Aging, Globalization and Inequality: The New Critical Gerontology

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Overview

This book is a major reassessment of work in the field of critical gerontology, providing a comprehensive survey of issues by a team of contributors drawn from Europe and North America. The book focuses on the variety of ways in which age and aging are socially constructed, and the extent to which growing old is being transformed through processes associated with globalization. The collection offers a range of alternative views and visions about the nature of social aging, making a major contribution to theory-building within the discipline of gerontology. The different sections of the book give an overview of the key issues and concerns underlying the development of critical gerontology. These include: first, the impact of globalization and of multinational organizations and agencies on the lives of older people; second, the factors contributing to the "social construction" of later life; and third, issues associated with diversity and inequality in old age, arising through the effects of cumulative advantage and disadvantage over the life course. These different themes are analyzed using a variety of theoretical perspectives drawn from sociology, social policy, political science, and social anthropology. Aging, Globalization and Inequality brings together key contributors to critical perspectives on aging and is unique in the range of themes and concerns covered in a single volume. The study moves forward an important area of debate in studies of aging and thus provides the basis for a new type of critical gerontology relevant to the twenty-first century.

Intended Audience: Academics in the field of aging; undergraduate and postgraduate students taking courses and modules in gerontology; policymakers.

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Editorial Reviews

Doody's Review Service
Reviewer: David O. Staats, MD (University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center)
Description: This is a multiauthored work on a new way to look at gerontology: critical gerontology. This approach emphasizes social forces that operate across the world that permit looking at how world trends influence gerontology. Critical gerontology also draws on sociology, political economy, feminist theory, and social anthropology. The result is a beguiling book unlike any other.
Purpose: The purpose is to set forth concepts of critical gerontology. This new way of looking at gerontology is splendidly presented.
Audience: There will be a broad readership of this book throughout academe and by policy makers for the aging. This is not a book for beginners; the book presupposes some understanding of gerontology. The authors are all leading experts in their fields.
Features: The book features well-paginated essays on critical gerontology. Carroll Estes's scintillatingly brilliant essay on a feminist view of gerontology shows how a male-dominated world manipulates the aging of women. Stephen Katz's critique of "function" as the basis of medical gerontology is stunning. Kathyrn Douthit's essay on dementia points out the conceptual limitations of the DSM.
Assessment: This is a brilliant and original contribution to the field of gerontology. It brings conceptualizations of modern philosophers and the humanities and social sciences to bear on gerontology in new and exciting ways. Effete geriatricians, gerontologists, and policy-makers: beware! Here the gaps in your thinking are revealed. How audacious it is to look at gerontology through completely different lenses. This book will amaze you.
From The Critics
Reviewer: David O. Staats, MD(University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center)
Description: This is a multiauthored work on a new way to look at gerontology: critical gerontology. This approach emphasizes social forces that operate across the world that permit looking at how world trends influence gerontology. Critical gerontology also draws on sociology, political economy, feminist theory, and social anthropology. The result is a beguiling book unlike any other.
Purpose: The purpose is to set forth concepts of critical gerontology. This new way of looking at gerontology is splendidly presented.
Audience: There will be a broad readership of this book throughout academe and by policy makers for the aging. This is not a book for beginners; the book presupposes some understanding of gerontology. The authors are all leading experts in their fields.
Features: The book features well-paginated essays on critical gerontology. Carroll Estes's scintillatingly brilliant essay on a feminist view of gerontology shows how a male-dominated world manipulates the aging of women. Stephen Katz's critique of "function" as the basis of medical gerontology is stunning. Kathyrn Douthit's essay on dementia points out the conceptual limitations of the DSM.
Assessment: This is a brilliant and original contribution to the field of gerontology. It brings conceptualizations of modern philosophers and the humanities and social sciences to bear on gerontology in new and exciting ways. Effete geriatricians, gerontologists, and policy-makers: beware! Here the gaps in your thinking are revealed. How audacious it is to look at gerontology through completely different lenses. This book will amaze you.
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780895033581
  • Publisher: Baywood Publishing Company, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 1/20/2006
  • Series: Society and Aging Ser.
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 91
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Read an Excerpt

Aging, Globalization, and Inequality

The New Critical Gerontology

BAYWOOD PUBLISHING COMPANY, INC.

Copyright © 2006 Baywood Publishing Company, Inc.
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-89503-358-1

Contents

Dedication..................................................................................................................................................................v Acknowledgments.............................................................................................................................................................vii INTRODUCTION 1. Introduction: Critical Perspectives in Social Gerontology Jan Baars, Dale Dannefer, Chris Phillipson, and Alan Walker...................................................1 SECTION 1: DIMENSIONS OF CRITICAL GERONTOLOGY 2. Beyond Neomodernism, Antimodernism, and Postmodernism: Basic Categories for Contemporary Critical Gerontology Jan Baars.................................................17 3. Aging and Globalization: Issues for Critical Gerontology and Political Economy Chris Phillipson.........................................................................43 4. Reexamining the Political Economy of Aging: Understanding the Structure/Agency Tension Alan Walker......................................................................59 5. Critical Feminist Perspectives, Aging, and Social Policy Carroll Estes..................................................................................................81 6. Reciprocal Co-Optation: The Relationship of Critical Theory and Social Gerontology Dale Dannefer........................................................................103 SECTION 2: CRITICAL DIMENSIONS OF MEDICALIZATION: AGING AND HEALTH AS CULTURAL PRODUCTS 7. From Chronology to Functionality: Critical Reflections on the Gerontology of the Body Stephen Katz......................................................................123 8. Empowering the Old: Critical Gerontology and Anti-Aging in a Global Context Neil King and Toni Calasanti................................................................139 9. Dementia in the Iron Cage: The Biopsychiatric Construction of Alzheimer's Dementia Kathryn Douthit......................................................................159 SECTION 3: AGE AND INEQUALITY: LOCAL, NATIONAL, AND GLOBAL DYNAMICS 10. The Emerging Postmodern Culture of Aging and Retirement Security Larry Polivka and Charles F. Longino, Jr..............................................................183 11. Dynamics of Late-Life Inequality: Modeling the Interplay of Health Disparities, Economic Resources, and Public Policies Stephen Crystal................................205 12. Health, Aging, and America's Poor: Ethnographic Insights on Family Co-morbidity and Cumulative Disadvantage Linda M. Burton and Keith E. Whitfield.....................215 13. Culture, Migration, Inequality, and "Periphery" in a Globalized World: Challenges for Ethno- and Anthropogerontology Sandra Torres.....................................231 14. Globalization and Critical Theory: Political Economy of World Population Issues John A. Vincent........................................................................245 Contributors................................................................................................................................................................273 Index.......................................................................................................................................................................277

Chapter One

Introduction: Critical Perspectives in Social Gerontology

Jan Baars, Dale Dannefer, Chris Phillipson, and Alan Walker

This book is the product of our shared conviction that mainstream social gerontology has paid insufficient attention to the degree to which age and aging are socially constituted (Baars, 1991) and to the ways in which both age and aging are currently being transformed as a result of the set of social forces surrounding processes of globalization. The neglect of critical analysis has weakened attempts to understand the social processes involved in shaping age and the life course and, consequently, the creation of alternative conceptions and visions about the future of old age. This failure must itself be linked to general inadequacies of theory building within gerontology, a deficiency shared across both European and North American studies of aging (Bengtson & Schaie, 1999; Biggs, Lowenstein, & Hendricks, 2003; Birren & Bengtson, 1988; Lynott & Lynott, 1996).

Despite its explosive development over the last half-century, social gerontology has been characterized by an imbalance between the accumulation of data and the development of theory (Bengtson, Rice, & Johnson, 1999; Hendricks & Achenbaum, 1999; Riley & Riley, 1994). Researchers interested in aging have relentlessly collected mountains of data, often driven by narrowly defined, problem-based questions and with little attention to basic assumptions or larger theoretical issues. An absence of theoretical development is surely not surprising for a fairly young enterprise that seeks to capture a complex empirical reality; especially one that draws from many disciplines, and that is preoccupied with urgent practical problems (Hagestad & Dannefer, 2001). Yet the lack of attention to theory has meant that research questions have often been informed by an uncritical reliance on images and assumptions about aging drawn from popular culture or from traditions and paradigms of theory that are considered outdated within the broader discourses of behavioral and social theory. When such assumptions are used to guide the formulation of research questions and research designs, the result can be what has been termed "dust-bowl empiricism" (Birren, 1988), unintended reductionisms or other fallacies that misspecify the level of analysis and, therefore, missed opportunities to pursue the most revealing aspects of the subject matter in question (Hendricks, 1999).

Yet without question, several major gerontological paradigms of the late 20th century have contributed fundamental insights to inform theoretical development. These include, for example, the principles underlying cohort analysis and the interplay of demographic and economic forces, which in turn reflect the importance of history and social structure. These paradigms have included age stratification (Riley, Johnson, & Foner, 1972), life-course theory (Elder, 1974), life-span development (Baltes, 1987), and the first paradigmatic source of critical gerontology, political economy (Estes, 1979; Minkler & Estes, 1999; Phillipson, 1982; Walker, 1980, 1981).

Although these important traditions of thought have contributed organizing principles that have become classic in their influence upon both theoretical and methodological questions, with the exception of political economy approaches they do not claim to provide specific theoretical guidance. Instead, they provide some bedrock elements that must be included in any adequate theory, such as the importance of cohort flow and cohort succession, the tension between agency and structure, and the complexities involved in the articulation of individual and social change.

Moreover, almost all of these approaches have been appropriately criticized for their lack of attention to the actual experience of aging. By definition, such approaches give little attention to interpretive phenomena, such as the rich and complex fields of experience, consciousness, and action (Gubrium, 1993). As human phenomena, both age and aging are, by definition, experiences that are laden with meaning, and it is now understood that the dynamics surrounding the interpretation of events can have powerful effects on health and physiology (Ryff & Marshall, 1999). Yet many research traditions focused at the individual level are also problematic. First, some popular conventional approaches, such as exchange theory (Bernheim, Schleifer, & Summers, 1985; see Bengtson, Parrott, & Burgess, 1997), rational choice theory (Cromwell, Olson, & Avary, 1991), or socioemotional selectivity theory (e.g., Carstensen, Fung, & Charles, 2003), deal with meaning only in within narrowly formulated terms.

Second is research in the psychodynamic and psychoanalytic traditions. Much of this work deals more directly with experience and meaning, psychodynamic and psychoanalytic traditions. Much of this work deals with experience and meaning, but with a universalizing impulse that forces data into prefigured categories and patterns. Such approaches include Tornstam's (1996) exploration of gerotranscendence as a form of personal integration and Levinson's (1994) theories of adult development. Such approaches do justice neither to the complexities of data on the one side nor to the range of outcomes found under diverse social conditions on the other (Dannefer, 1984; Morss, 1995).

In response to such approaches, a third set of analyses have sought to make the diversity of experience and the contingency and uncertainty of meaning-phenomena that are closely allied with the theme of social change-into integral parts of theory. These include narrative approaches (Gubrium, 1993), work in the "risk society" tradition (Beck, 1992; O'Rand, 2000) and the related "postmodern" or "poststructural" accounts (Gilleard & Higgs, 2000; Gubrium & Holstein, 2002). These approaches seek to draw on humanistic and critical elements in social theory that have rightly been viewed as missing from the mainstream contemporary discourse in social gerontology (Cole, 1993).

Thus, in contrast to the traditional lament of a dearth of theory, social gerontology is now courted by numerous theoretical suitors. Despite the valuable and often provocative insights generated by each of these perspectives, our shared conviction is that none of these approaches, taken alone, provides an adequate paradigm or conceptual basis for theorizing aging.

This is the case, even though some of these approaches have effectively identified the limitations of others. For example, the discovery of cohort analysis (Riley et al., 1972; Ryder, 1965; Schaie, 1965) and cross-cultural studies of physiological, psychological, and social aspects of development and aging (e.g., Fry, 1999; Rogoff, 2003) revealed that individuals who live under different conditions develop and "age differently" (e.g., Maddox, 1987; Rowe & Kahn 1998). More than that, however, "age stratification" (Riley & Riley, 1994) and related traditions made clear that age is a feature not just of individuals, but of social organization. Age is used politically and bureaucratically as a principle of social organization and social control. Age is also a feature of culture, carrying the force of meaning and power back into the minds and bodies of citizens. When such forces are recognized, it becomes clear that age-related outcomes are, thus, not mere consequences of organismic aging, but of complex interrelations that combine social structural, cultural, and interactional processes.

In this situation, it becomes clear that it is indeed a premature closure of inquiry to accept the widely popular assumption that chronological age reflects natural, organismic changes that can therefore be the basis for the search for a general theory of human aging (Baars, 1997, 2000). This is a form of naturalization and, as with most instances of naturalization, it is also ideological because it hides from view the role of political power in structuring age-related outcomes. As a familiar example, consider the reasoning used by those working in the tradition of disengagement theory (Cumming & Henry, 1961). It is a curious logic that discovers that individuals post-65 are socially disengaged and decides that this is indicative of human nature, while ignoring the fact that their study population lived under a social regime in which age-graded retirement was a social institution. Such analyses always, and necessarily, eclipse the role of institutional power, assuming that it is nothing but an accommodation to the natural inclinations of the body. Because it deflects attention away from the importance of social and political forces, naturalization can serve as a form of legitimation of a social order. Indeed, it can be a particularly strong form of legitimation since it renders social forces and their explanatory potentials completely invisible. One notable feature of such models is the absence of attention to the importance of power in social relationships, or power differentials between individual and society. In this model, individuals are assumed to be largely predetermined and fixed in their nature, characteristics, and developmental possibilities; the roles of power, private interest, and ideology are eclipsed or sidelined (Dannefer, 1984, 1999).

While the importance of social forces in the constitution of aging can be glimpsed through cohort and cross-cultural studies, these approaches by themselves do not provide an analysis of the actual face-to-face processes through which both individual selves and cultural meanings are constituted and sustained. Such mechanisms have been described by work in the interactionist (Kuypers & Bengtson, 1984) and constructivist (Gubrium & Holstein, 2002; Gubrium & Wallace, 1990) traditions of sociology. In addition, the related meaning-focused analyses of other scholars from several disciplines (e.g., Cole, 1993; Kenyon, Birren, & Schroots, 1991; Marshall & Tindale, 1978; Moody, 1996). Some of this work demonstrated the potentials of analyzing micro-interaction and self-processes, and in so doing offered an implicit and occasionally explicit critique of quantitatively based approaches. Some would claim that such perspectives are, paradoxically, the most rigorous in their methodology and in their approach to empirical data, even though they are typically nonquantitative. The first task of science, Herbert Blumer proposed, is "to respect the nature of its subject matter" (1969, p. 44).

Such approaches thus stand as powerful critics of both the psychologistic and the conventional quantitatively oriented social science. Yet these approaches themselves are characterized by at least two important problems. The highly descriptive microfocus, welcome as it is, entails a risk of microfication (Hagestad & Dannefer, 2001). This has two sources. First, work in the constructivist and humanistic traditions typically substitutes microsocial or narrative analysis for macroanalysis, rather than seeking to conjoin the micro and macro. This practice ignores the degree to which microprocesses are shaped by macrolevel forces that are beyond the control and often beyond the sphere of knowledge of the experienced realities of everyday life. Second, related to the first, is the neglect of the centrally important reality of power. Key to understanding both individual aging and the development of age, as a property of social systems is a recognition of the centrality of power. Power is at work in determining, for example, which ideologies of age become accepted within popular or scientific discourse and which individuals have the best odds to "age successfully."

An adequate understanding of human aging requires the contributions of all the various approaches described above, despite their limitations. It requires a recognition of the importance of cohort analysis, cross-cultural and historical analysis, and it requires serious attention to processes of meaning construction and self-constitution at the microlevel of face-to-face interaction.

We share the conviction that it also requires more. It requires a recognition of how social forces operate at the macrolevel to shape the microlevel of everyday experience; of how legitimating ideologies are enacted at that microlevel to reproduce the larger institutional patterns or are occasionally resisted in ways that challenge and transform the larger institutional patterns. Such analyses make explicit the need to attend to connections between micro and macro and to the reality that power is always at play in those interrelationships and in the ongoing processes that occur at both micro- and macrolevels. These assertions represent some of the key insights of critical theory, the second paradigmatic source of critical gerontology. They are built upon contributions of other theoretical efforts in social gerontology, but go significantly beyond them.

DEVELOPING CRITICAL GERONTOLOGY

These key principles of critical gerontology are informed and enriched by foundational work in the related fields of the sociology of aging (e.g., Riley et al., 1972), the demography (Ryder, 1965; Uhlenberg, 1978), anthropology (Fry, 1999; Keith, 1982; Sokolovsky, 1990), and political economy of aging (Minkler & Estes, 1984; Phillipson & Walker, 1986). Taken together, these bodies of work have made unmistakable the fundamental importance of the social in understanding human aging. As result of this work, an opening was created for analyses that begin to comprehend aging in terms that include power, ideology, and stratification, and the expanding global reach of such forces. This book is devoted to a detailed assessment of work in this tradition. Its development can be traced to symposia exploring aspects of critical gerontology, organized at conferences in Europe and the United States in the late 1990s. The editors have brought together a range of papers first presented at these events, as well as commissioning new contributions to provide a detailed overview of current work in the broad area of critical gerontology.

This book is divided into three sections, each of which deals with key issues and concerns behind the development of critical gerontology. Each section reflects a number of forces driving debates within the discipline. First, from the mid-1990s onwards, social and political science started to analyze the impact of globalization, notably in terms of the changing role of the nation-state, the accelerated movement of people across the globe, and the rise of transnational organizations and agencies (Urry, 2000). In general terms, debates about globalization have focused on issues such as the ecological crisis, the power of multinational corporations, problems of debt repayment, and related concerns. All of these affect the lives of older people to a substantial degree. Yet as a group they have been treated as marginal to critiques of globalization and related forms of structural change. But the paradox for older as well as younger generations is that the macrolevel has become more rather than less important as a factor influencing daily life. Indeed, one might argue that while social theory in gerontology has retreated from the analysis of social institutions, the phenomenon of globalization (as ideology and process, and struggles around both) has transformed the terms of the debate. Even in the case of political economy perspectives, which continue to focus on structural issues, globalization has re-ordered the concepts typically used by researchers. Ideas associated with society, the state, gender, social class, and ethnicity have retained their importance; but their collective and individual meaning is substantially different in the context of the influence of global actors and institutions (Bauman, 1998). We see it as an important task of this book to take forward the analysis of globalization in the field of aging. All three sections of the book cover this area in different ways and at complementary levels of analysis.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from Aging, Globalization, and Inequality Copyright © 2006 by Baywood Publishing Company, Inc.. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Dedication
Acknowledgments

INTRODUCTION
1. Introduction: Critical Perspectives in Social Gerontology Jan Baars, Dale Dannefer, Chris Phillipson, and Alan Walker

SECTION 1: DIMENSIONS OF CRITICAL GERONTOLOGY
2. Beyond Neomodernism, Antimodernism, and Postmodernism: Basic Categories for Contemporary Critical Gerontology Jan Baars
3. Aging and Globalization: Issues for Critical Gerontology and Political Economy Chris Phillipson
4. Reexamining the Political Economy of Aging: Understanding the Structure/Agency Tension Alan Walker
5. Critical Feminist Perspectives, Aging, and Social Policy Carroll Estes
6. Reciprocal Co-Optation: The Relationship of Critical Theory and Social Gerontology Dale DanneferSECTION 2: CRITICAL DIMENSIONS OF MEDICALIZATION: AGING AND HEALTH AS CULTURAL PRODUCTS
7. From Chronology to Functionality: Critical Reflections on the Gerontology of the Body Stephen Katz
8. Empowering the Old: Critical Gerontology and Anti-Aging in a Global Context Neil King and Toni Calasanti
9. Dementia in the Iron Cage: The Biopsychiatric Construction of Alzheimer's Dementia Kathryn Douthit SECTION 3: AGE AND INEQUALITY: LOCAL, NATIONAL, AND GLOBAL DYNAMICS
10. The Emerging Postmodern Culture of Aging and Retirement Security Larry Polivka and Charles F. Longino, Jr.
11. Dynamics of Late-Life Inequality: Modeling the Interplay of Health Disparities, Economic Resources, and Public Policies Stephen Crystal
12. Health, Aging, and America's Poor: Ethnographic Insights on Family Co-morbidity and Cumulative Disadvantage Linda M. Burton and Keith E. Whitfield
13. Culture, Migration, Inequality, and "Periphery" in a Globalized World: Challenges for Ethno- and Anthropogerontology Sandra Torres
14. Globalization and Critical Theory: Political Economy of World Population Issues John A. Vincent Contributors Index
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