SOC102H1 Lecture Notes - Filial Piety, Karl Mannheim, Population Ageing

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Unlike racial groups -> physical features
Unlike ethnic groups -> cultural features
Unlike gender groups -> physiological features
Age groups have NO permanent distinguishing features – everyone starts
young and becomes old
myths about youth
myths about old age
Age differentiation requires a lot of cultural socialization into:
Self-awareness of age differences – age consciousness – will be hard to
establish and maintain
Age-based strategies of resistance will be hard to establish and maintain
Unlike classes -> economic features
How age inequality is different
All societies have age norms
Sociologists are concerned with age norms (age-sets)
Age-sets define the social status, permitted roles, and activities of people
belonging to them
rites of passage mark the change of social status and role.
Transitions from one age-set to the next are often major social events
The underlying age norms
Age stratification theory is also concerned with how societies experience aging
(how the economy is affected by population aging )
Age stratification- system of inequalities linked to age
often associated with age
its meaning varies historically and cross
there are differences in whether aging and old age are viewed positively or
Social distance often exists between age groups
just as it does between ethnic
and racial groups
Age is a social category
Blame for current problems
Praise for current solutions
Investment in the past
Competing narratives in a conflict of generations For middle-aged people, older age
Absence of authority
Innocence of current problems
Disconnection from current solutions
Investment in the future
For middle-aged people, younger age implies
Consider the rural Irish community studied by Arensberg and Kimball
1-2 centuries ago, farm children were ruled by their parents, remaining bboys`
and bgirls ` until marriage.
In these communities, marriage was not a love match: it was largely a property
Only the oldest son inherited property
No wonder millions of young people left Ireland in the 19th century
1/3 emigrated by the 1920s
Emigration also enabled the traditional (elder-dominated) family structure to
survive briefly into the twentieth century
The old people blive long because they have much to live for. They have power.
How different it was when old people ruled society
Ruled to ruler
Son to father
Wife to husband
Younger brother to elder
Friend to Friend
However, in China as in Ireland and Quebec (i.e., Hughes), this system of age
inequality started to fall apart with industrialism
The Asian generational pattern was similar, until recently In Confucian thinking, the
elders ruled society through filial piety in five key relationships:
Industrialism always breaks down traditional kin-based institutions
Youth groups arise in societies where the family (or kinship unit) no longer
constitutes the main unit of society – e.g., no longer controls land or work (S N
Eisenstadt )
Then, the individual is forced to acquire important roles and skills outside the
in peer groups
Youthful rebellion against the old
Totalitarian societies try to control or channel youthful frustration into formal
youth movements (e.g., Chinas Cultural Revolution)
In liberal societies like Canada, rebellion is individualized – acted out by
individuals, as individuals – often as risky behaviour
The breakdown of kinship control
In traditional societies , children bear the costs of their parents directly, within
families (e.g., through filial piety)
In modern societies, older people assume the costs of their children directly,
within families
The flow of wealth shifts dramatically
Influenced by:
How population age is measured
Canada's populations is aging more quickly than many other countries
Ways which aging & age group change => changes in demography & society
Concerns of aging society
How the idea of age & aging changed over time
Types of challenges different subgroups will face as they grow older
Extended lifespan- enough time now for people to lead serveral lives
New opportunity holds great importance for social organization
Age & aging hold most interest for older people (aged the most)
Our society has recently aged rapidly & will continue
Great popular interest in study of young people -> are & will increasingly important as consumers
& citizens
Aging is important - takes place within historical context
But something never change (fights with parents, feeling insecure about future, wanting to change
change the world)
Different generations grow up in different times -> finding agreement bw generations is a
Cultural meanings are specific to times & places -> make it more difficult for different generations
to understand one another
Middle-aged concentrating on being good parents
Elderly worried about staying healthy
Young look forward v.s. elders look backward to better days
Each age group has own concerns & worries:
Age differences concern us less as we grow older (dating, marriage)
Laws tries to protect people thought to be vulnerable (young & elderly) - but bw less 'vulnerable'
age (20-70) less social protection is needed
Law has no upper-age limit for marriage, only a age floor
Lecture 5- Aging & age inequalities
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The financial costs of children outweigh the benefits
So they produce fewer children!
within families
The social differentiation of people into distinct age categories leads to the
formation of age-groupings
Today, people are inclined to perceive and and identify with age-related
imagined communities again
German sociologist Karl Mannheim was the first to make sociological theories
about such generational groupings
The sociology of generations
Mannheim views different generations as lsources of opposition
younger generation reject the social norms of earlier generations
Younger generations challenge existing societal norms and change society
through lcollective generational organizationz
Generational experience shapes worldview
Age-groups share the same relation to major traumatic events or
catastrophes (e.g., World War 2)
A Location in Time
Age groups share an orientation or feel a kinship toward each other, based
on a common relationship to authority figures in the older generation
A Resistance to Authority
Age groups sometimes act as agents of social change and foster
alternatives to the status quo
An Instrument of Change
How generation shapes worldview Can view Generation as.
It is a small step to llife course approachs developed by Glen Elder
compares different generations over the life course
The life course is a patterned sequence of individual experiences over time,
subject to varied social, historical, and cultural influences
Glen Elder`s life course approach
Five assumptions underlying the life course approach
At each stage, certain concerns become supreme and others become trivial
To interpret the actions of people at a given age, we must know what they have
experience already i.e., their developmental pathway
1. human development and aging are lifelong processes
Sequences and stages
2. The causes and consequences of life transitions vary according to their timing in a
person`s life i.e., It makes a difference at what age you make a key life transition —
whether you divorce at 25 or at 55, for example, or graduate from college at 20 or at 40
3. Lives are lived interdependently and socio-historical influences are expressed
through this network of shared relationships' - i.e., our lives are shaped by the lives of
significant friends and relatives
People live in historical time
4. The life course of individuals is embedded in and shaped by the historical times and
places they experience over their lifetime`
5. bIndividuals construct their own life courses through the choices and actions
they take within the opportunities of history and social circumstances`
–  In other words, social forces set the context within which we exercise choice in our
lives. e.g., growing up in the Depression
•  To illustrate these ideas, Elder studied a sample of children who had lived in
California during the Great Depression (1930s)
•  The results are described in Elder`s book, Children of the Great Depression (1974)
•  lDeprivedz children lived in families that had lost at least 35 percent of their income
between 1929 and 1933 –  Their sudden financial loss altered family relationships
Children became more important
•  To compensate, many teenage sons had to work for pay
•  This gave them more independence and a sense of importance.
•  It also gave them the opportunity to mingle with adults and form extended social
•  Daughters took over some of the household chores
How this affected self-concept Their shortened childhood and earlier entry into
adulthood produced few negative results
•  Deprived boys often dropped out of high school to join the military, which appears to
have had a positive effect on them
•  Deprived girls` self-concepts were more negatively affected by deprivation
–  Maybe eliminated brief period of independence
Adversity speeded maturation
•  This shift in family power during the Depression helped to bring about a more
egalitarian family in America
•  Many teenage sons had to work for pay, and as a result they gained more
•  Paradoxically, the deprived children matured sooner than non-deprived children
•  This ldepression generation z came to see family relations as a valuable resource and
children as a worthwhile investment
Today, the children Elder studied are 85+ Likely, they experience powerlessness and
social exclusion
•  Exclusion may refer to social problems associated with unemployment, low
income, poor housing, deficient health, or social isolation
There are three distinct ideas of exclusion.
  1. The first defines social exclusion as a barrier to exercising social rights
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  2. A second approach defines social exclusion as a state of isolation from the wider
  3. A third approach defines social exclusion as a lack of access to important positions
of economic, religious, or political power
Old people today: more numerous, longer-lived, and less valued
•  In developed countries like Canada, the number of people over 60 has already
surpassed the number under 15 years old YET
•  As old people have become more numerous in a society, they have lost the power to
influence society
Age groups as imagined communities
•  People of different ages, like people of different ethnic groups, llive z in different
social worlds
•  Because of this, people maintain prejudices about others of different ages
–  Such prejudices can lead to discrimination
•  Consider the beliefs we hold about old people.
The invention of old age
•  The invention of the idea of lold agez is fairly recent
•  It arose with the invention of paid retirement in Germany in the 1880s
–  Bismarck defined old age as anything over 65
•  Paradoxically, the invention of lretirement z led to the idea of old age
–  not the other way around
Why old people actuallylretirez Retirement is functionally necessary for society:
•  It empties important social positions, allowing people from the next generation to
move up the social hierarchy
•  It ensures that society regularly replaces loutdated skills and ideas z with more useful
How related to power structure
•  However, forced retirement without competence testing is age-based discrimination
•  It is a form of inequality exercised by the younger generation to further its own
•  Elderly people who enjoy their work rarely withdraw from it voluntarily
–  Especially true in the professions
Exclusion and Age-ism
•  Elderly people are no more willing to take a backseat than are poor people, women,
or racial minorities.
•  A competition between age groups, old against young, results in exclusion
•  Often, social assumptions about ageing reflect ageism, a form of prejudice and
discrimination directed against any age group
Childhood also changes over time
•  Childhood didn `t always exist as we understand it today
•  Historian Philippe Aries` book Centuries of Childhood is one of the most influential
works in the sociological study of childhood
•  It shows how and why modern notions of childhood arose in the West
Why childhood was invented
•  In the Middle Ages, children whose families could not afford to pay for schooling
supported themselves by working as apprentices to adults
•  Even in the upper classes, very few European children were educated at schools
before the 16th century
•  Thus, lchildhoodz was almost nonexistent before industrial times
Schooling demandedchildhood
•  The industrialization of work had profound effects on schooling
–  and the change in schooling had a profound effect on childhood
•  People came to view children as different kinds of beings, with pre-adult
developmental needs to satisfy before they could enter adult life
•  Since the industrial revolution, formal education (and childhood) has continued to
The Invention of Adolescence
•  Like lchildhood, z the idea of ladolescence z was socially invented (in the late 19th
•  Adolescence was thought to bring a greater emotional volatility than we normally
see in young children
•  The acceptance of adolescence as an idea permitted young people to perform,
magnify, and dramatize assumptions about adolescence
Young people as performers of risk-taking
•  The single most characteristic feature of young people in our society is their
willingness to take risks
•  Teenage risk-taking is commonplace and ordinary – perhaps even normative
•  Perpetrators and victims of risky behaviour are often the same people
Young people as performers of rule-breaking
•  As sociologist David Matza (1964) wrote in Delinquency and Drift, many young
people even bdrift ` into delinquency without a strong motivation to do harm
–  armed with little more than btechniques of neutralization `.
•  The drift in and out of delinquency can be very consequential, however
Young people as performers of alienation and distancing
•  Young people are also likely to distance themselves from adult life
•  There is no long-term cost associated with such behaviour
•  They have no emotional or cultural investment in the status quo
•  They imagine that only they can see reality
Youth has a downside too
Young people often bring
dauntless courage to risk
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