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Postmodernism and the family.
Asses sociologist explanation of the nurture and extent of family diversity today. (24 marks)
The postmodernist perspective rejects the modernists' belief in progress and their belief that we
can have certain knowledge of society that enables us to improve it. In the postmodernist view
society is so unstable and diverse that it is impossible to produce any explanations of society. It is
supposed by the postmodernists that no theory of society is truer than any other such as the Marxist,
functionalist viewpoints, these are said to be merely viewpoints. Postmodernists suggest that
sociology should concentrate on reflecting and celebrating diversity.
Postmodernists believe that contemporary society is rapidly changing and is full of uncertainty, as
people are questioning a whole range of traditional accepted values, morals and norms. It is
supposed that individuals are no longer constrained by social structures like the family, social class
and religion; individuals are now rejecting ideas about traditional family as a foundation of social
order. Society has become fragmented into a mass of individuals who are making their own choice
over what they choose to believe in and how they live their daily lives.
Diversity and consumer choice are the two key features in a postmodern society, and this consumer
choice is reflected, postmodernist argue in the disintegration of the traditional family. The traditional
family is being replaced by a wide diversity of relationships that people are choosing to live in,
people no longer feel bound by traditional ideas and expectations of marriage, parenthood and
sexual identity. Individuals are adopting new lifestyles, rather than being constrained by traditional
The rise of alternative family units such as cohabitation, multiple partners and more diversity in sexual
relationships including greater tolerance of homosexual couples has made the notion of the
traditional family units almost redundant, as it has been replaced by ever changing personal
relationship and choice.
Beck identifies "risk society" and the negotiated family. (1992) Where she argues that we live in a
"risk" society where traditional values have less influence on the lives of individuals and choice of an
individual is more dominant. This is because making a choice calculates the risk and rewards of the
different courses of action available. The traditional patriarchal family was unequal and oppressive
although it provided a stable structure of the traditional family as it defined each member's roles and
Beck and Gernisheim (1995) argue that the patriarchal family has been replaced by the "negotiated
family". These families are not constrained by the traditional family norms; they vary according to the
choices and expectations of its members, who decide what is best for them through negotiation.
Although today's society is deemed to be unstable and unstructured, individuals turn to family units
as a haven of security, the irony is that family relationships are at more risk now than ever before.
Stacey (1996) argues that greater choice has benefitted women as they now have more freedom of
choice and are free from the patriarchal, oppressive traditional family. Women can now arrange
family units that specifically meet their needs.
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Morgan (1996) argues that it is pointless trying to make generalisations about the "family" as if it is
one single thing, as functionalist do. Instead sociologist should focus on how people create their own
diverse family types and practices.
In the modernist view Robert Chester (1985) recognises that there has been some form of diversity
in recent years, however unlike the new right he does not regard this as significant nor does he see
this in a negative light.…read more
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The extent of the nuclear family is so diverse that it is almost impossible to define it.…read more