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of marriage. Rather marriage might be postponed,

or it might happen when children are

born, or it might happen much later in a cohabitation

when issues of inheritance and property

begin to loom as salient. Marriage may be something

that people do at a specific point in their

life-course, but it no longer has to occur as a kind

of rite of passage into adulthood, as it was in the

1950s or 1960s.

The fact that people can actively choose to reject

marriage, or elect to marry when it suits them

rather than in their early twenties, indicates that

the meaning of marriage is changing. It is no

longer “compulsory” and many of the legal and

personal disabilities that attended marriage for

women have diminished. In this context, gay

and lesbian groups have begun to challenge the

“heteronormative” assumptions that are still the

basis of marriage. Because marriage brings with it

certain privileges (such as recognition by the state

in terms of social benefits, tax and exemptions,

and residence) it is seen as a denial of human

rights for a sector of the community to be denied

the right to marry. Marriage has therefore become

the site of political activism again in both the

United States and the United Kingdom, and also

throughout Europe, Australia, and New Zealand.

Some countries, such as the Netherlands, now

recognize gay and lesbian marriage, while others

such as the United Kingdom have created a parallel

legal institution called “civil partnership”

which carries all the rights and obligations of

marriage, but which is not given the title of “marriage.”

In the United Kingdom and the United

States religious groups reject strongly the idea

that gay men and lesbians should be entitled to

have their relationships recognized and celebrated

in the way reserved for heterosexual couples,

seeing it as contravening basic religious teaching.

Moreover, some gay and lesbian groups also reject

the idea of marriage and state recognition of relationships,

because they see this as a way of being

co-opted into conventional family life when they

would prefer to subvert the normative order.

Others argue that to offer gay men and lesbians

“civil partnership” when heterosexual couples

retain the option of “marriage” merely confirms

homosexual relationships as second-rate, and they

demand absolute equality as a matter of basic civil

rights. Marriage is therefore back on the political

agenda in much the way it was in the 1970s and at

various points since the mid nineteenth century.

Sociology (along with political commentators

and the media) has had a fascination with divorce

rates and statistics since the 1950s. Divorce rates

have become the modern equivalent of E´. Durkheim’s

suicide rates, in as much as they are

treated as the measure of the stability of family

life and ultimately a measure of social cohesion.

This approach to divorce rates originates with

functionalist thinking in which “the family” is

treated as the foundation of other social institutions.

This gave rise to the understanding

that instability in the family led to both personal

instability (through poor socialization of children)

and social instability (through the knockon

effects of underachieving, anti-social young

people, and personal and economic disruption).

Divorce has therefore occupied a particularly

significant place in the study of contemporary

social problems not only because it has

been seen as a problem in itself, but because it

marriage and divorce marriage and divorce


has been seen as giving rise to a host of other


The tradition of treating divorce as a social

problem (rather than a solution to a problem)

stems from sociology’s general lack of a critical

perspective on the family in the past. Because

gender relations in the private sphere were not a

matter of (much) sociological interest until

second-wave feminist scholarship forced them

onto the agenda, divorce could only be envisaged

as a threat to social cohesion. Even Fletcher, who

did write more positively about divorce in the

1960s, saw it as a route to remarriage and hence

a means of re-establishing proper family life,

rather than a potential liberation from the institution

of marriage itself.

Control over the exit from marriage has been

closely regulated in western societies, and the

Catholic and Protestant Churches strove hard to

retain this control, even in increasingly secular

societies. In the Republic of Ireland, for example,

legal divorce became available only in 1996, and

in England and Wales it was only in the 1960s that

the Church of England gave up its opposition to

the introduction of divorce on the grounds of

mutual consent. Prior to this, divorce was only

available on the basis of proof of matrimonial

offense, and one spouse had to be identified as a

guilty party. Divorce courts were full of details of

spousal cruelties, adulterous relationships (sometimes

faked), and minute details of incompatibilities.

Divorce was a kind of public spectacle and

humiliation, with details published in the print

media, and with “innocent” and “guilty” parties

named and shamed.

Some early sociological work was critical of this

spectacle, and also of the class basis of divorce,

since the wealthy could afford to divorce, while

the poor could not. There also grew up a presecond

wave feminist critique of the poverty

and hardship caused to women who were denied

divorce, yet were unsupported by their husbands

who had deserted them. In the 1960s the

apparently new problem of lone mothers (see

lone-parent family) was gradually recognized

and, although the poverty of women raising children

alone was actually not new at all, it gained a

new name and a new urgency because of the increasing

numbers of formerly married women in

this situation after World War II. While mothers

alone with children had formerly been divided

into the deserving poor (namely widows) and the

undeserving poor (namely unmarried mothers),

the advent of deserted mothers and then divorced

mothers created a new category of women who

were obliged to look to the public purse for


In both the United States and the United Kingdom

divorce rates climbed steeply in the 1970s

and 1980s and, although rates of increase have

declined, divorce has become a common feature

of family life and it increasingly involves children

under sixteen years of age. This of course means

that more young people reaching marriageable

age come from families where either their own

parents have divorced, or there has been a divorce

within the extended kinship network. The availability

of divorce is therefore part of the context of

marriage in the twenty-first century.

It is this context that has given rise to a new

level of concern over divorce as a social problem,

namely the problem of the lack of commitment in

modern relationships. Divorce is seen to have generated

a new psychology in which younger generations

“fail” to recognize that they have to work at

relationships to make them last, and that much

self sacrifice is required. What pro-family commentators

depict as a lack of commitment and

moral fiber, some sociologists have labeled the

individualization theory. Thus authors such as Giddens,

Beck, and Beck-Gernsheim have identified a

changing mentality in which communication and

mutual support become key elements of relationships

and where the lack of such components is

seen as adequate motivation for leaving one partner

to find another. The debate over divorce and

commitment reflects wider debates in sociology

about the impact and significance of the decline

in personal life of external authorities to govern

behavior and whether this has led to a form of

moral anarchy, or to a new normative order which

has different modes of demonstrating responsibility

and commitments. The rise in rates of divorce

and cohabitation are, for example, for some

indicators of the demise of the moral family,

while for others they merely indicate that in a

more open society, with greater equality between

the genders, people can mold new forms of commitment

and mutual support. It seems unlikely

that there will be a ready resolution to this debate

because the social landscape of marriage and divorce

is constantly changing and different implications

and consequences of changes to personal

relationships emerge as social, cultural, and economic

conditions change. Two new developments

are discussed below, the first being the changing

perception of childhood and the second being the

changing position of fathers.

Until the 1990s children were depicted in divorce

literature as the “innocent victims” of

marriage and divorce marriage and divorce


parental divorce. This victim status did not require

children to speak, although the children

might be assessed in terms of their academic

achievements, their social skills, and their conformity

to a series of life-course expectations. It

was of course expected that the sons of divorced

parents would become delinquent and the daughters

would become unmarried, teenage mothers.

In the rush to calibrate the harms of divorce there

was little room for more qualitative or ethnographic

research that would seek to understand

divorce from the standpoint(s) of children. However,

such approaches have begun to emerge and

children are increasingly seen as actively engaging

with the problems of family transformations

and in seeking to find solutions and

coping mechanisms, often giving support to

their parents, and often critical of their parents’

behavior. The perspectives of children reveal their

powerlessness (particularly because children are

rarely consulted about their futures when parents

separate) but also their growing demands

for greater attentiveness from parents in the

evolution of post-divorce family life.

This concept of post-divorce family life, sometimes

referred to as the divorce-extended family, is

a recent development. Almost all sociological

work on divorce took it for granted that divorce

meant family breakdown, indeed the terminology

was used interchangeably. It was assumed that

children’s family horizons were diminished

through the loss of a father (usually) and paternal

kindred. But the new attentiveness to children

and the possibility of divorce by mutual consent

has meant that children can, in some circumstances,

retain their family links (including grandparents

on both sides). Sociological research now

embraces concepts such as “parenting across

households” or “shared parenting” in order to

capture the ways in which parents continue to

be parents notwithstanding divorce and the establishment

of different households. The idea that

divorce leads automatically to lone motherhood

and fatherless children, and that the best solution

is for mothers to remarry and create the re-constituted

nuclear family with the introduction of a

step-father, is no longer seen as accurate. Indeed

the new morality of divorce seems increasingly to

embrace the idea that parenthood is for life, and

that this should be valued regardless of the quality

of the relationships between former spouses.

These shifts in the moral ordering of divorce are

related to another important shift in the landscape

of marriage and divorce: the position of

fathers. While mothers were seen as the economic

victims of marriage and divorce throughout the

1970s and 1980s, during the 1990s fathers started

to be redefined as the victims of the system. Having

been depicted as “deadbeat dads” who fail to pay

child support and to maintain contact with their

children, fathers are now redefined as being the

ones who lose most from divorce because of the

tendency for mothers to have the residence of children

after separation. The Fathers’ Rights Movement

has become one of the fastest-growing and

most politically influential single-issue campaigns

at the turn of the twenty-first century. This movement

requires that, on divorce or separation,

fathers should be allocated 50 percent of their

children’s time to ensure equality between

parents, and also that children maintain their relationships

with their fathers. This movement is a

complex one. At one extreme it may be seen as a

reassertion of paternal authority in which fathers

insist on their genetically based rights to a child,

quite independent of the quality of any relationship

that they may have with the mother of the

child. At the other extreme it may be seen as a

positive reflection of the new fatherhood in which

men seek to share both the burdens and the joys

of raising children. In the former model, fatherhood

is imposed regardless of the views of

mothers and/or children, in the latter, fatherhood

arises from relationships of equality and mutual

support with both mothers and children. While

the impact of this movement is still unknown, it

has already reshaped the debates that currently

surround the issue of divorce. CAROL SMART

Thomas H. Marshall (1893–1982)

Fellow of Trinity College Cambridge and subsequently

Professor of Sociology at the London

School of Economics, Marshall is famous for his

analysis of citizenship in Citizenship and Social Class

and Other Essays (1950), in which he showed how in

Britain social rights had evolved through three

stages, namely civil, political, and social rights.

These rights had been recognized in such institutions

as the jury system, parliament, and the

welfare state. He argued that citizenship modified

the class system by some redistribution of entitlements

to resources, primarily through the welfare

state. In his Social Policy in the Twentieth Century

(1965), he analyzed the growth of social rights

through policy development between 1890 and

1945. In The Right to Welfare and Other Essays

(1981), he argued that modern societies are ‘hyphenated’

because there is a permanent contradiction

between liberal democracy and the capitalist

system. His theory of citizenship was essentially a

marriage and divorce Thomas H. Marshall (1893–1982)


description of the postwar reconstruction of Britain

in terms of the tension between social class

and citizenship. He has subsequently been criticized

for neglecting such issues as gender and

race and ethnicity. Marshall was not a prolific

sociologist, but his framework has been the foundation

of the sociology of citizenship in both the

United States and the United Kingdom.


Martin, David (1929– )

An Emeritus Professor of Sociology at the London

School of Economics, and Honorary Professor in

the Department of Religious Studies at Lancaster

University, Martin was in 1948 a conscientious

objector and did his national service in the “noncombatant

corps”. This experience influenced his

early contribution to the sociological analysis of

Pacifism (1965) and to the understanding of the

Christian challenge to violence, but his major research

has been in the sociology of religion, in

which he has been a leading critic of the contention

that industrial societies are characterized by

an inevitable process of secularization. In A Sociology

of English Religion (1967), The Religious and the

Secular (1969), and A General Theory of Secularization

(1978), he showed that the evidence on belief

and practice does not support a theory of uniform

secularization in modern societies. He challenged

the implicit historical and sociological assumptions

behind this analysis of secular society.

In Tongues of Fire (1990) and Pentecostalism: The

World Their Parish (2002), he explored the global

development of charismatic Christianity, drawing

a productive comparison between the growth of

evangelical Methodism in the early nineteenth

century and the expansion of Pentecostalism in

Latin America in the twentieth century. Martin

argues that there is an important consonance between

Pentecostalism and the spread of global

liberal capitalism and “the expressive revolution”

(see Talcott Parsons). Pentecostalism, which is devolved,

voluntary, local, and fissiparous, works

within a religious market that offers spiritual

uplift, social success, and emotional gratification.

While Methodism supplied the work ethic of early

capitalism, Pentecostalism is relevant to the work

skills and personal attributes of the postindustrial

service economy, especially in terms of self-monitoring

and a refusal to accept failure. He has

throughout his career been concerned with the

relationship between sociology and theology, as

illustrated in his Reflections on Sociology and Theology


Marx, Karl (1818–1883)

The most influential of the socialist thinkers, Marx

changed dramatically the way we view society and

the world. Although he dedicated his life to writing

a critique of political economy, he also pioneered a

theory of society and history, and a view of the

world that were truly revolutionary. It is impossible

to think of a criticism of capitalist society

that does not refer centrally to his work.

He was born in Trier, Germany. Although often

referred to as a Jew – he came from a long line of

rabbis – Marx was technically a Protestant. He grew

up in a professional middle-class home, and his

father, a lawyer, supported the Enlightenment. His

uncle, the Baron von Westphalen (whose daughter

Marx married), was enthusiastic about the socialism

of the French writer, G. H. Saint-Simon.

After schooling in Trier (1830–5) – a schoolboy

essay showed him committed to the development

of humanity – Marx entered the University of

Bonn to study law. At university he spent much

of his time socializing and running up large debts.

His father insisted that he move to the more

sedate University of Berlin. Here he came under

the influence of one of his lecturers, Bruno Bauer

(1809–82), who introduced Marx to the writings of

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, who had been the

Professor of Philosophy at Berlin until his death in


In 1838 Marx decided to become a university

lecturer. After completing his doctoral thesis on

ancient Greek philosophy at the University of

Jena, Marx hoped that Bauer would help find

him a teaching post. However, in 1842 Bauer was

dismissed as a result of his outspoken atheism and

was unable to help.

Marx’s notion of philosophy was practical and

down-to-earth, and he distanced himself from the

empty radicalism of many of the Young Hegelians.

From Berlin he moved to Cologne where the city’s

liberal opposition movement was fairly strong. In

1842, Marx was appointed editor of the newspaper

Die Rheinische Zeitung, and interestingly he denied

at this stage any sympathy with Communism. The

newspaper was committed to liberalism, and Marx

certainly demonstrated a deep concern with social

questions, as in his defense of peasants’ right to

collect wood, or his concern about the poverty of

the Mosel wine growers. In 1843, the paper was

banned by the Prussian authorities.

Warned that he might be arrested, Marx moved

to Paris and in the spring and summer of 1843 he

wrote a detailed critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of

Right (1821 [trans. 1942]) in which he not only

Martin, David (1929– ) Marx, Karl (1818–1883)


identified himself as a democrat, but saw a tension

between democracy and the state. He now

talked about the need to dissolve civil society –

society based upon private property, the market,

and the state.

He was greatly influenced by the materialism

of Ludwig Feuerbach (1804–72) in his Essence of

Christianity (1841 [trans. 1957]), although he felt

that Feuerbach had placed too much stress upon

nature and not enough on politics. In a letter to

Arnold Ruge (1802–80) in 1843, Marx emphasized

the need to work with social and political realities

as they were actually constituted. He became

the editor of Franco-German Yearbook, and it was

here he published On the Jewish Question (1844

[trans. 1932]), in which he argued that emancipation

must not merely be political: it must be

social. This text is crucial because it establishes

Marx’s concern with transcending the state

(which is linked with religion), the market, and

commerce, and contains his celebrated attack on

liberal notions of citizenship as abstract and

limited. His second piece in the Yearbook proclaims

the need for the principles of radical philosophy

to be realized by the proletariat: for the

first time Marx identified the agent that will

move humanity beyond civil society and the

state. The proletariat is the social class with radical

chains, and his piece – an introduction to the

critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right – contains

the famous characterization of religion as the

“opium of the people.”

Mixing with members of the working class for

the first time, he now described himself as a communist.

He championed the revolt of the Silesian

weavers in Germany, because it emphasized the

importance of a social, and not merely political,

solution to their problems. In 1844 Marx wrote

Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts (first published

in English in 1932), which consisted of a critical

assessment of the work of economists like James

Mill (1773–1836) and Jean-Baptiste Say (1776–1832),

and a critique of Hegel’s dialectic. The work is

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