Use this URL to cite or link to this record in EThOS:
Title: Identity transitions : towards a critical realist theory of identity
Author: Birkett, Holly
ISNI:       0000 0004 2712 9875
Awarding Body: University of Warwick
Current Institution: University of Warwick
Date of Award: 2011
Availability of Full Text:
Access from EThOS:
Full text unavailable from EThOS. Restricted access.
Access from Institution:
This thesis explores the relationship between paid employment and individual identity. It aims to understand how paid employment impacts identity. In order to do so, the thesis focuses on work transitions; times when people relinquish one working identity and potentially acquire other forms of identity. As such, these transitions are also viewed as identity transitions. The thesis is split into two major sections. First, there is a review of the current Organization Studies literature on individual identity, which provides a critique of the current dominant perspectives on identity: Social Identity Theory, which focuses on group membership and role identification; narrative approaches to identity, which focus on reflexive processes and the agency involved in developing a coherent story of self during times of change; and, finally, discursive theories of identity which focus on the dominant discourses in society and their role in creating individual identity. Each of these approaches is discussed, their strengths are highlighted and their weaknesses explained. This critical review of the literature leads me to conclude that the current literature on identity has a tendency to under-theorize and under-explain the role of social structure, and capital resources in particular, on identity over time. This is a problem as it means that the current explanations we have for working identity and identity transitions exaggerate agency, the role of group membership or cultural discourses and, therefore, only offer a partial explanation of identity transitions. This research aims to demonstrate the crucial role of capital resources (Bourdieu: 1986) in identity transitions, thus highlighting the role of social structures. Secondly, the research examines the relationship between structure, agency and discourse in identity transitions by exploring the interaction between capital resources, narratives and reflexivity and discourse during two different identity transitions. The thesis therefore makes a number of contributions to knowledge. Firstly, it clearly critiques the current literature on identity and identity transition. Secondly, it identifies and examines the missing link in the current literature in terms of a systematic conceptualization of the role of social structure, using Bourdieu‘s concept of capital resources. Thirdly, the thesis begins to develop a new approach to identity which incorporates social structure and theorizes the relationship between social structure, agency and discourse in identity development. This approach is informed by Margaret Archer‘s morphogenetic approach (1995) and Bourdieu‘s (1986) concept of capital resources. The final substantive contribution this thesis offers is an empirical one. The thesis presents rich empirical data about two very different work transitions, retirement and downshifting, which see the respondents undergoing different forms of identity transition. This empirical data particularly adds to the literature in the downshifting case by exploring an under-researched transition. The thesis is also novel in that it explores career transitions from an identity perspective and offers extensive qualitative data on individual work and identity transitions. Finally, the empirical chapters of this thesis allow me to examine the utility of the approach to identity transitions, which I develop in this thesis, which explicitly recognizes the role of social structures. Thus, the empirical data helps to refine this approach for use in future research on identity transitions.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: BF Psychology ; HD Industries. Land use. Labor