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This essay will explain the functionalist, Marxist and Social action theories of race and will incorporate an evaluation of the functionalist and Marxist perspectives

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Introduction

The purpose of this essay is to describe four different sociological perspectives on 'race'. This essay will explain the functionalist, Marxist and Social action theories of race and will incorporate an evaluation of the functionalist and Marxist perspectives with the intent to discover the strengths and weakness of both studies. Sociologists have presented their various competing theories with regards to the controversial issue of 'race', in an attempt to understand the phenomenon of 'racial' issues. The term 'race' is used to provide distinction between the different human populations throughout the world; this distinction was initially thought to be determined by the biological differences between 'races' and consequently, this terminology is most commonly used to segregate and categorise individuals according to their visual characteristics, such as skin colour, facial features and hair types. 'Race' became a popular term in the 19th century, and various explanations accumulated pertaining to the different 'races' of people that compose the world, with the most common segregation emerging between the 'black' and 'white' races. Subsequently, an individual's physical appearance and the supposedly distinct differences in their biological composition became the fundamental basis for this categorisation - a categorisation that typically maintained 'white' superiority. (Race - definitions Handout) Nott and Gliddon in their 1854 publication of "Types of Mankind" stated that Caucasians, (mainly European) "have in all ages been the rulers", thus suggesting that Caucasians were the only 'race' of humans sufficiently capable of establishing and maintaining a civilised democratic society. Dark skinned races were therefore viewed as "only fit for military governments". This was a common belief, shared by many influentials of this era, which left behind a legacy of controversy regarding 'race' and its connotations. (Haralambos, 2005, page 201) Despite the fact that since the 1940's, evolutionary scientists have rejected the supposition that 'race' is defined by biological differences and subsequently this belief has no scientific foundation - its legacy continues to exist, deluding many individuals within society regarding their views on 'racial' differences, which are more often than not, based from a prejudice view, programmed by a history of comparable attitudes. ...read more.

Middle

The indigenous working class, no longer feels indispensable and subsequently this produces a deep contempt for the immigrants to whom they defensively 'label' as inferior. Castles and Kosack suggest that the friction and division contained within one class, protects and maintains ruling class domination. (Haralambos, 2000, page 221) As the hostility from indigenous to immigrant grows, the frequency at which the immigrants are targeted escalates, and subsequently the immigrants become the cause of all problems within society. The strengthening of ruling class authority occurs as a result of the discrimination and prejudice that immigrants are confronted by on their arrival into the migrant country, which regardless of the duration of their stay, does not appear to readily dilute, leaving friction between the indigenous and the immigrants. In effect, immigrants are used to detract attention and focus away from the real issue - a failing capitalist system. Blame in thrust upon the immigrant, for housing shortages and unemployment, as opposed to targeting the government regarding such issues. This has the 'knock on' effect of shielding the state from deterioration as political parties, such as the British National Party advocate for the removal of ethnic minorities from the UK - fighting against immigration as opposed to fighting for equality and against the capitalist economic system. (Race as an aspect of social class Handout - page 135) Castles and Kosack's study of "Immigrant Workers and Class Structure", illustrates the importance of the international capitalist economic structure, and the implications of this unequal structure, regarding racial disharmony. This study also highlights the similarities between the indigenous proletariat and the immigrant, outlining the justifiable underlying principle for categorising both groups in the same stratification. Castles and Kosack extend significant insight into the rational behind the formation of prejudice and discrimination towards the immigrant workers, illustrating that it is a defence mechanism created by the capitalist system to protect and maintain its existence which is then implemented by the indigenous working class to maintain their own security. ...read more.

Conclusion

Pryce's study highlights the validity of Ethnology, as there is are clear division of cultures among the West Indian community, concluding that the pre-judgment and classification of individuals of the same ethnic origin have little validity. (Haralambos, 2000, page 231) In conclusion, it would appear that the issue of 'race' and the implications for whose not categorised as the 'superior white race', are still very much relevant in today's society. The study's, which are described in this essay, are approximately thirty years old, and perhaps to small degree dated, in terms of progression within society, thus one would surmise that race issues have been diluted through the passing of time. However, there is still a vast amount of current documentation to support that 'racism' is still very much a part of the British culture. For example a recent televised documentary tested the extent to which racism still exists, and discovered that discrimination specifically within the employment area and attempting to secure accommodation, is still prevalent in today's society. When attempting to understand the explanation for such discrimination and sometimes hatred towards those of a different ethnic origin, acknowledgment of the historical documentation, depicting irrational beliefs pertaining to the inferior 'races', is in this writer's opinion, the most valid explanation. The 'race situation' has in effect 'snowballed' to cause a large division between the 'black' and 'white' populations. The cultural differences between 'races' must also be recognised as a significant factor; however, racism still exists for those who conform to the dominant culture. The Capitalist structure within society could be perceived as the instigating factor, and explanation for the identification of an inferior 'race' for further exploitation and capital gain. It would appear that in order to achieve a balanced sociological understanding of race, its foundations, connotations, and possible solution to the segregation, which still remains in modern society, a broad range of sociological perspectives and theories should be taken into consideration. ...read more.

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