How Do Theories Of Globalisation and Post- Modernity Aid Our Understanding of Society?

class notes and book notes



Modernity refers to the industrial world and its linked to urbanisation. Its also inked to state bureaucracy (King ruled land completely now this duty has been passed to other smaller organisations). this period of time when studies of the world were guided by ordered, rational, scientific thinking. Science was seen as the answer rather than traditional sources such as religion. Modernist sociological theories aimed to investigate the world scientifically. they explain why societies have evolved to be the way they are and explain why they are arranged in the way they are. Modernist theories are more structural and are functionalist and Marxist etc. These are also called grand- narratives aka big stories, and metanarratives aka stories that make sense/ other stories. They are big, all encompassing stories that explain how the world got to be the way it is. These theories tend to claim a monopoly on truth. They claim they are objectively right about the way the world is.

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Post- modernity- we have moved from modernity to p

Post- modernists say that society has society has moved on from the ordered, industrial world of modernity. they have seen various changes in society that has led to this; work has become more flexible, more service industries and less manufacturing industries, globalisation has affected both production and communication. there has been globalisation of consumption and culture. there is an emphasis consumption of cultural products. There is cultural pluralism and pluralism of roles. we interpret society and our own identities in different ways according to the circumstances we are in. i.e. a women can be wife, mother, friend and employee.

meta narratives no longer answer everything! they say that there is a whole range of competing theories which all have something to say about society. they argue that no one theory can claim a monopoly on truth.

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criticisms of post modernists by structuralists an

postmodernists emphasise the role of culture and the media in driving the creation of identities, norms and values. People who no longer seek one answer to life but are happy to pick and choose values and identities.

this approach ignores individual interactions which upsets social action theorists. it also ignores the relationship between social institutions which upsets structuralists.

Some sociologists disagree with the claim that we are living in a post modern society. GIDDENS argues that we are actually in high modernity with high risk of war, economic collapse or environmental disaster. he sees high modernity as like a juggernaut- a massive force which we can collectively try to connect but which would go out of control.

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The family and modernity

When used by sociologists, this term refers to the period of 18/1900s. Industralisation let to the complex economic and cultural changes. Functionalist theory began in the 1800s to examine traditional family structure. It is a modernist theory, which sees the nuclear family of two parents, a small number of children, a male breadwinner and a female who has an expressive role which is restricted to the domestic sphere as the ideal. This family is judged to have evolved to meet the needs of modern, industrial societies. Modern societies demand a more geographically mobile work-force. PARSONS claimed that the extended family unit wasn't suited to provide a mobile work-force. The extended family of old, stressed obligation and loyalty to kin and locality. The modern era was characterised by movement, achievement and social mobility which is better suited to a nuclear unit. In order to take advantage of the opportunities offered by the emerging meritocratic and urban industrial system, PARSONS argued, people had to break away from the rurally based extended family and organise themselves into nuclear units characterised by isolation from kin.

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Five main sentiments which underpin a Modernist vi

1) Romantic love - exclusively hetrosexual which suggests that alternatives are unnatural and deviant compared to the marriage for convenience and economic stability of many previous centuries. Marriage preferred to co-habitation.

2) Maternal love - this is the assumption that woman's natural goal is to have children and be primarily responsible for their socialisation. Staying at home with children was encouraged. Women who choose not to have children are seen as unnatural.

3) Domesticity - the family is a secure haven in a heartless world - a place where family members receive nurturing, care and love. Women will be emotional caretakers.

4) Patriarchal control - the male is expected to be the head of the household and provide for the family and be responsible for family discipline. The lack of such a role model in one parent families is therefore seen as problematic.

5) Privatisation - togetherness is emphasised. The family comes first, all others obligations and relationships come second. Clear boundaries are set between the home and the work place, between the home and wider community and between public and private lives.

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The rise of the Postmodern

The end of the 20th century saw the beginning of the 'postmodern' era. Society today has become more tolerant and accepting of diversity. Globalisation means we can work anywhere, buy from anywhere, travel anywhere, at anytime of our lives. Information technology has revolutionised how/where we work, live, shop, socialise and gather knowledge. Traditional male jobs are declining and the work opportunities are often in feminised service sector. Culture diversity is all around us. Post modernist world is characterised by pluralism rather than uniformity. We celebrate diversity, consumerism and choice in a post modern society. Post modernists stress the possibility of many different, equally authentic, values and orientations and lifestyles. They feel modernist sociology has paid too much attention to white, middle class ideals. It has demonised alternatives.


The four pillars; Family, community, faith and work are all beginning to crumble.

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Baudrillard - Simularca

He believes we are losing grip on reality e.g. we are taking soap stories seriously. Simulacra means signs. we are now buying and selling knowledge in the form of images and signs. Some signs bear no relationship to reality. Hyper-reality is when signs appear more real than reality itself and substitute themselves for reality. We take reality TV too seriously as if it was real life and that it actually affected us, but it doesn't. The media produce an endless stream of images to scare us e.g. the swine flu pandemic. Our concept of identity has become destabilised in post modern society. We can re-invent ourselves and frequently do. Baudrillard believes hyper-reality leaves us unable to distinguish image from reality. Rational thought is disappearing and we are losing grip on reality.

EVALUATION - It makes important points on the significance of media in todays culture. Its rejection of all metanarratives is valuable. Marxists would say that they ignore power and inequality. The claim we freely construct our identities through consumption overlooks the effect of poverty in restricting such opportunities. Also people can distinguish between reality and media images. By assuming that all views are equally true it becomes just as valid to deny that the Nazis murdered millions as it does to affirm it.

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Evaluation of Post Modernism

POSITIVES: Good points are made about the importance of the media/ technology/ globalisation. Its good to acknowledge that the metanarratives are becoming less important to us. Although post-modernists are criticised for not explaining how changes have occured, it is a recent theory and will continue to evolve, as with all theories, carry on to answer criticisms.

NEGATIVES: Why should we believe a theory that says no theory has truth? How did the media and consumption begin to take over? We can distinguish between reality and fiction, can't we??? Marxist criticisms stress ruling class manipulation of the media. The poor are manipulated, this shows structural inequality. Post modernists are very pessimistic about 'enlightenment'. They believe it is no longer possible for us to discover objective reality/ rational/ scientific discoveries. In reality, there is a lot we are still discovering, and we can improve the world and learn from our understanding of it, this means 'enlightenment' continues.

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Foucault: Power theory/ Post-Structuralism/ Discou

Post-structuralist feminists stress the importance of discourses and power/ knowledge. Discourses are ways of seeing/ thinking about something. They argue the enlightenment project has been male dominated with their ways of thinking, subordinating women... male scientists/ theorists etc. All discourses need deconstructing/ analysing.

Foucault, a power theorist, describes discourse as power/ knowledge. E.g. medical discourse has now often replaced religious discourse. No one discourse is correct. They mean different things to different people.

Therefore, there can be no progress with enlightenment. We cannot progress towards discovering 'true knowledge'... all knowledge is valuable, indifferent ways, to different people.

In a truly post modernist society, no one type of knowledge will dominate. No discourse is correct but some get more attention than others.

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Late Modern era. There is still some modernism.... still marriage and image of nuclear family still in brains.

Disembedding = our social interaction isn't always local or face to face. We are no longer confined to our local village or town. HOWEVER we aren't as care free as post-modernists would like to think, there is still risk that is causing additional issues. We are not yet out of control we can still slow down the risks, which makes us modern. We are still intelligent and rational so we can stop before we become problematic. We are risk conscious. Marxist would say that our constant image changing done in post-modern society increases money, increases profit to big companies, meaning that post-modernity is still surrounding capitalism.  

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Stephanie Watts


I typed most of this :D

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