Biographical Uncertainties Around the Turn of the 20th and 21st Centuries and How They Were Overcome—A Comparative Historical Analysis Based on the Example of Artists

Helga Pelizäus-Hoffmeister


Many social scientists have concluded that people in contemporary society feel exposed to increasing biographical uncertainties and therefore find it more and more difficult to predict, estimate, and plan the course of their lives. The same view prevails in public discourse. I ask myself, has not "modern" people always had to deal with biographical uncertainties? Does not permanent change, which is the main characteristic of modern society, constantly create new uncertainties that inevitably affect the course of individuals' lives? Biographies dating back to the beginning of the 20th century therefore reveal startling similarities with modern-day biographies. Whether we can really talk of an increase in perceived uncertainties regarding the course of individuals' lives is a matter that has to date remained unclarified in empirically oriented biography research. And so my aim is to infer change tendencies by comparing the biographical uncertainty perceptions of two sample groups from different periods of time. A qualitative analysis of two different groups of artists from around the turn of the 20th and 21st centuries revealed which biographical uncertainties the artists experienced and how they overcame these uncertainties. It was revealed that changes took place in the course of time. The results are not only exemplary but also provide clues as to the nature of more general transformation tendencies. URN: urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs0801358


biographical (un)certainties; qualitative social research; biography research; historical research; artists

Copyright (c) 2008 Helga Pelizäus-Hoffmeister

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