Strategies and Concepts to Aid Analysis of Individualization in Modern Societies

Jens O. Zinn


With BECK's (1986) thesis of a new thrust of individualization a discussion on processes of social change in post-WW II-Germany has been unfolding since the 1980s. The occasionally indistinct terminology and its varied usages have repeatedly led to misunderstandings. A central problem lies in the explicit or implicit assumptions: i.e., on how the consequences of action are related to the meaning ascribed to them and on the relationship of social structure to institutions and social agents. Since these assumptions address the core of the individualization theory they themselves must be subjected to empirical analysis instead of simply being taken for granted. This weakness is connected to the established research traditions in post-WW II-Germany (such as in social structure analysis, biography research and discourse analysis). Each of the different research paradigms, on its own, permits only very limited statements on the processes of individualization. This contribution shows how strategies combining qualitative and quantitative data and methods can be used to examine processes of social change as well as the thesis of societal individualization. Starting from the differentiation between institutional and personal individualization (ZINN 2001), an empirical research design for examining subjective individualization processes will be presented. Here, the combination of qualitative and quantitative data and methods is of special importance. Using an example from life course research, it will be shown how with sampling, type formation, standardized data collection and cluster-analytical reproduction of a typology a qualitative and a quantitative research approach can be combined and how they can benefit each other.
URN: urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs020171


combination of methods; social change; individualization; type formation; sampling; cluster analysis; life course research; biography research


Copyright (c) 2002 Jens O. Zinn

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