases and spheres of life. The research aims at describing and analysing the processes through which students confer meaning to their pathways, and the ways their reflexivity is articulated with the different social contexts in which they participate. Regarding the social complexity of individuals, theoretical and methodological procedures of a sociological analysis at the individual level are adopted.
In this paper the discussion is centred on the main theoretical approaches that can contribute for the analytical understanding of the various ways individuals think about themselves and about their social circumstances. Special critical attention is given to the works of Anthony Giddens, Pierre Bourdieu, Bernard Lahire and Margaret Archer. The main goal of the paper is to identify and problematize the main sociological dimensions that can be mobilized for the operationalization of the concept of personal reflexivity. It is argued that reflexivity coexists in complex and singular ways with the systems of dispositions of each individual. As a component of human subjectivity, reflexivity must be understood considering the different spheres of socialisation of individuals and the ways these social domains articulate and interpenetrate in setting not only people's goals and life projects but also their reflexive competences.