In this chapter, Giddens talks about the institutional dimensions of modernity, which are the following: surveillance, military power, industrialism, and capitalism. He talks about their interrelations and relevance in modern society. Giddens somewhat comically comments on the common preconceptions people have about industrialism; “..imagery of coal and steam power and of large, heavy machinery clanking away in grubby workshops and factories.” (Giddens 56) Giddens makes a point to inform his readers that the term industrialism can actually apply to very high-tech settings. I liked the way that Giddens talked about surveillance. He tells us that “surveillance refers to the supervision of the activities of subject populations in the political sphere. ” (Giddens 58). He tells us that some examples of direct supervision include prisons, schools, and open workplaces. I do not feel that I can relate to many things in this book, seeing as a lot of it is about the economy and history (not my strong points), but this phrase seemed relatable because we know what it’s like to be in the public school systems, and especially as we got into high school, many of us began to really realize the surveillance of the school systems. Our country’s school systems are a form of social control that do in many ways confine and restrict us, (which lessened a lot when we got to college) , but at the same time are necessary in order to maintain control of the population.
Another point that Giddens made that I found to be quite insightful and interesting was the way he said that human beings live in a created environment. “Not just the built environment of urban areas but most other landscapes as well become subject to human coordination and control.” (Giddens 60) This statement got me thinking because it made me think about the fact that this world that we live in is so industrialized and controlled by human beings that we have, in fact, created our environment. All a human being truly, physically needs to survive is food, water, and shelter, but our society has become so industrialized and advanced that this simple list also now seems to include other things that we have decided are “necessities”, such as a car, a college degree, an air-conditioned home…; Our day-to-day American life has truly become a product of what our industrialized society perceives life to be. Although it is honestly at times hard to follow Giddens’ string of insights and theories, I do think that he does a good job of portraying the society that is right in front of us by putting ideas in a different light.