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Introduction to Sociology and Sociological Perspectives

Introduction to Sociology and Sociological Perspectives

1. What is sociology? What are the aims, uses and concerns of sociology? (Criteria 1. 1, Level 2 and level 3) Sociology is the systematic study of patterns of human behavior between different societies and how they are transmitted through generations. It is concerned with the study of various social institutions within society and how they function and affect each other. For example, the influence the family might possibly have on whether a child is religious or not. Sociology is also the study of patterns of inequality, deprivation and conflict in society.

Although sociology is concerned with the study of many things that most people know a bit about and is seen to be ‘common sense’, sociological research has disproved many of these widely mistaken ideas with precise evidence, while striving to maintain objectivity and value freedom in their work. 2. Define norms, values and culture, include a reference. (criteria 1. 2, Level 2 and Level3) Norms are present in all societies; they are general guidelines for socialisation that define correct and satisfactory behavior e. g. the norms for dress.

Customs are norms, which have been present for a long period of time and have become part of a society’s tradition. Although norms are usually informally enforced, they can also be formalised as laws. Positive and negative sanctions are used within society as a means of social control to prevent deviance from the social norms. These sanctions will depend on the seriousness of the norm for example negative sanctions may vary from being seen as eccentric to being imprisoned. Values provide general guidelines that are expressed as a series of norms. They are important beliefs about what is right and wrong.

Ken Brown mentions,”In Britain, values include beliefs about respect for human life, privacy and private property, about the importance of marriage and the importance of money and success. ” Shared values and beliefs are the key to maintaining a stable society and are also part of the culture of a society. Culture refers to many things that make up the ‘way of life’ of any society. This includes the language, beliefs, values and norms, dress, knowledge, skills etc of a society. Thus from a sociological perspective we can understand that our behavior is controlled by culture. 3. ) Define primary and secondary socialisation. (Criteria 1. 2, Level 2) It is through socialisation that we learn the culture of a society. It is a life-long process that begins from birth and continues throughout one’s life. In the early years during the learning process, a child learns many of the basic norms and values of its society, which is known as primary socialisation. In almost every society, primary socialisation is controlled by the family and is seen to be the most important part of socialization. As the child interacts with the wider society, she/ he begins the process of secondary socialisation.

In most societies, secondary socialisation occurs through peer groups, colleagues, schools, work and mainly the mass media. The incident in 1920, of the two girls who were found in a wolf’s den in Bengal, India proves that how person will behave depending on the norms and values that they are socialised into. As they were not socialised into a human society, they had difficulty behaving according to the ‘norms’ when they were found. b) Explain how primary and secondary socialisation contributes to gender role acquisition. (Criteria 1. 2, Level 3) Both primary and secondary socialisation contributes to gender role acquisition.

While children are still very young, primary socialisation begins to mold the gender role in boys and girls, by first beginning to realize whether they are a boy or girl. Ann Oakley (1981) argues that gender roles are not biologically gained, but rather are acquired through socialisation. She argues that primary socialisation contributes to gender role in four ways: manipulation, canalisation, verbal appellations and fourthly using different activities with the child according to their gender. This conveys that gender roles are learnt and strengthened through primary socialisation.

As a child grows, secondary socialisation further reinforces his/her gender identity. This can be through school in which sociologist argue that girls and boys are treated differently and also pass on assumptions on how they should behave. Also the mass media have become key agencies of secondary socialisation thus, playing a significant role in conveying gender roles. The media influences individuals to learn and adapt to the norms of its society. Wolf (1990) argues that women who advertise often portray the notion that females must be beautiful if they want a man.

This is also the view if Angela McRobbie (1978), who uses the example of female magazines; this can be seen in ‘Glamour’ and ‘Vogue’ magazines. Also even in employment, there are some stereotypes of what jobs are suitable for men or women; for example, teaching and childcare are mainly held to be ‘women’s work’ while being a builder is predominantly seen to be ‘man’s work. ’ 4. a) Describe social scientific methods and natural scientific methods. (Criteria 2, Level 2) Positivist and interpretivism are the two main approaches of method researches. They both try to understand how society functions however, their research methods are different.

Due to the fact that their research methods are different, this means that their views on society are also different. Positivists believe that scientific methods of research can explain society as it allows for the collection of data. However, interpretivist‘s disagree with this and argue that the general rules regarding society cannot apply as values influence people, thus different societies have different social behaviors. Also, as the aim of social research is to investigate the meanings of society, this means that the researcher must always be subjective and therefore cannot be scientific. . b) Compare and contrast social scientific methods and natural scientific methods. (Criteria 2, Level 3) Both positivist and interpretivist’s both seek to explain the function of society. Positivist use quantitative data whereas, interpretivist’s qualitative data. Positivists believe that any research carried out must be scientific so that general rules about society can be made and analysed. However, interpretivist’s argue that in order for the research to be correct, it must be subjective as human beings can never be objective.

Positivists disagree and say that the only real knowledge is that which is scientific and measurable. Therefore, it must be objective without the influence of values. However feelings of emotion do not enter into this category. Positivists like Emile Durkheim empasised on evidence based research which can be observed and analysed. The likes of Marx and Hegel disagreed with the use of natural methods to explain social behavior and argued that it could never be neutral; it necessarily served one social class or another as Marx explained. 5. ) Describe the sociological perspectives of Marxism, functionalism, interactionalism and postmodernism. (Criteria 3. 1, Level 2) Include the historical roots of these perspectives. (Criteria 3. 2, Level 2, Level 3) Marxism was named after its founder Karl Marx (1818-1883). His perspective was that society was constructed upon conflict of class interests rather than consensus. People’s relationship to the forces/means of production determined which class they were in. In a capitalist society, the main conflict of interest is between the bourgeoisie –the owners of the means of production and the proletariat –the workers.

The proletariat have to sell their labour in order to live, while the bourgeoisie exploit them by keeping the surplus value that is generated by the workers, to enrich themselves. Marx believed that the relationship between the two classes portrayed by the mass media and government reflected the interest of the bourgeoisie. Functionalism was the leading movement in the 1950’s that was mainly lead by Emile Durkheim (1858-1917) and Talcott Parsons (1902 -1979). It was an argument against Marxism at a time of social consensus post World War 2 and at the beginning of the cold war.

Functionalism compared society to the organs of the body, where each part plays a role and work together to keep the body functioning well. Institutions within society work together and contribute to the social system by teaching society shared values and norms to maintain social harmony. Internationalism began in the early twentieth century and it focused on interactions between individual’s e. g. teenage gangs, rather than major structures of society such as social class. They focus on the level of the individuals and how their actions are affected by meaning’s and purposes.

They believe that during the process of interaction, individuals have the ability to create a set of social meanings for themselves rather than being the product of social structure and not have any control over their actions. Post modernism is a relatively new approach to understanding society which began in the 1980’s. According to Giddens (1990), this movement was a result of globalisation. It argues that society is rapidly changing with major improvement in technology such as telecommunications. There is also much more diversity in cultural norms and values as well as a change in occupations, gender roles and the family.

People are now no longer determined by their relation to production, but instead by what and how much they consume, which affects their behaviour. The term ‘social reflexivity’ was used by Giddens (1991) to illustrate how in modern times, people tend to question what they are doing in contrast to before the phase of modernity, where the traditional norms and values were complied to by individuals. b) Compare and contrast the views of each perspective on the family. (Criteria 3. 1, Level 3) The functionalists view the family as a vital part of society that positively contributes to maintaining social harmony.

Not only does the family reproduce and socialise children, but also contributes to the economy. However, Marxists believe that the family only serves as a useful factor to social class. Unlike functionalist, Marxists do not regard the nuclear family as a functionally necessary institution within society as it only socialises its members to accept the capitalist class. While postmodernists focus on the diversity and variation within the family, interactionalists are concerned with members of the family and the process of role making and role identity within the family.

Whereas, functionalist focus on the society rather than the individual. However, both functionalist and interactionalists agree that children learn their roles through their parent. Interactionalists do not focus on how the family ‘fits’ into society as such, but rather question why things happen in the family or not. This is a contrast to both the Marxists and functionalists view on the family as they study it as a whole and as well as its functions rather than individual roles within the family.

The Marxists say that the family only benefits the capitalists by consuming goods, which they have to pay for, and socialises children, thus producing a workforce for the capitalists. Functionalists agree with this view except that they believe that the family also benefits the children and society in that they pass on the norms and values of that society. In conclusion, all of the perspectives are similar in that they all agree that the family plays a part in the socialisation of children. However, the differences lie in who benefits or profits because of the socialisation.

Bibliography: Giddens, A. (2001), Sociology , (4th Ed). London, Polity Press. Haralambos and Holborn (2008), Sociology Themes and Perspectives, ( 7th Ed). London Taylor, P. (2005), Sociology In Focus, (2nd Ed). London, Causeway Press. Brown, K. (2005), An introduction to Sociology, (3rd Ed). UK, Polity Press. College source: City and Islington College, (2010), Access to Heath studies, Sociology course handbook. London. http://www. intute. ac. uk/sociology/ http://www. sociology. org. uk/ http://www. sociologyguide. com/