The postmodernist theory of society states that we have reached a state in society by which we have surpassed the modern era. Modernism is the idea that society has become industrialised and that we live in a materialistic society. The modern era, according to modernist theorists, is one based around science and the development of intellectual thinking; this stands in stark contrast to pre-modern society in which understanding and the rules of society were based around religion. A postmodern era implies one that is in a state of uncertainty and chaos by way of social structures in society.
Postmodernists would argue that the modern social structures within society are very rapidly breaking down. They would argue, and there is much evidence within society today for this, that structures such as the family are breaking down and collapsing. Families now, in comparison to society 20 or 30 years ago, have become weak and almost unimportant. In previous years, it would be considered out of the ordinary for people to grow up without getting married and having children; however, in current ‘postmodern’ society it is almost the norm.
This evidence suggests that the view that we are now living in a new postmodern era is a successful one. Post-Modernists believe that there are few social constraints within society and that there is a mass of individuals making independent choices about their lifestyles. This belief implies that society has changed as a whole and that it is not as tightly-knit as once before. The social, community cohesion that we may have seen in previous years is fading and society is turning away from the ‘one nation’, ‘big society’ idea and becoming more a society of many individuals not creating the same norms and values as one another.
This idea of individual significance also highlights a belief that we are consumers; each individual is able to make decisions on our own choices in education, health, personal relations and lifestyle. We can define ourselves as whatever we want and can be whatever we want to be. This idea is supported by evidence in society today; with changes from the traditional ‘bread-winner’ role of the male within families. This role has now become a unisex role within society; showing how both men and women, as consumers, have the ability to make their own choices on their lifestyle, job prospects and educational achievement.
Other evidence for our consumer lives in society is shown in the rising number of university applicants; even with raised fees in recent years, the intake of students by universities is on the rise, implying that each and every person in society, independent of their social background or class, can make their own decisions on their education and pave their way in life how they please. This supporting evidence within society also implies that a view on a new postmodern era may well be an accurate and successful one.
This idea of social class and background is also one that is tackled by postmodern theorists; they would argue that social class, much like the structure of the family, is breaking down and becoming blurred. There are no longer distinct differences, according to a postmodernist, between the classes within society and they believe it would be foolish in current society to label its members as ‘working class’ or ‘middle class’; we are simply as successful in life as we wish to be.
However, this argument may be disputed in society, there is evidence to suggest that the distinction between classes within society is still very much clear-cut and significant. The significance of these separations is apparent within many social institutions, such as the educational system and more predominantly within the politics of the UK. Many commentators suggest that, although the politics of our society is changing, there is still a significant culture within society which is put in place by the elite to make the rich richer and the poor poorer.
If this is the case, it would be contrary to belief that the division between the classes is becoming shortened and blurred. On the other hand, many would argue that politics within current society has developed and that parties such as the Labour Party allow for the equality between the classes to rise. However, it has also been argued that equality is merely a ‘buzz-word’ used by catch-all parties to attract voters, and that politics is still very much aimed towards the middle class. This would suggest that the view that we now live in a new postmodern era is an inaccurate, unsuccessful view.
Postmodern theorists also believe in the notion of a media-saturated society. Baudrillard sees life in a postmodern society as being dominated by media imagery, so much so that he calls it media-saturated. This idea of the media dominating society has seen vast amounts of supporting evidence within the media; with advertising campaigns ruling the television set, and with the concept of moral panics having such an influence on the vast majority of individuals within society. This evidence shows how the media may be saturating society, or removing its substance, turning society in to an ntellectual wasteland or a ‘hyper-reality’; with everyone driven away from independent social thinking and controlled by media-induced trends and fashions. Giddens suggests that as a result, our world has become a make-believe universe. The evidence within society for such media-saturation, as seen by Baudrillard, would suggest that aspects of the view that we are living in a new postmodern era hold substance and are successful. Baudrillard also sees postmodernism as involving the consumption of media-created desires and pressures to consume; with individual identity no longer formed by factors such as class, gender and ethnicity.
Identity, according to Baudrillard, is now significantly influenced, if not absolutely created, by the media and we have lost the sense of unique personhood and independence within society. Bauman argues that life in a post-modern society resembles a shopping centre; where people can stroll around, consuming whatever they like and constructing whatever identities they choose. This idea of ‘Pick ‘n’ Mix identities’ indicates a move towards a new postmodern era, implying that a view in line with such theories would be accurate.
To conclude, I would argue that the view that we are now living in a new postmodern era is one that holds considerable amount of substance and is very much believable, but is also one that contains its flaws. However, no sociological theory is perfect; the postmodern belief is one that is supported heavily by evidence within society and one that is believable to modern (or postmodern) man. The factors that indicate an end to the modern era are very much there for us as individuals to identify and it simply takes a directed look at society to make them appear to us.
Cite this Living in the Post-Modern Era
Living in the Post-Modern Era. (2017, Jan 28). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/living-in-the-post-modern-era/