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Theoretical perspectives on social explanations of racial ethnic inequality are functionalist confli

Distinguish macro approaches in sociology from micro approaches. Summarize the most important beliefs and assumptions of functionalism and conflict theory. Summarize the most important beliefs and assumptions of symbolic interactionism and exchange theory. This implication is misleading. Macrosociologists focus on the big picture, which usually means such things as social structure, social institutions, and social, political, and economic change.

They look at the large-scale social forces that change the course of human society and the lives of individuals. Microsociologists, on the other hand, study social interaction. They look at how families, coworkers, and other small groups of people interact; why they interact the way they do; and how they interpret the meanings of their own interactions and of the social settings in which they find themselves.

Often macro- and microsociologists look at the same phenomena but do so in different ways. Their views taken together offer a fuller understanding of the phenomena than either approach can offer alone. Microsociologists examine the interaction of small groups of people, such as the two women conversing here. These sociologists examine how and why individuals interact and interpret the meanings of their interaction. The different but complementary nature of these two approaches can be seen in the case of armed robbery.

Macrosociologists would discuss such things as why robbery rates are higher in poorer communities and whether these rates change with changes in the national economy.

Microsociologists would instead focus on such things as why individual robbers decide to commit a robbery and how they select their targets. Both types of approaches give us a valuable understanding of robbery, but together they offer an even richer understanding.

Within the broad macro camp, two perspectives dominate: Within the micro camp, two other perspectives exist: We now turn to these four theoretical perspectives, which are summarized in Table 1.

Slow social change is desirable, but rapid social change threatens social order. Functionalism is a macro theory. Conflict theory Society is characterized by pervasive inequality based on social class, gender, and other factors. Far-reaching social change is needed to reduce or eliminate social inequality and to create an egalitarian society. Conflict theory is a macro theory. Symbolic interactionism People construct their roles as they interact; they do not merely learn the roles that society has set out for them.

As this interaction occurs, individuals negotiate their definitions of the situations in which they find themselves and socially construct the reality of these situations.

1.3 Theoretical Perspectives in Sociology

In so doing, they rely heavily on symbols such as words and gestures to reach a shared understanding of their interaction. Symbolic interactionism is a micro theory. Utilitarianism rational choice theory or exchange theory People act to maximize their advantages in a given situation and to reduce their disadvantages. If they decide that benefits outweigh disadvantages, they will initiate the interaction or continue it if it is already under way. If they instead decide that disadvantages outweigh benefits, they will decline to begin interacting or stop the interaction if already begun.

Social order is possible because people realize it will be in their best interests to cooperate and to make compromises when necessary. Utilitarianism is a micro theory.

  • A familiar application of exchange theory would be a dating relationship;
  • Certain educational problems have their basis in social interaction and expectations;
  • If you visited a society where sticking your right hand out to greet someone was interpreted as a threatening gesture, you would quickly learn the value of common understandings of symbols;
  • Within the broad macro camp, two perspectives dominate;
  • Original work published 1848;
  • The conflict perspective emphasizes that education reinforces inequality in the larger society.

Functionalism Functionalismalso known as the functionalist perspective, arose out of two great revolutions of the 18th and 19th centuries. The first was the French Revolution of 1789, whose intense violence and bloody terror shook Europe to its core. The aristocracy throughout Europe feared that revolution would spread to their own lands, and intellectuals feared that social order was crumbling. The Industrial Revolution of the 19th century reinforced these concerns.

Starting first in Europe and then in the United States, the Industrial Revolution led to many changes, including the rise and growth of cities as people left their farms to live near factories. As the cities grew, people lived in increasingly poor, crowded, and decrepit conditions.

One result of these conditions was mass violence, as mobs of the poor roamed the streets of European and American cities. They attacked bystanders, destroyed property, and generally wreaked havoc. Here was additional evidence, if European intellectuals needed it, of the breakdown of social order.

In response, the intellectuals began to write that a strong society, as exemplified by strong social bonds and rules and effective socialization, was needed to prevent social order from disintegrating Collins, 1994.

In this regard, their view was similar to that of the 20th-century novel Lord of the Flies by William Golding 1954which many college students read in high school. Some British boys are stranded on an island after a plane crash.

No longer supervised by adults and no longer in a society as they once knew it, they are not sure how to proceed and come up with new rules for their behavior. These rules prove ineffective, and the boys slowly become savages, as the book calls them, and commit murder. Without a strong society and effective socialization, they warned, social order breaks down, and violence and other signs of social disorder result.

This force, Durkheim continued, is the moral authority of society. How does society limit individual aspirations? Durkheim emphasized two related social mechanisms: In general, Durkheim added, society comprises many types of social facts, or forces external to the individual, that affect and constrain individual attitudes and behavior.

  • Other research in the symbolic interactionist tradition focuses on how teachers treat girls and boys;
  • Why did small class size have these benefits?
  • According to symbolic interactionists, social order is possible because people learn what various symbols such as shaking hands mean and apply these meanings to different kinds of situations;
  • Functionalism emphasizes the importance of social institutions for social stability and implies that far-reaching social change will be socially harmful.

The result is that socialization and social integration help establish a strong set of social rules—or, as Durkheim called it, a strong collective conscience —that is needed for a stable society.

In all of these respects, says Randall Collins 1994, p.

Sociological Theories of Prejudice and Racism

Focusing on group rates of suicide, he felt they could not be explained simply in terms of individual unhappiness and instead resulted from external forces. One such force is anomieor normlessness, which results from situations, such as periods of rapid social change, when social norms are weak and unclear or social ties are weak. When anomie sets in, people become more unclear about how to deal with problems in their life. To test his theory, Durkheim gathered suicide rate data and found that Protestants had higher suicide rates than Catholics.

To explain this difference, he rejected the idea that Protestants were less happy than Catholics and instead hypothesized that Catholic doctrine provides many more rules for behavior and thinking than does Protestant doctrine.

In times of trouble, Protestants also have fewer norms on which to rely for comfort and support than do Catholics. In addition, Protestant belief is ambivalent about suicide, while Catholic doctrine condemns it. All of these properties of religious group membership combine to produce higher suicide rates among Protestants than among Catholics.

It uses the human body as a model for understanding society. In the human body, our various organs and other body parts serve important functions for the ongoing health and stability of our body. Our eyes help us see, our ears help us hear, our heart circulates our blood, and so forth.

Thus functionalism emphasizes the importance of social institutions such as the family, religion, and education for producing a stable society. We look at these institutions in later chapters. Similar to the view of the conservative intellectuals from which it grew, functionalism is skeptical of rapid social change and other major social upheaval.

The analogy to the human body helps us understand this skepticism. In our bodies, any sudden, rapid change is a sign of danger to our health. If we break a bone in one of our legs, we have trouble walking; if we lose sight in both our eyes, we can no longer see. Slow changes, such as the growth of our hair and our nails, are fine and even normal, but sudden changes like those just described are obviously troublesome.

By analogy, sudden and rapid changes in society and its social institutions are troublesome according to the functionalist perspective.

  1. In explaining armed robbery, symbolic interactionism would focus on how armed robbers make such decisions as when and where to rob someone and on how their interactions with other criminals reinforce their own criminal tendencies.
  2. Each partner in a dating relationship gives up a bit of autonomy in return for love and other benefits of being close to someone. As the term symbolic interactionism implies, their understanding of this encounter arises from what they do when they interact and from their use and interpretation of the various symbols included in their interaction.
  3. By analogy, sudden and rapid changes in society and its social institutions are troublesome according to the functionalist perspective.
  4. This view remains popular today, in part because many sociologists object to what they perceive as the overly deterministic view of human thought and action and passive view of the individual inherent in the sociological perspective derived from Durkheim.
  5. If we break a bone in one of our legs, we have trouble walking; if we lose sight in both our eyes, we can no longer see. This action is usually intended as a sign of dislike or as an insult, and the other person interprets it as such.

If the human body evolved to its present form and functions because these made sense from an evolutionary perspective, so did society evolve to its present form and functions because these made sense. Any sudden change in society thus threatens its stability and future. By taking a skeptical approach to social change, functionalism supports the status quo and is thus often regarded as a conservative perspective.

Conflict Theory In many ways, conflict theory is the opposite of functionalism but ironically also grew out of the Industrial Revolution, thanks largely to Karl Marx 1818—1883 and his collaborator, Friedrich Engels 1820—1895. Whereas conservative intellectuals feared the mass violence resulting from industrialization, Marx and Engels deplored the conditions they felt were responsible for the mass violence and the capitalist society they felt was responsible for these conditions.

Karl Marx and his collaborator Friedrich Engels were intense critics of capitalism. Their work inspired the later development of conflict theory in sociology. Wikimedia Commons — public domain.

According to Marx and Engels, every society is divided into two classes based on the ownership of the means of production tools, factories, and the like. In a capitalist society, the bourgeoisieor ruling class, owns the means of production, while the proletariator working class, does not own the means of production and instead is oppressed and exploited by the bourgeoisie.

  1. The students are now in their early thirties, and many aspects of their educational and personal lives have been followed since the study began. Indeed, at the heart of economics is the view that sellers and buyers of goods and services act rationally to reduce their costs and in this and other ways to maximize their profits.
  2. Social problems arise from fundamental faults in the structure of a society and both reflect and reinforce inequalities based on social class, race, gender, and other dimensions. Symbolic interactionism views social problems as arising from the interaction of individuals.
  3. Conflict theory also has its problems. Similar to the view of the conservative intellectuals from which it grew, functionalism is skeptical of rapid social change and other major social upheaval.
  4. Wright Mills, the sociological imagination involves the ability to recognize that private troubles are rooted in public issues and structural problems. In our bodies, any sudden, rapid change is a sign of danger to our health.

This difference creates an automatic conflict of interests between the two groups. In a capitalist society, Marx and Engels wrote, revolution is inevitable because of structural contradictions arising from the very nature of capitalism.

11.2 Sociological Perspectives on Education

To do so, capitalists try to keep wages as low as possible and to spend as little money as possible on working conditions. This central fact of capitalism, said Marx and Engels, eventually prompts the rise among workers of class consciousnessor an awareness of the reasons for their oppression. Their class consciousness in turn leads them to revolt against the bourgeoisie to eliminate the oppression and exploitation they suffer.

However, history has not supported their prediction that capitalism will inevitably result in a revolution of the proletariat. For example, no such revolution has occurred in the United States, where workers never developed the degree of class consciousness envisioned by Marx and Engels.

Because the United States is thought to be a free society where everyone has the opportunity to succeed, even poor Americans feel that the system is basically just.

  • Some of the more notable findings of this multiyear study include the following;
  • Its roots lie in the work in the early 1900s of American sociologists, social psychologists, and philosophers who were interested in human consciousness and action;
  • In addition, one of the micro perspectives, rational choice theory, has also been criticized for ignoring the importance of emotions, altruism, and other values for guiding human interaction Lowenstein, 1996;
  • Wright Mills, the sociological imagination involves the ability to recognize that private troubles are rooted in public issues and structural problems;
  • By emphasizing inequality and dissensus in society, conflict theory overlooks the large degree of consensus on many important issues.

Thus various aspects of American society and ideology have helped minimize the development of class consciousness and prevent the revolution that Marx and Engels foresaw. This theory emphasizes that different groups in society have different interests stemming from their different social positions. These different interests in turn lead to different views on important social issues. Some versions of the theory root conflict in divisions based on race and ethnicity, gender, and other such differences, while other versions follow Marx and Engels in seeing conflict arising out of different positions in the economic structure.

In general, however, conflict theory emphasizes that the various parts of society contribute to ongoing inequality, whereas functionalist theory, as we have seen, stresses that they contribute to the ongoing stability of society. Thus, while functionalist theory emphasizes the benefits of the various parts of society for ongoing social stability, conflict theory favors social change to reduce inequality.

In this regard, conflict theory may be considered a progressive perspective. Feminist theory has developed in sociology and other disciplines since the 1970s and for our purposes will be considered a specific application of conflict theory.