Some say that our society is characterized by high levels of cultural fragmentation and conflict. Do you agree or disagree? Can you identify particular institutions or areas of culture that seem to be based on fundamentally different worldviews (such as science and religion, education and entertainment, or economics and politics)?
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This is, of course, a matter of opinion. It is hard to measure how fragmented a society is and it is hard to objectively determine how much conflict there is in a society at one time compared to another. I would argue that American society today is generally more fragmented than at times in the past, but that it is also less fragmented than it was at other points in history.
It seems clear that our society is more fragmented today than it was in, for example, the 1950s. At that time, many of the cleavages that now exist in our society did not exist nearly as much. America was much more dominated by white people. Low levels of immigration made for relatively homogeneous society. There was much more consensus on issues like religion. There was less class conflict as wealth was rising almost across the board. There were very few entertainment options so large majorities of Americans watched the same TV shows and had the same cultural experiences. The conflicts that would occur in the 1960s were largely latent.
However, we should not think that the 1950s were typical of the rest of our history. In many ways, we are less fragmented than we have been at times in the past. Today, people in rural areas and in cities imbibe more or less the same culture. It is true that rural and urban people tend to have different ideologies, but they typically dress in similar ways, listen to similar kinds of music, and otherwise participate in a national culture much more than was previously possible. The advent of technologies such as the internet have greatly reduced the levels of differences from place to place in the country.
One way to think of this is to say that the country is now a mosaic. There are many different kinds of people and different cultures in our society, but they are spread more evenly across the landscape. In the past, there might have been fewer differences, but the differences between places might have been much more pronounced than they are now.
In some ways, modern society is defined by how fragmented it is. In most places, it is acceptable to practice any religion, believe in any cause, and identify with any culture. In fact, most schools teach students about cultures and religions all around the world, and encourage them to explore all of them. We are defined by our differences.
Today's society has many differing opinions when it comes to science and religion and how they affect each other, but we are taught(in most countries) the facts and figures of both and given the opportunity to make our own decisions. America alone is divided by hundreds of issues, including Republican vs. Democrat, Christian vs. Catholic, and liberal vs. conservative. Almost always, these differing opinions are welcomed and openly debated, which allows for somewhat healthy fragmentation.
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