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Date of Award

1976

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

Sociology

Supervisor

V. W. Marshall

Language

English

Abstract

Individuals form their identities within the context of their social system. The conditions peculiar to modern mass society, therefore, effect the individuals formation of self.

A discussion of mass society in the first section of the thesis sets the stage for the examination of the individual in this society in the latter half. Mass society is a highly stratified differentiated social system. It is "classless" only to the degree that mass culture has standardized consumption. Individuals in contemporary society live the paradox of equality in terms of consumption but inequality in terms of the occupational status hierarchy. This paradox is a function of social control. The individual is manipulated within this social context, consumption becoming a superficial status equalizer which does not change the fundamental stratification pattern.

Individuals of lower occupational stratum have more difficulty forming an identity within this social system than those of higher occupational levels. Their occupations do not demand commitment, therefore they do not include high degrees of socialization. The result is that individuals of lower occupational status do not identify with their work. They suffer from an "incomplete" identity; they are dominated, therefore, by the identity which they formed under the conditions of primary socialization. They cannot internalize the reality of secondary socialization.

The individual, however, does not become dissatisfied or recognize the source of his identity problems. Instead. he is lulled or compensated by the production-consumption system which created his identity problems. The wealth of conspicuous consumption which serves as status symbols no longer serves the purpose of status differentiation. Instead, consumption serves a "new" compensatory function. This new function takes the form of production images, made up of a combination of material goods which serve as the props for a manufactured, highly visible style or "identity". Lower status individuals who are still attempting to achieve higher status assume extra-occupational roles; individuals who resign themselves to their low status seek only to mask this status, therefore they assume these production images.

McMaster University Library

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