Social Functionalist Theory

Topics: Sociology / Pages: 5 (1192 words) / Published: Apr 18th, 2017
Referring to Herbert J. Gans’ use of social functionalist theory in his essay titled “Uses of the Underclass in America”, four of the thirteen manifest and latent functions Gans applied to the problem of poverty could also be applied to the issue of Islamophobia in America.
The first (manifest) function of Islamophobia emphasizes that the existence of Islamophobia supplies popular culture villains. Because many within American society oftentimes associate real-world terrorism with Muslims (at a large scale) ever since the September 11, 2001 attacks, American news outlets and movies have invested in emphasizing the legitimacy of such assertion, thereby contributing to the social problem. Many cinematic productions have aimed at casting a Muslim
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Wright Mills’ “Power Elite” essay that examines social conflict–also applies to Islamophobic views on Muslim-Americans. The only strength of Mills’ social conflict theory is that it reveals the institutional role in promoting Islamophobia. Linking Muslims to a national issue such as terrorism helps advance the goals of powerful politicians, some of whom generally see the Islamic community as a threat to their interests/values. Therefore, not only does the issue of terrorism give many politicians something to fight against, but the fact that Muslims are often speculated to have connections to such activities give these politicians someone to blame and …show more content…
This theory explains the fact that members of a society tend to give negative (or false) meanings to objects that are linked to certain groups through language. When people within a society take such meanings or perspectives seriously, these meanings eventually become ingrained in the culture of that society. This, in turn, prompts the members of that society to make arbitrary assumptions of the people and/or things they attribute certain meanings to. In the case of Islamophobia within the United States, Islamophobic language/rhetoric demonstrated in media and pop-culture can influence society greatly. In general, the negative perspectives that some non-Muslims have of the Islamic community is often due to media coverage of terrorist groups as always being connected to Islam, and such coverage vilifies Muslims by associating their religion with acts of extremism. Therefore, it is safe to assert that misrepresentation of Muslim-Americans is deemed inevitable due to terrorists claiming that their violent acts are for a religious cause, as well as media’s tendency to heavily report on the extreme occurrences of extremism related to Islam.
One advantage of using the symbolic interactionist theory is that it highlights small-scale interactions in terms of how the meaning (or symbolism) given to towards certain objects can lead to people associating certain behaviors or lifestyles to a group.

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