Stile Di Vita, Entrepassed By Modernity
Lifestyle is the general attitudes, interests, behavioral orientations, and overall behavioral patterns of an individual, family, or group. The word was first introduced by Austrian psychiatrist Alfred Adler in his popular book, The Case of Miss R. with the more definitive definition of “the general attitude of a person as determined early in life”. In this classic work, Adler described his theory of two essential parts of human life: the private self and the public self.
The word has become more common in our vocabulary, but it is not always easy to describe. There is a tendency to think of the word as having two separate meanings. However, these are not the only possible interpretations. For in addition to the distinctions between the private and the public self, there can be distinctions within these two parts of the individual psyche.
As part of a larger framework called individual psychological styles, the word lifestyle can refer to any of the following four elements: groundedness, contentment, purposefulness, and action. groundedness refers to the willingness to set aside cherished ideals and the concerns of “rightness” to create meaningful connections with others and to take on genuine responsibilities for one’s own actions. groundedness also includes the willingness to face unpleasant or challenging realities and to work with what is called “cooperativeness” – cooperative skills that people bring to the relationship. Purposefulness is related to the need to have meaningful connections and to live a long time in a satisfying relationship.
Max Weber describes these elements as four important dimensions of “life-styles”. While he does not use the word lifestyle as the collective term for all of the elements of high values and behaviors associated with a certain school of thought, he does refer to these elements as “conditions of existence”. The fact is, however, that there are many different types of lifestyles. Weber defines five different “hereditary lifestyles” as the basis for his research. These are cultural life-styles, religious life-styles, artisanal life-styles, formal or corporate life-styles and the three basic life-styles – secular, cultural and ethnic.
Cultural life-styles are those most familiar to the mainstream of American society. Adorno characterizes these as “the mass culture”, or the mass cultures existing in America, Europe and Japan. Weber characterizes them as values-based and historically contingent. Weber maintains that a significant factor in determining the degree of variation and change within these life-styles is the extent and salience with which they are held by the individuals who identify with them. Adorno contends that it is this salience that creates an atmosphere of Subjective Realism.
As defined by Weber, however, the masses are not primarily motivated by personal needs. Weber believes that, because of their role as the objects of culture, they are motivated by the desire for acceptance, novelty and freedom from established norms and ritual. Adorno, on the other hand, thinks that the individual needs and motivation are far more important than the role of the masses in creating and maintaining a mass culture. Adorno goes so far as to argue that true understanding of culture requires an understanding of the human personality.
According to Carl Rogers in his book, The American Self-Esteem, “There is something essentially primitive and malignant in any culture which seems to demand self-respect and approval.” Because the masses are the objects of social expectations, they cannot self-evaluate adequately and are never in a position to create their own reality. By identifying with the masses, especially an identity-defined group, the individual cannot come to terms with his or her true value or meaning. This creates an opening for an understanding of stili di vita.
The idea that there is something fundamentally wrong with the lifestyle of the masses is correct insofar as it reminds us of the inherent dangers of accepting false realities for which we have no real control. But when this danger is seen within a larger context of prevailing cultural patterns, the question of stile di vita no longer has much relevance. The fact that a person may have a different lifestyle than those portrayed in popular culture does not necessitate the reduction of all cultural differences. In fact, the more aware a person is of the options available to him through a healthy sense of estilo de vida, the better he can integrate his life style and choose the one that will serve him best.