Socialisation, culture and identity



Culture; ideas, customs, and social behaviour of a particular people or society 

Norms; something that's usual, typical or standard of a society

Values; prinipals or standards of behaviour; a judgement of what's important in life

Subculture; a cultural group within a larger culture, often having beleifs or interests that vary from normal society 

High culture; a sub.c. shared by the elite in society; people who attend ballet or listen to opera 

Popular culture; a dominant activity shared by the masses e.g. Facebook or Eastenders

Global culture; sharing consumer products, ways of life, norms and values with different countries e.g. Amazin

Consumer culture; spending money on material goods, mainly found in western countries 

Cultural diversity; the existence of a variety of cultural/ethnic groups in society 

Cultural hybridity; a cross between two cultures e.g. Brasian 

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Primary socialisation; learning a set of norms and values via family upbringing 

Secondary s.; learning appropiate behaviour in a smal group part of a larger society 

Agents of socialisation- Family; responsible for primary s., provides first social contact, learnt via informal manners, rewards and punishments; strong emotional ties

AS- peer group; second most important influence; thoughts and actions, same age group, similar status, albeit when older, choose peers on common interests, actvities, status; which affect individal's apprearance, fashion drug usuage etc...

AS- media; powerful socialising influence, knowledge about the wider world; focus on our impressions of situations e.g. TV violence can lead to real violence 

AS- religion; influences morality and rights/wrongs, behaviour and dress manner

AS- education; widen social circle, formal learning more impersonal, adapt to social oder via hidden curriculum, helps with integation to wider society, school norms and values-can overpower p.s.

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Socialisation cont..

AS- workplace; new material culture and new nonmaterial culture 

Nature; genetics and biology 

Nurture; environmental factors

Formal agenecies of socal control; laws, police, cours, army

Informal agencies of social control; peers, bystanders, community 

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Identity; how individuals see and define themselves and how others see and define them

Ethnicity; the shared culture of a social group which gives its members a common identity in some ways different from other social groups

Nationality; being a citizen in a country, being able to vote, having a passport and a right of residence

Gender; culturally created differences bewteen men and women which are learned via socialisation

Social class; a broad group of people who share a similar economic situation via occupation, income and wealth

Sexuality; your sexual charcteristics and sexual behaviour 

Age; the length of time a person has lived 

Disability; a physical/mental impairment which has substantial and long term adverse effects on a person's ability to carry out a normal days activities. 

Hybrid identity; An identity formed of a mix of two or more identities e.g. being British and eating chinse food

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How and why are youth culture and subcultures form

Social class- Skin heads (spectacular subculture) Clarke (1976);skin head culture is an exaggeration of the working class masculinity. They work an extreme form of manual workers clothes, consisting of rolled up jeans, braces and big boots with steel toe caps. Macho & aggressive attitude-sometimes racist. Clarke-youths felt their working class background was under threat due to the economic situation and therefore over exaggerated it as a form of resistance. Cohen added that the economic situation was harder as there was a decline of industry work and increasing immigration, skinheads often focused on reclaiming territory. Hebdige (1960) studied the Mods, he said that the Mods were a more affluent group who used their money to create a style that was a resistance against the middle class. Showing that they too could be smart and cool with their Italian suits and scooters. Hebdige (1979) used the term ‘bricolage’ to describe some of the punk culture, referring to punks’ reuse of ordinary objects in a new way – for example, earing ripped clothes and piercing their bodies and clothes with safety pins. Bin liners became tops, ******* and fetish clothes became everyday items, & hair was coloured and shaped in extreme ways. Punk was mainly working class & rebelled against mainstream norms and values telling them what they should and shouldn’t do. He also used the concept of ‘incorporation’-styles like the punks were made mainstream by the media and fashion industry so lose their edge and element of rebellion.  Brake (1980)-these subcultures gave youths a collective identity and feelings of strength and power, even made them feel like they were fighting back, but eventually most would enter the adult world and conform to society’s social control.

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Formation continued

Gender- Thornton (1995b) pointed out that girls had less disposable income, marrying earlier and earning less than their male counterparts, the ‘teenage market’ was dominated by boys, particularly in the time of spectacular subcultures. She argued that girls invested more time in doing well in school, while boys were out spending money on music magazines and going out, leading to a difference in their ‘subcultural capital’. She argues that girls accept their lack of subcultural capital, defending their taste in music with expressions like “I know it is **** but I like it”. ‘Mainstream’ culture is often looked down on by those with subcultural capital, and when a style moves from being underground and ‘hip’ to being ‘mainstream’ it becomes ‘feminised’. Thornton gives the example of the rave culture of the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, which lost its underground status as legal raves sprung up and the scene was characterised by ‘techno Traceys’, dancing around their handbags. McRobbie (1991) accepts that girls have become more active in terms of consumer culture. For example, she considers the change in the focus of magazines for teenage girls, which shifted from the focus on romance to a more self-confident sexuality. She also accepts that girls are active in using magazines, critiquing or even laughing at them, rather than passively accepting their content. McRobbie and Garber used the concept ‘bedroom culture’ to describe this, girls would get together and experiment with make-up, hairstyles and fashion, gossip with friends about boys and read and discuss teenage magazines.

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Formation continued

Ethnicity- Since the 1950’s youth cultures and subcultures have had many ethnic influences, particularly in terms of music. Reggae was favoured by black ‘rude boys’ and skinheads and rock ’n’ roll by black rhythm and blues music. Hebdige (1979) argued that British youth subcultures can be read as ‘a succession of differential responses to the black immigrant presence in Britain’. Examples include the Mods, who were seen as imitating the ‘cool’ style of West Indians, the skinheads, who gained a reputation for racism and resistance to immigration, while at the same time taking on some of the fashion and music from West Indian culture. More recently, black music and fashion have influenced white working class subcultures. An example would be ‘white wannabes’ identified by Nayak (2003), similarly examples of white rappers like Eminem and Professor Green illustrate ‘cultural hybridity’. 

Hybridity- Nayak (2003) identified ‘White wannabes’ as young white working-class males who adopt the style and language of ‘black culture’. Others terms, such as ‘wangstas’ and ‘wiggers’ have also been used. They may listen to music such as hip hop or gangsta rap, wear lots of ‘bling’ and dress similar to that stereotypically associated with young black males. A good example of a parody of a stereotypical ‘white wannabe’ is Ali G, famous in the late 1990s for his catchphrase ‘Is it because I is black?’-he clearly wasn’t black.

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Theoretical views of the role and formation y.s.


  • See youth as a transition period from childhood to adulthood    
  • Seek independence from their families, youths get their sense of belonging from their peers. 
  • Parsons (1962)-youth as a social category emerged due to changes in the family via development of capitalism. In pre-capitalist societies, the transition from childhood to adulthood is/was marked by an initiation or rite of passage of some kind, e.g. the Hamar tribe or Western societies- marriage and child bearing-extended period of ‘youth’ didn’t occur. However the development of capitalism created a divide between the role of the family-purely nurturing environment, and the specialised requirements of the workplace. This required a period of training and socialisation for young people that wasn’t previously required. The expansion of compulsory education and training has filled this gap. 
  • Parsons (1942) saw youth as an important transitional stage during a potentially stressful time where an individual must learn to leave the security of the family and become an independent person in terms of occupational status and marriage    
  • Parsons sees youth culture as a ‘rite of passage’ - individuals must go through between childhood and adulthood 
  • Eisenstadt (1956)-youth culture as a way of bringing young people into society, stress and anomie att so youth culture becomes very important, providing a shared set of norms and values with peers, and a sense of belonging.    
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Functionalists cont..

  •  S.c.- testing boundaries, experimentation and reinforcement of acceptable norms and values.    
  • Abrams (1959)-emergence of youth culture was linked to their emergence as a distinct group with spending power who started to be targeted by businesses and the media-believed  youth culture  created by the media.
  • Functionalism evaluation- Generalised youth culture as a whole, didn’t account for differences between subcultures. Some distinctions that other sociologists have found within youth culture, or between subcultures, on grounds of social class, race and gender, weren’t considered by functionalists e.g. neo-Marxists focused on the impact of social class and feminists considered gender in relation to youth.
  • Functionalist evidence came from white middle class American males, much like the sociologists themselves. It’s questionable whether the same transitional issues apply to youths in all Western cultures, so their analysis is considered ethnocentric.

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Marxism/neo-marxism & formation of subcultures

  • Sees society based on conflict rather than consensus, tends to focus more on youth subcultures than youth culture as a whole- ‘spectacular youth subcultures’ and their reaction to and conflict with wider society.     
  • Gramsci-concept of ‘hegemony’-ideological dominance or social authority that the ruling class has over the subordinate classes    
  • Focus on social class and the economic situation faced by young people as their explanations for the formation of youth subcultures. 
  • CCCS-Members of these subcultures still faced the same experiences and social conditions facing their social class as a whole-high unemployment, inner-city decay, racial tensions and strikes in 60's and 70's compared to the higher levels of work and disposable income available for young people in other times. 
  • CCCS considered different subcultures and how each could be seen as a form of resistance against the ruling class and reaction to the economic situation working-class youths found themselves in.
  • Marxism evaluation- Neo Marxists found meanings that didn’t actually exist because they were only looking for examples relating to class- youths themselves, their fashion and behaviour didn’t necessarily have this meaning- might've just been having fun, or wanted to be like their mates       
  • The middle class also had subcultures, for example, hippies-largely ignored by the CCCS, who saw the subculture as working class. Feminists challenge the CCCS for ignoring girls in subcultures 
  • They picked subcultures to fit their analysis rather than the other way around 
  • Only looked at ‘spectacular subcultures’ which made up a small amount of youth- not generalisable 
  • lacking temporal validity - the youth of today aren’t like the youths of the 1960’s/70’s in their subcultures    
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Feminism & formation of subcultures

  • Feminists argue that the role of girls in subcultures has been ignored by other theories on youth subcultures.
  • McRobbie and Garber (1976)- girls were conspicuously absent from most research on youth subcultures. When they did appear, it was fleeting, or it reinforced stereotypical views of girls, often just presenting them as passive ‘girlfriends’ of the male subculture members, or commenting on their attractiveness- studying girls was not seen as interesting       
  • McRobbie and Garber argued that girls negotiated different spaces to those inhabited by boys and their friendship groups are often very close-knit- so difficult to study 
  • Researchers- androcendric-  easier to relate to males rather than females
  • Feminism evaluation- Recent developments (postmodernism) may mean that gender is less significant, and that current subcultures don’t have any clear gender distinctions, so feminist analysis is less relevant.

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Postmodernism & formation of subcultures

  • Culture- become increasingly fragmented and diverse. Youth styles are now much more fluid, changeable and eclectic – mixing things from many different sources, and crossing over ethnic, gender and class divides.    
  • e.g.  ‘clubbing cultures’ of the late 1980’s and 1990’s, largely carried out by the MIPS- no clear gender, class or ethnic divisions could be found; they were very diverse
  • MIPS-emphasises the role of the media as an integral part of club culture. Redhead (1990) -the idea of authentic subcultures that develop outside of media influence could no longer be sustained from the 1980’s onwards, and that subcultures, or ‘club cultures’, are formed within and through the media. Maffesoli (1996) uses the term neo-tribe instead of subculture. Neo-tribe refers to a much more loosely organised grouping with no fixed membership or deep commitment- group identities are no longer formed along traditional social lines such as gender or class-young people now ‘flit’ from tribe to tribe dabbling in different aspects of clothing or music and then moving on. 
  • Tribes- not exclusive and the group itself isn’t the priority; used to satisfy individual’s needs   
  • Bennett (1999) supports this through his research of clubs in Newcastle.- idea of ‘subcultures’  links musical and stylistic preferences, whereas neo-tribes recognise the shifting nature and fluidity of such preferences- clubbing is multidimensional, involving a series of diverse experiences for clubbers as they move room between rooms or floors of clubs and engage in different crowds and music. 
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Postmodernism evaluation

  • (Polhemus (1994)-‘supermarket of style’-youths create identities by picking and mixing from various cultures, fashions, lifestyles and music. all the choices available today-commitment to anyone's style is less common, and young people are reluctant to give themselves labels and restrict their choices. For postmodernists, style is more important than substance, and fluidity and choice are central for today’s youth.)
  • There are still some distinct youth subcultures, with clear style and music allegiances – for example goths and emos – so not everyone mixes styles. 
  • Doesn’t take into account youths that don’t partake in neo-tribes. There are still very clear lines in some groups due to gender and ethnicity which the term neo-tribe appears to dismiss this    
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Why young people participate in deviant subculture

Deviant subcultures 

Delinquent subcultures- ‘Delinquency’ is an old fashioned term used to refer to youth deviance. A delinquent subculture as a subculture involved in deviant because behaviour, such as joyriding, vandalism and other anti-social behaviour, which may not necessarily be criminal.
Criminal subcultures- Refers to subcultures that are actively involved in criminal behaviour, which may be quite organised, such as drug-dealing, protection rackets or dealing in stolen goods. Cloward and Ohlin argued that not everyone would have access to such criminal subcultures.
Spectacular youth subcultures- This is a term that has been used by sociologists specifically to describe some of the highly visible subcultures of the 1950’s-70’s such as the Teddy boys, mods, punks and skinheads. These subcultures had very flamboyant and instantly recognisable styles, and often had confrontable attitudes. They have particularly been studied by the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies (CCCS) at Birmingham University (neo-Marxist). Because of this Marxist influence, their analysis tends to focus on social class issues, and this type of subculture therefore doesn’t feature as much.

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Deviant subcultures

Anti-school subcultures- The tem anti-school subculture is used to refer to groups of pupils who reject the norms and values of school and reverse them- seen as negative to do well academically, receive praise from the teacher, receive good marks, complete homework, and do what the teacher tells you and so on. Value trouble making, disrupting the class and being cheeky to teachers, and truanting. Academic failure or poor grades may become a positive thing. Sociologists sometimes distinguish anti-school and anti-education subcultures. The former reject the values of school, whereas the latter reject the values of education more widely, and don’t value academic success. Thus it's possible for a group of pupils to be anti-school, rejecting particular rules and what teachers expect from them, and yet still be pro-education and recognise the value of education.

Gangs- A group of people, especially young people, who regularly associate together is often referred to as a gang, but this term is more commonly used by the media and police to refer to a group of people who cause harm to the community and are involved in persistent criminality, often with violence a key element of group identity and solidarity. A gang will often have a name, a territory, a leader a hierarchy and a set of rules relating to membership. Some gangs may be delinquent subcultures and some may be criminal subcultures, depending on the level of their criminal activity. However not all delinquent subcultures or criminal subcultures will be gangs; it will depend on their structure and identity.

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Patterns and trends in youth deviance;

Social class; 

  • Youths form working class backgrounds are more likely to be involved in deviancy and criminality-¾ of children in the youth justice system come from disadvantaged background. 
  • Jacobson et al (2010) -sample of 200 children in the YJS, ¾ of the youth in the YJS had an absent father, live in a deprived area, had unsuitable accommodation and just under ½ of them had ran away from home at some point. Over ½ had struggled to attend school and around half had previously been excluded.      
  • Farrington (1989)-longitudinal self-report study-400 young males-results showed a correlation between criminality and a deprived socio economic background. 


  • Criminality & deviancy is - dominated by males according to the police, victim surveys and self-report surveys. 
  • Home office (2009/10) data-men aged 10-17 years found to be responsible for 20% of all police recorded crimes -young women only 4%. 
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Patterns and trends in youth deviance;

  • Campbell (1981)- self-report study- isn't such a big gap in criminality in adults
  • 1994 and 2004 the number of female convicts in England and Wales increased by 150%. Muncie (1999) explained this by moral panics about female offenders and girl gangs when in fact there was only a small rise in recorded crime and therefore was an over-reaction.


  • Most criminality is England and Wales are recorded to be white British.
  • Disproportionate amount of Afro-Caribbean youths in the justice system 
  • Home Office- black ethnic background accounted for 21% of young people in custody in 2012/13-make up for 3% of the population.
  • Black people  stopped 7 time more than white people in 2009/10 and 6 times more likely in 2006/07 according to home office figures- discrepancy between the ways black and white people are treated in the justice system.
  • Lea & Young (1993) - statistics often miss out the important point that most UK crime is ‘intra-racial’ - it takes place within ethnic communities while inter-racial (against other ethnic groups) crimes are much rarer-once this is understood the crime rates can be sorted out within their ethnic community and issues such as street culture, poverty and deprivation must be considered as explanations.    
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Functionalism/New Right

  • Merton (1938) - individuals may experience a strain between the goals or values of society and what they are able to achieve, which may lead to a deviant response to this problem, such as innovation, ritualism or retreatism. Merton didn’t consider this a collective response or apply it to specific youth.
  • Cohen, Cloward & Ohlin developed these ideas to recognise that within a subculture, the deviant means of achieving society’s goals often become the accepted means.- related to both deviant subcultures within schools and also delinquent or criminal subcultures, since a lack of educational opportunity or success is a key factor leading to the delinquent behaviour according to these theorists.
  • Cohen (1955) - teenage boys desire status- ‘respect in the eyes of one’s fellows’. Cohen claimed that working class boys are aware of mainstream values, e.g. success at school, good qualifications, a good job and financial success. A boy would get status if he achieved these things but a working class boy who clings to this value system will recognise himself as inferior compared to middle class college boys. This creates a feeling of ‘status frustration’. A delinquent subculture with values such as being good in a fight may form as a way of dealing with this status frustration-lead to higher status and can explain why working class boys get involved in crime and deviance.  
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Functionalism/New Right cont...

  • Cloward and Ohlin (1961)- deviancy is unable to achieve success via legitimate means so they turn to illegitimate or deviant means to get them. Cloward and Ohlin argued that the type of deviant subculture that develops will depend on the illegitimate means available. They outlined 3 main types:
  • 1.     Criminal Subcultures- Develop in stable slum areas in which there is a hierarchy of criminal opportunity. A boy will learn to steal from his older peers.

    2.     Conflict Subcultures- Formed in unstable disorganised areas with high mobility. No access to a hierarchy so youths turn to violence and gangs are formed to defend areas.

    3.     Retreatist Subcultures-Formed by youths who fail to achieve in legitimate or illegitimate terms, unable to access success through mainstream values or through joining criminal subcultures or gangs. Retreat from societies values all together, often descend into addiction and petty crime.

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Functionalism/New Right evaluation

·       Functionalists present a view of working class culture that is a sweeping generalisation. In reality, working class subcultures are subject to regional, ethnic and individual variations, not all working class youths are the same.

·       Cohen assumes that working class boys are reacting to their failure to achieve mainstream values, but Miller disagrees, saying it’s just to achieve their own values.  They all accept the official picture, based on police statistics, of the ‘typical criminal’ being young, male and working class, and so this is what their explanations are based on.

·       Other social theories, like interactionalists, may challenge these statistics by, for example, looking at labelling by the police to explain them, the idea that youth crime is just more visible.

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Marxism/neo-marxism & formation of deviant sc.

Neo-Marxists from the CCCS saw deviant behaviour by young males in subcultures as being a form of resistance against society’s control, and a reaction to their identity being threatened. It relates to territory, identity and control.

Another view on youth crime also influenced by Marxist come from left realists, who are seen as a type of Neo-Marxist. Lea and Young (1993)-three main explanations for crime and deviance that particularly apply to youth deviance:

1.     Relative Deprivation: People tend to feel more deprived when comparing themselves to others. The media is a key source of information about what other people seem to have, so the rise of media has led to an increase of feelings of relative deprivation on the UK. This can link to youths in particular, because they will often feel deprived compared to adults. They have less freedom and are more influenced by the media and impressions of what they should have.

2.     Marginalisation- people feel pushed to the edge of society. They feel excluded, powerless and lack any organised means to voice their frustrations. Young people are particularly likely to be marginalised in society since they lack the power, rights and respect, which can lead to feelings of frustration.

3.     Subculture- The experience of relative deprivation and marginalisation may lead young people in particular to form subcultures to help them to deal with their feelings of frustration, developing lifestyles involving shared norms and values, which may become deviant.

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  • - See deviance as a social construct.
  • Mainstream society has define certain behaviours as deviant and identified they type of people they see as the deviants. Young working class males get labelled by the police, media and the public.
  • Becker (1963- labelling relates to power, we all label each other but some people have the power to make the labels stick. For example young people may label the police, which will have no effect. If the police label young people, it may have an effect; they may stop and search them more. This means they may lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy.
  • Evaluating interactionalism- By using labelling and the concept of self-fulfilling prophecy to explain youth deviance, interactionalists assume that the label comes first, so they don’t explain why some youths commit deviant acts before they have been labelled and others don’t.

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Media and youth deviance

  • Deviance amplification; Wilkins- ‘social deviance’ (1967). The theory look at the media and how they strengthen and magnify deviance in society- members in society who go against the accepted norms and values and that an effect of the media’s reporting and representations of this deviance is that such behaviour is strengthened and magnified. The media’s response heightens public awareness and, - more people actually engage in the deviant behaviour. The outcome of this is that that a moral panic is created.
  • Moral panics- Cohen (1972) studied the mods and rockers and the media’s response to the event. There are four stages to a moral panic according Cohen:
  • 1)     The Media uses sensational, stereotypical and exaggerated language to write stories and headlines about a particular event or group

    2)     This results in public anxiety, which is fuelled by influential commentators like bishops and politicians

    3)     This puts pressure on authorities  to intervene and can lead, for example, to greater police involvement

    4)     The increased social awareness of the problem can also lead more people to participate in the activity

  • Folk devils- The media labels groups in a negative, stereotypical way and as a result can become folk devils. – Cohen (1972)

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Evaluation of marxism

Evaluation of Marxism- The CCCS were accused of ignoring gender by feminists. They also generalised youth, not all youth were in spectacular subcultures and not all youths take part in the rituals of subcultures. The CCCS are also out dated, there aren’t many spectacular subcultures around now, postmodernists call them neo-tribes.

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Sociological theories

Functionalism- A sociological perspective which sees society as made up of parts which work together to maintain society as an integrated whole. Society is seen as fundamentally harmonious and stable, due to the value consensus established through socialization.

Marxism/Neo-Marxism- structural theory of society which sees society divided by conflict between two main opposing social classes, due to the private ownership (Bourgeoisie) of the means of production and the exploitation of the non-owners (Proletariat) by the owners.

Feminism- The view that examines the world from the point of view of women, coupled with the belief that women are disadvantaged and their interests ignored or devalued in society.

Postmodernism-belief that society is changing so rapidly and constantly that it is marked by chaos and uncertainty, and social struc­tures are being replaced by a whole range of different and constantly changing social relationships. Societies can no longer be understood through the application of general theories like Marxism or functionalism, which seek to explain society as a whole, as it has become frag­mented into many different groups, interests and lifestyles. Society and social structures cease to exist, to be replaced by a mass of individuals who are transformed into consumers making individual choices about their lifestyles.

Interactionalism- It derives social processes (such as conflict, cooperation, identity formation) from human interaction. It is the study of how individuals act within society.

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