Using examples describe a range of sociological perspectives and theories (including both classic and contemporary perspectives)

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Unit 4: Applying Sociology

Task One

  1. Using examples describe a range of sociological perspectives and theories (including both classic and contemporary perspectives)

Sociologists try to explain how society orders itself but there are many different theories for this, which often conflict with one another. Some of these classic theories include Marxism, Functionalism, and Interactionism. There are also more modern or contemporary theories such as Feminism. Each sociological perspective has different beliefs.

Marxists are concerned with the distribution of economic power and wealth. They believe that society is in conflict between two classes.  Those classes are the Bourgeoisie; who own the means of production, i.e. land and the Proletariat; who sell labour to these owners for wages. The Proletariat are being exploited in order for the Bourgeoisie to gain economic and cultural power over them; Marxists believe this leads to antagonism, arguments and conflict between the two classes.

An example of this could be in a factory. The manager owns the factory, which is a means of production, so he is a Bourgeoisie whereas the factory workers are the Proletariat because they work for the manager in exchange for wages.

Functionalists argue that society is organised much like the Human Body. Everything must function correctly in order for society to work as a whole, just like every organ in the body must function correctly in order for the body to work as a whole.

They believe that social institutions such as Police, NHS, Church, Schools, etc ensure that certain prerequisites are met and they must all work together to produce a healthy society. Those prerequisites are that people need to learn how to be part of society (socialisation), people need to develop skills to enable them to work and they need to stay healthy in order to make money.

The education system would probably be a good example of this. College help teach people so they can gain desired qualifications which will allow them to go out and work in society. Without people being taught professions society would break down because there would be nobody to do certain jobs.

Another classic view is Interactionism. We can liken Interactionism to a play; everyone must play their respective roles in order to create a successful performance – in society everyone must do their jobs in order to create a successful society. This approach is much like the functionalism viewpoint.

It argues that action is meaningful to those involved and that they interpret the meaning. They also argue that how others see us affects the way we act and how we see ourselves because our actions are based on self-concept. This is otherwise known as ‘The Looking Glass Self’ a phrase that was coined by Charles Cooley (1864-1929) and his theory backs up the ideas of Interactionism.

‘In a very large and interesting class of cases the social reference takes the form of a somewhat definite imagination of how one's self--that is any idea he appropriates--appears in a particular mind, and the kind of self-feeling one has is determined by the attitude toward this attributed to that other mind. A social self of this sort might be called the reflected or looking glass self:

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"Each to each a looking-glass
reflects the other that doth pass."

“As we see our face, figure, and dress in the glass, and are interested in them because they are ours, and pleased or otherwise with them according as they do or do not answer to what we should like them to be; so in imagination we perceive in another's mind some thought of our appearance, manners, aims, deeds, character, friends, and so on, and are variously affected by it.”♦ (From Charles Horton Cooley, Human Nature and the Social Order. New York: Scribner's, 1902, pp. 179-185.)
For example, if you walked into ...

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