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SOC246H1 (20)

Life Course: Innovations and Challenges Summary

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University of Toronto St. George
Markus Schafer

LIFE COURSE INNOVATIONS AND CHALLENGES FOR SOCIAL RESEARCHINTRODUCTION there are few areas in the social sciences which document the intensity of recent social change better than lifecourse research life course researchfocus on the interplay of institutional and personal dynamics through a persons life spanthis indicates the speed at which soc have been modernizing themselves over the last few decadespostindustrial soc have been creating new contingencies CHANCES for biographiesy Essentially postindustrial soc have been creating new chances for indvlsinstead of life being caused by one thing or another peasantalways stuck lordalways stuck indvls are given a chance at having a better life although these are still framed by a system of social order which is based on temporal sequences of social participation and status related rights and dutiesy Still mildly based on status and other thingsthe life course is a major institution of integration and tension bw indvl and soc that provides that social and temporal contexts for biographical planning what your life will be like and stocktaking as well as for ways of adapting to changes in public and private time and spacepersonality development becomes both a project and a reflexive produce of social demands indvl decisionmaking and risktaking a process which turns the life course itself into a biographical accomplishmentas modernization continues lifecourse arrangements are becoming more dynamic less standardized and more selfdirectedthe LC is becoming more fluid due to the chance factorless rigid structuremodern life course analysis questions to what extent biographies have lost their determining frames that used to be social origin gender age and ethnicity y LC analysis looks at how indvls are no longer stuck in rigid traditional roles if youre a peasant everyone you have will always be a peasant there is no status attainment involvednow status attainment isnt stuck in the determining frames of origin gender age etc and highlights how the shaping by structural forces shifts to social processes of negotiation bw the person social networks opportunity structures and institutions the emergence of the life course in social sciences has created a number of theoretical and methodological challenges y Life course research has initiated major debates about social structure and indvl agency Previously most authors o Have concentrated on the relationship of social change o Biographies and their adaptation to new social and cultural environments over time o Emphasized the life events of cohorts under diff social constraints or opp structures and tend to neglect the actors perspective o Rational choices are the main determinant in the dynamics of social positioningy Sociology as an academic discipline is divided into a variety of specific areas which deal w life stages values and behaviours or politics the lifecourse perspective crosses the boundaries of these special fields and suggests ways of conceptual and methodological rapprochement reassumption and integration y There are methodological challenges that derive from the fact that both institutional regulation and personal behaviour are equally relevant for understanding life course patternsthat is to trace simultaneously various dimensions of the life course over an extended period of biographical timethe analysis of both institutions and the social standardization of life paths as well as indvl action strategies requires innovative combinations of qualitative and quantitative longitudinal designs A longitudinal study is a correlational research study that involves repeated observations of the same variables over long periods of time y Life course studies are also responding to new social policy challengesfor example dropout rate in education poverty unemployment risks etcsuch discontinuities question cultural and organizational normality assumptions and can lead to profound changes in institutional strategies for intervening and preventing the resulting insecurities in personal lifeplanning A SHORT HISTORY EUROPEAN AND NORTH AMERICAN TRADITIONS the AngloAmerican and continental European context retrospective accountwhere did these approaches come from in NA lifecourse research had an early start w the seminal study about the biographies and cultural adaptations of Polish peasants immigrating to the USA followed much later by studies on agegrading in soc as well as on the effects of historical events on the living arrangements of diff cohorts in the early 70sin Europe as well as in the USA and Canada this focus has been specified by studies on the effects of certain societally shaped events such as first entry into the labour market marriage or retirement on the subsequent life stage and on entire trajectoriesthe advances in collecting and analyzing longitudinal data about the life course of diff birth cohorts have pushed forward lifeevent analysis as well as studies about the temporal dynamics and forms of social diff of biographies in the context of historical time cohort time and indvl timew a growing number of longitudinal studies the cohortevent history approach that reconstructs lifecourse continuity and change w panel data has become a driving force also in crossnational lifecourse research y this approach promises to be highly productive in the analysis of social change by largescale comparisons of cohorts in diff soc nations or regions
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