With reference to Vietnam, evaluate how your chosen theory of social change helps you to understand one feature of continuity and one feature of change within that country

Demonstrate examples of continuity and change within the Vietnamese family

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Demonstrate examples of continuity and change within the Vietnamese family
A universal similarity of humanity is the importance of family to each individual. However a universal difference is the values and principles that each culture has in its family structure and the ways in which history has shaped them. In the present Vietnam, the fundamental structure of the family has demonstrated continuity with traditional Vietnamese cultural practises. However as a result of the progression of time and syncretism via external influences, the family structure has undergone significant changes especially in the north.
The Vietnamese family is the basic social unit of its society. The development of the Vietnamese family structure is the result of thousands of years of history from the influences of Chinese, French and American culture. The differences are characterised by the time in history. There is a division between the agricultural stage (-1950) and the post industrial which is 1970+. This division of times characterises a shift from traditional roles to a growing exposure to other beliefs. Religious influences were mainly Confucianism from china but it also includes Buddhism, Taoism and the cult of Ancestors. The patchwork of the past has accumulated to create a syncretic masterpiece of cultural practises that have shaped the way in which the Vietnamese family has progressed. Although imbedded in traditional methods of family diplomacy, the family system has undergone changes throughout time.

Vietnam took pride in its collectivist way of life, where living in huge family compounds with extended families was the way in which Vietnamese people lived. Families would negate personal benefits and assure their family equal share of any successful transaction or financial gain. Each member of the family is secured with welfare from their family and shared prosperity means that the family was a working unit who worked for the unity and livelihood of everyone. The individual’s interests and destiny are rarely conceived outside of the framework of the immediate and extended family and children are not taught to develop their individuality.

However throughout a tumultuous history with western influences from America and French, the development of western style political ‘right wing’ views have distorted the collectivist society of Vietnam. Vietnam has further progressed into a culture of capitalism, government family planning policies (Doi Moi), modernisation, individualism and westernisation. As a result of these ‘right wing’ influences, the family structure has changed from the collectivist stance of extended families and close knit communities to smaller nuclear type families where children are rejecting family businesses and traditional roles of caring for parents. An increase in individual living has been a social response to colonisation. Increasingly amounts of children are opting for a future where university and city jobs are an option, whereas in the past they would be limited to their family’s line of business, a concept known as ‘filial piety’.

As a contrast, Vietnam has stayed loyal to traditional practises galvanised thousands of years ago. the Vietnamese government recognises the importance of the role of the family in Vietnamese society and sees it as a major element in eradicating what are known as ‘social evils’ such as drugs, prostitution, gambling, commercialism, that have developed as a result of the transition to a more western inspired culture. Concordantly, the government is allowing benefits for large families and those that follow the collective nature and doctrine of filial piety.

Despite government intervention, certain aspects of Vietnamese families have stayed the same, such as the roles and position of family members. Continuity in Vietnamese families can be found in the stratigraphic positions of the family, based on gender, age and order of birth. There is a large emphasis on age being the hierarchy to power in the order of birth, thus making the elderly extremely power full and the younger showing respect towards them. Another example refers to the position and roles of the older sons which holds the most power and prestige in the family. However, this form of address can be further complicated by regional differences. Historically, the first son of Vietnamese families in the north was sent to settle the lands in the south. This means that the form of address for the sons of a family in the north is different to those present in the southern portion of the country. In rural areas this form of address is still present in Vietnamese society today. In conjunction to this, behaviour patterns are directed to family as opposed to personal wellbeing. Respect is granted to the head of the family and advice is often sought from older members of the family. The father is seen as the head and as the “pillar” of the family “The father is to the child, as the roof is to the house”.
The concept of the family as a self-contained socioeconomic unit was refuted by the communists and in response to this; a major family reform was initiated under a new law that was put into effect in 1960. The law revised many of the traditional family mores which included arranged marriages, equality of the partners in a married relationship and all aspects of life, discouraging lavish weddings as being wasteful, discouraging people to have large families and advising young people not to marry before the age of 20 for men and 18 for women and to have no more than 2 children per household. Attempts to implement this reform were made difficult because the culture was content with their traditional roles in society and felt no need to change. Campaigns were used to raise awareness on the issue however by the 1980s change was stagnant and Vietnam uphold their continuity of a traditional Vietnamese family.
Further more, the role of women in Vietnamese families remains conclusive to regional and family differences. In many families the role of females has remained conclusively traditional, where they remain subservient to men and are taught that they have to obey three men in their life. Firstly their father, secondly their husband and finally their oldest son. In comparison, many families have adapted to the changes in society, where women are granted more rights equal to males. As a result of the post industrialist era western influences from America, Australia, France and Britain women are taking a far more significant stance in society and family life.
Vietnam’s culture reflects syncretism of western influences along with their traditional beliefs. Changes that reflect western society have taken place, such as marriages being more of a partner choice; more attention is paid to the individual's happiness and interests as well as further government intervention, instead of a sole reliance on the family to conduct their own way of life. Statistics show that the Nuclear family has become more popular as well as increasing trends in divorce. These differences characterise a culture that has absorbed western influences and been influenced by the individualistic way of life.
In Vietnamese society, changes have occurred as a result of exterior influences from a history of western colonisers whom have shaped and cultivated many of the traditional Vietnamese practises. As a result of this, the family structure and traditional practises have been replaced with western inspired ideologies and traditions. In conjunction to these changes, remains a level of continuity of traditional practises galvanised from thousands of years of rich culture. Many steadfast families pursue their own culture as oppose to the cultivation of western influences.
Survey conducted in 2000 highlighted the changes that have occurred in the family structure in Vietnam:

  • 3045 participated in the survey, of those people 2014 (66%) were married and 1031 (34%) were unmarried.

  • Of the married people, 1107 (55%) were married before the economic renovation and 907 (45%) were married after

  • The survey has showed a decrease in arranged marriages, or marriages where parents have a say in a person’s partner.

  • There are changing attitudes towards divorce too. 68% of the people interviewed believed that the tendency for separation or divorce was normal.

  • Roles of women in the family have also changed according to the survey; almost half of the people surveyed agreed that maintaining the family should be a job shared between both partners. This opinion has been on the rise in recent years.

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