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Choice and identity

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  1. Introduction.
  2. Adolescence.
  3. Slavery.
  4. Identity under the free market.
  5. Conclusion - the information age.

In the United States, the ideology of individualism predominates. The individual, as opposed to the family, community, tribe, or hierarchy, is seen as the central social agent. This individualism allows for greater individual freedom ? people have the ability to create and then to recreate themselves. Indeed, there are even some very basic narratives of recreation: the young Midwesterner goes to New York or Los Angeles to pursue the arts and experience freedom; families in overcrowded cities head West where the land is cheap and the air is clean; immigrants from all over the world come to the US with nothing and become?Americans!

[...] The Internet is now a site of mass production and mass consumption, the way television and other mass media before it are. There is a certain amount of reinvention allowed, but this reinvention is no more than the reinvention of the frontier, or of the big city. One can make one's self a star (appropriate for celebrity culture), or a businessperson (late capitalism), or a blogger-intellectual, or switch genders (to act out stereotyped and heavily mediated sex fantasies), but there is no qualitative change underway. [...]

[...] The other possibility the other choice is to claim the status of a diligent worker as opposed to the welfare recipients and beggars that are a common sight on the site of these McJobs. (Brooks-Gunn et al 1996, p. 334) This is the marketplace at work. Free markets transcend regulation and social stigma in market ideology individual actors make rational choices that lead to greatest social goods. Bans on the sale of drugs and guns, for example, are interventions in the marketplace. [...]

[...] 261) The career is a good place to examine the possibilities of choice and identity within our mass culture. Brooks-Gunn et al (1996), in a study of inner-city youth, found a great tension between the desire to work and make a living, and the stigma of working at the low-skilled "McJobs" that inner city youth can qualify for. Confronting this stigma is a lesson in the social pain involved in "marching to a different drummer." Harlem youth and their adult coworkers who accept low-wage jobs in the fast-food industry must run a gauntlet of criticism on the street that is basically relentless. [...]

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