Contemporary British social theorist, arguably noteworthy for having provided a memetic explanation of social behaviour. Unlike Marxist theories, Giddens does not regard sociological explanations as being capable of explaning human agency. However, he does not consider random individual acts as fully accounting for social structures either. Giddens resolves this dichotomy through the process of social reproduction, a process easily described in memetic terms. In this sense, social norms are not necessarily something individuals can easily define when asked but which they will nonetheless recognise when confronted with even comparatively small deviations. As such, social norms both reinforce and replicate themselves.

Giddens draws a sharp line between what he terms pre-modern (traditional) cultures and modern (post-traditional) cultures. In pre-modern cultures, tradition is dominant and prescribes norms of individual behaviour rather than permitting reflection and critical evaluation (See: morals of abstinence?). In modern culture the tendency is towards a more reflexive state in which consideration is paramount. As such, attempts for societies to become modern can only be hindered by continued adherence to traditional norms such as gender inequality or homophobia. This distinction between pre and modern cultures may be regarded as analogous to the Virian distinction between ethics and morals.

In this context, self-identity becomes as reflexive as modern social structures. Where identity is not assigned through social norms, it must be considered. To Giddens identity can be described as a biographical narrative rather than a set of traits. In other words, it is much more dependent on the memetic repetoire accumulated by each individual in question.

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Last edited on Monday, January 13, 2003 8:08:48 am.