Topics: Sociology, Structural functionalism, Social structure Pages: 7 (2302 words) Published: May 14, 2013
“Diversity and difference can be seen as assets to be valued and celebrated- sources of stimulation and enrichment, rather than problems to be solved”- How far do you agree? Using selected theoretical approaches and critical reading, analyse and assess your answer.

The issue of differences and diversity within a society has been of great interest to sociologists. Debates over celebration or integration of religious and ethnic minorities, and the issues raised by LGBT equality movements have become increasingly prominent amongst politicians since the latter half of the twentieth century.

These matters of social equality can be examined through a number of different theoretical approaches. Before a theoretical approach can be selected, it is important to select an angle to examine society from. For the case of this essay, issues of social diversity and differences will be examined on a national and political level, such as the effect of new, culturally different immigrants on an otherwise isolated community. For this, using macro theoretical approaches will be the most useful, most importantly conflict theory and structural functionalism. Through the use of these theoretical approaches and a selection of readings and historical examples as a case study, this essay will analyse and assess whether diversity and difference should be celebrated or be dealt with in a pragmatic manner that would better favour the state. Diversity and difference permeates many parts of society, from political and religious beliefs to economical and ethnic differences. As macro-level theoretical approaches will be used in the writing of this essay, there will be a greater focus on religious and ethnic diversity over economy and political beliefs. Through analysis of these four elements, this essay hopes to support and favour a more pragmatic, integration-based approach to diversity when celebration of differences would be problematic.

Before a detailed analysis can begin, it is important to assess the theoretical approaches that will be used in the writing of this essay. As previously stated, macro-level approaches will be used, but acknowledgement and analysis of their strengths and weaknesses is crucial before they can be applied in practice to an issue of diversity and difference. Perhaps one of the key tools for the argument of a pragmatic approach to the celebration of diversity is the structural functionalist approach to the matter. Functionalism is useful for this cause as it examines the parts that build up a society as organs in a body or parts in a machine. From this, one can argue that social groups that benefit or are compatible with current society are useful and are worth preserving, whereas ones that detract from the aims and goals of society (dysfunctions) require modification before being integrated with a nation’s social structure. A limitation of this social theoretical approach was exposed toward the end of the twentieth century when rapid changes in society and the social zeitgeists of the time were not explainable through the use of this theory. To combat this, taking a dualistic approach that incorporates conflict theory would be a viable approach to the issue. Whilst Marx most famously used conflict theory in terms of economic inequalities, it can be used to examine what causes conflict between different social groups. Through examination of these conflicts, it becomes possible for a leader of a social group to open up a dialogue between conflicting groups as a means of creating a more stable society. Combining this with the structural functionalist approach to social diversity allows one to assess the viability of consolidating conflicting social groups into the social mainstream, and, failing that, examine which of the groups may be the largest “dysfunction”. This combination of conflict theory and structural functionalism will be used to examine social elements and case studies to determine whether celebration...

Bibliography: The Social Integration of Practitioners of Non-Western Religions in the United States
Robert Wuthnow, Conrad Hackett, 2003
Religion, Tolerance and Intolerance: Views from Across the Disciplines, Russell Powell and Steve Clarke, University of Oxford,
Religious Belief and Practice: Evaluating their impact on Political Tolerance, Kathleen Beatty & Oliver Walter
Communism, Conformity & Civil Liberties: A Cross Section of the Nation Speaks its Mind, Prof. Samuel A. Stouffer, 1955
Origins of Tolerance: Findings from a Replication of Stouffer 's Communism, Conformity, and Civil Liberties, J. A. Williams Jr., Clyde Z. Nunn, Louis St. Peter, 1976
Urban housing segregation of minorities in Western Europe and the United States, Elizabeth Huttman, 1991
International migration research: constructions, omissions, and the promises of interdisciplinarity, Morawska and Bommes, 2005
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