The Family in Global Transition

By Gordon L. Anderson | Go to book overview

Chapter 5
THE FAMILY IN MODERN SOCIETY: FROM THE TYRANNY OF RULES TO THE WHIM OF RELATIONSHIPS

Jon Davies

"Ages" or "eras" are problematic concepts with fuzzy edges. Nevertheless, by identifying a set of practices that occur in this or that period in human history, archaeologists and historians have been able to specify clear time boundaries for periods like the Stone Age or the Iron Age. We live in what is called the Modern Age.

Typically, for a society to enter the modern era it must accept the mien of big cities, an industrial means of production, the rule of law, an intricate system of money and trade, a techno-scientific basis for education, and so forth -- but along with these insignia of modernity comes the most important organization: the nuclear family. In the modern era, the extended family moves off center stage, as the process of social differentiation leaves the "nuclear" couple with specific and important nurturing tasks to perform, all other functions being taken over by the specialized institutions of civil society, state, or marketplace.

Over the years this version of family life has inspired an extraordinary amount of literature. To highlight what seems to be the distinctive style or features of the modern family in our

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