Modernity, Post-Modernity and Late Modernity

Some of the Key Features of Modernity and Post-Late Modernity and Modern, Post-Modern and Late Modern Thought. 

Historical Period

Time Period

Key Features of Society

Modernity

1650 to 1950 (ish)

  • Clear social structure (class/ gender)

  • The nuclear family

  • Jobs for life

  • Nation States and Politics

  • Trust in Science

  • A belief in ‘progress’

Post and Late Modernity (the Same)

1980 (ish) to the present day

  • Globalisation

  • Uncertainty

  • Consumerism

  • More Individual Freedom

  • More Diversity

  • The media and Hyper-reality

Theory

Society

The Individual

Knowledge

Examples

Modernism

Structured, institutions important stable, ordered,

Individual shaped by society

Objective knowledge is possible, it can lead to progress

Marxism

Post-Modernism

Institutions less powerful, media and consmer culture all important

Individual free to construct their own identity

Objective knowledge is not possible, it just leads to oppression

Lyotard

Late Modernism

Global institutions and abstract systems both constrain and empower individuals

The Individual has no choice but to construct their identity

Knowledge is still useful to help steer late-modernity, but it is fraught with uncertainties

Giddens

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Post-Modernity and Postmodernism

‘Post-modernity’ refers to the view that the institutions and ways of living characteristic of modernity have been replaced by new institutional features to such a profound extent that it is no longer plausible to look at the 21st century as a continuation of modernity.

Postmodernism is a term that refers to new ways of thinking about thought – to new ways of understanding ideas, beliefs and knowledge, rather than to new ways of living and organising social affairs.

From Modernity to Post-modernity?

There are many social problems which Marx, Weber and Durkheim did not address, but need addressing today – such as the environmental crisis, and the risks surrounding new scientific and technological advances.

Social Life in the Twenty-First Century

What have been the dramatic changes which have led some to talk of contemporary life as a time of post-modernity?

Globalisation is one of the most fundamental changes which according to Jones has five key characteristics

  • The rise of global capitalism
  • The declining power of the nation state
  • Population growth and urbanisation
  • The globalisation of markets and marketing
  • The rise of the network (information) society.

Identity in post-modernity

Postmodern analysis of social life tend to focus on issues of identity. In the past, work was one of the most important aspects of an individual’s identity – people tended to see themselves as what they did for a living – and two key features of modernity in terms of identity were class membership and trades union membership.

For may post-modernists, one of the central features of post-modernity is they way work and production have given way to consumption as the lynch pin of social cohesion and as the source of individual identity.

This is linked to the fact that jobs have become less stable, the idea of a job for life has disappeared, and thus work no longer provides an ‘identity’ we can just slip into.

As a result, we need to be more creative in the way we construct ourselves, and we do this through the consumption of consumer goods, to the extent that consumption has become the central feature of our existence and the main means of expressing who we are.

This has two major consequences – Firstly, it produces a new form of stratification – based on people’s ability to consume – those able to consume have the choice of a huge range of lifestyles, but those unable become disenfranchised – Bauman calls these flawed consumers, and they end up with outsider status. Secondly, post-modern life brings new uncertainties and insecurities – the individual has to ‘keep on consuming’ in order to ‘go on’ in post-modern society – to keep up with new products – to keep discarding the old and purchasing the new.

From Modernism to Post-Modernism?

Postmodern thinking applies to all sorts of human activity – to production, art and literature – and the focus is on pluralism, and on competing accounts of the nature of virtue, style, and truth (relatively in other words!). It is also on the transience and impermanence of definitions.

Postmodernism thus represents a reaction to the Enlightenment-sponsored modern search for THE truth, ultimate meaning and nature of reality.

In Postmodernism, because of the transient nature of truth, fashion and trend are just as important.

In postmodernism, the cultural dominance of the mass media are also emphasised – because the media constitutes most of what we know, and because there are so many images and sources of knowledge which we are exposed to, our sense of reality is impermanent – what we know is only here temporarily, until it is replaced with the next transient story.

According to postmodernism the social construction of knowledge works in the same way as the fashion industry promoting a new line of clothing – there is no objective or inherent beauty which makes one item of clothing better than any other – it is merely a matter of what the trend setters judge to be beautiful – which in turn is influenced by how much money/ power is expended through advertising – the same is true of knowledge – one set of ideas is not more correct than any other set – they just seem more accurate because more power is being excercised to promote one set rather than the other.

Modernism versus Postmodernism

For Modernist thinkers we can only be free if we live as we should, for post modernist thinkers we can only be free when nobody else tells us how to live.

Modernist thinkers believe that their analysis of existence – their metanarrative – is the correct one – thus they tend to be truth merchants – there are both religious versions of this, and secular versions – e.g. Marxism.

The postmodern critique of the above is that what ‘truth merchant’s do in the name of truth has too often resulted in oppression or death of those who do not agree with them.

A better solution than looking for the truth according to postmodernists is to accept that there is no ultimate truth and allowing other people the freedom to be different, to be tolerated even thought they are ‘other’.

A final reason why we can never get to the ‘truth’ is because postmodernists believe we cannot step outside the culture which made us – humans can every know via languages and discourse, and these can never be ‘true or false’ – think of the idea of a ‘true language’ – it doesn’t make sense!

This was a brief summary of one chapter of Pip Jones’s ‘Introducing Social Theory’

Related Posts 

Critical Responses to Post-Modernity (A summary of the next chapter of Pip Jone’s Book)

Social Policy and Sociology Summary

Social Policy may be defined as actions the government carries out, or actions political parties propose to do,  in order to exert an influence over a specific area of social life, such as education, the family, or society more generally – such as policies concerning taxation and wealth distribution.

This posts consists of a summary of Sociological Perspectives on the relationship between Sociology and Social Policy – covering Positivism, Marxist, Feminist and New Right Perspectives.

  What is the purpose of Sociology/ What kind of things do they research? How has the government/ political parties used data from this type of research?

 

Positivism/ Functionalism  

•           Sociologists should work with governments to uncover objective ‘causes’ of social problems such as crime/ suicide etc.

•           Do this using stats to find trends

•           Help to governments to formulate policies to improve society gradually

 

·         Governments claim to collect data about the social world in a ‘value free’

·         E.G. Office for National Statistics employs over 4000 people to collect and analyse data on everything from family trends (births/ marriages/ deaths are recorded) to crime statistics

·         The UK national census is also a good example (from 2011)

·         Governments use this data to make decisions about how many school places will be needed, how many prison places etc.

Marxism and others on the left! •           Sociology should target research to highlight a) the exploitation by the Bourgeois and b) the oppression of the working classes

·         Research includes looking at the relationship between social class and inequality in education

·         Research into the unfair criminal justice system

·         Research on the harms ‘Corporate elites’ do (Corporate Crimes and Tombs and Whyte)

·         The Spirit Level

 

·         THE UK GOVERNMENT DOES NOT LISTEN TO MARXISTS

·         Marxists argue that governments mainly ignore research done from a Marxist Agenda because governments typically consist of the upper middle classes.

·         UK education policy has allowed private education to continue

·         Looking at Crime Policy – the government does not adequately fund the Health and Safety Executive which prosecutes companies which breach health and safety law, neither does it adequately fund the Financial Services Authority, which prosecutes companies and individuals who engage in financial crimes

·         Finally, despite the findings of the spirit level, taxation policy has tended to favour wealthy individuals and Corporations since the Thatcher years in the early ‘80s Before the Tories came into power, there was a 90% rate of tax on earned income over —– – today the top rate of tax on earned income is 50% (on all income over £150 000).

Feminism ·         Research gender inequalities

·         Liberal Feminism traditionally focussed on achieving political and economic equality for women

·         Contemporary Feminism Focusses on –

·         Patriarchal ideology in the family

·         Domestic Violence

·         Beauty Myth

·         Sex trafficking

·         THE UK GOVERNMENT HAS BEEN FORCED TO LISTEN TO FEMINISM –

·         Policies promoting gender equality include

o   The vote (obviously) (1918 and 28)

o   The divorce act (1969)

o   The equal pay act (1972)

o   Rape in marriage made illegal (1991)

o   The Paternity Act (2011)

·         HOWEVER: The current government seems to want to reverse women’s rights –

o   70% of the government cuts fall on women

o   Prominent MPs such as Nadine Dories want to reduce the time limit for abortion, giving women less control over their bodies.

 

Interactionism ·         Research should be smaller scale and focus on micro level interactions

·         It should aim to achieve Verstehen

·         Traditionally focussed on process such as labelling and the self-fulfilling prophecy

·         Also inspired research on Police racism and labelling

·         Interactionists such as Becker criticise the government as being THE Source of labels – people in government label people not like them as ‘problems’ thus The government doesn’t tend to use interactionist research – it’s too small scale to be of interest.

·         There are some exceptions

o   Research on the extent of police labelling – Prompted compulsory multiculturalism training in the police

o   Ditto for training school teachers and other ‘state workers’.

 

The New Right ·         Kind of like modern day Functionalism

·         Believe the government should interfere less in social life and especially family life

·         The exception to this is through being ‘tough on crime’

THE CURRENT UK GOVERNMENT IS THE NEW RIGHT (More or less) (as was the last one, and the one before that)

 

Examples of New Right policies include…

·         The 1988 Education Act

·         Zero Tolerance Policing

·         Taxing the rich less (increasing inequality)

·         And basically ignoring anything that Marxist or Feminist inspired research says about the harmful effects of inequality on women and the poor.

Postmodernism and the Point of Sociology

A brief post on the relationship between Postmodernisation and what the point of Sociology might be from a Postmodern Perspective:

The process of Postmodernisation consist of:

  • Globalisation which destabilises social structures – Globalisation is an unpredictable process
  • Consumer culture is free from social structure and this is what informs most people’s lives
  • Hyperreality is more important than actual reality, such that it is impossible to get in touch with the real world (individual’s cannot free themselves from discourse)
  • Individuals have the freedom to construct identity, this =More Diversity Tolerance of diversity is essentially utopia.
  • The End of Metanarratives – Because of all of the above, the idea of searching for one truth or one grand theory which can be applied to help free us from ‘want or oppression’ is out of date – there are many truths.
  • Objectivity does not exist – we can only gain knowledge through discourse/ language and we cannot see beyond language.

What might Sociology look like in the Context of Postmodernity? 

Just a few suggestions…

  • Because Sociology should abandon the quest for truth, and because individuals are free, it makes sense that the focus of Sociology should be on what people do with their new found freedoms in post-modern culture – thus the focus should be on people’s stories, on exploring the diversity of identities – of special interest here is the exploration of hybrid identities.
  • Also of particular interest to ‘Postmodern’ researchers is the issue of ‘transgression’ – focussing on telling the stories of those who go against traditional norms -Deviants and criminals for example.
  • There is also a critical element to Postmodern research – which is deconstruction – using evidence to pick apart those theories which claim to have found the truth, in order to keep those dreaded metanarratives at bay.
  • To my mind most BBC Documentaries are good examples of Postmodern Research – typically narratives of transgressive individuals or groups, with little theory.

The Feminist Perspective on Education (UK Focus)

The Feminist perspective on Education

Liberal Feminists celebrate the progress made so far in improving girls’ achievement. They essentially believe that the ‘Future is now Female’ and now that girls are outperforming boys in education, it is only a matter of time until more women move into politics and higher paid, managerial roles at work.

Radical Feminists, however, argue that Patriarchy still works through school to reinforce traditional gender norms and to disadvantage girls – Add in details to the notes below.

  1. Some Radical Feminist Sociologists see concern over boys’ relative underachievement as a ‘moral panic’. Boys have still been improving their achievement in the last thirty years, just not as fast as girls. The Feminist argument is that the focus on education at the moment on ‘raising boys achievement’ reflects a male dominated system panicking at the fact that old patriarchal power relations are starting to break down.

  1. Despite improvements in girl’s education – subject choices still remain heavily gendered, and girls do not seem to be ‘breaking the glass ceiling’.

  1. Feminists would also draw on the above research which suggests that traditional gender norms are reinforced in schools, to the disadvantage of girls.

  1. Recent research suggests that despite girls doing well at school – girls are increasingly subject to sexist bullying, something which is becoming worse with the ‘normalisation of pornography’. Read the extract from Kat Banyard over page for more details and consider how common such incidents are today. Read the extract provided for details

Extract from Kat Banyard’s “The Equality Illusion”

Chapter 2 – Hands up for A gendered Education

While girls are discouraged from using their bodies on the sports field, they often find their bodies at the centre of another unwelcome kind of activity. Chloe was one of the many women and girls I heard from during the course of my research into violence at school. ‘I had boys groping my en masse. It wasn’t just at break times – in class as well. Sometimes they used to hold me down and take it turns, it was universally accepted. Teachers pretended they didn’t notice. I would regularly hang out in the toilets at break time. I felt pretty violated; it made me hate my body.’ Having now left school, Chloe can pinpoint exactly when the sexual harassment began. ‘When my breasts grew. I went from an A to an E cup when I was fourteen.’ It became a regular feature of her school day, mostly happening when the boys were in groups. ‘People would randomly scream ‘’slut’’. One boy told me that he has a fantasy that he wanted to tie me up and viciously rape me. He was a bit of an outcast. But when he said that all the boys were high-fiving him. He got serious street-cred for saying it.’’ Classrooms are training grounds for boys aspiring to be ‘real men’ and girls like Jena and Chloe are paying the price. Humiliating and degrading girls serves to highlight just how masculine boys really are. And so, sexist bullying and sexual harassment are an integral part of daily school life for many girls.

Hayley described to me how some of the boys at her secondary school were using new technologies to harass girls. ‘They try and take pictures with their camera phones up you skirt while you’re sitting at your desk. Nobody knows what to say. They wouldn’t want to provoke an argument.’ Boys also access internet pornography on school computers. Hayley said, ‘in year seven and eight it’s quite common. Even the boys you wouldn’t expect you see getting told off by teachers for it.’ Similarly Sarah remembers pornography being commonplace at her school; ‘Every student was asked to bring in newspaper articles. Many boys saw this as a great opportunity to bring in newspapers such as the Sun, Star, Sport etc and make a point of looking at, sharing and showing the countless page-three-style images. Sarah was ‘extremely upset on a number of occasions when boys who sat near me in class would push these pages in front of me and make comments. Most of the time all the forms of harassment went completely unchallenged; I don’t think (the teachers) ever paid any attention to sexual harassment.’

The consequences for girls who are sexually harassed or assaulted at school can be devastating. Depression and loss of self-esteem are common. If girls experience repeated sexual harassment they are significantly more likely to attempt suicide. In fact the trauma symptoms reported by adolescent girls subject to sexual harassment have been found to be similar to those descried by rape victims. Yet despite the fact that sexual harassment is shown to have a more damaging impact on victims than other forms of school bullying, teachers are less likely to intervene in incidences of the former. Why? The sexual harassment of girls is viewed as ‘normal’ behaviour for the boys. And it is precisely this naturalising of the act, this insidious complacency it elicits, which has enabled sexist bullying and harassment to flourish in classrooms across the world.

What is Sociology? (Bauman and May)

What is Sociology

Below is an extended summary adapted from Bauman and May’s (2001) work ‘Thinking Sociologically’ which to my mind remains one of the best introductions to Sociology there is!

What is Sociology?

Sociology is a disciplined practice with its own set of questions for approaching the study of society and social relations. It is important for understanding ourselves, each other, and the social environments in which we live.

In search of Distinction

As well as being disciplined set of practices, it also represents a considerable body of knowledge that has been accumulated over the course of history…. it is a site of constant flux with newcomers adding new ideas and studies.

Sociology has the following similarities with ‘cognate’ disciplines such as anthropology, psychology and history –

  • They aim to collect relevant facts and to check them for validity and reliability

  • They aim to present information in a clear and unambiguous way

  • They aim to make clear propositions which are free of contradictions and stand up against the evidence.

‘Sociology is distinguished from other disciplines through viewing human actions as elements of wider figurations: that is, of a non-random assembly of actors locked together in a web of mutual dependency.

Individual actors come into view of sociological study in terms of being members or partners in a network of interdependency. The central questions of Sociology concern how the types of social relations and societies that we inhabit relate to how we see each other, ourselves and our knowledge, actions and their consequences.

Thinking Sociologically also opens up the possibility for thinking about the same world in different ways.

Sociology and Common Sense

Thinking Sociologically is also distinguished by its relationship with so called ‘common sense’. This is because the objects of study of Sociology ( the family, education, media, and so on) are tightly bound up with our ordinary day-to-day routines, and thus everybody already has common sense understandings of these things.

However, in common-sense understanding, we tend to only see these things in terms of our own individual, private, experiences, we rarely pause and ask questions about the social-settings in which we live our lives. ‘Sociological thinking asks us to ‘step back’ and to ask ‘how do our individual biographies intertwine with the history we share with other human beings’.

It is important to draw a boundary between common sense and sociology, and Bauman and May see four ways this can be achieved:

  1. Sociology, unlike common sense, subjects itself to ‘rigorous rules of responsible speech’ – Sociology tries to confine itself to statements that can be baked up by reliable, valid and representative evidence which others can verify, rather than making untested propositions.

  2. Sociology aims to ‘broaden horizons’ and to examine individual biographies in the context of wider social processes. In this sense Sociology encourages people to lift themselves above the level of their daily concerns and see what we share in common with others, and what these commonalities have to do with our particular historical social context.

  3. Sociology is not about understanding things from the individual’s perspective – it stands against the view that someone’s biography is purely down to their own motives, efforts and intentional action. Thinking Sociologically is to make sense of the world through looking at the manifold webs of human dependency.

  4. Sociology involves examining ordinary life in a more fully conscious way – and going through a process of defamiliarisation – looking at society in new ways and realising that ‘this is not the only way we could do things’ – this will not be to everyone’s liking, especially those who benefit from existing social relations.

It involves constantly examining the knowledge we have of selves and others – this is an ongoing process. If we open ourselves up to this processes then it should have the following benefits –

  • It should make us more tolerant of diversity
  • It should render flexible that which may have been oppressive
  • It should make individuals more effective agents of social change – realising that society does act as a restraining force in many ways should enable the individual to direct their efforts more effectively at making changes. (A nice quote here – ‘Sociology stands in praise of the individual, but not individualism’)
  • It should enhance social solidarity – as it makes us realise that many of our private troubles are shared by several (possibly billions) of other people.

Action, Identity and Understanding in Everyday Life

‘Possessing feelings of being free and unfree at the same time is one of the most confusing issues that gives rise to feelings of ambivalence and frustration, as well as creativity and innovation.

You could now choose to carry on reading this, or abandon it and do something else. The ability to make conscious decisions is an exercise of your freedom.

Choice, Freedom and Living with Others

Our choices are not, of course, always the product of conscious decisions, many are habitual.

We are often told that we are responsible for our decisions and their outcomes – the way Unemployment is talked about is a good example of this – the discourse surrounding unemployment is very much one of ‘if you try hard enough you can get a job’. However, if one lives in an area of high unemployment and cannot afford to move, this is simply not the case.

There is thus a difference between one’s ability to reskill and look for a job and the actual capability of making one’s desires manifest in reality (actually getting a job). We are limited by the following things (sticking to the unemployment example):

  • Scarcity – there may be a lack of jobs available

  • Material constraints – we may lack the money to be able to broaden the area in which we search for work.

  • Cultural Constraints – we may live in a sexist/ racist/ classist/ homophobic area – and thus not be able to get a job because of prejudiced views held by employers

  • Our accumulated experiences as part of a particular group – our own norms and values may limit the range of possibilities open to us – we may not feel comfortable interacting with people who we perceive are very different to us.

How we act and see ourselves is informed by the expectations of the groups to which we belong – we are born into various groups (e.g. class/ gender/ ethnicity) and we have no choice over this – these groups give us a set of norms and values which both give us skills which can use to be creative (and express our freedom) but they also constrain us in certain ways.

First – there are ideas about what goals are worth pursuing

Second – there is the matter of how we should pursue these goals

Third – we are expected to identify with certain people and against others – those who might assist and prevent us from meeting expectations one and two.

Being part of a group assumes a huge amount of unconscious knowledge – a ”natural attitude” to do with the minutiae of every day life – from how we dress, to how we speak and our more general value-set. We learn this ‘natural attitude’ through growing up with others, and we generally don’t question the norms and values that we are socialised into, as revealed by the ethnomethodology of Harold Garfinkel.

Oneself with Another: Sociological Perspectives

For Mead ‘who’ we are is not something we are born with, but something we acquire through time, through interaction with others. In order to understand how this occurs, Mead divided our sense of self into two parts – the ‘I’ and the ‘Me’ – the ‘I’ is best thought of as a conversation that takes place within ourselves where we use language to think of ourselves as a whole, the ‘Me’ on the other hand refers to how we organise the expectations of groups within our actions.

To my mind this is better understood as follows:

The ‘I’ – is the internal dialogue you have with yourself about who you are. ‘I’ is your stream of consciousness’

The ‘Me’ is the various ‘social selves’ or ‘roles’ you need to play in day to life and the norms and values you have to make that self conform to. ‘Me’ is the self as others see you.

Our reflexive character is built up by treating ourselves as objects of our own actions as they are understood through the responses of others.

Following Paul Ricoeur, in the course of the acquisition of self-identity we ask questions of ourselves and the first reflexive question of selfhood is ‘who am I’? Here we first experience the contradiction between our inner desires and what we feel obliged to do because of the presence of significant others and their expectations of us.

Freud suggested that the whole process of self-development and the social organisation of human groups may be interpreted in the light of the need and the practical effort to tame sexual and aggressive instincts – but these instincts are never tamed, rather they are ‘repressed’.

The question of exactly how society tames individual instincts and balances these with obligations has been further theorised by the likes of Nancy Chodorow and Norbert Elias.

Socialisation, Significance and Action

The process of how our selves are formed and how instincts may or may not be suppressed is often given the name socialisation.

This is a complex process which involves assigning differential significance to expectations, and goes on from childhood through to adult life.

Making a selection from our environments means choosing reference groups against which we can measure or actions and find the standards to which we aspire.

We may, of course, aspire to be like groups apart from the ones we are born into, increasingly likely in the age of the mass media, where we are exposed to a range of potential groups which we might aspire to, but not actually be part of.

Socialisation is a never ending process which involves a constant rebalancing of freedoms and dependencies.

 

Crime and Deviance for AQA Sociology – An Overview

A mind map providing an overview of the main topics covered within Crime and Deviance, for the AQA specification. This is how I teach the module – broken down into 15 topics – Every text book is slightly different, there’s more than one way to skin a cat, and there’s more than one way to pass a Sociology exam. This break-down works for me.

Crime and Deviance

Each of the areas above is likely to be the basis of your long essay question in Crime and Deviance, but if the examiners have got a particular hate on in any given year, they may select a more narrow focus (Moral Panics for example, yes that actually happened one year), or just Green Crime – which I’m sure would be truly awful for many students.

More likely is that they’ll ask you a question which cuts across two of the above areas – E.G. Assess Interactionist explanations for variations in patterns of offending by Age or Ethnicity.

Anyway, hopefully this at a glance look at the Content of the crime module is useful. Obviously you need to know more depth – but I couldn’t fit that in and make the map readable.

Sociological Perspectives on Social Policy

Social policy refers to the actions governments take in order to influence society, or to the actions opposition parties and ‘social movements’ (think Marxism and Feminism) propose to do if they were to gain power. This topic basically involves looking at perspectives on government policies

The Positivist view of Sociology and Social Policy

What is the purpose of Sociology/ What kind of things do they research?

For both Functionalists and Positivists the role of the researcher is to provide the state with objective, value free data which can be used to uncover the root causes of social problems in society. Social Policy recommendations are seen as ‘cures’ to a whole range of social problems.

Durkheim and Comte (in the 18the and early 19th centuries) both believed that doing research was part of the Enlightenment project – to use science and reason to improve society. Durkheim, and later Parsons both believed that through using cross national and historical comparisons they had started to understand the ‘laws of social evolution’ and so could inform governments of what the appropriate policies were to manage social change. For example, one of the things Durkheim suggested, way before his time, was for governments to establish a meritocratic education system and abolish inherited wealth (yay!) as a way to foster a fairer society and ensure that the most talented people could rise to positions of power and influence in the newly industrialising Europe.

How has the government/ political parties used data from this type of research?

Governments claim to collect data about the social world in a ‘value free’

E.G. Office for National Statistics employs over 4000 people to collect and analyse data on everything from family trends (births/ marriages/ deaths are recorded) to crime statistics

The UK national census is also a good example (from 2011)

Governments use this data to make decisions about how many school places will be needed, how many prison places etc.

The Marxist view of Sociology and Social Policy

What is the purpose of Sociology/ What kind of things do they research?

Marxists believe that Sociology should target research to highlight a) the exploitation by the Bourgeois and b) the oppression of the working classes

Marxist inspired research includes anything that involves looking at the relationship between social class and inequality in education, research into the unfair criminal justice system, research on the harms ‘Corporate elites’ do (Tombs and Whyte) and The Spirit Level

How has the government/ political parties used data from this type of research?

Marxists argue that governments mainly ignore research done from a Marxist Agenda because governments typically consist of the upper middle classes.

Marxists argue that Social Policies generally protect the interests of the wealthy – and there are several examples that support this view –

Within Education – the existence of private schools allows the wealthy to get their children a better education – upper middle class children effectively get ‘hot- housed’ so they are more likely to get better A levels and end up in top-end universities when compared to those attending state schools.

Looking at Crime Policy – the government does not adequately fund the Health and Safety Executive which prosecutes companies which breach health and safety law, neither does it adequately fund the Financial Services Authority, which prosecutes companies and individuals who engage in financial crimes – this is despite the fact that (according to Jones 2008) that these crimes together do more economic harm to the economy than all street crime put together.

Finally – taxation policy has tended to favour wealthy individuals and Corporations since the Thatcher years in the early ‘80s (NB – New Labour are effectively the same as the Tories these days) – Before the Tories came into power, there was a 90% rate of tax on earned income over —– – today the top rate of tax on earned income is 50% (on all income over £150 000).

Marxists argue that because of the inherent bias in Social Policy, Sociologists should not aim to work with governments – Sociologists should identify with the ‘underdog’ and focus on ‘critical research’ (which, of course, will be self-funded) to help alert people to the injustices of the Capitalist system and assist in the inevitable revolutionary movement that will bring down the Capitalist system.

Feminism, Sociology and Social Policy

What is the purpose of Sociology/ What kind of things do they research?

Feminists generally focus on researching gender inequalities

Liberal Feminism traditionally focussed on achieving political and economic equality for women

Contemporary Feminism focusses on issues of domestic violence, the Pornification of Culture and the Beauty Myth, sex trafficking and the persistence of inequalities in work and politics

How has the government/ political parties used data from this type of research?

SUCCESSIVE UK GOVERNMENTS HAVE BEEN FORCED TO LISTEN TO FEMINISM –

Policies promoting gender equality include

  • The vote (obviously) (1918 and 28)

  • The divorce act (1969)

  • The equal pay act (1972)

  • Rape in marriage made illegal (1991)

  • The Paternity Act (2011)

HOWEVER: The current government seems to want to reverse women’s rights –

  • 70% of the government cuts fall on women

  • Prominent MPs such as Nadine Dories want to reduce the time limit for abortion, giving women less control over their bodies.

Interactionism, Sociology and Social Policy

What is the purpose of Sociology/ What kind of things do they research?

According to Interactionists, research should be smaller scale and focus on micro level interactions. It should aim to achieve Verstehen. Traditionally research has focussed on process such as labelling and the self-fulfilling prophecy, often taking the side of underdog (the powerless in society) – a good example of which is Venkatesh’s sympathetic account of Crack dealers in Chicago.

How has the government/ political parties used data from this type of research?

Interactionists such as Becker criticise the government as being THE Source of labels – people in government label people not like them as ‘problems’.

The government doesn’t tend to use interactionist research – It tends to be too critical and too supportive of deviants, and in any case it’s too small scale to be of interest.

However there are some exceptions –

o Research on the extent of police labelling – Prompted compulsory multiculturalism training in the police

o Ditto for training school teachers and other ‘state workers’.

The New Right and Social Policy

What is the purpose of Sociology/ What kind of things do they research?

The New Right believe that the state should have minimal involvement in society. In particular they opposed to using state provision of welfare to deal with social problems. In their view, state intervention in areas such as family life and education robs people of their freedom and undermines their sense of responsibility. This in turn leads to greater problems such as crime and delinquency.

One classic New Right Theory is Charles Murrays’ view of the underclass – Murray argues that overly generous welfare benefits and council housing have encouraged ‘perverse incentives’ and lead to the growth of over a million people in the UK who are now dependent on state hand-outs – This includes hundreds of thousands of lone mothers, abandoned by feckless, irresponsible fathers, all made possible because these people know that if they don’t take responsibility, the state will just pay for them.

The New Right point out that there is a very strong correlation between being long term unemployed and social problems such as binge drinking and crime.

How has the government/ political parties used data from this type of research?

THE CURRENT UK GOVERNMENT IS THE NEW RIGHT (as was the last one, and the one before that)

Breakdown Britain (2007) – A report by a Conservative think tank proposes a number of social policies designed to tackle these problems – such as

  • Cutting unemployment benefit to make it less attractive

  • Tax incentives for married rather than cohabiting couples as married families are more stable than cohabiting ones.

  • Marriage preparation and parenting classes where required.

In addition to the above, New Right thinking was responsible for ‘Right Realism’ and ‘Broken Windows’ theory – The only exception to their theory that the state should do less is that it should provide strong law and order – to help communities that suffer from low levels of social control and to clamp down heavily on those who break the law with Zero Tolerance Policing techniques.

Related Posts

Social Policy and The Family

Giddens’ Modernity and Self Identity – in 14 bullet points

A brief post covering the relationship between self and society in late-modernity according to Anthony Giddens, covering concepts such as Globalisation, abstract systems, ontological security, manufactured risks, narcissism and fundamentalism.

This is very much my own reading of Giddens’ text – Modernity and Self-Identity: Self and Society in the Late Modern Age.

Giddens Self Identity and Society

Gidden’s Key Ideas about Self and Society in the Late Modern Age (Taken from Modernity and Self Identity – And Against Post Modernism)

  1. There is a global structure – e.g. it’s Capitalist and Nation States remain powerful, but it’s dynamic, constantly changing, and not predictable.

  2. Institutions (political and economic) are ‘reflexive’ – they try to ‘steer’ events in the future in the light of existing and continually updating (imperfect) knowledge.

  3. There are significant global problems (manufactured risks) which we all face and none of us can escape – e.g. Global Warming. These are real, objectively existing problems, not hyperreal, and they bind us together, even if many of us fail to accept this.

  4. The increased pace of change and Uncertainty are a fundamental part of late-modernity.

  5. Globalisation penetrates our lifeworlds through abstract Systems (money, clock time, expert systems, especially science).

  6. The media is more important and influential in late-modern society, but Giddens rejects the concept of hyperreality – the main significance of the media is that it makes us more aware of diversity and of the fact that there are many different ways of living.

  7. In Late Modern (not Post-modern) Society, there is what Giddens calls a ‘duality of structure’ – social structures both empower us and constrain us (differentially, and broadly along the lines of class, gender and ethnicity, although not perfectly) – people are not just ‘free’ to do whatever they want – their freedom comes from existing structures – think of your typicaly fashion blogger on YouTube for example – you may think of them as ‘free’, but they are fundamentally dependent on global capitalism, a monetary system, and the infrastructure of media technology.

  8. In terms of the self – Identity is no longer a given – we no longer have a pre-existing identity based on our gender, class, family or locality, everything is open to questionand we are forced to contunally look at ourselves and continuously ask the question ‘who am I’ – identity becomes a task, something we must do for ourselves, and nearly every aspect of our lives becomes something we need to reflect on as a result.

  9. It is for this reason that we become concerned with constructing a ‘Narrative of Self’ – A coherent life story, so that we can convince ourselves that we have a stable identity through time. Constructing a self-identity takes a lot of time and effort.

  10. Therapy emerges as a new expert system to help people in the process of continual identity reconstruction – especially useful at epochal moments like divorce.

  11. The construction and expression of the self becomes the new norm – there are many ways we can do this – mainly through consumption (buying and doing stuff), through relationships, and through developing bodily regimes (health regimes).

  12. An unfortunate consequence of this focus on the self is the rise of Narcissism, with very few people asking moral and existential questions about existence.

  13. However, this process is dialectical and New Social Movements (e.g. the Green Movement) which do consider moral and existential issues – in which people attempt to incorporate moral and existential questions into the construction of their ‘political’ identities.

  14. Late Modernity produces various ‘Generic’ Types of Identity – The Narcissist, the Fundamentalist, both are extreme expressions of the same social system.

Related Posts

Giddens – Modernity and Self Identity – A summary of the introduction and chapter 1.

What is the purpose of Sociology according to Giddens? – A very brief summary

What is Sociology? (According to Giddens in Modernity and Self-Identity)

This is a rough outline of some of the purposes Sociology might be put to according to Giddens, gleaned from a reading of his ‘Modernity and Self-Identity 

  1. Doing research to inform the ongoing process of reflexive modernisation at an institutional level
  2. Doing research into how flexible structures and what extent these structures are used (used by) to either constrain or empower people
  3. Helping people to realise that they are still dependent on ‘structures’ and dispelling the ‘myth of total individual freedom’.
  4. Encouraging people to consider moral and existential issues when they engage in the construction of self-identities and thereby helping people be more effective agents in the ongoing (re) constitution of society.