Post-Modern American Family Essay, Research Paper
A postmodern family is a family, which has been stripped down from the extended family model consisting of grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins all living together. The postmodern family is an “anything goes family.” It can include stepmothers, stepfathers, half brothers and sisters, and many aunts, uncles, and grandparents. The family that used to be economically dependent on the male now has the women in the work force as well.
The postindustrial economy deals with how people today have much more control over the production process of the economy. The economy does not depend on any particular family form. The postmodern family and postindustrial economy are connected in that the economy changed the family structure. The nuclear family began living a more private life in relation with their other family members. Women no longer had to stay at home to raise the children; they went out and received higher education and well paying jobs.
One huge change in the economy during the last twenty years, which has earned the name postindustrial, is the expansion of business. Business has expanded throughout the world. In the past the economy was based on what a farm would produce and then sell in a local market. Today we import so many of our goods that we don’t have a need for farms and small shops. This resulted in men finding jobs in the business world. World business has had a major impact on the postmodern family; it is one of the things that have helped shape it. Another huge thing, which has had a major impact on the economy, is the widespread use of computers. The computer industry has grown so much in the past twenty years that it has taken over many jobs. In the past jobs that may have taken hundreds of people to accomplish, can now be done by a single computer. Many people have lost their jobs in the last twenty years due to computers. As time goes on more and more people will lose their jobs.
Judith Stacey feels that the many changes in the structure of the family has caused her to give the family the title the postmodern family. Some of these changes include the idea that there are two sources of income in a family today, the husband and the wife. Many times after a divorce a women will have to go out and support herself and sometimes her child. Remarriages are very common today resulting with stepbrothers and sisters, half brothers and sisters, stepparents. All of these things are changes, which have caused Stacey to call today’s family “postmodern.” (1992)
The postmodern family and the postindustrial economy fuel each other and interact with each other. The service economy has taken over the manufacturing economy. This made it easier for women with out an education to get a job and men who worked in factories to lose their jobs. In Judith Stacey’s Brave New Families, Pam and Don portray this idea. Pam states that she was the “queen of unskilled labor.” (p. 48, 1992) Pam found it relatively easy to find service jobs, for example babysitting and sewing jobs. Don was an engineer working for a computer industry. At first the industry needed high tech workers, high tech workers equal high paying jobs. Soon after, an assembly line process became developed and Don was no longer needed. Women like Pam were replacing Don and his co-workers. Women with little or no education who needed to support their family were accepting low paying jobs. (Class discussion, 11/6/98).
In Arlie Hochschild’s Time Bind, you can see how the postindustrial family and the postmodern family interact with each other. Bill and Linda (husband and wife) both work at the Amerco plant. Bill is a technician and Linda is a shift supervisor. Bill works while Linda stays home to watch their baby, then Bill will watch the baby while Linda works. (p. 54, 1997) Their family life has disintegrated; there is no social interaction between the couple. In the past the husband would support the family while the wife stayed at home and watched the kids. Today because jobs have lowered their wage and because the price of different products has greatly increased, this forces both the husband and the wife to work full time.
Because women are in the workplace to stay, they need more help with the housework. It is very common that women don’t get this help from their husband. Some aspects of American life need to change to promote better social integration within the family. In the example of Linda and Bill’s marriage, Bill comes home from work and he relaxes while watching the baby. When Linda gets home from the same job, she has dishes left in the sink that have to be washed. Everyone in the family comes to her with their problems the moment she walks in the door. Linda has a feeling of being overwhelmed. She escapes to work to get away of all her household pressures. Men are going to have to start taking over some of the daily chores to maintain a stable family life. (p. 55, 1997)
Functionalism discusses how society is as whole unit made up of interrelated parts that work together as a whole. If society is to function smoothly then all parts must be working together in harmony. Individuals must agree to work together and act in normative ways to make society work. (Class discussion, 11/18/98). Bill must learn to take on an equal amount of chores, to help Linda around the house. Karl Marx’s conflict theory is the result of functionalism. Conflict theory focuses on the social change of society. The men don’t want to help with housework. They feel that women have done the housework for many years and that it is not their place to do a woman’s job. The men would have to be forced into helping out at home. Even if equilibrium is reached it will only be an illusion. (Class discussion, 11/18/98)
The postmodern family and the postindustrial economy have many conflicts. With time, hopefully these conflicts will be worked out so that men and women can live together in an equal society.
1. Charon, Joel M. 1998. Ten Questions: A Sociological Perspective. California:
Wadsworth Publishing Co.
2. Class Discussion. November 6, 1998.
3. Class Discussion. November 18,1998.
4. Hochschild, Arlie. 1997. Time Bind. New York: The New York Times.
5. Judith, Stacey. 1992. Brave New Families. Sociology reading # 7
6. Kozol, Jonathan. 1991. Savage Inequalities. New York: Crown Publishers, Inc.