A Reflection of Reflexivity: Galen Smith

A Reflection on Reflexivity
Galen Smith

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 It is true what you say... I live like a hermit in my own head. - Ben Gibbard
I. Introduction

The concept of reflexivity has long been submerged beneath the murkiest depths of modern social science. In its most obvious form, reflexivity refers to the exclusive ability of individuals to “consider themselves in relation to their (social) contexts and vice versa.”1 Alternatively, reflexivity can be compared to self-reflection and even self-consciousness – or the process where an individual can conceive of their own existence amidst social reality, and can deliberately map out a course of action in accordance with internal compulsions and external constraints. Reflexivity, in this sense, is closely tied to agency, and represents an important constituting force for observable causal action. The reflexive individual has a long history dating at least as far back as Descartes and much of the Enlightenment tradition. The historical determinism of Hegel and Marx also hinges upon the reflexive individual, who is capable of driving historical progress through the constant exercise of self-reflection and transcendence of ideational and material impediments. Even critical theorists, from Nietzsche to Foucault, must have at least implicitly embraced reflexivity – for how else could they hope to explain the origins of their respective critiques if they did not have the cognitive capacity to reflect upon the past, present, and future through the relative detachment from societal contexts which surrounded them?

Despite reflexivity’s seemingly preponderant historic influence on various modes of thought,
it receded from view during much of the 20th century. Perhaps this was due to the expansion of the
empiricist tradition in both natural and social sciences, which elevated the conception of Humean
causation to the forefront of legitimate knowledge acquisition. Reflexivity’s inherently abstract and
cognitive dimension would certainly find no place within such a mainstream of epistemological and

1 Margaret Archer, Making our Way through the World: Human Reflexivity and Social Mobility (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007): p. 4.
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methodological narrowness. Yet the last three decades have embraced a re-emergence of reflexivity, due largely to the rapid social changes that have occurred at the behest of globalization. This renewed focus, credited to Anthony Giddens, Ulrich Beck and Scott Lash’s 1984 collaboration, has centered on the influence of reflexive modernity upon the rapid global changes that have characterized the late 20th and early 21st centuries.2 While conceptions of reflexive modernity differ significantly, consensus seems to fall on the idea that reflexive modernity refers to an impending global reality that is incompatible with traditional society. The central differences between reflexive modernity and traditional society include the retreat of structural influences as well as the expansion of the autonomous, self-monitoring, and self-reflective individual.

Reflexive modernity has stimulated a great deal of intellectual discussion, with reflexivity
once again central to the understanding of social change. While the resurrection of reflexivity is an
exciting development, the literature on reflexivity remains frustratingly disparate – a predictable
symptom of a discourse that dually addresses change and the agent/structure dilemma. The modest
goal of this paper will therefore be to present a concise overview of the recent literature on the
concept of reflexivity. Such a survey will begin with an elaboration of reflexive modernity, which
will necessarily provide a foundational understanding for the subsequent discussion on variants of
reflexive modernity, including the agential, meta-, hybrid, and synthetic conceptions. Agential
reflexivity, furthered by Anthony Giddens, represents a variant that equates reflexive modernity with
the ascendance of the self-reflective individual. Meta-reflexivity, promoted by Pierre Bourdieu and
Ulrich Beck, accuses Giddens’ agential reflexivity as exaggerated, and instead observes reflexivity as a
systemic rather than an individual characteristic. Hybrid reflexivity subsumes a variety of positions
that seek a middle ground between the agential and meta-positions, and centers on Lash’s aesthetic
position that suggests that reflexivity is external, intrinsic to structures and agents, and deeply

2 Ulrich Beck, Anthony Giddens and Scott Lash, Reflexive Modernization: Politics, Tradition and Aesthetics in the Modern Social Order (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1994.
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dividing. A final position, articulated by Karen Archer, attempts to offer a synthetic understanding of reflexivity by rejecting the limitations of reflexive modernity in favor of an approach that had wider explanatory power across time.

This review will conclude with an exploration of the impact of reflexivity on the discipline of international relations, particularly within constructivism. While some limited discussion has been offered in passing by scholars such as Alexander Wendt, Petr Drulak, and Stefano Guzzini, such positions are underdeveloped. This is unfortunate, considering the fact that the fall of the Soviet Union has provided an incredible point of reference for the re-examination of reflexivity (an opportunity that has been seized by sociologists). By combining the sociological and international relations literature within a single examination, the hope is that a deeper understanding of reflexivity can be attained.

II. Reflexive Modernity

The rebirth of reflexivity has largely been considered in relation to reflexive modernity, understood as an impending reality that is both detached and opposed to both traditional and modern social organization. The debate on reflexive modernity generally focuses on the redrawing of boundaries between structures and individuals, required because embedded social structures of the traditional and modern epochs are no longer able to function within a globalized world. In some senses this retreat can be measured in terms of a loss in traditional forms of “monitoring,” since traditional societies were once capable of “handling time and space” through the process of integrating individual activity within “the continuity of the past, present, and future,” effectively structuringagency.3 This“de-traditionalization”beganwiththetransitionfromtraditionalsocietyto modern society, yet was incomplete due to continued forms of stratification that existed within

3 Anthony Giddens, The Consequences of Modernity (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1990): p. 37.
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modernity, including the nation-state, territorial boundaries, social classes, the sexual division of labor, and the nuclear family.4 Reflexive modernity is not perceived as a phase following traditional society, but rather, a period that marks the emergence of a modernity that is stripped of traditional influences – becoming what Ulrich Beck calls “autonomized modernity.”5

Autonomized modernity can be described as an epoch where the claim of individualism inherent to modernity actually comes to fruition, a consequence of the unintended transition from industrial society to the “turbulence of the global risk society.”6 The more that “modernization undercuts modernization,” the “more the foundations of industrial society are dissolved, consumed, changed and threatened.”7 This process is perceived by Beck as “unintended and unseen” due to the rapidity of change that has occurred in the increasingly globalized world, with advanced forms of technology, transportation, and communication influencing a massive erosion in the barriers that demarcated social groups in the past.8 With social structures no longer capable of monitoring action, a shift in authority occurs from “without to within,” as individuals and groups are forced to reflect upon their own practices to fill the void previously occupied by assumptions of traditional organization.9 In reflexive modernity, “assumptions become the object of reflection and analysis at precisely the point when tried and trusted principles and structures fail, when the logic of an established system begins to implode.”10 Giddens explains that “thought and action are constantly refracted upon one another” and “social practices are constantly examined and reformed in the light

4 Ulrich Beck, Wolfgang Bonss, and Christoph Lau, “The Theory of Reflexive Modernization: Problematic, Hypothesis and Research Programme,” Theory, Culture & Society, Vol. 20, No. 2 (2003): p. 1.
5 Ulrich Beck, “The reinvention of politics: towards a theory of reflexive modernization,” in Ulrich Beck, Anthony Giddens and Scott Lash, Reflexive Modernization: Politics, Tradition and Aesthetics in the Modern Social Order (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1994): p. 6.
6 Ibid, p. 7.
7 Ulrich Beck, “Replies and Critiques: Self-Dissolution and Self-Endangerment of Industrial Society: What Does This Mean?” in Ulrich Beck, Anthony Giddens and Scott Lash, Reflexive Modernization: Politics, Tradition and Aesthetics in the Modern Social Order (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1994): p. 176.
8 Ibid.
9 Paul Heelas, “Introduction: Detraditionalization and its Rivals,” in Paul Heelas, Scott Lash & Paul Morris, eds. Detraditionalization (Cambridge: Blackwell Publishers, 1996): p. 2.
10 Barbara Adam, “Reflexive Modernization Temporalized,” Theory, Culture & Society, Vol. 20, No. 2 (2003): p. 60.
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of incoming information about those very practices,” not because individuals demand freedom, but because the system has become characteristic of “wholesale reflexivity.”11

Reflexive modernity also subsumes the transition in science away from epistemological positivism toward postmodernist, hermeneutic, and scientific realist positions. Giddens observes that reflexivity “subverts reason where reason is understood as the gaining of certain knowledge,”12 thereby supporting the turn toward what Latour describes as the “heightened awareness that mastery is impossible.”13 Scott Lash argues that the impact of the intellectuals of the Frankfurt School as well as Nietzsche, Heidegger, Foucault, and Derrida is proof of the shift toward reflexive modernity unfathomable in the empiricist and positivist traditions.14 The retreat of the welfare state, the nuclear family, the class divide, religion, and the sexual division of labor further characterize this “creative (self-)destruction for an entire epoch” – this “lack of social structure which establishes itselfasthebasicfeatureofsocialstructure”withinreflexivemodernity.15 Whilemanyvariationson reflexive modernity have been articulated (and will be covered shortly), the general consensus among sociologists revolves around the idea that the reflexive modernity of the late 20th and early 21st centuries is characterized by the expansion of individualism, self-monitoring, and self-reflection, a result not of conscious emancipation, but rather, a necessary reaction to the disintegration of traditional structures that have historically provided social order.

11 Giddens, Consequences, p. 38-39.
12 Ibid, p. 39.
13 Bruno Latour, “Is Re-modernization Occurring – And If So, How to Prove It?” Theory, Culture & Society, Vol. 20, No. 2 (2003): p. 36... also referenced in Beck et. al. “Reflexive Modernization,” p. 3
14 Scott Lash, “Replies and Critiques: Expert-systems or Situated Interpretation? Culture and Institutions in Disorganized Capitalism,” in Ulrich Beck, Anthony Giddens and Scott Lash. Reflexive Modernization: Politics, Tradition and Aesthetics in the Modern Social Order (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1994): p. 212.
15 Matthew Adams. “Hybridizing Habitus and Reflexivity: Towards an Understanding of Contemporary Identity?” Sociology, Vol. 40, No. 3 (2006): p. 512.
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III. Agential Reflexivity
The first approach that will be analyzed is Giddens’ agent-centered conception of reflexive modernity. While Giddens would not dispute the structural disintegration that has enabled the expansion of reflexivity, it is clear that such an occurrence has elevated the individual to a position of great importance for the study of reflexive modernity. It is important to briefly explore Giddens’ structuration approach to society, which will inform the remainder of the discussion on agential reflexivity. Structuration theory argues that agents and structures only meaningfully exist in conjunction. Since agents are inherently embedded within social reality, they are unobservable as detached individuals. Since structures (defined as rules and resources) are strictly material, they only exist (or gain meaning) when instantiated or called upon by individuals. This perspective, adequately termed “central conflation” by Margaret Archer, exclusively focuses upon practice and interaction, the only point in time that agents and structures are co-constituted and co-instantiated, and thus both meaningful observables.

The advent of reflexive modernity, as stated in the previous section, is the result of the
disintegration of traditional social structures unable to adapt to a world increasingly integrated by
alternative structural influences. This has a profound impact upon the agent, who was in the past
accustomed to identifying (and instantiating) the self in relation to the constraints of traditional
structures. Reflexive modernity, therefore, is an epoch exclusively focused upon the “reflexively
organized endeavor” of identity formation, with social change interpreted through the alternative
instantiations required of individuals living within a context overpopulated by fleeting structural
influences.16 Individuals, free of strong traditional influences, acquire the opportunity to stand back
from, critically reflect upon, and lose their faith in what the traditional has to offer.”17 Giddens
views the expansion of consumer culture and the recent obsession with bodily appearance as

16 Anthony Giddens, Modernity and Self-Identity (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1991): p. 5. 17 Heelas, “Detraditionalization,” p. 4.
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evidence of the inward focus on self and the body that has emerged in place of past forms of social identification.18 Theprocessofreflexivitycanbecomparedtothewritingofanewspaperintheway that the content is ordered based upon the desired outcome – in other words, the plethora of fleeting structural influences characteristic of modernity are no longer imposed upon the individual, butareratherselectedbytheindividualforinclusionintothedesiredconceptionofself.19 Thisisan important observation, because the claim is being made that in reflexive modernity, “engaging in a particular lifestyle no longer reflects social constraints but says something about who we as individuals have decided we want to be.”20 As can be imagined, this assertion has been heavily criticized by more structural interpretations of reflexivity.

It should be noted that the increased influence of the reflexive individual does not
necessarily imply notions of progress or societal improvement – it is merely a consequence of de-
traditionalization. Giddens emphasizes the neutrality of his claim by explaining that reflexivity
creates many opportunities of “appropriation” but also generates “powerlessness,” since no final
authorities exist to guide individuals down a path of certainty (this is a central aspect of Beck’s risk
society, which will be explored later).21 Giddens also interprets the expanding influence of
psychological disorders as a product of the reflexive turn, with anorexia a particularly evident
symptom of self-mutilation based upon the desire for perceived perfection of self-appearance.22
One of the ways in which people are able to cope with the absence of structural constraint is
through adherence to what Giddens calls expert-systems, which refer to the discourses of the
intellectual community.23 This can be most readily observed in the expanding influence of
psychology and self-help literature over the last two decades. As reflexive modernity deconstructs

18 Giddens, Modernity, p. 7.
19 Ibid, p. 188.
20 Paul Sweetman, “Twenty-first Century Dis-ease? Habitual Reflexivity or the Reflexive Habitus,” The Sociological Review, Vol. 51, No. 4 (2003): p. 529.
21 Ibid, p. 191-192.
22 Ibid, p. 103-108.
23 Scott Lash, “Reflexive Modernization: the Aesthetic Dimension,” Theory, Culture and Society, Vol. 10, No. 1 (1993): p. 8.
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the value of traditional relationships, expert-systems come to replace face-to-face interaction as the trustedavenueforsocialinquiry.24 Basedonthisargument,thereflexiveindividualstilldesiressome degree of structural integrity despite the expanded freedoms of reflexive modernity.
IV. Meta-reflexivity
In contrast to Giddens’ agent-driven reflexive modernity, several scholars have focused exclusively upon the reflexive potential of the entire social system. Pierre Bourdieu offers the most radical critique of Giddens’ individualism in his renowned Logic of Practice. Bourdieu, in a similar fashion as structuration, argues for an interpretation of society that focuses upon practice. The major difference between Giddens and Bourdieu is that Bourdieu opposes even an analytical distinction between agents and structures, instead focusing upon the habitus, complexly defined as “systems of durable, transposable dispositions, structured structures predisposed to function as structuring structures, that is, as principles which generate and organize practices and representations that can be objectively adapted to their outcomes without presupposing a conscious aiming at ends.”25 Agency is limited to what Bourdieu equates to a “feel for the game,” in which individuals have an infinite capacity for generating thoughts, perceptions and actions so long as they derive from past experiences, which shape the habitus in a completely unconscious way.26 Reflection, in the sense of pausing to evaluate the self within the social context, is fallacious when considering an individual who is actually embedded with the demands of time and space. Decisions, actions, and thought only occur in “conditions which exclude distance, perspective, detachment, and

24 Scott Lash, “Reflexivity and its Doubles: Structure, Aesthetics, Community,” in Ulrich Beck, Anthony Giddens and Scott Lash, Reflexive Modernization: Politics, Tradition and Aesthetics in the Modern Social Order (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1994): p. 115.
25 Pierre Bourdieu, The Logic of Practice (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1980): p. 53.
26 Ibid, p. 66.

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reflexion.”27 Yet, if a wider conception of reflexivity can be envisioned in which reflexivity is an instantaneous and unconscious reaction of the habitus, then reflexivity is certainly present within Bourdieu, albeit in a highly structured and automatic form.

This general understanding of practice as the permanent connection between all components of society through the functioning of the habitus always occurs within a field, or a “social subsystem of patterned practices which suggest competent action in conformity with rules and roles, where agents, endowed with certain field-relevant or irrelevant capital, attempt to advance their position.”28 While Bourdieu’s theory has centered primarily on isolated fields in traditional societies, within which reflexive intervention is “beyond the grasp of consciousness,” he has acknowledged that a disconnect between the habitus and the field can occur during “times of crisis,” potentially forcing the habitus to take on reflexive properties of self-reflection.29 Considering that Bourdieu has not endorsed the reflexive modernity perspective, the parallels between his “time of crisis” and de- traditionalization are striking. Nonetheless, reflexivity must be interpreted not as an attribute of the individual, but as an aggregate property managed by the habitus, which always remains the arbiter of social practice even if fields overlap or dissolve.

While Bourdieu never chose to approach reflexivity in detail, scholars such as Paul Sweetman have attempted to examine the interplay between reflexive modernization and the habitus. Sweetman argues that the “flexible or reflexive habitus” has developed due to the “various economic, social and cultural shifts” that are characteristic of reflexive modernity.30 While such a habitus gives off the appearance of a reflective individual, Sweetman remains close to Bourdieu by asserting that the reflexive habitus is “unreflexively adopted,” and is merely a reflexivity that has become

27 Ibid, p. 82.
28 Explanation of Bourdieu’s field found in Stefano Guzzini, “A reconstruction of constructivism in International Relations,” European Journal of International Relations, Vol. 6, No. 2 (2000): p. 165.
29 Sweetman, “Dis-ease?” p. 535.
30 Ibid, p. 528.
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“habitual” or “second-nature” to various individuals and/or groups.31 The reasons for the transformation of the habitus lie in the shifting demands of modernity. Sweetman explains that shifting demands create a situation where crises become ubiquitous to everyday life in the sense that past experiences of routine and tradition no longer inform a successful “feel for the game.” The habitus is, therefore, forced to take on a reflexive dimension in order to find the “feel for the game” that fits with a world where rules and patterns are less certain – where fields frequently overlap and dissolve. Crossley develops a similar argument, explaining that “our very capacity for reflexivity is rooted in the habitus,” a necessary observation due to the reality of de-traditionalization.32 While these positions extend Bourdieu’s analysis of habitus into the realm of reflexivity, it is important to realize that such approaches remain within the confines of meta-reflexivity, since individuals do not gain an awareness of their own reflective capabilities.

Ulrich Beck represents an alternative approach to meta-reflexivity in taking an interest in the structural aspects of reflexive modernity (rather than the agential or praxis aspects). Beck is quick to make this assertion in much of this work by offering the key differences between reflexivity and reflection. Reflexivity refers to the disintegration of social structures that results from reflexive modernization, and necessarily precedes the potential for reflection, which refers to the knowledge of inward focus and contemplation central to the work of Giddens.33 Beck makes the decision to theorize about the impacts that society as a whole will experience as social structures dwindle, within what he calls the risk-society – a society governed by self-monitoring. Beck is interested in such impacts for two important reason: 1) the risk society presents severe dangers to social organization, and 2) these dangers are ignored because the risk society, contrary to being a deliberate product of reflexive freedoms, is a side effect of “autonomized modernization processes which are blind and deaf

31 Ibid, p. 537.
32 Nick Crossley, The Social Body: Habit, Identity and Desire (London: Sage, 2001): p. 137. 33 Beck, “Replies,” p. 175.
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to their own effects and threats.”34 The focus on reflexivity is necessarily structural because the claim is that reflexive modernity is characterized by societies that “radicalize themselves,” and are reflexive only in the way in which they bring to light their own discontinuities and incompatibilities.35
Such risk societies are characteristic of minimal security and monitoring capabilities, which are unable to keep up with the radical pace of reflexive modernity. The increased danger of the risk society is evidenced by the current volatility in markets, governments, and legal systems, the permeation of global threats such as terrorism, the internal battles within academia, and a widespread sense of insecurity that results from the increased “chance” and “danger.”36 In contrast to Giddens’ view on expert systems offering guidance in the face of numerous sources of information, Beck observes the opposite, with individuals growing exceedingly skeptical of intellectual discourse (and of society in general). There is little in Beck’s account that would lead one to believe that the reflective individual has any role to play in shaping reflexive modernity for the better – he even equates Giddens’ account of individualization (identity creation through chosen influences) as a unity of bastard children of one’s decisions.37 Based on this lack of faith in the individual to make anything of their reflexive capabilities, the focus necessarily shifts upon the systemic reflexivity brought on by the rapidity of high modernity/reflexive modernity and the general malaise that results from the decentralization, deregulation, and disintegration of traditional structures of society.

34 An example given by beck is modernity’s contradictory practices of needing and destroying natural resources. Beck, “Reinvention,” p. 6-7.
35 Beck, “Theory,” p. 1.
36 Ulrich Beck, World at Risk (Malden: Polity Press, 2009): p. 8-9.
37 Beck, “Reinvention,” p. 15.
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V. Hybrid Reflexivity

Many scholars have built upon the foundations laid by Giddens, Beck, and Bourdieu by finding that instances of meta-reflexivity and agential reflexivity coexist within reflexive modernity. Scott Lash is one of the central scholars of this tradition, and bases his hybrid argument on three observations. First, there is a subtle agreement with Giddens that reflexive modernization corresponds with an expansion of “agency,” but this does not occur as much from the disintegration of social structures as from the replacement of social structures by “information and communication structures.”38 Such structures, instead of fostering a universal expansion of reflexive potentiality, are discriminatory, creating reflexivity winners and losers (those who continue to be trapped in the work society of past modernity).39 A second observation is the aesthetic dimension of reflexivity, which varies from the cognitive aspect of reflexivity in the sense that it deals with external systemic discourse instead of internal subjective discourse. The word choice of “aesthetic” is complex, and relates to Frankfurt School critical theorists such as Adorno and Benjamin, but seems to regard the mimeticexerciseofexternalreflexivitythatcanbeseeninvariousformsofart.40 Finally,themiddle ground of agent/structure transformation and the external character of reflexivity inform a third observation, that reflexive modernity has paradoxically given rise to new malicious forms of community in rejection of the disconnect between the promise of individualization and the reality of discrimination (reflexivity winners and losers).41 The combination of these three observations yields a theory that understands reflexivity as an external outlet that reveals transformation to both agents and structures – leading to new forms of division and community.

38 Scott Lash, “Reflexivity and its Doubles: Structure, Aesthetics, Community,” in Ulrich Beck, Anthony Giddens and Scott Lash, Reflexive Modernization: Politics, Tradition and Aesthetics in the Modern Social Order (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1994): p. 111.
39 Ibid, p. 127-135.
40 Lash, “Replies,” p. 212.
41 Adams, “Hybridizing,” p. 520.
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A second strand of hybrid reflexivity builds a feminist critique into Lash’s observation of reflexivity winners and losers. Scholars such as McKay and Adam have argued that reflexive modernity has expanded agential reflexivity while maintaining the division of sexual labor of past modernity, resulting in a systemic reflexivity that privileges the reflexive agency only for some (men).42 Such theories also incorporate Bourdieu’s habitus to explain the unconscious acceptance of such discrimination within reflexive modernity, with the sexual division of labor representing a much more rigid disposition within the habitus than reflexive action. Craib offers a slightly different explanation in that the acquisition of reflexive capabilities may be universally expanded, but the reality of structural barriers leaves many with a concept of freedom but no ability to actually make use of it.43 Green finds that such constraints have profound effects upon self-esteem, especially among women who are forced to confront more rigid structural barriers than men. The grim conclusion is that “reflexivity in this context does not bring choice, just a painful awareness of the lackofit.”44 Byaddressingmorethansimplytheeffectsonagencyorstructure,theworkonhybrid reflexivity offers a necessary dimension of complexity that is needed to better conceptualize the impact of reflexivity within the modern world.

VI. Synthetic Reflexivity

In typical fashion, Margaret Archer has attempted to influence the debate on reflexivity in a big way with her recent contribution on a synthetic approach to reflexive modernity. Archer initially emphasizes that reflexivity has always been part of human agency, dispelling the fetishism towards reflexive modernity that defines many other contributors to the concept of reflexivity. Archer

42 Lois McNay, “Gender, Habitus and the Field: Pierre Bourdieu and the Limits of Reflexivity,” Theory, Culture & Society, Vol. 16, No. 1 (1999): pp. 95–117.
43 Ian Craib, Anthony Giddens (New York: Routledge, 1992): p. 150 – found in Adams, “Hybridizing,” p. 522.
44 Adams, “Hybridizing,” p. 525.
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instead seeks to include reflexivity into the framework of her morphogenetic approach.45 To briefly summarize, the morphogenetic approach is an attempt to understand the interaction between agents and structures through analytical dualism. By splitting agents and structures into analytically distinct pieces (and thereby rejecting conflationist theories), Archer is able extend a theory of interaction between the two across time, with structural constraints constituting the first phase of the sequence (T1) (themselves the product of past morphogenetic cycles). Social interaction follows, first between agents and structures (T2) – leaving the agents with a conception of the constraining and enabling features that exist within the system – and then between agents and other agents (T3). Agential interaction finally comes full circle by influencing the structural forces (T4), which then constitute the next structural realities of following sequences of interaction. Archer’s focus on reflexivity can be understood as an attempt to magnify the action occurring at T2, when individuals have been shaped by the structural environment and are preparing to engage in social interaction.
It is important to understand Archer’s ontological assumption that the individual agent in her theory has some degree of autonomy from the social environment, in the sense that individuals conduct “reflexive inner dialogue” with themselves prior to acting in the world – in some senses similar to what is implicitly suggested by Giddens (and opposed by Bourdieu).46 Archer claims that evidence of such individuality arises from the agential capacity to formulate “projects,” or “things that people pursue in order to protect/advance their interests.”47 Projects are what activate social forces – with projects congruent with social structures receiving positive structured feedback and projects incongruent receiving negative feedback.48 Archer attempts to specify this internal dialogue with the positing of a three step reflective process. First, similar to the morphogenetic approach,

45 Margaret Archer, Realist Social Theory: The Morphogenetic Approach (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995): p. 76, 82.
46 Archer, Making Our Way, p. 16.
47 Ibid, p. 6-10.
48 Ibid.
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“structural and cultural properties objectively shape situations agents confront,” effectively limiting the courses of possible action that follow.49 Second, the individual summons “subjectively defined concerns in relation to nature, practice, and the social,” meaning that the individual has the capacity to perceive of a variety of different sets of social actions and position them into a hierarchy. Finally, “action results from reflexive deliberations of subjects who subjectively determine their practical projects in relation to their objective circumstances,” implying that individuals have the cognitive ability (and the time, contrary to Bourdieu) to deliberately choose a given action over other actions based upon ideational interests and (perceived) realistic outcomes.50 This model of discernment, deliberation, and dedication, or DDD Model, suggests how agents move through the world.
Within this framework, Archer furthers two propositions. First, she settles on a loose
agreement with scholars of reflexive modernity on the impact that globalization (high modernity)
has had upon the reflexive capacity. Traditional society can be understood most readily through
morphostasis instead of morphogenesis since the “ideational environment is highly conducive to
structural maintenance.”51 Within such societies there is a limited ability to “re-envisage self or
social due to a lack of ideational and organization resources,” and even if such projects can be
articulated, they must contend with strong negative feedback loops.52 Therefore, the rapidity of
globalization and the disintegration of traditional boundaries inverts the norms of structural
elaboration by encouraging morphogenesis instead of morphostasis. Second, Archer point out that
not all people have the same reflective calculus. Archer identifies three reflexive “roles” that people
occupy, labeled communicative, autonomous, and critical. Such dispositions function to shape
projects based on both internal needs and external perceptions. Archer explains that communicative
reflexives require social confirmation prior to action, and are thus inherently hesitant, community

49 Ibid, p. 17. 50 Ibid.
51 Ibid, p. 49. 52 Ibid.
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oriented, and prone to social immobility.53 Autonomous reflexives, in contrast, conduct highly individualized internal conversations and are predisposed to be socially mobile.54 The third variety, the critical reflexives, harbor internal conversations that question the validity of social structures themselves. Such individuals desire reform and change instead of mastery (autonomous) or community (communicative), and are thus described by Archer as laterally mobile (since critical nature is not concerned with movement within the current system).55
Archer’s conception is synthetic for a variety of important reasons (not including her desire to create synthetic theories on just about everything). First, as has previously been stated, Archer’s theory rejects the focus on reflexive modernity that has monopolized the reflexivity discourse. Such rejection stems from the assertion that the concept of reflexive modernity (especially furthered by Beck) is misleading, since it refers to a systemic meta-reflexivity that has nothing to do with the “well-established term” of reflexivity and the “stable denotations of self-monitoring and self- control.”56 While one could argue that such a position sidesteps confrontation, it is a position consistent with Archer’s foundational assumption that reflexivity is an inherent human practice, not a recently discovered potential of high modernity.
Archer’s second foe in her conquest of the reflexivity discourse is central conflation. As
stated in many of her other works, Archer is a firm opponent of conflationism in sociology because
it limits the possibility for adequate empirical study. To briefly summarize her consistent position
over the years, upward (individualism) and downward (structuralism) conflation are incompatible
with social reality because they each deny the influence of one of the two essential proponents of the
social system (structures in the case of individualism and agents in the case of structuralism). While
central conflation acknowledges both agents and structures, their mutual co-constitution and co-

53 A significant elaboration of this reflexive personality can be found in Archer, Making Our Way, pp. 158-191. 54 For more on autonomous reflexives, see Ibid, pp. 192-228.
55 For more on critical reflexives, see Ibid, pp. 229-264.
56 Ibid, p. 31.
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instantiation outside of time prevents any knowledge of their interaction from being theorized, and thereby limits the effectiveness of sociological understanding. Such a critique permeates the reflexive modernity discourse as well, since Giddens’ structuration and Bourdieu’s logic of praxis each are guilty of central conflation according to Archer. The outcome of these critiques is synthetic because it eliminates the disagreements that have arisen largely from the reflexive modernity debate and proposes a method for understanding reflexive processes that relies on analytical dualism and the interaction between structures and agents.
Finally, Archer’s theory is synthetic because it encompasses a variety of individuals under one rubric of reflexivity. This is important because many previous theories seem to have a narrow conception of the reflexive individual. For example, Bourdieu’s individual is clearly communicative, to use Archer’s designation, thus allowing analysis of social practice to dominate the discussion (although Bourdieu would seriously oppose such an argument on the grounds that analytical dualism has severe problems of its own). Similarly, Beck’s individual also appears communicative, which results in a dear-in-the-headlights conception of individuals outside of their social element within reflexive modernity. Giddens’ individual is, by contrast, autonomous and seemingly endowed with the reflexive faculty and self-understanding to reshape both self and society. Finally, Lash’s critical individual also has a position within Archer, corresponding with the laterally mobile critical reflexive whose projects are incongruous with social structures. The advantage of Archer’s approach is that it does not need to make needless ontological assumptions on how reflexive the entirety of humanity must be at any given time, allowing her theory to reflect the more modest reality that contains a variety of individuals.
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VII. State Reflexivity? – Implications for International Relations

The mention of reflexivity within Alexander Wendt’s Social Theory of International Politics has provoked interesting debate within the international relations, particularly among constructivists. Wendt’s claim is that corporate agents such as states have the potential for reflexive deliberation, which he supports by observing that the rigid Lockean culture of anarchy present during the entire Cold War was “virtually single-handedly” ended by the Gorbachev regime.57 While this reference is brief within Wendt’s piece, it is a powerful concession because it locates systemic change within the ideational realm. This is consistent with Wendt’s assertion that the cultures of anarchy, while seemingly objective constraints (as conceived by realists), only exist when continually reified by agents. Once cultures of anarchy are in place, they provide various kinds of feedback depending on agential action within the system (enabling some forms and constraining others), but are nonetheless ideational constructs (albeit very rigid constructs). The importance of reflexivity within this context is that it allows for states to have the potential to recognize that ideational character of systemic constraints, and thus gain the ability to adhere to internal demands. As Wendt explains, the “objective conditions were such that the Soviets ‘had’ to change their ideas about the Cold War, but... those ideas were the Cold War, and as such changing them by definition changed the reality.”58 This mention of reflexivity thus provides a way to systematically liberate states from the mechanical straight-jacket that has been applied since the begins of the IR discipline.
Yet Wendt’s mention, while important in its impact upon the discipline, is largely unformed.
Petr Drulak has made notice of this in several papers, arguing that reflexivity is not only under-
theorized in Wendt, but is crucial to the dynamism of Social Theory. Since Wendt is ultimately
concerned with constructing a systemic theory, his mention of reflexivity in the context of Soviet
New Thinking summons foreign policy analysis, and thus ends right where it begins. It is clear that

57 Ibid, p. 76. 58 Ibid, p. 375.
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Wendt wants to use such an example to indicate that one of his master variables (scenarios that cause collective identity formation), self-restraint, has had a profound impact upon the current shift away from Lockean anarchy toward Kantian anarchy. Drulak’s claim is that Wendt’s commitment to systemic theorizing is a mistake, since too much is lost when national interests are wished away, particularly reflexivity.
Drulak’s initial move is to position reflexivity within the social learning discourse in order to understand the problem with Wendt’s inclusion of reflexivity in his account of systemic theory. Reflexivity can be understood as more advanced than both simple and complex learning. While simple learning and complex learning are very different based upon the latter’s incorporation of identity shift, both forms of learning are limited to the relation between the Self and the environment. Reflexivity necessarily involves the relation between external factors and the Self and internal deliberation, requiring both a systemic and domestic conception of the state within the context of international relations. Drulak argues that reflexivity grants actors the ability to “learn withoutobviousexternalstimuli,”producing“agentsofchangeratherthanmerefollowers.”59 Once the reflexive state has altered the rules of the system through a unilateral reshuffling of its position in relation to other states, other states may respond by shifting identity as well (to be more peaceful if self-restraint is witnessed, or become hostile if war is perpetrated). Drulak’s main concern is that Wendt is completely incapable of explaining the crucial reflexive first move when the state is “creative against the backdrop of previous experience” and thus creating “trust before the conditions that it is normally thought to require exist.”60 In other words, the shift to a Kantian culture of anarchy depends upon a state having the capacity to unilaterally retreat from its position within anarchy despite intersubjective and objective conditions continually reaffirming such a

59 Petr Drulak, “Reflexivity and structural change,” in Stefano Guzzini and Anna Leander, eds. Constructivism and International Relations: Alexander Wendt and his critics (New York: Routledge, 2006): p. 142.
60 Ibid. Second quote from Wendt, Social Theory, p. 363.
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position. While Wendt is bold to include reflexivity within his theory, it is completely unsubstantiated by his references to self-restraint. As Drulak observes, “only reflexivity can lead to new moves in the game,” leading to the problematic conclusion that Wendt is unable to account for such changes without an expanded notion of reflexivity.61 It should be noted that Wendt’s reply to Drulak states that criticisms on agency are “misplaced,” since systemic theories are not equipped for such analysis.62
Ewan Harrison offers another extension of Wendt’s use of reflexivity by exploring the effects of a reflexive system of states, similar to reflexive modernity covered above in the sense that agents have an increasingly reflexive capacity within the global system. Harrison observes two properties of such a system, including “increased latitude for autonomous action” and “the emergence of a stable liberal core.”63 In a reverse argument to Ulrich Beck, Harrison claims that systemic reflexivity must follow an extended period of time consistent with reflexive behavior on the part of individual states.64 This is because negative feedback will prevent wholesale reflexivity from emerging fully formed within the international system, resulting in isolated reflexive acts preceding reflexivity en masse. Harrison suggests that systemic reflexivity can be observed through foreign policy patterns, with the “exercise of voluntary agency” presumably signifying the criterion for measuring change.65 While Harrison’s account of reflexivity is also underdeveloped and generally cursory, it is one of the more recent attempts to bring systemic reflexivity into the spotlight within international relations, thus representing a necessary step in the expansion of reflexive theorization.

61 Ibid, p. 145.
62 Alexander Wendt, “Social Theory as Cartesian Science: An Auto-Critique From a Quantum Perspective,” in Stefano Guzzini and Anna Leander, eds. Constructivism and International Relations: Alexander Wendt and his critics (New York: Routledge, 2006): p. 207. While a terse question seems in order along the lines of how Wendt’s theory of change is more than just contingency in the absence of reflexivity, it is nonetheless important to again appreciate the debate that his use of reflexivity has influenced within the discipline, without which I would likely not be writing this paper.
63 Ewan Harrison, The Post-Cold War International System: Strategies, Institutions and Reflexivity (London: Routledge, 2004): p. 12.
64 Ibid, p. 29.
65 Ibid, p. 117.
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VIII. An Attempt at Theoretical Synthesis at 12:29 a.m.

Now that a review of the reflexivity literature has been compiled, it is necessary to reflect (yes, reflect) upon the purpose of such an endeavor. It is clear that the international relations literature is quite thin on the topic of reflexivity, which has been made arguably more thin due to the success of Drulak’s critique on Wendt. It is unfortunate that Drulak’s attempt at rectifying Wendt’s problem with reflexivity leads to the conclusion that “Gadamer’s elaboration of the Heideggerian concept of the hermeneutic circle makes the notion of reflexivity more tangible.”66 While this may make perfect sense to some, it in no way represents a tangible conclusion, thus provoking the need for an alternative conception of reflexivity in IR literature. Two factors make such an inquiry both plausible and optimistic. The first is that the sociology literature has made some impressive strides in the theorization of reflexivity, thus offering accessible resources for further inquiry. The second reason for optimism is the expanding influence of constructivist, pragmatist, and scientific realist perspectives that each endorse the broad epistemological strokes necessary for theorization on topics such as reflexivity. The following section will offer an initial attempt to fit Wendt’s corporate agent into Archers DDD Model, which will hopefully result in a more lucid elaboration of state reflexivity than provided by Drulak.
When theorizing about reflexivity, one constraint and one benefit come to mind in dealing with states instead of individuals. The constraint is granting states the agential status necessary for self-reflection. Fortunately, Wendt makes a strong case for corporate agency within Social Theory. Wendt’s first task is to prove that states, like individuals, are not reducible to their parts, which he does by elaborating upon the essential state as an “organizational actor embedded in an institutional- legal order that constitutes it with sovereignty and a monopoly on the legitimate use of organized

66 Drulak, “Reflexivity,” p. 152.
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violence over a society in a territory.”67 The importance of such a statement is the realization that states are made up of relations between parts that, when functioning together, produce a state. This parallels the analysis of the human body, which is irreducible to individual body parts, and therefore must be understood through the relations of the parts that together produce a functioning individual. The second and more difficult task is endowing the state actor with agential properties. Wendt attempts this by arguing that states with efficient internal dynamics maintain a close connection between the demands of the collective “we” and the actions of the “internal decision structure” that “institutionalizes collective action by their members.”68 Such cohesion creates norms within the state that become embedded over time, resulting in a state entity with a discernable collective identity, collective interests, and collective dispositions. Wendt’s recent work on quantum dynamics has added great depth to this discourse, since collective consciousness can be seen as only a small extension of individual consciousness within the hypothesized panpsychist ontology that “something like human consciousness goes all the way down to the sub-atomic level.”69 The state could then be understood in the same way as the brain – a large structure that allows consciousness by preventing the decoherence of its wave functions.
With the help of corporate agency, the powers of reflexivity can be passed to the state, allowing reflexive models such as Archer’s DDD Model to be extended. The first step of Archer’s approach is discernment, which involves the external imposition of objective structural and cultural influences that by nature constrain and enable. In the case of the states system, these influences would include one of the respective cultures of anarchy (in the case of Wendt), anarchy as such (realist conception), as well as international norms (institutional approach). In the case of the Soviet Union during the 1980s, the structural constraints largely emanated from the Lockean culture of

67 Wendt, Social Theory, 213.
68 Ibid, p. 218-219.
69 Wendt, Quantum Perspective, p. 195.
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anarchy that had developed embedded notions of bipolarity through decades of reinforcement on the part of the two superpowers.
The second phase, deliberation, requires the aforementioned analysis on corporate agency. This is because deliberation constitutes the first key reflexive step, when the agent looks inward in an effort to identify subjective interests, which are then placed in a hierarchy of potential actions awaiting instantiation. In this moment, the state looks inward at domestic concerns that must be addressed. Possible actions are placed in a hierarchy depending upon the relative political weight that each possesses, a process that necessarily depends upon how domestic politics are conducted within the state in question. At the state system level this process is hardly problematic, with states constantly weighing different possibilities for action based exclusively upon national interests. In the case of the Soviet Union during the 1980s, it is likely that domestic concerns were addressed on issues such as the faltering economy, diminishing social services, and difficulties with maintaining territorial integrity within satellite regions.
The final phase, dedication, embodies the reflexive capacity of weighing subjective interests with objective restraints, ultimately resulting in a particular action that has effects upon the next actions objective realities. This process is readily observed in foreign policy debates regarding how domestic actions will influence international responses. There is no state in the world, aside from possibly North Korea, that does not realistically consider the ramifications that even purely domestic actions will have upon the international system. It is for this reason that even domestic politics are carefully considered with a mind on external responses. This goes both for domestic and foreign policy, since any action within the global community will be noticed by all other members, in the same way that individual actions provoke responses. For example, in a global environment defined by integration, interaction, and negotiation, a domestic decision on the part of state to adopt isolationist policies will have an adverse effect upon perceptions of that state, for no other reason than it defies
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systemic norms (even though isolation could be based solely on domestic interests). In contrast, a decision to adopt the status quo and integrate, interact, and negotiate also will have the effect of affirming systemic norms and influencing foreign relations. In the case of the Soviet Union in the 1980s, the decision to adopt radically different domestic policies that on the part of Gorbachev was undoubtedly a decision based upon subjective interests and objective constraints. The reflexive capacity of corporate agents is able to allow a conceptualization of how the Soviet Union was able to settle on radical policies in the face of structural constraints – internal demands must have reached a point where deviation from structural norms was a small price to pay for fulfilling domestic needs. Such actions effectively influenced the objective structural conditions of bipolarity, with repeated attacks eventually resulting in the disintegration of such structural constraints, new contexts for corporate agency, and new potentialities for subjective interests to be furthered.
To conclude, reflexivity represents one of the most interesting under-theorized concepts of social science. Its importance within an understanding of social change is paramount, as has been recognized by a variety of scholars during the last two decades. This paper has attempted to track the recent evolution of reflexivity, first through the discourse on reflexive modernization popular during the 1990s, and then into the more advanced conceptions of 21st century sociologists and political theorists. This paper has also attempted to review the recent contributions to international relations theory on the topic of reflexivity. While such a discourse is slim, the hope is that this analysis has shown that reflexivity has the potential to explain a great deal within international politics. This largely centers on the ease at which analysis can focus upon the inner dynamics of a state, resulting in a clear conception of domestic interests and identity that remain largely elusive within reflexivity analysis in individuals. The combination of such domestic analysis with a systemic approach that additionally interprets the role that external structures have upon state action, a richer conception of state action can be achieved.
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