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A postmodern approach to structured dependency theory

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Structured dependency theory has been useful in shifting thinking about status in old age from a negative concentration on individual characteristics to an emphasis on the structural factors which work against elderly people. However, structural dependency theory is itself capable of reinforcing ageist policy and practice. Postmodernism, as an approach to knowledge, moves us on from the premodern when the church was the ultimate authority, through the modern when scientific logic was the touchstone, to the present when there is no ultimate authority for the way the world is perceived. The revolutionary threat to ‘scientific’ research and received wisdom is greatest for the white, middle-class, mid-life, male academic establishment but offers wide possibilities to those who wish to research new fields in new ways. A postmodern approach to ageing research suggests that it would be helpful to concentrate on four themes: the critique of ‘grand theory’; the prioritisation of ‘low’ culture and understanding, as opposed to elite or ‘high’ culture; the recognition of diversity; and the value of personal views and emotions. Since postmodern thought excludes structural relations of power it is unlikely to be used in isolation by gerontologists or social policy analysts.

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