GLOBALISING SOCIALISING From the global to the personal
Sociology and the family
The family is at the heart of sociological enquiry:
‘If individuals exist independently of others, why are their actions so distinctly patterned?’
This debate, that of structure vs. agency, requires the presence of identifiable socialising structures
The family is the most intimate and, arguably, the most immediately influential of those structures
Globalised structural changes have challenged traditional family structures, provoking significant social anxiety here and in distant localities
Family Questions: To what extent…
…is family an expression of human nature?
…is family at the core of a functional society?
…have globalising forces influenced the family here and in ‘distant localities’?
Introducing the family
Intimacy and individualism
What is global about the family?
To what extent can the Western idea of the ‘nuclear family’ be considered culturally universal?
Who is in your family?
Sociology of the family
The sociology of the family is a relatively recent phenomena
Traditional social enquiry focused on instrumental, as opposed to expressive, elements of the human condition
Talcott Parsons’ functionalism was the most prominent early form of sociological investigation Talcott Parsons, 1902-1979
Parsons argued that families are ‘factories which produce human personalities’ through our ‘primary socialisation’, which produces personality characteristics that often feel entirely natural to us
This socialisation provides the stability and social resources for new adults to face the outside world without the direct assistance of family
Recognising social norms, obeying authority, taking responsibility for ourselves
Through these functions family plays a vital role in the stable reproduction of society
The ‘Normal’ Family
As Elisabeth Beck-Gernsheim (2007) had suggested, a strong idea of the ‘normal’ (nuclear) family existed within the Western world of the 1950s and 1960s
(Permanently) Married heterosexual adults with children
The husband has a job and a public life, the wife was responsible for the home and for the family
Other forms existed, but they were ‘different’, perhaps…
In your experiences, who: Does the most domestic labour?
Has the most power?
Feminism and the family
As well as highlighting the role of the family in social reproduction, feminist sociologists such as Ann Oakley have also emphasised power differentials:
The family reproduces gender inequalities and patriarchal power on a microscale
The traditional family structure limits the role of women to mother and housewife
Domestic work and decision-making are unequally distributed
Feminist sociologists also argue that the patriarchal family ‘naturalises’ the family, making it a (biological) ‘thing’ rather than something we do
Family practices ď‚¨
According to David Morgan (2011), the family is a practice rather than a formal structure
Families are performed and can be understood by what they mean to those involved
Family practices allow for a much broader understanding of family, intimacy and socialisation
Family beyond the home
Socialisation is an ongoing process: it is something that we do that extends beyond the primary socialisation of the family
Our understandings of ourselves are often developed through post-family intimate relationships
These intimate relationships, romantic or otherwise, can fill the place formally held by the ‘blood’ family
To what extent can your friends be considered as family?
Sociological intimacy ď‚¨
Our intimate relations are those that often feel most natural to us, yet they are historically and culturally constructed
Modernity, particularly in the West, has popularised the freedom to choose those with whom we share intimate bonds
Whilst this extends to friendship, the possibility of romantic love was the most significant change
Romantic love ď‚¨
Beyond the family, romantic love has become the primary ideal form of intimacy
Romantic love is a distinctly modern concept, as economic advancements overcame the need for functional partnerships
Romantic love is at the core of the Western ideal of the family and social stability
Were you a Valentine?
Last Friday, February 14th, was ‘Valentine’s’ Day’
Did you know about it?
Did you celebrate it? (or did somebody celebrate you?!)
Do you feel like this is a ‘local’ cultural tradition?
Valentine’s day can be traced back to the execution of St. Valentine on the 14th of February around the 3rd century
By the 19th century it had become a point of romantic celebration in the US
Many ‘Western’ or ‘Latin’ countries (and China) celebrate similar holidays, although it is strongly rejected in other cultures
Approx. US$10 billion is spent on Valentine’s Day each year in the US
Consumers in the UK spend an average of US$62 each
Valentine’s Day appears to be a characteristically American practice (Source: National Retail Federation. All figures except 2013 are adjusted for inflation to 2012 dollars.)
Not so romantic
Valentine’s Day is often problematic outside of the Western world, signalling a cultural clash
Romantic ideals are thought to lead to ‘immoral’ sexual conduct and ‘commercial’ values
Groups in Indonesia and Saudi Arabia have previously called for boycotts of the day
Similarly, Valentine’s Day has also been a locus for mass protests against violence towards women
What could be wrong with Valentineâ€™s day?
What would you like to ask?
The one, for now…
Romantic love, which focused on the ‘the one’ has arguably been surpassed in the West by ‘confluent love’ (see Giddens, 2009, p.372 and 1992) which is more contingent and active
These liquid, or consumer, identities often focus on fantasies of fulfilment (relationships and intimacy)
Confluent love is part of a rising global individualism where we still desire intimacy, but only within a different context
Beck-Gernsheim suggests that our understanding of love, of intimacy and of the family are influence by a global (or Western) cultural shift towards individualisation
Individualisation is a turn towards the ‘freedom’ of the individual as the primary cultural ideal – maximising agency is the aim of life
This focus has left us suspicious of more traditional forms of collective life
Changes in public and private intimacy have changed significantly over recent decades as individual expression has become dominant
Differing expressions of sexuality have become more accepted
Masculine emotional expression, both publicly and privately, has become more socially accepted as part of a larger more to a ‘post-disciplinary’ society
When is it socially acceptable for men to cry?
Transforming the family
There have been a number of significant changes to the Western ‘nuclear’ family in both social norms and in law
There has arisen an increased diversity of family forms
Both marriage and children have been increasingly postponed
Divorce rates rapidly increased during the late 20th Century
Untying the knot
Bye bye, Daddy? With increasing divorce rates and the postponement of marriage, the number of solo parents has also risen
Fertility Rates Total Fertility Rate, England and Wales, 1938â€“2011
Whilst changing social norms and economic factors have influenced these changes, family practices are highly differentiated by class and ethnicity
Traditional families remain normatively and empirically dominant
Marriage remains the most significant symbolic recognition of love and intimacy
Strong gendered divisions in labour remain, and the instrumental/expressive split is socially normative
Conservative concerns Conservative Party, ‘Families, Children and Young People Policy’ “We believe that strong and stable families are the bedrock of a strong and stable society. That's why we are doing everything we can to support families in tough times.”
Are â€˜strong familiesâ€™ vital for strong societies?
Comparing families ď‚¨
Implicit in globalisation is the idea that local cultures exposed to global influences are forced into reinvention
Some global similarities in family practices are emerging, often in response to parallel economic circumstances and the increasingly autonomy of women
Conversely, family practices in many less developed areas are distinctly local and have not changed significantly
Types of family
Monogamy: One spouse
Polygamy: More than one spouse Polygyny:
More than one
More than one husband
Spreading the seed ď‚¨
A 1998 Ethnographic Atlas Codebook study found that 84% of 1,231 global societies had some form of polygamy (see Giddens, 2013, p.384)
Polygamy is much more common in less developed areas of the world, in particular in Asia, Africa and the Pacific
Is polygamy an â€˜uncivilisedâ€™ form of the family?
Spreading Western ideals
It had been argued (see Goode, 1963 in Giddens, 2013, p.389) that the nuclear family is best suited to industrial life
As larger kinship groups broke apart due to economic developments, smaller family groups would become the norm
Small families are better suited to urban life and economic developments allow women work domestically and children to be educated
Yet, as Therborn (2004 in Giddens, 2013, p.389) found, family types are not becoming more globally similar
Because local forms still exist, the pressure of Western influences has produced a diversity of forms
The spread of modernity and Western values, particularly individualism, has extended the reach of romantic love and monogamous families
This influence has prompted shifts in family practices, rather than an adoption of the ideal of the nuclear family
The strongest global trend is the increasing autonomy of women
Autonomous women ď‚¨
Women are decreasing their dependence on men all around the world by moving into the workforce and into education
Patriarchal structures are eroding as women, with increased skills and income, have more capacity to leave relationships or not enter into them at all
One of the strongest signs of this shift has been lowering fertility rates in most parts of the world
Falling Fertility Rates
Source: IMF, 2006
Why would fertility rates drop as societies become wealthier?
Migration and family diasporas ď‚¨
Families (particularly extended families) may be separated by the need to migrate for work
Whilst migration used to be primarily a male pursuit, economic, geographical and cultural changes have meant that women make up almost half of all global migrants (Morrison, Schiff and Sjoblom, 2008)
This creates global diasporas (a scattered population of common geographical origin) of cultures, and geographically separated families
The Indian Diaspora
Communication technologies have led to a ‘compression of time and space’ that allows for the maintenance of intimate bonds between family members and changes family practices
This has led to a separation of intimacy from proximity and the idea of ‘transnational mothering’
As Wilding (2006) notes, the development of new types of technology adds a layer of interaction, increasing the frequency of communication between families
Digital technologies can provide effective solutions for maintaining relationships through regular interactions, but this intimacy tends to remain at a surface level and is tested in times of crisis
Is there any link between globalisation and changes in family practices?
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Next Week Week VIII: THE FLAT EARTH HYPOTHESIS: DEVELOPMENT, INEQUALITY AND POVERTY Readings: Cohen and Kennedy, Chapters Six and Seven Group Reading: Chapter One, Friedman, T. (2005) The World is Flat: A Brief History of the 21st Century. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Starter question: What would it mean for the world to be ‘flat’?