What we know as our social existence is determined by the overall structure of our society. Structure refers to the social norms and institutions that shape us human beings and society as a whole. Can limit or influence the choices and opportunities that we possess. Norms and institutions include class, religion and economic forces. Agency on the other hand refers to the capacity that individuals possess to act independently and make personal choices, it’s more free willed. Diversity embraces acceptance and respect, based on the understanding that each individual is unique and recognizes individual differences, like race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, age, physical abilities, religious beliefs, political beliefs, or other ideologies.
My essay will focus on two issues, increased diversity has significantly increased and decreased individual and collective agency.
How a person acts and lives is shaped by social structures in which they find themselves. It was quite noticeable in this course and from our daily lives that in some cases social change has brought about exploitation, political exclusion, unequal access to resources, more so in recent years. Therefore creating a system of winners and losers in which case people are trapped in a particular social situation. Basic human needs go by unmet, certain groups are excluded from decision-making and have inadequate access to resources, this in turn contributes to discrimination, lack of education and inadequate employment opportunities. These changes have brought about more opportunities for some members of society and some continuities for others. We explore the changes from Golden Age to the Contemporary UK.
What was known as a job for life has deteriorated, can also be seen as something of the past. A clear shift is noticed here from what was then a certainty. The traditional manufacturing/mining industry that was the main source of income for majority households has been taken over by the service, IT industry. Majority of jobs that were readily available to the last generation are non-existent and have been replaced by jobs that require a different skill, this skill is not possessed by members of particular communities. The post war years can be described as an era low of crime, full employment(secure social tability). ‘Agricultural, extractive sectors of the economy steadily shifting in favour of the service industry(Bell et al., 1973. p.129). In some instances these mining sites are now tourist attractions hence improving the economy from a monetary point of view but what about the unemployed? Most people were left jobless and poverty stricken thus turning to state benefits because they had no choice in the matter, mining was all the knew. If this occurrence was recent, there would be more choice, a change of occupation, unemployment, self employment. This is a clear indication of how times have changed whereby people are far more knowledgeable due to new information being readily available. Are people so knowledgeable that expertise will be a thing of the past?
A wide range wide of experts are now readily available, relationship experts, therapists, counsellors this was not the case fifty years ago. People were more dependent on herbal remedies or advice from their parents. Nowadays society in so knowledgeable because of technological advances. Who then is an expert? A person that has extensive knowledge or ability based on research, experience or occupation in a specific area of study, superiorly qualified to exercise their work. We explore the difference in thinking among experts due to their specialised field using the SIDS case study(Woodward et al., 2004, p.31). Dr Steinschneider discovered that this is a genuine medical condition, gaps in breathing that last too long in an infant can result in death. Norton a forensic pathologist concluded that one death might be SIDS, two deaths should be questioned and three deaths are multiple murder. The emphasis here is that knowledge comes in different forms, there are competing systems of knowledge and conflict between discourses. There’s tensions between agency and social structures with structures that constrain interpretation and use of knowledge. ‘TV06 Mother knows best?’ depicts how a mother just by gaining additional knowledge on MMR arrives at a conclusion different from that of a health professional. Mother realised after searching the net, reading books and general research that the MMR vaccine had side effects and it was like an over-doze of illness on her infant. She weighed the risks , looked at conflicting and contradictory information that was relayed to her. Taking the vaccine had its pros and cons, infants have died due to measles but none died after they took the vaccine although some infants had serious health conditions afterwards. Who do you trust? Can you still trust an expert because they know best or do you challenge their decision because you as a parent wants the best for your child? If something does happen to your child how would you react? Society is so bombarded with information about every and anything that they somehow feel that they do know best but can we as parents put this into practise? In some cases we do but mostly we do put our trust in experts because we are more confused than ever before due to information overload and associated risks. Being knowledgeable(public knowledge) does not make an individual an expert but yes you do have a choice and that’s yours to make. All this information from the internet and books that we read were all produced by individuals themselves, is this adding to the uncertainty and confusion that already exists or is this more a means of job reation/profit making for the ones producing it? I sometimes wander if all this information overload has created a need for specialised experts like counsellors, in the golden age they were no computers/internet and no counsellors, simpler with less choices, increased knowledge has created more experts, choices and confusion but on the other hand has made us more knowledgeable so we can choose what to acquire and how to use it. New knowledge has also created new technologies. I’ve lived in the UK for ten years now and have seen big changes in respect of Britishness, ethnicities, cultural diversity, transformation of lives, more cultural goods being readily available and the change of rural and city living.
There definitely is an increase of interconnectedness of the world, be it with communication different brands of consumer goods, arts, music and so on. A while back I could not obtain spices here but now it’s readily available. One can argue that cities have become more diverse by having more cultural consumer goods, Indian, Chinese takeaways and clothing ranges on the high street compared to fifty years ago but have become less diverse in a way because all cities do have similar restaurants or stores there’s not much that has changed in that regard. Skype is also a new software introduced whereby you call a person via computer and you can talk to them and see them at the same time where as two years ago it was chatting just typing messages to the recipient. Times are fast changing and this is mostly depicted in our daily living, more so with technology and communication, most households possess a computer/internet, they hunger for knowledge whereas in the golden age this wasn’t heard of. This indicates that the golden age seemed more secure whilst the present offers more choices and uncertainties.
Knowledge about pollution, toxins have scared people out of city living and commuting to and from work, as they consider their health most important and would not bring danger to it. There are more risks at present because we are more knowledgeable therefore dangers are known to us.
In conclusion my view is quite simple, yes I do think that increased diversity in some ways have increased agency, greater knowledge has brought about more choices with regards to awareness of illnesses, medication, general information but this has also definitely brought about more confusion and uncertainty. It leaves me asking more questions like why has information become so readily
available what’s in it for the authors/,IT professionals, state or is it just a means of making money or manipulating people. UK has become more diverse with different ethnicities, risks, globalisation, this is a way forward. This era has transformed a lot of lives and has challenged experts and professionals, this in my eyes is a good sign because people should not just believe what they hear but investigate and research before making a choice especially with life changing decisions. People have become more knowledgeable and can decipher what to action/practise and what risks are involved, when to turn to experts. It is clear that changes in knowledge systems and social changes are inextricably linked.
1. Woodward, K., Goldblatt, D and Watt, S. (2004) ‘Science in society: Knowledge in Medicine’, in Goldblatt, Knowledge and the Social Sciences: Theory, Method, Practice, London, Routledge/The Open University
2. DD122 DVD, TV Programmes, BBC for the Open University