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Daily academic Sociology questions and answers with Mwiinde Laison - Examine the Postmodern Perspective on the Family

by Mwiinde Laison (Author, Sociologist and Mentor)
16 Jul 2017 at 10:09hrs | Views
Question
Examine the Postmodern Perspective on the Family [25]

Comment overview
The question demands are easy to capture. Students need to be aware of the main tenets of postmodernism on families. Students in the high band will also include influential postmodernists and their views. To earn more marks, students should give a strong analysis than a general outlay of postmodernism. High credit will be given to students who will also highlight weaknesses of the perspective.

Suggested answer
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 and family arrangements.

Postmodern society has two key characteristics: firstly, 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. Secondly 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 generalizations about society in the same way that modernist theorists such as Parsons or Marx did in the past.

Stacey (1998) in her book, "The Divorce-Extended Family", 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) in the book titled, "Life Course Analysis", advocates the approach of life course analysis that is that sociologists should be concerned with focus on individual family members and the choices that they make throughout life regarding family arrangements. This approach recognizes 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.

Although postmodernists theorists have made resounding contributions to understand the contemporary family, many criticism has been raised against the applicability of the theory. 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.

In a nutshell, it is imperative to note that, though postmodernism as a perspective has faced many criticism as noted above, the applicability of the perspective still remain an arena of recognition as the support outweighs the disapproval as shown by the above discussion.

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