In the context of late modernity, ontological insecurity is an increasingly visible part of our society (Ferrell, Hayward, & Young, 2008, p. 56). Let us begin with what it means to be ontologically secure. To obtain ontological security one must have “a sense of confidence and trust in the world as it appears to be” (Dupuis & Thorns, 1998, p. 27). In order to have this confidence and trust a person needs to have a strong/stable identity. However because of the loss of stable employment and the presence of hyperplural meaning, a stable identity is nearly impossible to obtain (Ferrell, Hayward, & Young, 2008, p. 59). This has led us to continually reinvent ourselves in an attempt to create the confidence and trust we seek (Ferrell, Hayward, & Young, 2008, p. 59). This process of continual reinvention of our identity all the while remaining unfulfilled is known as liquid modernity (Atkinson, 2008, p. 6). These two theories are connected in the sense that ontological insecurity breeds liquid modernity when placed in the context of late modernity. In the past we struggled to earn the identity we desired and have people see us in that identity, now we are simply selecting an identity that is being sold while continuously making sure that our identity is still accepted and sought after (Atkinson, 2008, p. 6) Identities our now constantly ready to change and create a sense of insecurity within individuals (Atkinson, 2008, p. 6).
The way in which we establish identity has also changed. It isn’t simply a shift from stable identities to flexible ones. In the past identity was established and ‘sustained’ through routine interactions with others (Dupuis & Thorns, 1998, p. 27). This was done by having stable employment and also owning a home (Dupuis & Thorns, 1998). Having people, co-workers or you family, consistently reaffirm your identity perpetuated a sense of ontological security in the participants. Nowadays material wealth reigns supreme in creating a person’s identity (Dupuis & Thorns, 1998, p. 27). The home is not fulfilling the role it once was as a creator of ontological security because of the inability to afford homes, the highly mobile nature of the younger generation and the lack of stable employment means owning a home is risky, since you may need to go elsewhere for work (Dupuis & Thorns, 1998, p. 45; Ferrell, Hayward, & Young, 2008, p.57-59).
Home ownership now is simply another way of purchasing and changing our identities. This is apparent when looking at the example of gated communities. These communities all promise security however they are also promising a lifestyle and with it an identity. There are gated communities that are centered around activities like golf, others have yachting culture engrained into the community, some promote active lifestyles , and some can go as far as the “Front sight Master Planned Community” that was created around firearm training (Lynch, 2001-2002, p. 107) . All of these communities are trying to sell consumers a different identity by providing a change in lifestyle. Like any other product, gated communities promise a new identity as long as you are able to afford it. Gated communities also provide the promise of protecting your material goods from the underclass (Ferrell, Hayward, & Young, 2008, p. 58). Since we place such an emphasis on material goods as a defining characteristic of our identity when something is stolen we in a way lose a part of ourselves. Our desire to keep our things safe and therefore our identity safe is visible in the purchasing of a home in a gated community. Unfortunately this attempt at obtaining a sense of ontological security is in vain since the main issue remains, that identity is shaped through consumption of goods rather than the interaction with others (Dupuis & Thorns, 1998, p. 27).