Institutional Selves: Troubled Identities in a Postmodern World

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Today, identities are conferred and selves are constructed in more organizational settings than ever before. Institutions large and small - from Psychiatric hospitals, schools, and prisons, to job clinics, counselling centres, support groups - virtually instruct us about who and what we are as part of the work they do in processing lives and personal troubles. Some see this negatively, as if the self might somehow escape these developments. But there is a more balanced view that acknowledges the socially practical self we live by, which is constructed in light of these new and diverse opportunities. If organizations inevitably shape selves in today's world, they do so by providing the resources, not just the constraints, that enter into the process. New institutions produce new forms of self by presenting new options for who and what we are and can be, while they also place practical limits on the range of possible identities. This is the leading theme of Institutional Selves. The book brings together nine distinctive chapters that collectively address the institutional construction of troubled selves. From the victims and villains of television talk shows, to battered women in support groups, to the violent selves of prison inmates, the chapters show how personal identity is structured in response to the pragmatic demands of everyday life in the ubiquitous settings where personal troubles are under increasing consideration.