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Postmodern theory of the family Cheat Sheet by

Postmodern theory of the family


Postmodern society has two key charac­ter­istics

1. Diversity and fragme­ntation
Society is increa­singly fragme­nted, with a broad diversity of subcul­tures rather than one shared culture. People create their identity from a wide range of choices, such as youth subcul­tures, sexual prefer­ences and social movements such as enviro­nme­nta­lism.

2. Rapid social change
New technology such as the internet, email and electronic commun­ication have transf­ormed our lives by dissolving barriers of time and space, transf­orming patterns of work and leisure and accele­rated pace of change making life less predic­table.

Postmo­dernist theorists

Giddens: In late modernity there has been a transf­orm­ation of intimacy. Indivi­duals no longer seek the kind of love associated with tradit­ional marriage, based on the idea of lifelong commitment to a partner.
Beck: We live in a risk averse societyFor some, the risk of marriage is too uncert­ain... 'what if it doesn't last?' Cohabi­ting, staying single or living apart together are more attractive options.
Stacey: There is no dominant family type People change family types as they move through their life course
Bauman: liquid love (2003)­Family bonds are becoming weaker and there is a lack of certainty about roles and respon­sib­ilities in the family

Postmodern view on the family

Postmo­der­nists argue that we no longer live in the modern world with predic­table orderly struct­ures, such as the nuclear family. Instead society has entered a new, chaotic postmodern stage. In postmodern society, family structures are incredibly varied and indivi­duals have much more freedom of choice in aspects of their lives which would have been relatively constr­ained in the past i.e. lifest­yles, personal relati­onships ad family arrang­ements.

Criticisms of postmo­dernism

Lyotard’s idea about the collapse of grand narratives can be criticised because it is itself a ‘grand narrative’
thinkers on the left argue that p-m is a middle class, intell­ectual view point – a luxury of the chattering class – the new prolet­ariat in the developing world may not see the relevance of post-m­ode­rnism to their lives.
Social thought that focuses on how we construct our identities in a world of hyper-­reality is uncrit­ical. One might argue that it suffers from a ‘myopia of the visible’. Just because the world appears more fragme­nted, and just because our media-­med­iated world is removed from reality doesn’t mean there isn’t a reality out there that needs to be understood – Lets face it once the oil runs out and three quarters of the planet is dying because of global warming ‘actual reality’ might once again begin to seem to be more real than hyper reality.


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