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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’?

Today 

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

Functional families 

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 

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 

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 

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?

Valentines’ Day 

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

Romantic Madness? 

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 Valentine’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

Individualisation 

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

Changing intimacy 

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, 1938–2011

Yet,… 

Whilst changing social norms and economic factors have influenced these changes, family practices are highly differentiated by class and ethnicity

Generally; 

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 ‘strong families’ vital for strong societies?

Comparing families 

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

wife  Polyandry:

More than one husband

Spreading the seed 

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 ‘uncivilised’ 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

Western influence? 

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 

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 

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

Digital intimacy 

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

DIY Summary

Is there any link between globalisation and changes in family practices?

Finally 

No office hour next week – email me if you would like to make an appointment

Email me at if you are able to take part in my research

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’?

6 globalisation and the family