Theory and methods

A2 Sociology: Theory and Methods with Crime and Deviance

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- consensus structuralism

- Durkheim, Parsons & Merton

- society is a stable, harmonious integrated social system

- social order and cohesion is maintained by a fundamental value consensus

- institutions like the family and religion help to maintain the social system

- society is like a human body with different parts that work together

- society has functional prerequisites it needs to meet to survive

- all social phenomena have a function

- deviance is a useful warning that something is wrong in society

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Functionalism: social order

- Durkheim said people were selfish so society would fall into chaos if people did not share common values and commit to co-operating in society

- people need to be socialised into the value consensus

- agencies of socialisation integrate people within society

- social change happens when new functions emerge or society needs to adapt

- change is a slow process of social evolution

- all parts of society link together so a change in one part will result in changes in the others

- Parson's structural differentiation - societies evolve and new needs arise so more specialised institutions emerge to take over functions once performed by single institutions

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Manifest and latent functions

- Merton critisised Parsons for saying all social institutions were beneficial

- Merton said society was highly complex and there is lots of scope for things to go wrong, things do not always work as intended

- Merton recognised that there were potential conflicts with the functionalist view that all parts of society work for the benefit of everyone

- growth of technology has meant better and cheaper products have been produced but it has also added to environmental pollution

- manifest functions are intended outcomes of an institution

- latent functions are unintended consequences

- hospital helps to make people better but the staff there may meet their future partners

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Strengths of functionalism

- recognises the importance of the social structure in understanding society - all parts of society are connected and work together to maintain a harmonious social system

- provides an explanation for social stability

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Weaknesses of functionalism

- does not allow for individual choice and simply sees individuals as passive products of the social system

- metannarative theory that tries to explain everything from one perspective. Postmodernists say this is not possible as society is too complex and chaotic

- Is not able to explain very rapid social change

- Takes for granted that there is a value consensus in society that will maintain harmony. Just because there is one, does not mean it will achieve this. If the value consensus was 'every man for himself' that is more likely to generate conflict

- Marxists say that it overemphasises consensus in society and downplays the extent of conflict and inequality

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- conflict structuralism

- economy is driving force in society so determines social institutions and people's values

- economic base consists of means of production and relations of production

- superstructure of society's social institutions are influenced by the economic system

- labour in the sole source of wealth

- as soon as society produced more than it needed to survive, a section of society could not work and be supported by others

- society is then two classes, those who own the means of production and those who work for wages

- the proletariat are not given a fair amount for their work, they are exploited

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Strenths of classical Marxism

- Recognises the importance of the economy and the effect economic changes have on other social institutions

- Recognises the importance of society's social structure

- It focuses on private ownership of the means of production, this explains extreme social inequalities in wealth and power that we see in today's society

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Weaknesses of classical Marxism

- Marx's original predicitons have not come true

- Classical Marxism over-emphasises conflict in society. Functionalists argue society is primarily stable and there is some shared values for social life to be possible

- Over-emphasises class as a source of conflict and pays little attention to other contributing factors like sex and ethnicity

- Like functionalism, it is a metannarative. Postmodernists say metannarative theories cannot explain contemporary societies where social life is chaotic and structures are fragmented

- Marxism's two class model of inequality is inadequate. There is now a class between the proletariat and the bourgeosie which consists of managerial, proffessional and clerical workers

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Gramsci: hegemony

- Gramsci said Marx was mistaken in giving such importance to the economy

- Ideology had relative autonomy from the economic base

- superstructure has some independence from the economy

- Gramsci said the ruling class' set of ideas dominated society and the people in it. This is why people haven't rebelled against the bourgeosie

- Gramsci focused more on people's ideas and meanings and less on structuralist approach and economic determinism of classical Marxism

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- structure of capitalist society consists of 3 levels

economic level - economy and production of material goods

repressive state apparatus - political. government and organisations involved in political organisation and controlling society. How the population are kept in line, such as the police

ideological state apparatus - ideas, beliefs and values. Institutions that spread the dominant ideology and justify the power of the dominant class. Media, education and religion

all 3 levels preserve and justify the power of the dominant class

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- looks at individual behaviour in everyday social situations

- wants to discover and understand interaction processes between people and how people interpret things and make their identities

- society and social structures are socially constructed

- people have free will and choice to do things and form their identities

- focus on individual or small groups of people - micro approach

- people's behaviour is driven by how they define a situation

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