Jill Hehir SOCIOLOGY
The Social Action theorist’s view point is that the individual is able to control his or her own actions, make choices and behave in a way they choose to rather then being controlled by society. This does not mean the individual will ignore the social norms and values it means they will interpret them in there own way. Social action theorists believe that individuals judge and interprets the situation and then acts on these things.
Social action theory’s look at small scale situations but it could be argued that as we have meetings and exchanges in small scale situations with various people over the day it is important to helping us from our character and social identity. Symbolic interactionism is also something which we do in everyday life; we are always trying to interpret what is going on around us and how we fit into it. We act on our view and interpretation of the situation and sometimes it’s wrong. It could be argued all people have free will to make decisions in life but to the extent they practice it is dependent on how happy they are with the situation they are in.
From the social Structure theorists’ view point is that the individual is controlled by society, Society is moulding us to conform to different groups and once we have we take on there norms, values and behaviour to fit in. The individual is shaped by social structure we live by the rules and norms of society. Within Social Systems theory there are conflict and consensus theories:
Consensus theorists believe that society’s primary characteristic is Agreement. The many parts that make up our society need to work together in agreement with each other. People learn norms, values and behaviour through the socialisation process. This is a way of conditioning a child into what is acceptable. All these things help to maintain social order.
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It could be argued that the consensus view is flawed because it does not take into account a persons free will. But it can also be seen that Society does have to work together to run smoothly, people need to co-operate and come to agreement on everything in life from companies doing business transactions to all drivers following the same rules of the road. If everyone who drove a car decided to do what they wanted then it would be chaos. It could be argued that to a certain extent the majority of people conform to society’s norms’ and values’ to fit in and find there place and role in society. Without this people would have no social identity.
Conflict theorists would argue that society’s primary characteristic is conflict. That groups in society gain from others expense, and by doing that they gaining power. When one group is more powerful it can impose certain norms and values onto another, what would appear to be ‘consensus’ is actually an agreement based on force. And that ‘ideology’ is used to divert are attention from what’s really going on.
It could be argued that people in power force less powerful people to make certain decisions or behave in a certain way. We have laws and sanctions such as prison, community service etc if we break laws. Some companies have policies for staff to wear a uniform this is a way of forcing someone to do something they might not normally chooses to do or in this case wear. Again some may argue that this is also ignoring individualism and free will, a person will make there own choices. It could be argued that now more than ever before the youth culture is demonstrating free will, becoming more individual and stretching the limits societies norms and values. This could be seen as conflict.
In this essay I will be discussing how influential the post-modernists’ view on class and gender are with shaping our identity.
It is obvious that there is still a class structure in Britain today although it seems that there is less extremes of class; very rich & very poor.
The working class has changed over the years with Britain becoming less industrialised and trade orientated. The working class would have been manual workers such as ship builders, miners or factory workers. These workers would have lived near their place of work along with their colleagues, they would socialise together and had probably formed a very close community. These things would have helped them form their identity and relate to those around them through their class but, in recent years with Britain’s decline in exporting goods many of the manual jobs have disappeared. This means those communities will have broken down and people will have moved away to find new work.
The working class in Britain today has changed, with less need for manual labours there will be more skilled labourers which means some traditional working class families may be now becoming middle class because of the job they do. The middle class who were traditionally skilled workers such as teachers, doctors, business owners and lawyers would identify with being middle class because they were homeowners. With the traditional working class becoming more like middle class this could be threatening the traditional middle class identity. With more and more people having credit cards and loans it is easier to live a lifestyle outside your means so, on the surface you may seem middle class with possessions and lifestyle but really be working class and living on credit.
The upper class tend to only socialise in their own circles, normally born into wealth or a family name. It is very hard to penetrate the upper class world even with money it still doesn’t give you all the thing the upper class identify with such as background, family, private education, upbringing and breeding. The upper classes all socialise together; balls, polo matches, fox hunting etc and only marry people of their own stature. This is what’s known as social closure it is impossible to penetrate their bubble. It seems that the upper class are the only ones to keep their identity from being open to others.
It seems that from postmodernists point of view class is harder to distinguish class by what job you do. The postmodernists view identity as being broken into a number of things; gender, age, religion, family roles etc these are now where we find our identity, this could be true for the working and middle class. More working class people have the means to live a middle class lifestyle and be accepted as such but it is practically impossible to be middle class and have an upper class lifestyle. More and more postmodernists are beginning to believe that it’s not how you earn money but what you do with your money. As the world is becoming more materialistic possessions and lifestyle determine your class not occupation.
Gender is a very big part of our identity, from a very young age we are reinforced with gender appropriate toys, games, stories and views. Children learn from watching those around them, little girls want to be like mummy so they will have dolls and Hoovers to copy mummy. But postmodernists are arguing that gender characteristics are being transferred between the sexes. More and more woman are becoming assertive and concentrating on their careers before having a family this means woman are becoming more powerful, no longer the weaker sex this, could be threatening male identity of being the bread winner. This could be the reason the ‘new man’ is appearing. Males are taking on feminine characteristics, they pay more attention to their appearance, use more beauty and styling products and there are more men’s’ lifestyle magazines than ever before. As woman are getting better jobs/ careers they will be earning more money giving them economic independence. The mass media now target woman more in their advertising as they know more and more young single women have the means to live a better lifestyle, buy more goods and pursue different leisure activities. It is becoming more apparent that typical gender characteristics are becoming interchangeable with actual gender.
The postmodernists see that your social identity is now being based on consumption of goods and lifestyle rather that class or gender.