Families and Households - Postmodernism

Families and Households - Postmodernism 1/4

Characteristics include: diversity and fragmentation (as many lifestyles and cultures mean people an pick their identity) and rapid social change (new technology dissolved old boundaries of time and space, reshaping habits). The family life is less stable but gives individuals choice about their personal relationships, since society is no longer modernist with traditional nuclear families

Beck - The Individualisation thesis: families and relationships have increased choice as traditional structures (class, gender, family) have lost influence, creating a greater freedom that benefits women and provides freedom from patriarchal oppression as there is freedom to shape family arrangements, whereas previously, life has been defined by fixed roles, preventing people from choosing life courses. However, Beck exaggerates how much choice people have since decisions are still governed by social contexts (functionalists) and class and gender still shape relationships (Marxists/feminists) 

Morgan - making large-scale generalisations about the family as if were a single thing is pointless, rather, the family is simply whatever arrangements those involved choose to call their family

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Families and Households - Postmodernism 2/4

Postmodernists share similarities with difference feminists, don’t believe that a single family type should be the norm, disagreeing with Marxist, functionalists, all other feminists that a single theory of family life is possible, arguing that there can be no metanarrative 

Lyotard and Baudrillard: believe contemporary society is rapidly changing and full of uncertainties as people question a wide range of traditionally accepted norms, morals and values, society has become fragmented into a mass of individuals and individual choices about life and how to live it

Postmodernists argue that diversity and consumer choice have allowed for the disintegration of traditional families.

Beck-Gernshiem and Stacey: argue tradition relationships are being replaced by a wide diversity of relationships which people are choosing as they no longer feel bound by traditional ideas of monogamy, marriage, parenthood, sexual identities. 

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Families and Households - Postmodernism 3/4

Rising divorce rates, cohabitation/multiple partners/serial monogamy, and births outside marriages are evidence of alt-relationships being embraced, though many of the changes in society worry politicians and social policy makers, and individuals face growing insecurity and anxiety living alone as support networks weaken.

Postmodernists see these changes as simply reflecting the consumer choices individuals make, picking and choosing relationships as suits and changing these over a period of time. The rise of the alt-family unit as a makes the notion of the traditional family as a social institution redundant, replaced by a range of ever-changing personal relationships and household arrangement in which people choose to live

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Families and Households - Postmodernism 4/4

Stacey: believes that contemporary societies such as the US have developed postmodern families and associates this with the movement away from a single dominant family type.

She sees arrangement in the postmodern family as diverse, fluid and unresolved, and so the development of the postmodern family has led to the idea that the family progresses through a series of logical stages, and diversity is here to stay, as no particular form of family will become the norm.

She also acknowledges that the postmodern family can create unsettling instability, though this is welcomed as an opportunity for more egalitarian family relationships to develop

However, postmodernism overemphasises the journey through family types - Jones and O’Brien concluded that there was less variety in family types than Stacey reported, as most individuals only experience one or two different family structures in their lifetime - and postmodern views are based on assumption rather than evidence; the idea of the pick and mix family is not the norm as most people choose stability. Doubted can be ideas of freedom, choice and diversity as people are still bound by existing structures and expectations. 

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