Modernism & Postmodernism: Detailed notes

Notes include:

  • Modernist views
  • Postmoderism:
  • Chaos, uncertainty & collapse of social structure
  • Globalisation
  • Metanarratives and 'Myth of the truth' - Lyotard (1984)
  • Choice, identity and consumption
  • Media-saturated society - Baudrillard (2001)
  • Giddens (2006)
  • Pick 'n' mix identities - Baudrillard (2001) & Bradley (1996)
  • You are what you buy - Bauman (1996)
  • Strengths of Postmodernism
  • Critical Views of Postmodernism - Giddens (1991) and Harvey (1990)
  • Other criticisms of Postmodernism, including Ollocks (2008)
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A2 Sociology Theory and Methods
Modernism & Postmodernism
The main views of modernity and modernist views include:
Industrialisation and the manufacture of goods for a mass market
Work and social class as the main forms of social division and social
identity, and both culture and politics are socialclass related
Independent nation states, national economies and national identities
Oneway mass media more or less reflecting social reality
A belief in rational thought and science as a means of improving the world
A view that sociological theory and research can provide insight into and
explanations of the social world, and could be used to improve it
Chaos, uncertainty and collapse of social structure
Postmodernism stresses the chaos and uncertainty in society
It argues that social structures like the nationstate, the family and social
class are breaking down
Postmodernists argue that it is nonsense to talk of an institution called the
family, for example, as people now live in such a wide range of
everchanging personal relationships
Gay and lesbian couples, cohabiting heterosexual couples who do not
marry, multiple partners, high rates of divorce and remarriage, lone
parents, stepparents and stepchildren, dual income families with both
partners working, people living alone, people living in shared households
with friends, couples who have differing arguments for organising
household tasks: all m mean that any notion of the `typical family' or `the
family as an institution' is absurd.
Supranational bodies (e.g. EU and the UN), interconnected economies,
multinational and TNCs and global cultures are displacing national states
and national identities
Postmodernists see national cultures and identities dissolving, as
globalisation means the same product brands and designers labels are
found in many countries of the world
o E.g. Coca cola, Pizza Hut, Starbucks, Nike, McDonalds, KFC
Metanarratives and the `myth of truth'
Chris Cartwright

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A2 Sociology Theory and Methods
Lyotard (1984)
Described postmodernism as `an incredulity towards metanarratives' and
argued that people no longer believed in the `myth of truth'
Because society is now changing so constantly and so rapidly, societies
can no longer be understood through the application of general theories
or metanarratives
Metanarratives are `big' theories like Marxism or Functionalism, which
seek to explain society as a whole, but these no longer apply, according
to postmodernists, because society has become fragmented into so
many different groups, interests…read more

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A2 Sociology Theory and Methods
o Laser technology and video reportage have eliminated the blood,
the suffering and the corpses from war, and the TV news presents
a sanitised version of conflicts
o Consequently, wars become mediaconstructed spectacles, which
have such an air of unreality about them that we are unable to
distinguish them from Hollywood movies or video games
Baudrillard calls this distorted view of the world hyperreality
The view is actually created and defined by the media, and the image
becomes more real…read more

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A2 Sociology Theory and Methods
You are what you buy
Bauman (1996)
Argues that life in postmodern society resembles a shopping mall:
o People can stroll around consuming whatever they like,
o They can try out and construct whatever identities they choose
o And they can change them whenever they want
In this postmodern `pick `'n' mix' consumer society, the influences of
class, gender and ethnicity are no longer so relevant
People can become whatever they want to be
They can adopt lifestyles and identities…read more

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A2 Sociology Theory and Methods
People are having to think about and reflect on the circumstances in
which they live their lives
In late modernity, reflexivity for individuals focuses on personal freedom
and fulfilment as people establish goals for what Giddens calls their `life
This social reflexivity means that people and institutions can act to change
and improve the world, which is part of the modernist era
Harvey (1990)
Suggests that many of the changes claimed by postmodernists to be
evidence of postmodernity can…read more



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