A prominent example of this theory in action is available to us from the works of Charles Dickens. His works are relevant to the discussion of contemporary Britain, for the process of modernization and urbanization of Britain was started during the author’s lifetime, aspects of which are reflected in his writings. Dickens too immersed himself in the social environment that he was observing and brought out astute insights into the nature of London street-life. Moreover, Dickens chose characters from lower strata of society for his stories, who are the most likely to engage in disorderly conduct. In many ways, the nineteenth century London street-life described by Dickens, serves to validate the theory of Goffman and the latter’s view of social order and disorder. For example, while London during the reign of British Empire has émigrés from colonies across the world, in modern London one can see China Towns, Pakistani neighbourhoods, Professional Indians’ suburbia, illegal East Europeans’ havens, etc (Day, 2003). These communities try their best to remain secluded from the mainstream, creating problems for city administrators who are keen to assimilate immigrants into the mainstream. This aspect of social seclusion of certain minority groups is relevant in the context of Goffman’s assertion that “Sometimes people perform differently and new forms of coordination based on new rules and practices can arise. So, disorder is a breach or break in established ways of doing things and is something that gets repaired in the flow of the interactional order.” (Staples, et. Al., p.49)
A contrasting theoretical viewpoint to that of Goffman’s was presented by the French philosopher and social scientist Michel Foucault, who laid emphasis on the systemic and institutional settings within which social interactions take place. He asserted that to understand the micro-level functioning of society one has to look at wider levels, particularly questions related to power. In contrast to Goffman, Foucault examined “how social order is shaped and organized by authoritative knowledge particularly forms of knowledge that are put to work in social and political institutions. Discourses and institutions are forms of power – the sovereign power of the state, the expert knowledge embedded in institutions and the surveillance they exercise, and the disciplinary power that arises when people internalize these discourses and govern themselves in ways based on individual self-control” (Walsh, 2003)
In the area of work versus domestic roles, the scholar team of Steyn and Edgar has done seminal research and has drawn up a theory. They assert that
“the work and family spheres could complement each other, promoting good adjustment in both realms. It is important, however, to view this issue through the prisms of the dynamic context of the family life cycle as well as individual differences among family members. A recent theoretical and research review on the subject of, commitment to work and family does this by examining the relationship of work and family to the life course, gender, age, social origin, and race. This approach allows both the researcher and practitioner to investigate optimal work-family balances throughout the life course and to be cognizant of individual differences in such balance as well. Such a perspective permits a more sophisticated understanding of the interplay of the work and domestic realms on family life.” (Walsh, 2003)
And finally, there is the Marxist perspective of studying families. In this approach, the economic status of the family is seen to be a key determinant of the overall wellbeing of its members. This perspective has assumed greater significance in contemporary times as the phenomenon of globalization had increased disparities between the rich and poor. There is little doubt that contemporary industrial society is increasingly becoming more consumerist. The story of the twentieth century is the story of large multi-national corporations, some of which have annual revenue surpassing the GDP of several sovereign countries. Such a situation gives these corporations enormous power over the lives of citizens and the kind of lifestyle choices they can make. In the case of the UK, as the country became more affluent, the nature and life cycles of consumer goods had also undergone a change. Symbols of rising affluence, such as mobile phones, computers, etc. have short life cycles as older versions are constantly being replaced by newer and improved versions. The advent of new technology such as the Internet and advanced telecommunication has changed the dynamics within the family as well. Studies show that children are spending more time than ever watching television and playing videogames. Children are also directly targeted as potential consumers, making the task of parenting all the more challenging (Dreman, 1997).