What are the strengths and limitations of the conception of postmodern society?

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Victoria Basye                                                                                         08/02/04

Sociology Coursework

What are the strengths and limitations of the conception of postmodern society?

I am going to look at what postmodern society is, how it refers to the world we live in and who we are. In looking into its strengths and limitations I will adapt my thoughts to the thoughts and findings of other sociologists.

        When trying to define exactly what postmoderism is I have to start by considering the events and thoughts that have led to this particular school of social theory. In sociology, postmodern society rejects the theories of the past, and represents a break from the “modern” way of thinking. For example, Marx envisaged society evolving through social change into the “perfect” communist society, where there would be no issues of class or general inequality. Postmodernists would refer to his theory, and those of other sociologists, as a metanarrative. Metanarratives are stories told to explain the belief systems that exist within a society.

        When some sociologists think of the postmodern society, as I do, they are likely to think of a shopping centre. It is quite possible to argue that “shopping centres are the cathedrals of postmodern society.” Times have changed since Marx argued that who you are is what you do and Durkheim stated that who you are depends on your religion. These days, who you are seems to be what you buy. People all over the world now go to shopping centres to make their lives simpler and more fulfilled. They go to these centres to buy items that increase their status in society or to increase their leisure and ease of living. Also in the postmodern society, people tend to want to be different and look different. So, where else would you go but to a shopping centre where you will find a greater number of choices of whatever product you desire. This is where people go to shop for their "identity makeovers". One of the major characteristics of today’s society is that the postmodern self needs to be transportable. People represent themselves by things that they can carry with them all the time. For example, clothing is a major way of representing yourself in postmodern society. One can express his or her views and beliefs just by dressing in a certain style of clothing. And of course, a shopping centre is the place to go to get these transportable, representational items. 

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        Jean Baudrillard presents a negative view towards postmodern society. He also represents an extreme view of postmodern society where our postmodern world is no longer real, but only a simulation of the real. He says that the signs that used to represent things are drained of their meaning, becoming a hyper- reality. Our mass society is dominated by the supremacy of signs over things, which develops simulation. Our society is viewed as one that has lost touch with reality and is subject to mediatisation. Mediatisation is a process where symbols become increasingly mediated by apparatuses of the media industry. This ...

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