Assess the extent to which theories of modernity are relevant to understanding contemporary society. (33 marks)
Sociological theories have been used for many years to help us understand contemporary society. Structural consensus theories such as Functionalism, Marxism and Feminism all explain how individuals act as the ‘puppets’ of society due to a range of different causes. However, some would argue that these theories are no longer relevant due to us moving into a post-modern era, creating their own theories that give us a better understanding of today’s society.
Functionalism is a structural consensus theory that dates back to the twentieth century, and explains social order and why ...view middle of the document...
The theory is far too positive about a consensus existing in society and fails to take into account any divisions and inequalities, as not everyone holds power in what would be seen as a capitalist society by the likes of Marxists.
Marxism is another structural consensus theory that has been present since industrialisation and blames capitalism for social class inequalities, and remains a highly influential theory in contemporary society due to its explanation of extreme social inequalities in income, power and wealth, along with how influential the economy is in a range of social institutions. It shows us how the bourgeoisie are able to instil any inequalities; keeping the proletariat low down in the social class system and making them conform in order to produce a surplus for themselves. It recognises how the economy can influence a wide range of superstructures such as the education system, the mass media and the political system. These Ideological State Apparatus’s make social class inequalities seem acceptable, with Marx saying that we would eventually move on from a false class consciousness to a class consciousness, sparking a revolution and overthrowing capitalist ideologies.
One of Marx’ main criticisms is that there has been no revolution in the biggest capitalist societies, showing that he underestimated the power of ideology. Some would also say he focusses far too much on social class inequalities and should take factors such as gender and ethnicity into account. Some would say that because Marxism was written in industrial times, making it less relevant to contemporary society, due to there being a more fragmented social class system. Antonio Gramsci would also be one to criticise a classical Marxist approach due to an over-emphasis on the power and importance of the economy. He also says that people aren’t ‘blinded’ by their oppression, they are simply influenced by ruling class ideologies without completely rejecting a capitalist system, and known to Gramsci is a dual consciousness. All of the points above show the weaknesses of this theory of modernity, making it outdated and irrelevant when finding an understanding of today’s society.
Feminism is yet another structural consensus theory that highlights why and how there are gender inequalities within society, putting forward and ways of ending oppression and equality for women. It is a highly influential and relevant theory still used today. The second wave of feminism is the one that seems most relevant to finding an understanding of society, with Liberal, Marxist, and Radical feminists all having their own reasons for inequality and patriarchy. A liberal feminist would say that gender socialisation is to blame, with getting rid of this and a political reform being the solution. A Marxist would blame capitalist ideologies and also familism; a theory created my Michelle Barrett. They would see the way to end oppression being abolishing these causes. A radical feminist is...