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The Issue of Identity Essay


The issue of identity has been subject of discussion for most scholars and researchers. The paramount question is the significance of identity in people’s lives and most studies have proved that identity is noteworthy in the present life. Identity is beneficial because it shapes or is a perspective of how people make sense of the globe and their incidents in it, which includes their personal experiences. There have been various connections between identity and consciousness.

For instance, there is an explicit philosophical and psychological explanation of how the mind, self, and society were constructed and acted in a relationship with one another. In other studies related to self-identity, it is evident that the development of identities requires several factors, which will support the development. In this study paper, we explore how habitus creates and shapes the different identities, which make up people’s core identity. To explore this subject, the paper will reflect on Bordieu’s work and draw on ideas from the literature on identities. These elements may be cultural, national, or gender-related.

Main Discussion

The subject of identity matters because others can understand people in meticulous means, and people act toward one another relying on such comprehensions and positioning. The French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu presented several arguments concerning the subject of identity. According to Bourdieu, the present society majorly comprises of the struggle over power and society’s resources.

In this sense, dominant groups dedicate all their time and force to keep up their manipulation over these assets and make a peculiarity between themselves from lesser groups that try to progress their capital and chances. In his lessons, Bourdieu uses the word habitus to refer to the thoughts and characters, which individuals widen through social relations. The aspect of habitus is not an inborn ideology but an attained product of times gone by social incidents, and schooling (Flint, 2000, p. 67).

Any individual considering what makes up his or her self will always carry out a self-examination test in which people will question the moral values, characteristics, and actions. People’s identity is a result of several factors, which contribute to making one person different from the others even though they may originate from similar family backgrounds. On the other hand, personal identity, unlike fingerprint or hair strand, subject to change and growth.

To understand a person’s present identity, there is a need for an apt exploration of several contributing factors that various scholars present in different theories during the study of psychology (Sheffy & Shlesinger, 201, p. 89). The habitus instinctively maneuvers people’s practices, actions, and sentiments, which in turn reflects the people’s social history and location. To add to this, the varied aspects endow social actors with capability such as knowledge and skills.

The major aim of these social actors is to play the societal game and enhance their principal assets. According to the sociologist, social actors apply social strategies like knowledge, practices, and ideas, in an attempt to enhance their social standings in society. The habitus offers people a sense of their place together with a sense of the place of others in a public perspective, and social actors relate with some and make a distinction from others by displaying the habitus (Castells, 1997, p. 216).

The theory of habitus plays an imperative part in Bourdieu’s theory. This role is to restructure what has been put apart. This includes the class habitus, the internalized form of the class condition, and the conditioning it entails. The habitus is not only a structuring, which categorizes actions and the discernment of practices but also a structured configuration. The standard of division into rational classes, which organizes the discernment of the collective world, is itself the result of the internalization of the partition in social classes. Bourdieu’s ideology of habitus shows the positional outlook on individuality meaning that communal location establishes subjective identity.

In this aspect, social position is an influential aspect of the experience with structural factors seen to function behind personality realization. Habitus describes the location of identity within the pre-reflexive and embodied nature of a person’s practical actions. Social position through habitus hampers aspirations and tastes and remains a significant element in shaping personal identity. This view opposes the fact that increasing reflexivity in social life affects people’s identity. Habitus theory means that people shape their destinies with their identities dis-embedded from social constrictions (Bourdieu, Harker, Mahar & Wilkes, 1990, p. 175).

According to Bourdieu, a sense of how one behaves comes from the early life stages, which usually dictates and reinforces the formulation of identity. Also, the aspect of someone’s identity combines the aspect of one belonging to a certain social group especially where social practice generates from external sources of consciousness. Most people become aware of their identity and belonging when in a different setting which mostly arouses the need for identity.

For instance, when someone travels to another region far from home, the aspect of nationality or class belonging comes into the picture. In this case, different cultures and social settings influence the identity of an individual because of the presence of other diverse cultures. The major reason behind this ideology is that every individual has a sense of belonging and for this reason, will develop certain identities, which reflect his or her origin.

Different identities display the cultural and belonging of people hence the need to create personality. Within a Bourdieuian approach, the habitus is a spotlight construct, which aligns closely with identity. It is almost certain that the habitus is a system of durable, transposable dispositions, which predispose the individual to act, think, and behave in certain ways. Historical aspects of an individual’s life majorly contribute to the development of identity and can change over time and across circumstances. History, together with individual and collective practices determines the personality of people (Hall, 2011).

On another aspect, moral values contribute to the development of identity. Moral values, which are mostly set by society, determine the identity of people. In the current society, most people will not engage in certain things they believe are wrong unless there is some driving force. These sets of moral values create foundations, which make certain choices around those values. On a similar note, the core of who we are revolving around society’s beliefs and in essence establishes personality (Bourdieu & Wacquant, 1992).

Other scholars explore the possibility of past experiences, instinctive emotions, and rational thoughts in the development of identity amongst different individuals. Past experiences comprise of schooling, the way parents bring their children up, the level of social class, and friends of an individual. In the event, the schools had sub-standard effects then chances are that there will be no proper personality for the individual.

Parents who are rarely present during their children’s growing up will have a negative or positive impact on their children’s personality. For instance, when children have to be responsible at a tender age, this will positively affect their personality and grow into adults that are more responsible. On the other, children with no responsibilities at a tender age will grow into irresponsible adults who cannot handle serious and adult matters (Bianco, Orton & Yihong, 2009, p. 234).

Habitus emphasizes on the role of instinctive emotions in the development of identity. This refers to the way people react to situations. It is almost certain that different individuals react differently to presented situations. For instance, people who tackle tough situations with an open mind tend to have a dominant personality compared to those who have a conservative mind. This will combine with the ideology of rational thoughts about identity.

People will judge others regarding their capability of making decisions especially in situations where others fail to stand up. Reflections through different activities can be a substantial source of people’s identity. Apart from the above factors, other scholars describe nature as a crucial factor contributing to people’s personalities. In this aspect, nature is what is genetically passed down to someone biologically (Bourdieu, Calhoun, LiPuma & Postone, 1993, p. 134).

For example, the length and texture of hair, eye color, skin complexion, and other physiological characteristics are all part of nature and determines the different personalities of people. Nature is so vital to an individual’s identity hence the constant questions from doctors regarding health conditions and those of the immediate relatives. This is because of the possible genetic disorders, which are often hereditary (Hillier, 2001, p. 90).

Non-verbal communication is another aspect in which habitus create and shape the different identities that makeup people’s core identity. People with different ways of life can have fundamentally unlike means of considering time, physical space, and touch.

According to Bourdieu, these forms of nonverbal communication present many difficulties for people wishing to work across cultures. In turn, this contributes to the development of different personalities that people possess hence the diverse identities in the society. The formation of people’s identities takes up a lot of creation and shaping from different aspects of life. People’s cultures, thoughts, environment, and genetic aspects are the contributing factors towards the development of personalities. This ideology explains the presence of different identities amongst people even if they come from the same family background (Hillier, 2002, p. 67).


According to the above discussion, it is almost evident that habitus creates and shapes the different identities that makeup people’s core identity. The discussion drew some information from Bourdieu’s work and ideas from the readings on identities. Some of the discussed aspects of life include cultural, national, gender-related, and natural factors. All these aspects majorly contribute towards the development of identities, as people co-exist in the defined environments.

Bourdieu’s concepts of habitus are a serious subject of discussion when analyzing the notion of identity. Identity comes as a result of the always existing, obligatory boundaries of the experiential context. People move through different surroundings, which impose on all objects and agents, which form the environment. What matters in such a setting is the people’s experiences because these tend to be common for different social groupings. The environment and experiences engender and require given responses, forcing the person to respond to themselves and their surroundings in certain ways to the level of habituation.


Bianco, J, Orton, J & Yihong, G 2009, China and English globalization and the dilemmas of identity, Multilingual Matters, Buffalo.

Bourdieu, P., Harker, R. K., Mahar, C., & Wilkes, C 1990, An Introduction to the work of Pierre Bourdieu: the practice of theory, St. Martin’s Press, New York.

Bourdieu, P & Wacquant, L J 1992, An invitation to reflexive sociology, University of Chicago Press, Chicago.

Bourdieu, P., Calhoun, C. J., LiPuma, E., & Postone, M 1993, Bourdieu: critical Perspectives, University of Chicago Press, Chicago.

Castells, M 1997, The power of identity, Malden, Mass, Blackwell.

Flint, J 2000, Habitus, St. Martin’s Press, New York.

Hall, J. K 2011, Teaching and researching language and culture (2. ed.), Longman, Harlow.

Hillier, J. (2001). Gender and habitus, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev Press, Department of Geography and Environmental Development, Beer-Sheva.

Hillier, J 2002, Habitus: a sense of place. Aldershot, Hants, Ashgate, England.

Sheffy, R & Shlesinger, M 2011, Identity and Status in the Translational Professions, John Benjamins Pub. Co, Amsterdam/Philadelphia.

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