Interrogating Reflexive Modernity
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Over the past twenty years a thesis has been gaining ground in sociology that globalization, the revolution of communication technologies and the widespread acceptance of neoliberal ideas have led to the growth of a society qualitatively different from anything the world has seen before. Changes in technology and communication are believed to be accompanied by transformations in several areas of social life, including intimacy, family life, childcare, the labour market and the workplace, and in individuals’ subjective sense of self. These transformations are believed to be closely related with de-traditionalization, that is, the erosion of traditional ways of life and the valourization of the individual over the collective (whether that collective is the family, the trade union, the caste, the community, the church or the nation). De-traditionalization is believed to lead to the emancipation of women, the rise of a meritocratic social order where achievement is valued over ascriptive characteristics of birth and the rationalization of social life. Major proponents of this thesis of reflexive modernity (also called late modernity, second modernity or high modernity) include British sociologist Anthony Giddens (1990, 1991, 1992) and German sociologist Ulrich Beck who often works in collaboration with Elizabeth Beck-Gernsheim (1995, 2001). Zygmunt Bauman (2000, 2001) is also sometimes associated with this thesis, although there is some debate about whether the thrust of his ideas is closer to the postmodernists.
KeywordsLabour Market Family Life Feminist Critique Fall Fertility Rate Late Modernity
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