Explain the Key Sociological Perspectives
Postmodernism looks at social rapid change and how many institutions are unstable due to social uncertainty and sudden changes. It looks at how the rapid change of society has affected all social expectancies, and how the social norms that we once understood and expected are no longer valid, as the society around us is changing so much. This includes the stratification of society, as well as social roles and the norms, the intermixing of cultures, the changing of social class, and the difficulty of social mobility. It looks at social stratification, as due to the many changes in technology, work and way of life, the layers of society have changed greatly. This also reflects social classes and roles, as the rapid changes have left social roles unstable, especially through recent recession periods, which has not only disrupted social classes, but has also made it easier for those of a higher class to fall down the ladder of hierarchy.
Interactionism a theory based on looking at the small, individual institutions within society, and assessing how certain aspect of society affect them. It is believed that our behaviour is determined by how we interpret situations and relationships; in education for example, the teacher-pupil relationship would be assessed, and then compared to exam results to find a correlation between the relationship and how it affected the student’s studies. It works largely on personal socialisation, as it determines how our primary, secondary and tertiary socialisation affects the way we behave in society, through communication, body language, and reactions to situations. It also looks at the nature/nurture argument – the debate whether genetics in a person are dominant in determining how that person behaves and acts, or whether it is the influence of the environment and the family institution that makes someone develop the way they do, though the interactionism theory favours the nurture argument.
Functionalism is the idea that every social institution works together in harmony, aiding the smooth running of society. It sees society as a machine, where each institution and social groups are parts that must be able to work alongside each other in order to keep the machine running well. This relates to the idea of an Egalitarian Community, where all members of the group are seen as equal. However, in today’s society, many institutions deviate from the social norm; they do not run together smoothly as is expected, such as a dysfunctional family or a corrupt political system, and this means that the machine suggested through functionalism cannot work at all, as there is little harmony. Also, as many people deviate from the social norms, and do not conform to social control, they do not fit into their social role and therefore bring nothing constructive to society. Functionalism also suggests that everything in society is a positive thing, even crime. It looks at society as a whole, instead of individual groups, but as it does not focus on smaller institutions, and does not allow for the dysfunctional parts of society.
Marxism was brought about by Karl Marx, a sociologist who conflicted the views of functionalism and the idea of an Egalitarian society by suggesting that the institutions of society work towards the prosperity of the higher social classes, who are assumed to have more control and influence over society. Marxism is a conflict model, as it suggests that the functionalist theory is not true, and instead that social stratification and class is used as a way of exploiting workers – the hard workers in society are not working towards the greater good of all, but instead they work purely to benefit their employers, as a form of social control by forcing individuals to conform to the norms of society through their need to earn money. It also highlights the problems many people face in society, in terms of social mobility, as it suggests that because of the fact that individuals work for the benefit of the higher classes, they are unable to support themselves in moving up the hierarchy of society.
Collectivism is theory that the welfare and the needs of the group are bigger than that of the individual. For example within institutions, such as social groups, it looks at the need for employment, education and healthcare instead of looking at the individual needs. Collectivism can also apply to big institutions such as transport, healthcare, education and fuel providers, which were nationalised, meaning available to all instead of being privatised, until Thatcher’s government introduced the New Right in 1979. The idea behind this nationalisation was that these institutions were available to the group of society, as compared to a minority of people, and that the needs of the majority were more important than looking to minority groups.
The New Right
Mainly classed as a change of the Welfare State, this was an idea introduced by Thatcher’s government in 1979 as a way to get people away from the dependency of the Welfare state and back to independence. It introduced the enterprise culture – the privatisation of national institutions and the restructuring of the national workforce as a way of making the economy more stable – and the idea of dismantling the Welfare State as a form of social control to force people back into work. It worked on making social mobility easier for everyone to achieve, as a way if improving the social structure of social classes. By removing the idea of collectivism from big institutions, the New Right also forced people to become independent by increasing their immediate needs – as these institutions were privatised, the care and services they offered became more expensive and hard for people living on the Welfare State to obtain, meaning people often felt the need to get back into work to maintain a comfortable lifestyle.
Feminism is a collection of movements and protests, formed by women, to argue their political, economic and social equality, where it is seen that most parts of society are male dominated. It argues against gender differences in wages, job opportunities, and rights in the workplace. It aims to highlight the strengths of women in society, as a way of showing the equality between men and women. It also highlights how women are often better suited to certain jobs than men. However, the personal choices of women in work are not taken into consideration, as it claims that women are not employed in certain areas, whereas this may be simply because women do not choose to work in these jobs. It also claims that women are just as able to work in stressful jobs as men, despite their role conflicts in life, but does not take the culture of the individual woman into account, and ignores cultural norms. Some feminists, however, argue that as they are fighting sexism towards women, that they should also take into account male equality in female dominated areas, such as in child custody cases where the mother is favoured, or in fields of work such as childcare and midwifery, where the workforce is primarily women.