The Impact of Individualization on Families and Personal Relationships
This essay will examine and discuss the effect of individualization on families and personal relationships. The nuclear family will be discussed in term of its viability in the modern individualized world. It will look at how the new family forms exist and the constraints that are put upon these individuals who chose their path in life. This discussion will also look at cohabitation and the many forms including relationships, friendships, and even just a single parent with a child. Marriage is no longer the ‘be all and end all’ of relationships, but in some cultures this is not true. This essay will investigate the Muslim view on arranged marriage and the constraints on individual choice. Homosexuality is frowned upon is some cultures, but in an individualized society, homosexuals are accepted. Whether they are just cohabiting or if they chose to arrange a civil marriage and/or even adopt or foster children. Homosexuals are given the same rights in these cases as a ‘normal’ married couple would. This essay will also explain the idea of the ‘family of choice’ that homosexuals have so clearly defined in their quest for acceptance.
Beck and Beck-Gernshiem’s theory of individualization (Beck and Beck-Gernshiem , 2002) is the idea that an individual does not have to conform to the previously predominant gender roles that have been so closely tied in with the nuclear family form, of a married mother and father and their children. The father would go out to work to provide for his family, whereas the woman would stay at home cook, clean and look after the children. ‘’The presumptions that people are making easy, selfish choices and abandoning the hard work of commitment and care are in fact being challenged by a growing body of new research.’’ (Smart and Shipman, 2004, pg 493). The diversity of the family form in today’s society opens up more choice for people in the way they choose to live varying from individual to individual. Allan and Crow recount Becks statement that
It is no longer typical for women to be committed to ‘compulsory housework and support by a husband’ (1992, p 104). Because of the education and labour market opportunities which have opened up for them. The male breadwinner of family organization is now merely one of several possibilities. (Allan and Crow, 2001, pg 9-10)
The rising amount of single person households indicates this process of individualization. The nuclear family form is no longer the only form, women now being individuals and independent of men, working and raising children simultaneously, without a man to support or provide for them. ‘’Whatever we consider – god, nature, truth, science, technology, morality, love, marriage – modern life is turning them all into ‘’precarious freedoms’’.’’ (Beck and Beck-Gernshiem, 2002, pg 2) these freedoms are seen as tainted to those who are from a religious background, who still believe that the woman’s place is in the home, to look after the children and keep up the household. Women are now being able to go to school, college and university to be educated and to pursue careers and support themselves as well as a family. Co-habiting divorce and new marriages involving stepfamilies also play a role in the process of individualization. ‘’Modernity and individualization are depicted marching inexorably forward together. One can, it seems, begin to predict the growth of societies where kinship networks cease to exist, where few couples will commit to each other beyond a few years.’’ (Smart and Shipman, 2004, pg 493) Beck’s theory of individualization places the individual’s choice as the priority rather than the conventional roles being the priority. The individual becomes central to his or her individual choices involving beliefs, work and education, family, friendships and relationships. Allan and Crow note that Hochschild (1990, 1996, 1997) argues that women involved in the workplace are dissatisfied with being only a housewife and find great satisfaction and a feeling of pride and value in working in a ‘’man's world’’. Co-habitation has become a popular starting point for future plans involving marriage and children, and in some case there would be no assumption of the relationship leading to either marriage or children, as the commitment of co-habitation would be enough. The increasing acceptance of homosexual relationships also help contribute to the growing numbers of cohabitant’s also it is found that groups of friends may also co-habit in order to save money on rent and bills.
Contraception and fertility control has play a role in ‘’liberalizing sexual relations and making co-habitation acceptable’’ (Allan and Crow, 2001, pg 81). Also stated by Allan and Crow is that marriage is no longer about social order or maternal welfare but it is about the individuals own personal happiness and achievements. Crow and Maclean inform that Beck explains his argument that individualization ‘’undermines people’s attachments to others’’ (Crow and Maclean, 2007, pg 80) he states how this will produce a society in which individuals are free from marriage and family relationships. Phillipson and Allan state that
Individualisation is ‘compulsory’ rather than being about genuine personal freedom, and is an integral part of self-hood in the neoliberal (dis) order.
As Ulrich Beck and Elisabeth Beck-Gernsheim (2001/2002) have argued, individuals are compelled now to make agonistic choices throughout their life-course – there may be no guidance – and they are required to take sole responsibility for the consequences of choices made or, indeed, not made.
Individualisation is a contradictory phenomenon, both exhilarating and terrifying. It really does feel like freedom, especially for women liberated from patriarchal control. But, when things go wrong there is no excuse for anyone. The individual is penalised harshly not only for personal failure but also for sheer bad luck in a highly competitive and relentlessly harsh social environment. Although the Becks deny it, such a self – condemned to freedom and lonely responsibility – is exactly the kind of self cultivated by neoliberalism, combining freewheeling consumer sovereignty with enterprising business acumen.
The Neoliberal Self by Jim McGuigan
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