Merton proposed a distinction between manifest and latent functions. Latent functions are the unintended functions of a phenomenon in a social system. An example of manifest and latent functions is education. The manifest purpose of public education is to increase the knowledge and abilities of the citizenry to prepare them to contribute in the workforce. A latent function of the public education system is the development of a hierarchy of the learned. The most learned are often also the most affluent.
Thus, while education's manifest function is to empower all individuals to contribute to the workforce and society, it also limits some people by creating boundaries of entry into occupations. A prominent sociological theory that is often contrasted with structural-functionalism is conflict theory.
Karl Marx is considered the father of conflict theory. Conflict theory argues that society is not best understood as a complex system striving for equilibrium but rather as a competition. Society is made up of individuals competing for limited resources e. Broader social structures and organizations e. Conflict theory was developed in part to illustrate the limitations of structural-functionalism. The structural-functionalist approach argued that society tends toward equilibrium, focusing on stability at the expense of social change.
This is contrasted with the conflict approach, which argues that society is constantly in conflict over resources. One of the primary contributions conflict theory presents over the structural-functional approach is that it is ideally suited for explaining social change, a significant problem in the structural-functional approach.
A heuristic device to help you think about society from a conflict perspective is to ask, "Who benefits from this element of society? Because higher education in the U. Thus, the educational system often screens out poorer individuals not because they are unable to compete academically but because they cannot afford to pay for their education. Because the poor are unable to obtain higher education, this means they are also generally unable to get higher paying jobs which means they remain poor.
This can easily translate into a vicious cycle of poverty. Thus, while the function of education is to educate the workforce, it also has built into it an element of conflict and inequality, favoring one group the wealthy over other groups the poor. Thinking about education this way helps illustrate why both structural-functionalist and conflict theories are helpful in understanding how society works.
Not surprisingly, the primary limitation of the social-conflict perspective is that it overlooks the stability of societies. While societies are in a constant state of change, much of the change is minor. Many of the broader elements of societies remain remarkably stable over time, indicating the structural-functional perspective has a great deal of merit.
As noted above, sociological theory is often complementary. This is particularly true of structural-functionalism and social-conflict theories. Structural-functionalism focuses on equilibrium and solidarity; conflict-theory focuses on change and conflict. Keep in mind that neither is better than the other; when combined, the two approaches offer a broader and more comprehensive view of society. In contrast to the rather broad approach toward society of structural-functionalism and conflict theory, Symbolic Interactionism is a theoretical approach to understanding the relationship between humans and society.
The basic notion of symbolic interactionism is that human action and interaction are understandable only through the exchange of meaningful communication or symbols. In this approach, humans are portrayed as acting as opposed to being acted upon. The main principles of symbolic interactionism are: .
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This approach stands in contrast to the strict behaviorism of psychological theories prevalent at the time it was first formulated in the s and s. According to Symbolic Interactionism, humans are distinct from infrahumans lower animals because infrahumans simply respond to their environment i.
Additionally, infrahumans are unable to conceive of alternative responses to gestures. Humans, however, can. This perspective is also rooted in phenomenological thought see social constructionism and phenomenology. According to symbolic interactionism, the objective world has no reality for humans, only subjectively-defined objects have meaning. Meanings are not entities that are bestowed on humans and learned by habituation. Instead, meanings can be altered through the creative capabilities of humans, and individuals may influence the many meanings that form their society.
Neurological evidence based on EEGs supports the idea that humans have a "social brain," that is, there are components of the human brain that govern social interaction.
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A good example of this is when people try on clothes before going out with friends. Some people may not think much about how others will think about their clothing choices, but others can spend quite a bit of time considering what they are going to wear. And while they are deciding, the dialogue that is taking place inside their mind is usually a dialogue between their "self" that portion of their identity that calls itself "I" and that person's internalized understanding of their friends and society a " generalized other " called the "me".
Such an individual has incorporated the "social" into the "self" and will thus experience the world through an ongoing internal communication process that seeks to determine "if I do this, what will be thought of me. It should also be noted that symbolic interactionists advocate a particular methodology. Because they see meaning as the fundamental component of human and society interaction, studying human and society interaction requires getting at that meaning.
Thus, symbolic interaction tends to take two distinct, but related methodological paths. Processual Symbolic Interaction seeks to uncover the elaboration and experience of meanings in natural settings of social interaction through primarily qualitative methods e. Symbolic Interaction arose through the integration of Structural Functionalism and Conflict Theories. Specifically, Symbolic Interaction seeks to uncover the ways "meanings" are deployed within interactions and embedded within larger social structures to facilitate social cohesion Structural Functionalism and social change Conflict Theories.
To use the case above, Symbolic Interaction may be used to explain the distinction between Conflict and Structural Functionalist approaches to education. If people act toward education based on the meaning they have for it, for example, then people that believe or are taught to believe that education serves an important function for all of society e.
On the other hand, if people believe or are taught to believe that education transmits social inequalities from generation to generation e. In either case, societies and the people that form them will move towards cohesion Structural Functionalism or conflict Conflict Theory concerning educational structures based upon the meanings these people have for the current educational structure. Central to Symbolic Interaction is the notion that selves and societies exist in an ongoing reciprocal relationship wherein each acts back upon the other.
Stated another way, Symbolic Interactionism argues that people become selves by learning and internalizing the symbolic materials of the social and historical context and culture they are born into and raised within e. As a result, Symbolic Interactionists argue against the division of society into micro, meso, and macro forms, and instead focus on the ways that interconnected people continuously construct, alter, signify, and affirm themselves and others in ways that create, sustain, and change existing social structures.
They thus argue that society is always an ongoing information exchange between individuals, groups, and social structures that each depend on the other for their meaning and by extension their existence and survival. The most significant limitations of symbolic interactionism relate to its primary contribution: it focuses on the ongoing construction and contestation of meanings in society e. As a result, Symbolic Interactionism typically focuses on "how" things are done e.
As a result, Symbolic Interaction is more adequately suited to explaining how the world is, but is unable to demonstrate and document predictions about how the world might differ, if circumstances were hypothetically altered. Another more micro-oriented approach to understanding social life that also incorporates the more structural elements of society is Role Theory. Role theory posits that human behavior is guided by expectations held both by the individual and by other people.
The expectations correspond to different roles individuals perform or enact in their daily lives, such as secretary, father, or friend. For instance, most people hold pre-conceived notions of the role expectations of a secretary, which might include: answering phones, making and managing appointments, filing paperwork, and typing memos. These role expectations would not be expected of a professional soccer player. Individuals generally have and manage many roles. Roles consist of a set of rules or norms that function as plans or blueprints to guide behavior. Roles specify what goals should be pursued, what tasks must be accomplished, and what performances are required in a given scenario or situation.
Role theory holds that a substantial proportion of observable, day-to-day social behavior is simply persons carrying out their roles, much as actors carry out their roles on the stage or ballplayers theirs on the field. Role theory is, in fact, predictive. It implies that if we have information about the role expectations for a specified status e. What's more, role theory also argues that in order to change behavior it is necessary to change roles; roles correspond to behaviors and vice versa.
In addition to heavily influencing behavior, roles influence beliefs and attitudes; individuals will change their beliefs and attitudes to correspond with their roles. Many role theorists see Role Theory as one of the most compelling theories bridging individual behavior and social structure. Roles, which are in part dictated by social structure and in part by social interactions, guide the behavior of the individual.
The individual, in turn, influences the norms, expectations, and behaviors associated with roles. The understanding is reciprocal. Role theory has a hard time explaining social deviance when it does not correspond to a pre-specified role. For instance, the behavior of someone who adopts the role of bank robber can be predicted - she will rob banks.
But if a bank teller simply begins handing out cash to random people, role theory would be unable to explain why though role conflict could be one possible answer; the secretary may also be a Marxist-Communist who believes the means of production should belong to the masses and not the bourgeoisie. Another limitation of role theory is that it does not and cannot explain how role expectations came to be what they are.
Role theory has no explanation for why it is expected of male soldiers to cut their hair short, but it could predict with a high degree of accuracy that if someone is a male soldier they will have short hair. Additionally, role theory does not explain when and how role expectations change. As a result, role theorists typically draw upon insights from Symbolic Interaction Theory and Historical Comparative analyses to address these questions.
An extension of role theory , impression management is both a theory and process. The theory argues that people are constantly engaged in controlling how others perceive them. The process refers to the goal-directed conscious or unconscious effort to influence the perceptions of other people by regulating and controlling information in social interaction.
If a person tries to influence the perception of her or his own image, this activity is called self-presentation. Erving Goffman , the person most often credited with formally developing impression management theory, cast the idea in a dramaturgical framework. Aware of how they are being perceived by their audience, actors manage their behavior so as to create specific impressions in the minds of the audience.
Strategic interpersonal behavior to shape or influence impressions formed by an audience is not a new idea. Plato spoke of the "great stage of human life" and Shakespeare noted that "All the world is a stage, and all the men and women merely players". The independence of lawyers. Boston University Law Review , 1— Gunningham, N. Special issue. Law and Policy , 19 4.
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Paper about sociological theories in the study of law, by Mathieu Deflem. Published by: Macmillian P. ISBN: pbk. Subject s. Some see sociology of law as belonging "necessarily" to the field of sociology Its object encompasses the historical movement of law and justice and their. The sociology of law is one of the oldest specialty fields in the discipline, reflecting the Considering law and social movements connects the topics of law and.
This seminar aims to provide a general introduction to the sociological study of law in sociology, legal consciousness, social movements, and governmentality. Particularly, legal sociologists movement of Foucauldian inspired.
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The technical processes of legal formalism establish a setting in which the law is impractical and therefore ineffective in meeting the needs of. The sociology of law is often described as a sub-discipline of sociology or an Its object encompasses the historical movement of law and justice and their. Instead, an empirical sociology of law must critically evaluate the applicability and defense of legal traditions or the strategic use of law by social movements;.
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