PostmodernismOverviewPostmodernism represents one of the most recent additions to sociological theory, and is currently very fashionable. Perhaps the most straight forward approach to understanding postmodernism is to consider its history and development. Postmodernism literally means ‘after modernism’, therefore the first step in our exploration should by to reconsider what is meant by ‘modernism’During the 17th century, the way in which people thought about the world began to change, as they abandoned old religious ways of thinking and began to adopt a rational and scientific mindset. This change marked the move to a new social epoch in the form of ‘modernism’, in which society was characterised by a faith in rationality, industrialisation and science. Attempts were made by scientists to uncover broad mechanisms which govern the physical and natural worlds and formulate metanarratives.
By uncovering these overarching laws, humans could understand everything about the world and use this knowledge to solve all the world’s social problems. However, around the mid-twentieth century a number of events led to people losing faith in these metanarratives. For instance, the two world wars produced weapons of indiscriminate mass destruction. Similarly, environmental damage such as global warming caused by so-called technological progress. Furthermore, political metanarratives also collapsed; communism faltered and failed, whilst capitalism produced global exploitation (e.
g. sweatshops).According to Postmodernists such as Lyotard, the result of these events was an evolving ‘incredulity towards metanarratives’ (lack of faith).The collapse of faith in these ‘big truths’ led to a fundamental shift away from the ideas which formed the basis of modernist society- resulting in a Postmodern society, which has a number of distinct features: People no longer subsribe to single overarching belief systems. Instead, they pick-and-mix a variety of belief systems (for instance, drawing onscientific, religious and new age beliefs). This has also led to the breakdown of old certainties. Identities such as social class, gender and ethnicity can no longer be describled using metanarratives.
Furthermore, people now change their beliefs to suit what is ocuring in their lives at a particular time rather than stick to one belief. For instance, sexuality is no longer seen as fixed; move in between homosexuality and heterosexuality.(Relativity of knowledge, fragmentation, hybridity, fluidity)Relationship between Sociology & PostmodernismIn many ways, sociology as an academic subject was a symptom of this movement from modernism to postmodernism. Founding fathers such as Compte and Durkheim saw it as the scientific study of society and attempts were made to formulate.