Postmodernism Sociology Essay On Family

Modernity, Postmodernity and The Family is one of the most difficult topics for students to get their heads around – The first thing to understand is that modernist social theories (Functionalism and Marxism) are OLD – and were theorising about the family over 50 years ago.

The second thing is that Postmodern theories aren’t really theories – they just think that structures have disappeared and so Sociology should go all journalistic and just sort of marvel at the diversity of family life. IMO Postmodernism is not really Sociology at all, it’s (lame) lifestyle journalism.

Anyway, it’s on the spec, the mind map below is an overview of how Modernity, Postmodernity and ‘theorising’ about the family all fit together. Use in conjunction with my other posts on Post and Late Modernism for more depth.

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Postmodern perspectives on the family

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This entry was posted in Postmodernism and Late Modernsim and tagged Families and Households, modernity, postmodernity. Bookmark the permalink.

This post is designed to help you revise for the AS Sociology Families and Households Exam

Postmodernists argue that we no longer live in the modern world with predictable orderly structures, such as the nuclear family. Instead society has entered a new, chaotic postmodern stage. In postmodern society, family structures are incredibly varied and individuals have much more freedom of choice in aspects of their lives which would have been relatively constrained in the past i.e. lifestyles, personal relationships ad family arrangements.

Postmodern society has two key characteristics

1. Diversity and fragmentation
Society is increasingly fragmented, with a broad diversity of subcultures rather than one shared culture. People create their identity from a wide range of choices, such as youth subcultures, sexual preferences and social movements such as environmentalism.

2. Rapid social change
New technology such as the internet, email and electronic communication have transformed our lives by dissolving barriers of time and space, transforming patterns of work and leisure and accelerated pace of change making life less predictable.

As a result of these social changes, family life has become very diverse and there is no longer one dominant family type (such as the nuclear family). This means that it is no longer possible to make generalisations about society in the same way that modernist theorists such as Parsons or Marx did in the past.

Examples of Two Post-Modernist Thinkers

Stacey (1998) “The Divorce-Extended Family”

Judith Stacey argues that women have more freedom than ever before to shape their family arrangement to meet their needs and free themselves from patriarchal oppression. Through case studies conducted in Silicon Valley, California she found that women rather than men are the driving force behind changes in the family. She discovered than many women rejected the traditional housewife role and had chosen extremely varied life paths (some choosing to return to education, becoming career women, divorcing and remarrying). Stacey identified a new type of family “the divorce-extended family” – members are connected by divorce rather than marriage, for example ex in laws, or former husband’s new partners.

Hareven (1978) “Life Course Analysis”

Tamara Hareven advocates the approach of life course analysis, that is that sociologists should be conc3erned with focus on individual family members and the choices that they make throughout life regarding family arrangements. This approach recognises that there is flexibility and variation in people’s lives, for example the choices and decisions they make and when they make them. For example, when they decide to raise children, choosing sexuality or moving into sheltered accommodation in old age.

Criticisms of Postmodernism

  • Late-Modernists such as Anthony Giddens suggest that even though people have more freedom, there is a still a structure which shapes people’s decisions
  • Contemporary Feminists disagree with Postmodernism, pointing out that in most cases traditional gender roles which disadvantage women remain the norm.

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Related Posts 

The Personal Life Perspective on the Family

The Late Modern Perspective on the Family

If you like this sort of thing, you might also like these revision videos on YouTube

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