Social Theory, Social Policy and Ageing

By Carroll L. Estes; Simon Biggs et al. | Go to book overview

2 Social theory and ageing

Key points:
A critical approach to social theory and its relationship to adult ageing.
Critique of theories that reproduce or legitimate functionalist definitions of age.
Integration of political economy, cultural and humanistic approaches.
A review of historical attempts to define old age through activity, disengagement and life course theories.

Introduction

Since its inception in 1945, the field of gerontology has evolved into a formal interdisciplinary science involving biology, clinical medicine, and the behavioural and social sciences. While researchers, practitioners, policy makers and the general public agree that ageing is a part of the life course, there has been substantial disagreement among and within these groups regarding the definition of old age, the perception of what constitutes normal ageing, and the extent and scope of public/private responsibility for optimal, successful or productive ageing. This disparity in perspectives is further reflected in the broad and fragmented body of theory that constitutes the field of gerontology (Estes et al. 1992a).

One dimension of this fragmented body of work on ageing stems from the larger social science debate between 'micro' and 'macro' perspectives in which the leading theories of ageing emphasize either the individual actor or the structure of society as the primary object of study. A small number of theoretical strands attempt to link micro and macro perspectives (Marshall 1996; Bengston etal. 1997). Newer efforts have attempted also to integrate the meso

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Social Theory, Social Policy and Ageing
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Acknowledgements viii
  • 1: An Introduction to Social Theory, Social Policy and Ageing 1
  • 2: Social Theory and Ageing 8
  • 3: Age and Identity 25
  • 4: Feminist Perspectives and Old Age Policy 44
  • 5: Productive Ageing, Self-Surveillance and Social Policy 63
  • 6: Biomedicalization, Ethics and Ageing 79
  • 7: Ageing and Globalization 102
  • 8: The Politics of Ageing 122
  • 9: Conclusion 145
  • Bibliography 155
  • Index 185
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