‘Social order may be the product of consensus or coercion, depending on which sociological perspective is adopted.’ Explain and discuss.
Ans: Social order is the product of consensus in terms of functionalism Social order is the product of coercion in terms of conflict theory in reality; society may be a combination of both - that is there is human free will which is also limited by social structure example institutions, laws
Functionalist Theory and consensus:
The functionalist school is linked with sociologists such as Talcott Parsons, Kingsley Davis, Wilbert Moore, and Emile Durkheim (see Farley, 2000:72). 1. Durkheim:
Durkheim's (1964) early paradigm of social stratification, which likened society to an organism with its need for order and organic solidarity, was important in shaping functional explanations. Inequalities were attributed to differences in ability and talent, and the notion that one group could use its power to dominate another group was never central to Durkheim's analysis (Kitano, 1985:40). 2.
Characteristics of Functionalist Theory
a. Society Consists of a Number of Interdependent Parts
The functioning of society depends on the operation and the coordination of these interdependent segments. Because the different parts of society depend upon each other, a change at one point in society will have impact elsewhere. This is especially true in modern complex societies (Farley, 2000:72). b. Every Element Performs Some Function
All parts of the social system have the general purpose of holding society together. If something exits, it is implied that it must serve the interests of the greater whole (Farley, 2000:73). c. Societies Tend Toward Stability and Equilibrium
A drastic change somewhere in the system would be dysfunctional for the survival of the entire system (Farley, 2000:73). It, there fore, resists wholesale change, but tolerates minor adjustments in society. d. Society Tends Toward Consensus
A consensus is necessary for cooperation (Farley, 2000:73). Conflict in society is undesirable because conflict destroys consensus. Change is, however, a fact of life. The functionalist perspective, therefore, favors only minor adjustments to society, and not wholesale change. e. Consensus and Stability are Desirable in Society
They are desirable because they facilitate the cooperation necessary to meet individual, group, and system needs (Farley, 2000:73). Functionalists tend to express concern about majority / minority relationships because of their potential to cause serious disruption of society.
Generally speaking, for the functionalists, if a group experiences social problems (e.g., unemployment), they probably lack the necessary skills that are required in the job market. Conflict Theory and coercion
Conflict theory arose primarily from the work of Marx. The general underlying assumption associated with conflict theory is that society is made up of groups with competing self-interests. Often the competing groups have unequal power. People compete for resources that are in scarce supply. Generally, the resources that are in short supply involve wealth and power. •
Classical period –owner and slave
Feudal period – land owner and serf.
Capitalist – Bourgeois and proletariat
Conflict theory generally consists of the following four points. 1. Conflict Built into Society
Societies naturally tend toward conflict. This occurs because wealth and power are distributed unequally; therefore, different social groups have different and conflicting interests (Farley, 2000:73). 2. One Group Becomes Dominant
Because competing interest groups have unequal power, one group usually becomes dominant. The dominant group then uses its power to control most or all other aspects of the social structure. The dominant group can ensure that society operates in a...
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