Modernity and Post Modernity

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Modernity - Key Features

  • emerged in the late 19th centuary (1760-1970)
  • enlightenment theorists such as feminism, marxism anf functionalism believed we could use true knowledge to improve society
  • these sociological theorists felt that we were at the dawn of a  new age characterised by science, rationality, and progress which replaced tradition and superstition


INDUSTRIALISATION - organised by capitalism, the coal industry and technology industry provided new jobs and improved technology

SCIENTIFIC/ RATIONAL THINKING - became more important than belief systems

CLASS/GENDER/ETHNICITY - had a major impact on identity,  with people accepting their positons in society

STRONG NATION STATES - emerged, nations had distinct identities

METANARRATIVES - society could be explained using meta narratives

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Changing Society

Post modernity was a result of 4 main changes

ECONOMIC CHANGE - mass production has shifted to small scale production as consumers no longer want identical products but instead individualised products. Global demands dominate economic network and production

POLITICAL CHANGE - fall of communism has helped create global capitalism

SOCIAL CHANGE -social divisions such as class are becoming less important

CULTURAL CHANGE - western culture undermines traditionand makes it harder for for it to exist. Cultural boundaries are bluring and different cultures are beginning to mix

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Features of Post Modernism

Characterized by choice, diversity, indivifuality and freedom

DEATH OF META NARRATIVES - all knowledge is relative, meta narratives are no longer relevant. Value freedom is impossiblee, cult of expert is dead, society constantly changing

GLOBALIZATION - the earth is a global village, it is smaller so there is a mixing of high culture with low culture, we have more choices when it comes to identity

SOCIAL CLASS/GENDER/ETHINCITY -no longer limit our life experiences as they did in the modern world. People can contruct their own identity rather than being identified by those factors

HYPER REALITY - people start mixing media with reality

HOWEVER CREATES POSTMODERN CONDITION - confusion and uncertaintuy arises if people cannot cope with the freedom and choice

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Contribution to The Family


Emphisize the role of the family in terms of a social system

all attempt to offer meta narratives of social behaviour

FUNCTIONALISTS stress socialisation and value consensus

MARXISTS AND FEMINISTS how the family benefits capitalism or patriachy

INTERACTIONALISTS - focus on small scale interactions and acknowlege that roles are negociable


Believe there is choice and diversity, changing roles and identity, death of the nuclear family to alternative family types. Acknowledge choice and diversity leads to a fragile relationship

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contribution To Religion


  • With increasing rationality religion would die out or adapt
  • MARXISTS - religion benefits capatilism, if capitalism collapses then religion would disappear 
  • FUNCTIONALISTS -there is something eternal about religion, reigion would adapt to match the needs of society
  • FEMINISTS - religion is just a form of patriachal oppression
  • INTERPRETIVISTS -  with multiculturalism people suffer anomie and feel homeless. Relgiion provides pausability structures and is a sacred canopy
  • NEO MARXISTS/ WEBERIANS - ackknowledge that religion can play a role in social change


  • decline of meta narratives means people have becme more sceptical about religion
  • there is a flight from defferance that makes us more reflexive 
  • 'pick n mix' religion develops with glabalisation, we become spiritual shoppers
  • Lyon - religion becomes a cultural resource rather than a social institution
  • Bauman - religion fills a spiritual vacuum 
  • Hervieu Leger - we become pilgrims or converts. 

EV: Feminists and others suggest we have little choice when it comes to religion

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Contribution to Crime and Devience


  • focus on the impact of class, gender and ethnicity on crime
  • FUNCIONALISTS - accept official statistics so see crime as mainly working class. Also see crime as a recult of strain.
  • MARXISTS/INTERACTIONALISTS - focus on the fact that there is selective reinforcement of the law


  • no meta narrative provides all the answers
  • do not believe things such as class, gender and ethnicity are important as crime may be and individual lifestyle choice
  • Katz - people commit crime for excitement  
    • EV: not all druggies and prostitutes have freely chosen that route
  • Taylor - globalisation has lead to fragmented communities, unemployment and possibly crime
  • Hagan -  rise of residential segregations and segregate communities 
  • Glennys - glocal gangs> local gangs with intenational connections are made posible through globalisation, cheap travel and internet.
  • Foucault - transformation from sovreign power to disciplinery 
  • the state may impose their ideas on mental health  and normal behaviour as a discource
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  • shows how society has changed, pointing out that all knowledge is relative
  • illustrates the impact of gloalisation on a media saturated society
  • shows how globalisation has had an impact on industry


  • too pessimistic - nothing is knowable
  • contradictory - rejects all theories and gives us a new one, so may be seen as a meta-narrative in itself, claiming superiority
  • fail to recognise that choice is influenced by external factors such as class, gender, and ethnicity 
  • Philo and Miller - post modernism itself is value laden and a form of ideology 
  • celebrates consumer culture without taking into consideration the fact that the poor cannot afford to be consumers
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