Analysis Of The Concept Of Epistemological Fallacy

Individuals appear to get rid of traditional communal context as status-based class and gender differentials society, however, instead of being ‘disembedded’ from a traditional one, young people in late modernity are actually re-embedded into a new pattern of establishing adult identities with individual reflexivity (France and Haddon, 2014). In this context individual choices are increasingly intensive while collective foundation is vaguer underlying the continuity of social structures’ impact on individuals’ choices (Furlong and Cartmel, 2007). The contradiction between subjectivity or individualist values and objective dimension has been seen as ‘epistemological fallacy’ of late modernity. It is therefore important to figure out how does epistemological fallacy influence the concerns about youth trajectories. This essay will briefly explain the concept of epistemological fallacy through the ideas of the relationship of structure and agency made by Giddens. And then it will emphasize the significance of late modernity which is mentioned by Giddens or Beck with lesser extent. Finally, to analyze how it is useful on youth, some youth transitions with epistemological fallacy will be pointed out, stressing on the economic section. 

In the first place, the relationship between social structure and agency heavily influences the pattern as epistemological fallacy in youth’s life. Structure is a pattern affecting people’s social life every moments. From Marxist theory suggests that theoretical classes and capitals are the key component of structure,implying that structure seems to be equal to the constraint and objectivity. In accordance with Evans(2002), ‘bounded agency’ implied that ‘individual choice’ was constrained underlying the class location and position. Giddens, however, argues that structure does not only participate in society but also involves in the subject which is called as ‘the actor’ and structure therefore necessarily involves in social production and reproduction rather than a obstacle for social actions. Agency advocated by Giddens involves in ‘intervention’ in flexible society and has a strong association with the notion of Praxis. Agency in this view is described as a regularized practice or situated practice between the action and structural theory. Another point which is also worth mentioning is the sense of ‘could have done otherwise’ from Giddens. Reflexivity appears to be the heart of agency when analyzing agency in a scientific perspective. The agent is intended to do any action by reflexive monitoring, which means that this kind of intentionality seems to determine the route of human actions while in fact there is also abnormal situations. Humans are required to change their actions sometimes due to others’ intention and then abstract their action for the society or the object, acting back on the structure. 

One version of social structure is that the structure is constituted of economic base and superstructure including legal political and ideological sections. Agency is suggested to be undetermined by structure and involves in changing the location rather than challenging the structure. For example, Giddens (1979) refers that the real is made up of time, space and structure as virtual time-space and later he suggests that young people are decreasing their attention to the essence of place. Nevertheless, it does not mean that young people are away from the objective world. Mediated experience could give young people attachment and choices, enabling to change the reality. These experience are not only gained from any particular places anymore, in other words, young people nowadays find their self-identities from different places, implying that the spatial but phantasmagoric places still necessarily shape young people’s biographies and their lives. Consequently, although agency shows the self-intention deciding human action, the concepts of agency and structure are interdependent. Moreover, even though the sense of individualism or subjectivity is increasing intensification and the collective traditions or social structure have been weakened, the existence of the continuity of their function as shaping young people’s choices is permanent. The trend of individualization directs to the dominant position for ‘agency’ while social structure still forms young people’s daily lives. The pattern as epistemological fallacy is thoroughly penentrated by embedding in the relationship of structure and agency. 

Apart from the concept of epistemological fallacy, another essential notion is late modernity which is also described as reflexive modernization by Giddens. Modernity is an era including both structure and agency. The depiction as ‘structured individualism’ for late modernity seems to be more appropriate rather than a ‘structured’ or ‘individualism’. One of the features of late modernity is social changes. Social changes happening in post-industrial economy society lead to many uncertainties and risks for young people in this generation. This risks derive from the changes in education, labour market, patterns of dependency or lifestyles with youth transitions. Both of Giddens and Beck argue that the world appears to be constructed by increasingly intensive subjectivity while it seems to be an exaggerated description of individuals. In the contrast, Elias tested Beck’s opinion and claims that individuals are associated with each other tightly and the chains among individuals contribute to a mode as homo clausus historically, which advocates the solid position of social structure again. The reconciliation between objective and subjective dimensions should be depicted as a complex relationship of social interdependencies instead of dualism as living in such a modern society full of uncertainties and risks. In short, epistemological fallacy could be understood in social structural changes within the features of late modernity itself. Youth transitions play a necessary and useful role in the extent of epistemological fallacy. In Furlong and Cartmel’s view, young people are in the crossroad of social reproduction underlying the class and gender division. One of the most obvious transitions are the greater protraction and diversification of transitions from school to work. Post-Fordist industrial society has an increasing demand for higher educational qualifications and diversity of skills due to the restructuring of the youth labour market. Collective employment experience has been weakened by these ‘nomadic multi-activity’ processes with an intensification of individualization. Young people are not only required to extend their period of education or change their educational route map different from the clearer one in the previous generation. At the same time, it is possibly to result in unprecedented vulnerabilities ,insecurities or self-deception with subjective orientation.

 Class location impacts on scholastic performance remarkably all the time even if it seems to be in a more flexible and dynamic in the risk society. Age, gender and family background strongly determine the educational outcomes. The middle class are able to make their ‘cultural’ and ‘social capital’ as tools to support their children with education. The increasingly fragmented experiences, however, instead of a significant influence on social reproduction, strengthen cross-class interactions in higher education, revolving around epistemological fallacy (Furlong and Cartmel, 2007). In particular, this transition could reproduce the disadvantaged working-class people socially, culturally and economically according to early analysis. Additionally, epistemological fallacy also could be seen in the transitions of family and housing while the economic section is the most noticeable. When it comes to a convergence of class culture illustrated by social changes, changes in leisure and lifestyle are shaped by mass marketing techniques (Furlong and Cartmel, 2007). With the enrichment of economy patterns, a polarization of social life strikes young people who are in the position of weakness in traditional social structures. Moreover, changes in health, criminal activities and political orientations among young people shows that even though young people have more choices in these areas, it is continuously difficult for the people excluded from the consumer market owing to a lack of resources of culture and finance to find a way out of the dilemma. Subjective interpretations are limited by the objective experiences, implying the influence of epistemological fallacy within the youth trajectories.

In summary, epistemological fallacy cannot be simply interpreted as ‘blind’ circumstances. The concept of epistemological fallacy can be analyzed with the relationship between social structure and the agency. Social structures such as class or gender are still be able to provide the framework of young people’s lives though the individualization values have become to reinforce the extent of the subjectivity. After all, power plays a key role as transformative capacity with culture or financial resources in structural analysis and meanwhile power also concerns in the centre of human agency, which means that power involves in agents’ intended actions to reaching particular outcomes (Giddens, 1979). Collective issues in late modernity are regularly solved by individual actions with the responsibility of inevitable failure by young people themselves without realizing the real power chains.  

16 December 2021
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