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How the World's Family Values are Changing

Due to the spread of western culture, the development of centralized forms of government, large scale migration from rural to urban areas, and changing employment patterns, most developing countries are seeing far reaching changes to traditional patterns of family life (whatever they may be in that particular context). Anthony Giddens provides the follow list:
  1. Clans and other kin groups are declining in their influence.
  2. There is a general trend towards the free selection of a spouse.
  3. The rights of women are becoming more widely recognised, in respect to both the initiation of marriage and decision-making within the family.
  4. Arranged marriages are becoming less common.
  5. Higher levels of sexual freedom, for men and women, are developing in societies that were very restrictive.
  6. There is a general trend towards the extension of children's rights.
  7. There is an increased acceptance of same sex partnership.

[Source: Giddens, Sociology (5th ed), 2006, 211-2]

Now obviously there are reactions and counter movements to these trends, not least the rise of Islamic fundamentalism and the issue of Sharia law among migrant communities in western countries. But as long as western culture and industry continue to spread, which seems somewhat inevitable (or is it?), these trends can only be expected to grow. Can we evaluate these trends to decide if, in terms of the family, this spread of western culture is a good thing?

No.1 seems a negative as so many poverty and exploitation issues arise due to poor social networks and family support creating vulnerability.

No.2 and 4 seem good to a western mindset, because we think choice is everything, but if you talk to people from arranged marriage cultures you might be surprsied to think that it is not necessarily the source of oppression we often think it to be.

No.3 and 6 are absolutely good things (unless someone disagrees?) but can the rights of women and children only be advanced at the expense of strong extended family networks?

No.5 is definately a bad thing. Despite everything our sex obsessed media tells us, promiscuous people are manifestly unhappy, vulnerable to STDs, and create endless problems for society by raising children in unstable homes.

No.7 is tricky, perhaps 40% of Christians would see this as a considerable negative, with the rest either not caring or seeing it as a positive. Perhaps the first question is: does this fit in with 3 and 6 as a 'rights' issue, or number 5 as a 'sexual freedom' issue? Or is sexual freedom a right in itself?

So what do you think, is the spread of western culture good or bad for 'the family'?

Comments

  1. My question is, can any of these things be separated? They all seem to be the result of a drive towards greater liberty in society. As democracy is introduced, society expects more and more freedoms.

    In a twist of irony, the desire to always want our own way, in fact makes us a slave to "the father of lies". We become bound by our selfish desires and sin. We are failing to realise that interdependence with God and those around us will be the best solution. Community is key.

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