Society and Social Structure

Society–Social Structure

Without society we could not survive. But what exactly is a society? Several conditions must be met before people can be said to be living in one society. First, they must occupy a common territory. Second, they must not only share that territory but most also interact with one another. Third, they must, to some extent, have a common culture and a shared sense of membership in and commitment to the same group. We may say, then, that a society is a group of interacting individuals sharing the same territory and participating in a common culture. A society is not necessarily the same as a nation -state, although in the modern world the two are often identical. The survival of non-human societies depends primarily on unlearned “instinctive” pattern of behaviour. But human societies are totally different. The organization and characteristics of each human society are not based on the rigid dictates of its members’ “instinct.” They are created by human beings themselves and are learnt and modified by each new generation. Consequently, although all human beings are members of the same biological species, every human society is do different that an individual suddenly transplanted from, say, the United States to a jungle of Brazil or vice versa, would have very little idea of how to behave appropriately. Societies are not simply a collection of randomly interacting individuals who happen to occupy the same area. Each society has its own distinctive character, the product of it history and environment, but all societies have an underlying pattern of relationships, a social structure that makes social life relatively smooth and predictable.

Social Structure

Social life is not a haphazard affair. It is generally stable, patterned and predictable. We know more or less what kind of behaviour people expect from us and n the whole we conform to these social expectations. There is an underlying regularity l the behaviour of both individuals and groups, that makes society orderly and workable. This patterned nature of society is based on social structure.

Social structure refers to the organized relationships between the basic components : a social system. These basic components are found in all human societies, although itir precise character and the relationships between them vary from one society to _nnther. The most important of the components of social structure are statuses, roles, _T >ups, and institutions.

a) Statuses

Each individual has one or more socially defined positions in the society — woman, teacher, carpcnivr. son, and so on. Such a position is termed as status. A person’s status determines where that individual’ “Fits” in society and how he/she should relate to other people. The status of daughter, for example, determines the occupant’s relationships with other members of the family; the status of teacher determines the occupant’s relationships with students, naturally, a person can occupy several statuses simultaneously but one of them,

usually an occupational status, tends to be the most important, and sociologists sometimes refer to it as the person’s'”master status.”

We have little control over some of statuses. If you are young, female, white, or black, for example, there is nothing you can do about it. Such as status is said to be ascribed., or arbitrarily given to us by society. But we have a certain amount of control over other statuses. At least partly through your own efforts you can get married, become a master or graduate, a convict, or a member of a religion. Such a status is said to be earned or achieved. We ^chieved statuses partly or wholly as a result of our own efforts, and society recognizes our changed status.

b) Roles

Every-status has one or more roles attached to it. The distinction between status and role is a simple one: you occupy a status, but play a role. Every position or status in society carries with it a set of expected behaviour patterns, obligations, and privileges. Status and role are thus two sides of the same coin.

We play many different roles during the course of each day. The content of our role behaviour is determined primarily by role expectations, the generally accepted social norms that define how a role ought to be played. The fact that people may have several different statuses, each with several different roles attached, can obviously cause problems when role expectations conflict. Sometimes conflicting expectations are built into a single role. A factory public relations officer, for example, is expected to maintain good relations with the workers, but he is also expected to enforce regulations that the workers may resent. This situation is called role strain. Another problem arises when a person plays two or more roles whose requirements are difficult to reconcile. For example, police officers sometimes are required to arrest their children. This situation is called role conflict.

c) Groups

In its sociological sense, a group is a collection of people interacting together in an orderly way on the basis of shared expectations about each other’s behaviour. As a result of this interaction the members of a group feel a common sense of “belonging.” They distinguish members from nonmembers and expect certain kinds of behaviour from one another that they would not necessar ; expect from non-members. The essence of a group is that its members nte—t with one another. As a result of this interaction, a group develops *r. nt.—structure. People form groups for the purpose that cannot be achieved through individual efforts. The fact that groups share common goals means dm (he —tend to be generally similar to one another in those respects dot are iilliM to the group’s parpose. For example, if the goals of the group me pofiaoL ik acakn ad to share similar political

opinion. The more the members interact within the group, the more they are influenced by its norms and values and the more similar they are influenced by its norms and values and the more similar they are likely to become.

d) Institutions

Institutions are the stable clusters of values, norms, statuses, roles, and expectations that developed around the basic, needs of a society. For example, the family institution takes care of the replacement of members and the training of the young. The political and military institutions take care of the protection of the society against outside enemies and assume some of the responsibility for social control within the society. The economic institution organizes the production and distribution of goods and services, the religious institution provided a set of shared values. The educational institution passes on cultural values from one generation to the next and trains the young in the more refined knowledge and skills that they will need in later life.

Sociology, 1977, IAn Robertson, P. 77-81

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Group in Sociology

Definition of Group or What are groups in Sociology?


In its sociological sense, a group is a collection of people interacting together in an orderly way on the basis of shared expectations about each other’s behaviour. As a result of this interaction the members of a group feel a common sense of “belonging.” They distinguish members from nonmembers and expect certain kinds of behaviour from one another that they would not necessarily expect from non-members. The essence of a group is that its members interact with one another. As a result of this interaction, a group develops an internal structure. People form groups for the purpose that cannot be achieved through individual efforts. The fact that groups share common goals means that

Primary and Secondary Groups

Groups are divided into two major types , viz primary & secondary groups. A primary group consists of a small number of people who interact in direct, intimate, and personal ways. The relationships between the members have emotional depth and the group tends to endure over time. Primary groups are always small because large numbers of people cannot interact in a highly personal, face-to-face manner. For this reason large groups tend to break down into smaller, more intimate cliques. Typical primary groups include the family, the gang, or a school, college, university peer group.

A secondary group consists of a number of people who have few if any emotional ties with one another. The members come together for some specific, practical purpose, such as making a committee decision or attending a convention. There is limited face-to-face contact among the members. The relate to one another not as full persons but only in terms of specific roles, such as chairperson, doctor, and supervisor etc. Secondary groups can be either small or large. Any newly formed small group is a secondary group initially, although it may become a primary group if its members come to know one another well and begin to interact on a more intimate basis. Colleagues of a newly established department, and students after getting admission in the school, college and university, for example, may start out as a secondary group, but after a while it may become a primary group, or a small primary group may develop within it. All large groups are Secondary groups. The groups, which are often called associations, include organizations such as business corporations, large factories, govt, departments, political parties, and religious movements. Large secondary groups always contaia smaller primary groups within them. Colleges and army camps, for example, are secondary groups, but they may contain hundreds of smaller primary groups when friendships are established among specific individuals.

 Small Groups

A small group is one which contains only a few members for the participants to relate to one another as individuals. Whether a small group is primary or secondary depends on the nature of the relationships among the members. A gathering of old friends is a primary group; a number of previously unacquainted people trapped in the hands of the kidnappers for a few hours is a small Secondary group.

Sociology, 1977, IAn Robertson, P.57-59.

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Sociology as a Science

Sociology as a Science

A science may be defined in at least two ways:

(i) A science is a body of organized, verified knowledge which has been secured through scientific investigation

(ii) A science is a method of study whereby a body of organized, verified knowledge is discovered. Actually, these are the two ways of saying much the same thing.

If the first definition is accepted, then sociology is a science to the extent that it has developed a body of organized, verified knowledge which is based on scientific investigation. To the extent that sociology forsakes myth, folklore, and wishful thinking and has based its conclusions on scientific evidence, it is a science. If science is defined as a method of study, then sociology is a science to the extent that it uses scientific methods of study. All natural phenomena can be studied scientifically, if one is willing to use scientific methods. Any kind of behaviour- is a proper field of scientific study.

During human history, few of our actions have been based on verified knowledge, for people through the ages have been guided mainly by folklore, habit, and guesswork. Until a few centuries ago, very few people accepted the idea that we should find out about the natural world by systematic observation of the natural world itself, rather than by consulting oracles, ancestors, or institution. This new idea created the modern world. A few decades age we began acting on the assumption that this same approach might also give useful knowledge about human social life. (Horton and Hunt, 1984: 13-14)

An important aspect of the sociological viewpoint is that it is basically scientific in character. Sociologists try to study human social behavior by using objective techniques; it is, this commitment to the scientific method that makes sociology a scientific discipline. Sociologists do not accept insight or intuition or common sense alone in answer to their questions. They seek scientific evidence.

Sociologists gather this evidence on ways similar to those used by natural scientists. They collect and analyze verifiable data; they keep careful records of their observations; they try to control the conditions surrounding the subject under study. Like natural scientists, sociologists strive to present findings that are not biased by subjective judgement and human emotion. Howerver, human beings are not insensitive objects that can be scientifically manipulated; they have values, consciousness, and feelings. The methods of scientists alone are inadequate to produce a full understanding of the human experience. There remains on much sociological work, therefore, the stamp of the humanist, marked by insight, empathy, and philosophical speculation. It is the interplay between scientific and humanistic approaches that vitalizes much of contemporary sociological thought.

To scientists, truth is not absolute an unchanging, all-encompassing set of laws-but it . is relative to the special circumstances under which it was discovered, demonstrated, and formulated. This principle is particularly applicable to sociological truths, which are almost always generalizations based on incomplete evidence. Conscientious sociologists, therefore, indicate the limitations of their findings.

Sociologists are very careful in their findings and very selective in using words. They do not say, for example, “All women want to bet married “; instead they say, “The majority of American women now living, who are between the ages of twenty and fifty-five, have expressed a favourable attitude toward the possibility of marriage.” Although this habit of qualifying and modifying statements sometimes makes sociological writing hard to read and comprehend, it is this very insistence on qualification and careful definition that makes sociology a science, a useful, and illuminating field of study. (Dauid Popenoe, 1977: 3)

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Ours is a society that generally respects and believes its scientists. Science is one of

the fundamental reasons why we enjoy our admirable standard of living and have

a growing understanding of the world around us. But not all scientists are revered

equally. British astronomer and philosopher John D. Barrow opened his 1998

book, Impossibility: The Limits of Science and the Science of Limits, with this observation

on the value of science and its practitioners:

Bookshelves are stuffed with volumes that expound the successes of the mind and the

silicon chip. We expect science to tell us what can be done and what is to be done.

Governments look to scientists to improve the quality of life and safeguard us from

earlier “improvements.” Futurologists see no limit to human inquiry, while social

scientists see no end to the raft of problems it spawns. (p. 1)

The physical scientists and engineers are the dreamers, the fixers, the guardians.

They have sent us photos of stars aborning, detailed the inner workings of

the atom, and invented the microwave oven, the World Wide Web, and cell phones

that take and send video. Social scientists are the naysayers, the Grinches of the

world. They tell us that television corrupts our morals, political campaigns render

us too cynical to participate meaningfully in our democracy, and parents rely too

heavily on television to babysit their kids. Or, as columnist David Brooks reminds

us, “A survey of the social science of the past century shows it to be, by and large,

an insanely pessimistic field” (2002, p. 22). We tend to readily accept most of the

good findings of Barrow’s scientists. The universe is continually expanding? Of

course. The existence of quarks? Naturally. At the same time, we tend to be more

suspicious of the findings of the social scientists. Playing with Barbies destroys little

girls’ self-esteem? I don’t think so! Videogames teach violence? That’s so Twentieth

Century! Texting kills spelling and grammar? OMG! U r wrng. LOL!

Why does our society seem to have greater difficulty accepting the theories

and findings of social scientists, those who apply logic and observation—that is,

science—to the understanding of the social world, rather than the physical world?

Why do we have more trust in the people who wield telescopes and microscopes

to probe the breadth of the universe and the depth of human cells but skepticism

about the tools used by social observers to probe the breadth of culture or the

depth of human experience?

At the center of our society’s occasional reluctance to accept the theories of the

social scientists is the logic of causality. We readily understand this logic. You’ve

no doubt had it explained to you during a high school physics or chemistry class,

so we’ll use a simple example from those classes: boiling water. If we (or our representatives,

the scientists) can manipulate an independent variable (heat) and produce

the same effect (boiling at 100 degrees centigrade) under the same conditions

(sea level) every time, then a causal relationship has been established. Heating

water at sea level to 100 degrees will cause water to boil. No matter how many

times you heat beakers of water at sea level, they will all boil at 100 degrees.

Lower the heat; the water does not boil. Heat it at the top of Mount Everest; it

boils at lower temperatures. Go back to sea level (or alter the atmospheric pressure

in a laboratory test); it boils at 100 degrees. This is repeated observation under

controlled conditions. We even have a name for this, the scientific method, and

there are many definitions for it. Here is a small sample:

1. “A means whereby insight into an undiscovered truth is sought by (1) identifying

the problem that defines the goal of the quest, (2) gathering data with

the hope of resolving the problem, (3) positing a hypothesis both as a logical

means of locating the data and as an aid to resolving the problem, and (4)

empirically testing the hypothesis by processing and interpreting the data to

see whether the interpretation of them will resolve the question that initiated

the research” (Leedy, 1997, pp. 94–95).

2. “A set of interrelated constructs (concepts), definitions, and propositions that

present a systematic view of phenomena by specifying relations among variables,

with the purpose of explaining and predicting phenomena” (Kerlinger,

1986, p. 9).

3. “A method … by which our beliefs may be determined by nothing human, but

by some external permanency—by something upon which our thinking has no

effect…. The method must be such that the ultimate conclusion of every man

[sic] shall be the same. Such is the method of science. Its fundamental hypothesis

… is this: There are real things whose characters are entirely independent

of our opinions about them” (Peirce, 1955, p. 18).

Throughout the last century and into this one, some social researchers have

tried to apply the scientific method to the study of human behavior and society.

As you’ll soon see, an Austrian immigrant to the United States, Paul Lazarsfeld,

was an important advocate of applying social research methods to the study of

mass media. But although the essential logic of the scientific method is quite simple,

its application in the social (rather than physical) world can be more complicated.

Take, for example, the much-discussed issue of press coverage of political campaigns

and its impact on voter turnout. We know that more media attention is paid

to elections than ever before. Today, television permits continual eyewitness coverage

of candidate activity. Mobile vans trail candidates and beam stories off satellites

so that local television stations can air their own coverage. The Internet and

Web offer instant access to candidates, their ideas, and those of their opponents.

Twitter lets us track their every move in real time. Yet, despite advances in media

technology and innovations in campaign coverage, voter participation in the United

States remains low. Not since 1968 has turnout in a presidential election exceeded 60 percent. Even in the 2008 race between Barack Obama and John McCain, considered

“the most technologically innovative, entrepreneurially driven campaign in

American political history,” only 56.8 percent of registered voters cast ballots

(Dickinson, 2009; U.S. Election Project, 2009). Should we assume that media campaign

coverage suppresses potential voter turnout? This is an assertion that some

mass communication observers might be quick to make. But would they be right?

How could or should we verify whether this assertion is valid?

As we shall see, the pioneers of mass communication research faced this situation

during the 1930s. There were precious few scientific studies of, but many bold

assertions about, the bad effects of mass media. A small number of social scientists

began to argue that these claims should not be accepted before making empirical

observations that could either support them or permit them to be rejected. While

these early researchers often shared the widely held view that media were powerful,

they believed that the scientific method might be used to harness this power to

avoid negative effects like juvenile delinquency and produce positive effects such as

promoting Americans’ trust in their own democratic political system while subverting

the appeal of totalitarian propaganda. In this way, scientific research would

allow media to be a force for good in shaping the social world.

These researchers faced many problems, however, in applying the scientific

method to the study of mass communication. How can there be repeated observations?

No two audiences, never mind any two individuals, who see political

coverage are the same. No two elections are the same. Even if a scientist conducted

the same experiment on the same people repeatedly (showing them, for example,

the same excerpts of coverage and then asking them if and how they might vote),

these people would now be different each additional time because they would

have had a new set of experiences (participation in the study).

How can there be control over conditions that might influence observed

effects? Who can control what people watch, read, or listen to, or to whom

they talk, not to mention what they have learned about voting and civic responsibility

in their school, family, and church? One solution is to put them in a laboratory

and limit what they watch and learn. But people don’t grow up in laboratories

or watch television with the types of strangers they meet in a laboratory experiment.

They don’t consume media messages hooked to galvanic skin response devices

or scanned by machines that track their eye movements. And unlike atoms

under study, people can and sometimes do change their behaviors as a result of

the social scientists’ findings, which further confounds claims of causality. And

there is another problem. Powerful media effects rarely happen as a result of exposure

to a few messages in a short amount of time. Effects take place slowly, over

long periods of time. At any moment, nothing may seem to be happening.

This implementation of the scientific method is difficult for those studying the

social world for four reasons:

1. Most of the significant and interesting forms of human behavior are quite

difficult to measure. We can easily measure the temperature at which water boils.

With ingenious and complex technology, we can even measure the weight of an

atom or the speed at which the universe is expanding. But how do we measure

something like civic duty? Should we count the incidence of voting? Maybe a person’s

decision not to vote is her personal expression of that duty. Try something a little easier, like measuring aggression in a television violence study. Can aggression

be measured by counting how many times a child hits a rubber doll? Is gossiping

about a neighbor an aggressive act? How do we measure an attitude (a

predisposition to do something rather than an observable action)? What is three

pounds of tendency to hold conservative political views or sixteen point seven

millimeters of patriotism?

2. Human behavior is exceedingly complex. Human behavior does not easily

lend itself to causal description. It is easy to identify a single factor that causes water

to boil. But it has proved impossible to isolate single factors that serve as the

exclusive cause of important actions of human behavior. Human behavior may

simply be too complex to allow scientists to ever fully untangle the different factors

that combine to cause observable actions. We can easily control the heat and

atmospheric pressure in our boiling experiment. We can control the elements in a

chemistry experiment with relative ease. But if we want to develop a theory of the

influence of mediated communication on political campaigns, how do we control

which forms of media people choose to use? How do we control the amount of attention

they pay to specific types of news? How do we measure how well or

poorly they comprehend what they consume? How do we take into account factors

that influenced people long before we started our research? For example,

how do we measure the type and amount of political socialization produced by

parents, schools, or peers? All these things (not to mention countless others) will

influence the relationship between people’s use of media and their behavior in an

election. How can we be sure what caused what? Voting might have declined

even more precipitously without media coverage. Remember, the very same factors

that lead one person to vote might lead another to stay home.

3. Humans have goals and are self-reflexive. We do not always behave in response

to something that has happened; very often we act in response to something

we hope or expect will happen. Moreover, we constantly revise our goals

and make highly subjective determinations about their potential for success or failure.

Water boils after the application of heat. It doesn’t think about boiling. It

doesn’t begin to experience boiling and then decide that it doesn’t like the experience.

We think about our actions and inactions; we reflect on our values, beliefs,

and attitudes. Water doesn’t develop attitudes against boiling that lead it to misperceive

the amount of heat it is experiencing. It stops boiling when the heat is removed.

It doesn’t think about stopping or have trouble making up its mind. It

doesn’t have friends who tell it that boiling is fun and should be continued even

when there is insufficient heat. But people do think about their actions, and they

frequently make these actions contingent on their expectations that something will

happen. “Humans are not like billiard balls propelled solely by forces external to

them,” explained cognitive psychologist Albert Bandura. “Billiard balls cannot

change the shape of the table, the size of the pockets, or intervene in the paths

they take, or even decide whether to play the game at all. In contrast, humans not

only think, but, individually and collectively, shape the form those external forces

take and even determine whether or not they come into play. Murray Gell-Mann,

the physicist Nobelist, underscored the influential role of the personal determinants

when he remarked, ‘Imagine how hard physics would be if particles could think’”

(2008, pp. 95–96).

4. The simple notion of causality is sometimes troubling when it is applied to

ourselves. We have no trouble accepting that heat causes water to boil at 100 degrees

centigrade at sea level; we relish such causal statements in the physical world.

We want to know how things work, what makes things happen. As much as we

might like to be thrilled by horror movies or science fiction films in which physical

laws are continually violated, we trust the operation of these laws in our daily

lives. But we often resent causal statements when they are applied to ourselves.

We can’t see the expanding universe or the breakup of the water molecule at the

boiling point, so we are willing to accept the next best thing, the word of an objective

expert, that is, a scientist. But we can see ourselves watching cable news and

not voting and going to a movie and choosing a brand-name pair of slacks and

learning about people from lands we’ve never visited. Why do we need experts telling

us about ourselves or explaining to us why we do things? We’re not so easily

influenced by media, we say. But ironically, most of us are convinced that other

people are much more likely to be influenced by media (the third-person effect).

So although we don’t need to be protected from media influence, others might;

they’re not as smart as we are (Grier and Brumbaugh, 2007). We are our own

men and women—independent, freethinking individuals. We weren’t affected by

those McDonald’s ads; we simply bought that Big Mac, fries, and a large Coke because,

darn it, we deserved a break today. And after all, we did need to eat something

and the McDonald’s did happen to be right on the way back to the dorm.

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The Exponential Principle in Culture

  The Exponential Principle

This theory states that, as the cultural base grows, its possible uses tend to grow in a geometric ratio. To illustrate: if we have only two chemicals in a laboratory, only one combination (A-B) is possible (A-B-C, A-B, A-C, and B-C,), with four chemicals, ten combinations; with five chemicals, twenty-five/ and so on. As the size of the culture base grows by addition, the possible combinations of these elements grow by multiplication. This helps to explain today’s high rate of discoveries and invention. A vast accumulation of scientific technical knowledge is shard by all the civilized societies, and from this base new inventions and discoveries flow in a rising tide.


To understand the term “value” in it true sociological sense, it is, absolutely necessary to discuss the elements of culture.


Norms are shared rules or guidelines that prescribe the behaviour that is appropriate in a given situation. Norms define how people “ought” to behave under particular circumstances in a particular society. We conform to the norms so readily that we are hardly conscious of their existence. In fact, we notice departures from norms tried to shake hands when you were introduced, but you might be a little startled if he or she kissed you on both cheeks. Yet this form of greeting is appropriate in other societies. When We visit another society whose norms are different, we quickly become aware that we do things this fashion, and they do them that fashion.

Folkways And Mores

Norms ensure that social life proceeds smoothly, for they give us guidelines for our own behaviour and reliable expectations for the behaviour of others. This social function of norms is so important that there is always strong social pressure on people to conform. But although most of us conform to most norms most of the time, all of us tend to violate some norms occasionally. In the case .of certain norms, the folkways,,a fair amount of non-conformity may be tolerated, but in the case, of certain other norms, the mores, very little range is permitted.


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Different Fields of Sociology & Major Theoretical Perspectives

Sociology is subdivided into many specialized fields, of which a partial list includes:

  • Applied Sociology
  • Collective Behaviour
  • Community
  • Comparative Sociology
  • Crime and Delinquency
  • Cultural Sociology
  • Demography
  • Deviant Behaviour
  • Formal Organizations
  • Human Ecology
  • Industrial Sociology
  • Law and Society
  • Race and Ethnic Relations
  • Rural and Urban Sociology
  • tratification and Mobility

Social: Change, Control, Organization, arid Psychology Sociology of: Education, Knowledge and Science, Occupations, Professions, Religion, and Small Groups

These topics are not the exclusive property of sociology and other disciplines share its interest in many topics. For example, its interest in communication and public opinion is shared by psychology and political, science,-Criminology is shared with psychology, political science, law, and so on. Sociology is especially close to psychology and anthropology, and overlaps them so constantly that any firm boundaries would be arbitrary and unrealistic. (Hurton and Chester, 1984: 25-27)

Major Theoretical Perspectives

A crucial element in sociology is theory. A theory is a statement that organizes a set of concepts in a meaningful way by explaining the relationship between them. A working set of assumptions is called a “perspective,” an “approach,” or sometimes a “paradigm. ” If the theory is valid, it will correctly predict that identical relationships will occur in the future if the conditions are identical. In order to study anything* one must begin by making some assumptions about the nature of what is studied. For example, the ancient Greeks bejieved that the universe was run according to, the Whims of the gods. By contrast, all scientists assume that the universe is orderly, and operates in certain regular ways which we may be able to discover. Thus, Newton developed the laws of gravity after observing that apples always fall down, never up. Following are some of the theoretical perspectives used in sociology.

The Evolutionary Perspective

It is the earliest theoretical perspective in sociology. It is based on the work of August Comte (1798-1857) and Herbert Spencer (1820-1903), and offers a satisfying explanation of how human societies originate and grow.

Sociologists using the evolutionary perspective look for. patterns of change and development appearing in different societies, to see whether any general sequences can be found. They might wonder, for example, whether industrialization will have the same effects upon the family in developing countries that it seems to have had in Western nations.

        The Interactionism Perspective

Symbolic integrationists such as G.H. Mead (1863-1931) and C.H. Cooley (1846- 1929) concentrate upon the interaction between individuals and groups. They note that people interact mainly through symbols,- which include signs, gestures, and most importantly, through written and spoken words. A word has no inherent meaning. It is simply a noise, but it becomes a Word when people reach agreement that this noise carries a special meaning; Thus, “yes, “.”no,” “go,” “come,” and thousands of other sounds became symbols as a meaning is attached to each.

Modern interactionists such as Erving G off man (1959) and Herbert Blumer (1962) emphasize that people do not respond to other people directly; instead, they respond to whatever they imagine other people to be. In human behavior – reality is constructed in peoples’ minds as they size one another up and guess at the feelings and impulses of one another. Whether a person is a friend, our enemy, or a stranger is not a characteristic of the person; that person is, to me, whatever 1 perceive him as being, at least until I change my perception. Whether he is good or bad is measured by my perception of him. Thus, I create reality about him in my own mind,’ and then 1 react to this reality that I have constructed. This does not mean that all reality is subjective — that it exists only in the mind. There are objective facts in the universe. The sun, moon, and Stars are real, and still would be there even if there were no humans to see them. Meanings are given to facts and to human actions by human beings. The symbolic interactionist perspective concentrates upon what meanings people find in other people’s actions, how these meanings are derived, and how others respond to them.

The Functionalist Perspective

According to functionalist perspective, the society is working in an organized way, and all the groups living in the society observe values and norms existing in the society.- Society is seen as a stable system and there is a tendency to establish and maintain a balanced and harmoniously operating system. In this perspective each group or institution fulfills certain functions and persists because it is functional. For example, school educates children and provides training in sports. Family as an institution, provides food and financial support to its members. Marriage, organizes sexual behaviour and assures legitimate children.

Social change disrupts the stable equilibrium of the society,, but before long a new equilibrium is regained. For example, large families were desired when death rates were high, and large families helped to ensure some survivors. Today, with a lower death rate, large families have become dysfunctional and threaten the welfare of the society. So a new equilibrium i.e. nuclear family is approaching. Thus, a value or practice which is functional at one time or place may become dysfunctional at another time or place. If a particular social change promotes a harmonious equilibrium, it is seem as functional; if it disrupts the equilibrium, it is dysfunctional; if it has no effects, it’ is nonfunctional.

The Conflict Perspective

Although it stems from the work of many scholars, the conflict perspective is most directly based upon the work of Karl Marx (1818-1883), who saw class conflict and class exploitation as the prime moving forces in history. Largely ignored by sociologists for many years, the conflict perspective has recently been revived by C. Wright Mills (1959), Collins 1975) and many others. Where functionalist see the normal state of society as one of stable equilibrium, conflict theorists see society in a continuous state of” conflict between groups and classes. Although Marx concentrated upon conflict between classes for ownership of productive wealth, modern conflict theorists take a less narrow


view. They see the struggle for power and income as a continuous process but one in’ which many categories of people appear as opponents — classes, races, nationalities, and even the sexes. They flame that the “shared values” which functionalist see as the glue holding society together do to really form a true consensus; instead this is an artificial consensus in which the dominant groups or classes impose their values and rules upon the rest of the people. According to them functionalist fail to ask the question, “functionally useful to whom? They accuse functionalist of a conservative bias, in that functionalist assume that this-“harmonious equilibrium” is beneficial to everyone, whereas it benefits some and penalizes others. Conflict theorists ask such questions as, “how-have the present patterns emerged from the contest between conflicting groups, each seeking its own advantage?” How do the dominant groups and classes achieve and maintain their position of privilege?” “How do they manipulate the institutions of society schools, churches, mass media, to protect their privileges” “Who benefits and who suffers from the present social arrangements?” “How can society be made more just and humane?”

Comparison of the Perspectives

Keeping in view the above discussion about different theoretical perspectives of sociology, it looks very difficult to answer the question, “which is the best perspective?” Each is a different way of looking at society. Each perspective views society from a different vantage point, asks different questions, and reaches different conclusions. Evolutionists focus upon the similarities in changing societies; interactionists focus upon the similarities in changing societies; interactionists focus upon the actual social behaviour of persons and groups; functionalist focus more heavily upon value consensus, order, and stability; conflict theorists focus more heavily upon inequality, tension and change. For most topics of study, there are some aspects for which each of the perspectives can be useful. For example, consider the development of the modern university. The evolutionary perspective might focus upon the procession of scholarly needs and arrangements, extending over several thousand years, which eventually led- to the development of the modern university. The interactionism perspective would not the ways in which scholarly needs have been defined at different times and the ways in which persons and groups dealt with one another in creating the university. The functionalist perspective would concentrate upon what changes made universities seem to be necessary, what purposes they fulfilled: for the society, and what effects universities have upon their students and upon societies. The conflict perspective would concentrate upon as to which groups and classes benefit from the university and how access to higher education operates to preserve the position of the privileged groups. For some problems, one perspective may be more useful than other. (Horton and Chester L Hunt, 1984: 15-20)

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Paper: Basic Concepts in Social Sciences – II Code 5638



Level: PGD/M.Sc Mass Communication

Paper: Basic Concepts in Social Sciences – II (5638)

Semester: Spring, 2012

Maximum Marks: 100                              Pass Marks: 40

Time Allowed: 03 hours


1.Define social psychology. Discuss symbolic-interaction theory.

2.What does socialization mean? Briefly explain the theories of socialization.

3.What is conformity? What are the various types of conformity?

4.Discuss the characteristics of source, message and audience in the process of attitude change.

5.Explain the concept of “sovereignty” in Islamie perspectives.

6.Discuss the functions and powers of judiciary in a modern democratic state.

7.Write short notes on the following:

i)Pressure group

ii)Advantages of two party system


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