The Virtual Self is a concise, critical introduction to social life in an age of rapid technology and high speed communication. It addresses a fundamental question of our time: is contemporary society significantly different from the society that formed the theories and basic concepts of the founders of sociology? Our rapidly changing society requires innovative sociological concepts, and this book proposes 'the end of the social', a time somewhere between modernity and postmodernity when we can no longer assume that people inhabit a public sphere of civic discourse. The Virtual Self addresses major issues in sociology that inform virtually all of a student's course work. Of central concern is the relationship between everyday life and social structure in key domains of communication, personality, work/family, leisure and entertainment, and economics. At the same time, the book advances an argument about our stage of civilization, joining dialogue with critical thinkers and theorists who bemoan the loss of community and civic discourse.
These perspectives from critical theory and postmodernism are introduced in readable, digestible ways as discussions are linked to standard sociological concerns such as the relationship between self and society. Written in a lively, accessible style, The Virtual Self presumes no sociological background and cites ample literature for further reference. Students and scholars will find it an engaging and exciting text.
Ben Agger is Professor of Sociology and Humanities at the University of Texas at Arlington, where he also directs the Center for Theory. He publishes in critical theory and cultural studies. His most recent books include Public Sociology: From Social Facts to Literary Acts (2000) and Postponing the Postmodern: Sociological Practices, Selves and Theories (2002).