The history of lifestyle dates back to human life and any individual or human population living anywhere on this planet must have had a unique lifestyle using today’s language but the history of the literature and the concept of lifestyle dates back to the time when authors like Adler (1922) gave shape to this category and investigated it practically for the first time. The members of a community have a peculiar way of behaving, reacting, thinking, and believing which altogether forms their lifestyle and the manner in which they live. Anyone might experience different lifestyles in different time spans but what is clear is that these lifestyles can be categorized based on some criteria and features and individuals can be thus put into groups. In other words, although individuals might have different types of lifestyle, they can be classified based on a series of clear patterns.
In various languages the combination “lifestyle” has been noted in varied forms: in German, it is “lebensstill” and in English, in the past it was used as “lifestyle” and “style of life and living” and today mostly as “lifestyle”. This combination is made of two words “style” and “life”. The literal meaning of the word “life” is clear but for the word “style” there is a wide array of meanings provided in dictionaries such as: the way and method of doing something or performing some affairs in a way that makes an individual, level, or group distinct. Lifestyle is a word used often by Adler and has been used frequently and in all of his writings and is the most distinct psychological dimension. In his viewpoint, “lifestyle is a unique and individual totality of life under which all of the general life processes can be set.”
The necessity of studying this subject is clear when we know that lifestyle is considered as a soft and cultural instrument for social management and if the knowledge required for it is judiciously identified, many of the hard instruments of social management will be unnecessary and even the room for many of the difficult historical debates will be filled. Lifestyle is the way to recognize one’s identity from that of a stranger. One’s lifestyle points to one’s position in society for others. It does not just have a symbolic aspect and also has a genuine meaning itself. Those who are hermits and have abandoned the worldly life also have a lifestyle and this is not simply a social subject and views human beings as human beings.
Also, it can be mentioned that paying attention to the life quality is a criterion for the social and political managers to recognize different lifestyles in their own society and learn about how to encounter the overall structure of the society available to them. Becoming sensitive and familiar with the concept of lifestyle assists the governments and regimes to take steps in optimizing the objective life circumstances and realities and enables an individual to take over his own life management in his own area of influence.
About lifestyle in Iran, there are a few scholarly works and writings among which one can point to the works done by Mohammad Reza Rasuli. The research study with the title “an investigation of lifestyle in TV commercials” attempts to present a general view of the qualitative and quantitative features of commercials and study lifestyles targeted in research. “Lifestyle and social identity, consumption and the preferred choices as the foundation or the social distinction and similarity in the recent era of modernity” is the title of a thesis done by Hasan Chavoshian Tabrizi. The aim of this thesis is identifying lifestyles in the reaction and social grouping model. The author is of the opinion that the collective and individual identity of the members of a modern metropolitan community are not determined by their situation or their structural features but are to a great degree dependent on the consumptive reaction and consumptive choices which means that they have a cultural essence. The book “An investigation of the effect of the media consumption on the lifestyle of the residents in Tehran” which has been written by Nurodin Razavizadeh is based on the belief that communications have undermined people’s loyalty to the traditional lifestyles by suggesting and introducing diverse lifestyles and are spreading new lifestyles by developing patterns, values and newly consumed goods.
Lifestyle consists of the affairs related to human life, both individual and social, material and spiritual: affairs such as insights (intuitions and beliefs) and tendencies (values, desires and preferences) which are purely mental or internal behaviors and external behaviors (both conscious and subconscious, physical states and conditions), conditions (or the positions in) society and possessions which are also objective affairs. Therefore, lifestyles are a combination of values, viewpoints and behaviors, states and tastes which, at most of the time, emerge among a group and a number of people come to possess a common lifestyle or often own a special mode of living.
As mentioned earlier, lifestyle is the output and the external stage and the most explicit aspect of an individual’s life; but to know how a particular lifestyle is formed or how various lifestyles are shaped, we must view the roots and foundations. It is quite clear that as the foundations have more capacity, they establish more solid and explicit surfaces. Thoughts and the sense structures are one of the root subjects which cause peculiar worldviews given their epistemological and ontological foundations. Religions are one of the sense structures that have the capacity and potential for shaping a worldview. And, hence, the more capacity they have as a sense structure, the more power they have in influencing lifestyles and the ways of life.
However, it has to be noted that these sense structures are affected by structural and environmental conditions and do not enter the stage of “becoming” by themselves and require a stimulating and boosting factor and, given the environment and the structure, many benefits can be taken from this power.
When the sense structure exists, it is essential for the people and societies to move towards it and take advantage of it, but when the environmental and structural conditions such as the political system is in line with the sense structure, it will act as a stimulant for the spread of that worldview and moves towards individuals and the community. It is obvious that even if there is a capacious and powerful sense structure, in the absence of environmental conditions, the sense structure only remains as a potential.
Therefore, it can be concluded that the existing sense structures have produced a particular worldview and these conditions have been influenced by the environmental and structural conditions and a combination of these factors create a lifestyle. One of the sense structures is religion that has remarkable effects on lifestyle and given the capacities of this sense structure, the effectiveness of lifestyle expands as well.
But another important factor exists here which disrupts this rule or strengthens it and it is the power of creating discourses about the sense structure. Hence, the three variables of sense structure, environmental conditions and discourse creation are linked together. When the sense structure is present but the environmental and discourse creating conditions are not present, the sense structure remains in the stage of “being” which was the case in the former Imperial Regime. When the sense structure exists and the discourse is created but the environmental conditions are not present and are in sheer contrast with it, the potential of the sense structure is used but it has not reached the stage of “becoming” yet, as in the era of some of the Innocent Imams (peace be upon them). When the sense structure exists and the environmental conditions are also present but discourse has not been shaped then again the sense structure has not come into the stage of “becoming”; like the sense structure of Islam and the environmental conditions of the Islamic Republic which is in need of creating discourse and acceptance by the people.
Elaborating all of these subjects requires time and here we aim at approaching the stage where the sense structure is already present and endeavors have been made for creating a discourse from the perspective that the West has suggested.
First, western thinkers started creating concepts about lifestyle and approached a discourse on lifestyle based on the western sense structure and the epistemological, ontological, humanistic, methodological views and it is possible, by the perspectives which they have provided for the sense structure (as an independent variable) to determine various outlooks and schools (as dependent variables) such as sociological, psychological, Marxist, and feminist viewpoints and we do not intend to discuss all of them but approach some of them here.
The western thinkers’ views of lifestyle
Thus are some viewpoints of the western thinkers about lifestyle: lifestyle involves a combination of habits and directions and therefore a kind of unity which, in addition to its peculiar significance, supplies the link between the existing ancillary options in a more or less regular pattern from a viewpoint of the perpetuation of existential security. Bosserman (1983) defines lifestyle as a model of consumption which includes preferences, tastes and values and also “Earl” has defined it as an individual pattern of choices and activities. Mike Federeston (1991) indicates that the word “lifestyle” within the contemporary culture indicates a kind of individuality, self-expression and stylistic self-awareness. As stated by Federeston, body, clothing, self-articulation, leisure, eating and drinking preferences, housing, automobiles, choosing a place for vacation and other issues are considered as the parameters of lifestyle. Giddens believes that lifestyle is a more or less comprehensive combination of performances used by an individual; it is for the reason that it not only satisfies the common needs but also reflects the peculiar interpretation which he has selected for his personal identity in response to the others.
The sociological outlook
The subject of life quality has been simultaneously posed in multiple branches of the social sciences. First, the emphasis is only put on the objective parameters of welfare such as poverty, illness and suicide and the abstract parameters are added in the 1970s. The books published in this area are “the social parameters of well-being, the Americans’ way of understanding the quality of life” written by Andrew Witti (1967) and “The life quality of the Americans: Emotions, evaluations and satisfactions” written by Campbell (1981).
One of the theories of sociology is the symbolic mutual action view which emphasizes the point that when discussing the quality of life, one must pay attention to the interaction and the mutual symbolic action and further more emphasis is put on the intellectual and conceptual quality of an individual about oneself as his view just as anyone else affects his personality and behavior concerning the positive and negative conception of the others in his way of acting and his quality of life.
Sociologists linked the primitive discussions within lifestyle to social status and class and used the concept of social class and dignity not in the Marxist sense but in an opposite manner and thought of lifestyle as a criterion for evaluating the social classes.
The elements and features that exist in someone’s lifestyle have coherence and totality and create a kind of inner unity but this unity also presents difference and distinction. People’s lifestyles differ but the common facets that exist among lifestyles create the social classes; and therefore, lifestyle is both a determinant for the distinction of the social classes and for shaping them.
Hill writes: A person’s lifestyle makes his position in the society clear to the others. Given the ever-increasing contact of the modern man with the foreigners, he believes that by employing a lifestyle one tries to show his social dignity to others; this was not necessary in a small community. Many of friendships are created based on the same styles and the information exchanged about it.
In recent years, the expression “cultural identity” has become popular in anthropology and sociology. Of the sociological concepts absorbed into the cultural identity is the concept of “lifestyle”. Anthony Giddens is one of the prominent characters in giving theories in the area of identity and personality since the 1980s. He has raised some viewpoints about identity and lifestyle in some of his writings. He is of the opinion that lifestyle is the language of social identity in the post-modern culture; it is a method of displaying which only makes itself known. Then, lifestyle is a form of cultural creativity for pubic experience; lifestyles are the artistic forms for the masses.
The psychological view
In Adler’s view, how one tries to cope with his feelings of humiliation is a part of the peculiar “lifestyle” which means that it becomes an aspect of his personality functions.
Lifestyle is creativity resulting from coping with the environment and its limitations; therefore, people differ from this viewpoint because in addition to the feeling of humiliation and dominance which is common among all human beings, three other factors (i.e. physical, psychological and social factors) which respectively lie in body and the practice of the members and psychological talents and social communications also differ among individuals. This fact determines one’s peculiar way of compensating the urges of dominance and humiliation. Perhaps, Napoleon’s rather small stature justifies his style of seeking victories. The cruel and dominant acts of Agha Mohammad Khan of the Qajar Dynasty may have been caused by the social consequences following his being castrated and Hitler’s ambition for ruling over the world may have caused by his sexual impotence.
One’s lifestyle is, according to Adler, formed when one is five or six years old. He gives three examples for the three bodily, psychological and social factors which are, all of them, influenced by family conditions.
A-Physical deformation. A child who is physically handicapped and, compared with others, thinks he is lacking can turn his feeling of humiliation into a feeling of power with the help of parents and experienced educators.
B-Psychological shortcomings. On the other hand, children who are spoiled by ignorant parents may become egocentric and lose social interests and begin to expect others to realize their desires.
C-Social shortcomings. The abandoned children who are left out might create a kind of lifestyle for themselves which involves taking revenge from the society. Because their parents have been separated or as a result of a lack of suitable upbringing, they have been deprived of guidance and encouragement and cannot develop the lifestyle. Those individuals who have been subject to violence and lack of attention during the childhood would become the enemies of the society in adulthood and their lifestyle is formed based on seeking vengeance.
The concept of “lifestyle” is also affected by three factors: bodily, psychological and social factors. The three conditions of the shortcomings in an individual and his talents and also social grounds and social facilities offer several ways of peculiarly compensating for the feeling of humiliation leading to a certain way of life.
Therefore, from the perspective of physical deformations, Napoleon’s way of life might have been caused by his small stature, the desire for dominance seen from Agha Mohammad Khan may have been caused by his castration complex and Hitler’s desire for taking over the world might have been caused by his sexual impotence.
Adler has identified four types of styles and personalities based on lifestyle:
A-The first type that is totalitarian and dominant. This type represents the outlook in which the individual has very little awareness and interest in social matters. Such an individual acts without caring much about the others.
B-The second type or the receiver. Adler considers it to be the most common type of character in which the individuals expect to take everything from the others and are extremely dependent on them.
c-The third type or the avoider. Such a personality avoids getting involved with problems to avoid being oppressed and defeated; therefore, he avoids dealing with the routine life problems.
Adler believes that these three types do not have social interests and their lifestyles are in sheer contrast to the realities of the society and they cannot cooperate with the others.
The only social type is of the fourth kind.
D-The fourth type or the socially beneficial. They have social interests and have a lifestyle which is compatible with the society and are able to cooperate and cope with others.
The Marxist and critical viewpoints
Marxism as an intellectual school has certain principles, parameters and goals which have been founded since the time of Marx and have been followed later by his disciples. However, for questions such as ‘how the awareness must be transferred to the Proletariat and the manner of evolution and the transformation of power’, they had many disagreements and then various branches such as the classic Marxism, orthodox, critical, and reformist Marxism were developed. Nevertheless, all of these schools have commonalities as well as differences. For example, the Marxists pay attention to the infrastructure & superstructure and the significance of economy and the ways of production and assuming the goals based on the materialistic principles and so on. The major part of Marx’s theoretical endeavors consists of a meticulous analysis of capitalism as a method for production. The Marxists have based human life on economic principles and consider them as the infrastructure and as the most important subject. They have considered all the other features such as culture, religion, politics and other things as the superstructure which is affected directly by the economic principles and the way they are going to be addressed. Therefore, the goals and ideals they have assumed for humans are materialistic and this-worldly and this school does not hold spiritual and that-worldly assumptions and the conditions that were going o be met were inclined towards capitalism and socialism and creating a utopia which was called communism. However, they did not go any further than the capitalist phase and the historical necessity did not occur and they divided into various branches, one of which is the critical school. Despite having similarities, they had remarkable differences and we are going to address some of them. The critical theory is an intellectual school which consists of a wide range such as aesthetics, psychology, sociology, and ethics. Critical theory was developed from the works from the Frankfurt School. This school consisted of a group of thinkers who began to cooperate in the 1920s and 1930s; we can name characters such as Hork Heimer, Adorno, Marcuse and in the later generation Habermas. Critical theory developed from the efforts within the framework of the Marxist tradition but differed from them. The first thing to consider is that their intellectual concerns are rather different than those of the Marxists because they not only did not want to develop economic rudiments but also wanted to focus on issues such as culture, bureaucracy, family structure, epistemological theories, etc. These critics were also conscious of the mass media and, in their own words, the industry of culture. They believe that the new culture originates from the new capitalist acts in changing culture and products into goods and the process of making idols of the goods and the concomitant of such an affair is the exchange value of culture and the establishment of the mass culture or the industry of culture. The new capitalism destroys the class awareness and makes a mass of the dominated classes. The industry of culture in the new capitalism introduces the reason for the goods as a dominant factor over individual awareness and thus one becomes ignorant of the dominance of false forces in his life. Therefore, the critical theories mostly focused on the superstructures while the Marxists focused on the infrastructures.
Another point is that the new generation of theorists such as Habermas has paid more attention to the subject of communications and set the hope for a better society within the area of communication whereas the classic Marxists paid attention to the economic affairs and the area of production.
However, it must be kept in mind that the serious revisions of the Frankfurt school in the theories of orthodox Marxism and the emergence of the concept of the culture industry and the mass culture, though removed the economic dogmatism, continued to leave the framework of the social class based on the concept of ‘labor’.