SOCI 221 Basic Concepts in Sociology - SOCI 221 Basic Concepts in Sociology Session 5 – Major...

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  • College of Education

    School of Continuing and Distance Education 2014/2015 – 2016/2017

    SOCI 221

    Basic Concepts in Sociology

    Session 5 – Major Perspectives in Sociology

    Lecturer: Dr. Samson Obed Appiah, Dept. of Sociology Contact Information:

  • Session Overview

    • Overview • Sociologists have asked fundamental questions about social life

    throughout the history of sociology. Why does social inequality exist? How and why do societies change? What holds society together? Sociologists have answered these and many more by developing social theories. This session introduces students to three major perspectives in sociology namely Functionalism, Conflict and Symbolic Interactionism.

    • Objective of Session: At the end of the session, the student will be able to

    • Identify the basic arguments of functionalism about society • Explain the basic arguments of conflict theory • Know that conflict can be functional and dysfunctional • Explain the basic arguments of symbolic interactionism

    Slide 2

  • Session Outline

    The key topics to be covered in the session are as follows:

    • Topic One : Functionalism and Society as a Social System

    • Topic Two: Manifest and Latent Functions

    • Topic Three: Basic tenets of Conflict Theory

    • Topic Four: Functions and Dysfunctions of Conflict

    • Topic Five: Core tenets of Symbolic Interactionism

    • Topic Six: Perspectives in Comparism

    Slide 3

  • Topic 1: Functionalism and Society as a Social System

    • Functionalism is also known as Structural Functionalism builds on the ideas of Auguste Comte, Herbert Spencer and Emile Durkheim.

    • The basic argument of Functionalism is the notion that society can be seen as a living organism just a plant or human body.

    • Based on this idea, the theory see society as a social system with a set of elements they call parts that are interrelated and interdependent- all working for the proper functioning and survival of society.

    Slide 4

  • Functionalism and Society as a Social System Cont.

    • For functionalist, just as living organisms (plants or human body) have parts, society also have parts.

    • Functionalist focus on the parts of society, namely its major institutions such Politics, Religion, Economy, Marriage/Family, Education and Health Institutions (PREMEH).

    • According to functionalism, society is a network of connected parts (institutions), each of which contributes to the maintenance of the system as a whole.

    Slide 5

  • Topic 2: Manifest and Latent Functions

    • Since functionalism see society as system, they often focus on the functions performed by the system’s parts.

    • This they call functional pre-requisites or imperatives- that is if a system or society must survive and endure, it must satisfy some basic needs, otherwise the system would fail to maintain itself and collapse.

    • However, functionalist also argue that just as institutions are functional, they can also have negative consequences that is they can be dysfunctional.

    • Manifest functions are the intended, recognized consequences of an aspect of society

    • Latent functions are the unintended or unconscious, hidden purpose of an institution

    Slide 6

  • Topic 3: Basic Tenets of Conflict Theory

    • Conflict theory takes much of its inspiration from the writings of Karl Marx as well as other sociologists such as Georg Simmel, Lewis Coser and Ralf Dahrendorf.

    • The theory is based on the notion that, there are fundamental differences of interest between social groups in almost all situations.

    • In almost all such situations, some people are in more privileged positions whiles others are in less privileged positions.

    Slide 7

  • The Basic Tenets of Conflict Theory Cont.

    • The theory argues that conflict is inevitable and present in all social groups and this is due to the scarcity of the resources people require(power, wealth and prestige).

    • Conflicts occur among groups and interest and not all conflicts would lead to violence.

    • We have conflict between managers and workers, within political parties, within and between religious groups, between students and school authorities.

    Slide 8

  • Topic 4: Functions and Dysfunctions of Conflicts

    • Conflict according to the conflict theory does not always leads to violence, since it could be beneficial or functional to society.

    • Conflict is functional for society as it unites groups and strengthens group cohesiveness,

    • It also prevents society from habouring social inequality and injustice and thus becoming rigid and fixed inducing positive change and innovation.

    • Conflict helps to eradicate social injustice

    • However, some conflicts are dysfunctional for society as they lead to wars, unrest and destruction (the conflict between the Andanis and Abudus in Dagbon).

    Slide 9

  • Topic 5:The Core Tenets of Symbolic Interactionism.

    • Symbolic Interactionism views human beings as social beings who live group existence.

    • The theory is concerned with micro or small-scale aspects of social life by focusing on the individual s who make up society and ask how social interaction is possible.

    • They focus on the individual’s subjective experiences and understandings especially on how shared understandings of the world emerge from social interaction.

    Slide 10

  • Core Tenet of Symbolic Interaction Cont.

    • Symbolic Interaction is based on four core assumptions namely:

    • Firstly, the individual is a thinking being who constructs meanings,

    • Secondly, we respond or react to things in our environment on the basis of their meaning,

    • Thirdly, meanings are not inherent in the things, but emerge from social interactions,

    • Fourthly, because we interact continuously, shared cultural meanings are continuously emerging and changing.

    Slide 11

  • Core Tenets of Symbolic Interactionism Cont,

    • For Interactionists, if sociologists are to understand social life, they must begin from understanding how people construct meanings, actions or reality.

    • This means we must and should understand what people actually say and do from their own point of view.

    • This is what Max Weber calls verstehen: meaning understanding or insight into the subjective meanings people attach to their actions.

    Slide 12

  • Topic 6: Perspectives in Comparism

    • The three major perspectives are asking somewhat different questions about society and providing different views of social life.

    • We do not need to accept only one perspective and reject the others.

    • Rather the perspectives are tools that allows us to visualize the social world.

    • Functionalism emphasizes order and stability, Conflict focus on inequality, exploitation, oppression, social change and Interactionism argues that social reality is created through interactions

    Slide 13

  • Perspectives in Comparism Cont.

    Perspective Level of Analysis Focus of Analysis Key Terms

    Functionalism Macro-Examines large-scale patterns of society

    Relationship among the parts of society; how the parts are functional or dysfunctional

    Structure Functions: Manifest and Latent Dysfunctions

    Conflict Theory Macro-Examines large-scale patterns of society

    The struggle for resources by groups in society leading to the conflict

    Inequality Power Conflict Exploitation Competition

    Symbolic Interactionism

    Micro-Examines small-scale patterns of social interaction

    Face-to-face interaction; how people use symbols to create social life

    Symbols Interaction Meanings Definitions

    Slide 14

  • Sample Question

    • Write an essay on one the following social phenomenon: prostitution and corruption, and show the functionalist, conflict and symbolic interactionist perspective can be used to explain it.

    Slide 15

  • Reading List/References

    • Refer to students to relevant text/chapter or reading materials you will make available on Sakai

    • Henslin, J.M. (2007). Essentials of Sociology: A Down-to-Earth Approach. Boston: Pearson Custom Publishing. (Pages 14-20).

    • Hughes, M., Kroehler, C.J. (2005). Sociology: The Core (7th Edition). Boston: McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. (Pages 18-24).

    • Schaefer, Richard T. (2004). Sociology: A Brief Introduction. (5TH Edition) Boston: McGraw Hill Companies, Inc.

    Slide 16