Sociology Final Exam Paper
Sociology Paper on Society
“Human beings are fascinated with the world in which they live, and they aspire to develop ways to explain their experiences. People appear to have always felt this fascination-along with the intense desire to unravel the world’s mysteries-for people in ancient times also attempted to explain their worlds”(Henslin 8). Sociology is about understanding how people act as a society and how we, as people, treat our fellow human beings. The symbolic interactionist perspective, also known as symbolic interactionism, directs sociologists to consider the symbols and details of everyday life, figuring out what these symbols mean, and how people interact with each other. Although symbolic interactionism traces its origins to Max Weber's assertion that individuals act according to their interpretation of the meaning of their world, the American philosopher George H. Mead introduced this perspective to American sociology in the 1920s. According to the symbolic interactionist perspective, people attach meanings to symbols, and then they act according to their subjective interpretation of these symbols. Verbal conversations, in which spoken words serve as the main symbols, make this subjective interpretation especially evident. The words have a certain meaning for the “sender,” and, during effective communication, they hopefully have the same meaning for the “receiver”. Words are not static things and they require intention and interpretation. Conversation is an interaction of symbols between individuals who constantly interpret the world around them. Of course, anything can serve as a symbol as long as it refers to something beyond itself. Think of applying symbolic interactionism to the American institution of marriage, the symbols may include wedding bands, vows of life-long commitment, a white bridal dress, a wedding cake, a Church ceremony, and flowers. American society attaches general meanings to these symbols, but people also maintain their own perceptions of what these and other symbols mean. For example, one of the spouses may see their circular wedding rings as symbolizing never ending love, while the other may see them as a just a financial expense. Bad communication can result from differences in the perception of the same events and symbols. Critics claim that symbolic interactionism neglects the macro level of social interpretation, which is the big picture. In other words, symbolic interactionists may miss the larger issues of society by focusing too closely on the size of the diamond in the wedding ring rather than the quality of the marriage. The perspective also receives criticism for slighting the influence of social norms and institutions on individual interactions. According to the functionalist perspective, also called functionalism, each aspect of society is interdependent and contributes to society's functioning as a whole. The government, or state, provides education for the children of the family, which in turn pays taxes on which the state depends to keep itself running. That is, the family is dependent upon the school to help children grow up to have good jobs so that they can raise and support their own families. In the process, the children become law-abiding, taxpaying citizens, who in turn support the state. On the other hand, Functionalists believe that society is held together by social consensus, or cohesion, in which members of the society agree upon, and work together to achieve, what is best for society as a whole. Emile Durkheim suggested that social consensus takes one of two forms, one being Mechanical Solidarity, which is a form of social cohesion that arises when people in a society maintain similar values and beliefs and engage in similar types of work. Mechanical solidarity most commonly occurs in traditional, simple societies such as those in which everyone herds cattle or farms. The Amish society exemplifies mechanical solidarity....
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