Tag Archives: Late Modernity

Identity, Late-Modernity, and the Consumer Society

Source: Work of Liuluenhon

The concept of identity is one that holds great appeal; gripping the attention of both scholars and society. Nevertheless, the literature reveals little consensus as to what identity actually means. The term is expansive and the prevailing way to study it is to select out specific aspects of any individual such as their gender, nationality, race/ethnicity, job status, family role, sexuality, and so on. However, there have been dominant theoretical perspectives when considering identity. Additionally, it appears that current social arrangements have – once again – influenced our thinking. The purpose of this post is to outline two theoretical perspectives of identity and show how the rise of a late or postmodern society has influenced these lines of thought. (more…)

Situating Strain within Late Modernity

Robert K. Merton, in 1938, began delving into how societal arrangements could create, maintain, and exacerbate social tension and individual stress. His theory of ‘strain’ – tremendously oversimplified – proposes that crime/deviance becomes more likely when a disjuncture exists between culturally derived ends (i.e. monetary success) and what the social structure makes possible. This theoretical framework, from its onset, has been the focus of numerous efforts; being tested, criticized, buttressed, and modified to increase its viability. As a result, sociology and criminology now offer a variety of strain models so as to enhance an understanding of criminogenic conditions, criminal behaviors, and social deviance (see Merton, 1938; Cohen, 1955; Cloward & Ohlin 1960; Agnew, 1992, 2002; Messner & Rosenfeld 1994). However, criminologists and sociologists alike are recognizing conditions that, once again, may result in the modification or further development of the strain tradition.

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Contradictory Trends Influencing School Operations: A Case of Cell Phones

In 2010, MSNBC published an article written by Alex Johnson entitled “Some schools rethink bans on cell phones: Bans don’t work, so administrators explore using mobile devices”. In the report, Johnson notes that 100 plus students were suspended – not for cheating, smoking, or bullying – but for having cell phones. While presented here as merely an anecdote, there can little doubt that the use of cell phones, and mobile technology more generally, is an issue that has caught the attention of school administrators across the nation. Within the article, Brian Begley, principal of Millard North High School, illustratively notes: “Cell phones aren’t going away.” As mobile devices become increasingly marketed to today’s youth and as their functionality blurs with that of computers, the issue of wireless, new media technology within high schools will reshape school operations.

The article cites that although 69 percent of American high schools have placed a ban on cell phones, 63% of student respondents nonetheless reported using them on campus. Recognizing that simply banning the devices does little to discourage their usage, Johnson notes that “a growing number of school districts are exploring other ways to shut them down.” Rather than employing suspension as a punishment, certain schools have resulted to more invasive forms of social control,  including “confiscating phones…keeping them for 30 days and searching them for evidence of cheating, pornography or other ‘illicit activities.’ If such evidence is found, it’s turned over to the sheriff’s office”.

Whilst illustrating both the complications for banning cell phones and their potential applicability within schools, the issue of cell phones points to a larger development.  Scholars have recently begun to document how two large-scale trends are transforming the socialization of youth within school settings. The first stems from a late-modern preoccupation with safety and security (see Garland, 1996, 2000; Simon, 2007; Foucault, 1977). Whether accelerated by internal events such as school shootings, or external factors like reported rates of youth violence, it is clear that crime has now become a chief organizing principle shaping school discipline. Consequently, issues such as cell phone use are caught in the proverbial cross-hairs and mobilized against in the name of promoting school safety. (more…)