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A modern society first emerged in Western Europe during the late 18th century. It
has four characteristics:
1. Nation state: The modern world is made up of a series of separate
societies, all which have their own state. The states create institutions,
which regulate the lives of their citizens. For example, education.
2. Capitalism: The economy of a modern society is capitalist. Capitalism
brought about the industrialisation of modern societies and huge increases
in wealth. However wealth distribution is unequal resulting in a class
3. Rationality, science, technology: The scientific way of thinking has
replaced the influence of religious explanations of the world.
4. Individualism: Tradition and status becomes less important. You can choose
your own course in life and your own identity. However inequalities such as
class remain important in defining someone's identity.
The nation state has provided a basic framework for the lives of most people.
However many sociologists argue we are affected by globalisation.
Our lives are shaped by a global framework. Four changes have brought this about:
1. Technological changes: We can cross entire continents in a matter of
hours. The internet helps in creating a time, space compression, closing
distances between people.
2. Economic changes: The global economy is becoming increasingly an
electronic economy. Instead of producing physical goods, much activity
involves the production of information such as music.
3. Political changes: Many sociologists argue that globalisation undermines
the power of the state. We live in a borderless world, which makes it harder
for the nation state to regulate the activities of large capitalist enterprises.
4. Cultural and identity changes: Today, we find ourselves living in a global
culture where western owned corporations spread the western culture
around the world. For example, TNC's such as Nike, selling the same
consumer goods to many countries helps to promote a similar taste across
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Postmodernism is an unstable, fragmented, media saturated global village, where
images and reality are indistinguishable. In a postmodern world, we can shape our
identity through consumption.
Foucalt argues that there are no sure grounds for knowledge. There is no objective
criteria we can use to prove a theory to be true or false. There are two
consequences to this:
1. If we cannot guarantee our knowledge is correct then we cannot use it to
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Late modernism argues that the changes we are witnessing are actually a
continuation of modernity.
Giddens argues that a defining characteristic of late modernism is it experiences
rapid change. This is because of two features:
1. Disembedding: We no longer need face to face contact to interact.
Traditions no longer serve as a guide to how we act.
2. Reflexivity: Because tradition no longer tells us how to act, we are forced to
become reflexive. We constantly monitor and reflect on our actions.…read more
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Harvey believes that we have moved from a modern society to post modernity.
Post modernity rose out of the capitalist crisis of the 1970's that saw the end of a
long economic boom.
The crisis gave ride to a new way of making profitability. Harvey describes this as
Flexible accumulation is where employees need to be flexible to meet the needs
and interests of their employers.
Flexible accumulation has weakened working class/socialist movements and
replaced them with movements such as women's liberation.…read more