What the %&@# are you talking about?
As some of you know, I'm currently taking a masters degree online. This semester I'm taking one of the mandatory core courses, which is called "Making Sense of Theory in the Arts and Social Sciences". You can tell what kind of nonsense this course is just from the title. For the major paper, there were 6 questions to choose from. One of them was, "Identify a change in world view or societal values that, in your opinion, constitutes a paradigm shift." I e-mailed the professor to ask if I could write about same-sex marriage, and absolutely everyone I've mentioned this too felt that it would be an excellent choice. The following is the response I got back (thanks to Fino for his suggestion of posting it):
Hi David. I've received several MAIS 601 term papers in the past that try to frame the issue of same-sex marriage in terms of the notion of paradigm shift. I've taken some of the commonly repeated points from my own comments on these papers and assembled below what I take to be some of the challenges facing such a project:
First of all, when we examine the reasons most often put forward for accepting same sex marriage, they seem to rely on the same post-Enlightenment principles of equality and freedom that began to affect a real paradigm shift away from Medieval transcendence and toward modernist immanence in the 17th century. This is not really a new paradigm, then, but is the modernist paradigm whose full meaning has yet to be completely unfolded. In this light, the legalization of same sex marriage logically follows along lines similar to racial integration, women's suffrage, etc.
Also in this light, the opposition to same sex marriage looks more like a throwback to theocracy in disguise, introducing beliefs whose source of legitimacy can only be transcendental - whether that transcendental structure be nature, the divine, or a confused mix of both. Haven't the ideological justifications for the various oppressions always had to appeal to some assumed pre-social "nature" or "divine law"? For instance, women were once predominantly viewed as "naturally" emotional and irrational, whose proper place was domestic subservience and childbearing, and whose "place" was also established by God in a divinely ordained order in which the woman is subordinate to the man and the man to God. Similar uses of the concepts of "nature" and the "divine" can be found in racial oppression.
Thus it's not necessarily a good thing for supporters of same-sex marriage to appeal to nature (e.g. genetic predetermination) in order to justify legalization. Nature also produces diseases, and so this could play right into the hands to those who wish to regard homosexuality as a disease. Here closer attention to the Enlightenment paradigm would be helpful, for then we could see that any appeal to nature - whether to "naturalize" or "pathologize" homosexuality - is simply off the mark.
So in the end I remain unconvinced that the issue of same-sex marriage indicates a genuine paradigm shift. For that one would have to show that there is something in the redefinition of marriage that is decidedly not modernist and does not rely on Enlightenment principles of equality and liberty. To be sure, there are competing paradigms here. It's just that they're not new. What's often seen here as a new paradigm is, I think, merely a further implication of an old paradigm.
We are living in an era, however, that seems to be increasingly characterized by opposition to modernity in general and, in the context of this opposition, the rise of fundamentalisms around the world. Perhaps the really new paradigm here is the abortive fundamentalist hodgepodge that on the one hand wants to go back to a past that never existed and on the other wishes to reassert class privilege (whether that be the bourgeoisie in the Christian fundamentalist conflation of transcendence and "free market" ideology, the priestly class in Islamic fundamentalism, etc.).
Given these considerations, if you wish to proceed by all means go for it.
Believe it or not, my paper is now going to be a Marxist critique of Kurt Vonnegut's "Breakfast of Champions". Ahhh...graduate studies...when will they ever learn?