One very important debate in sociology is the importance ofthe family. Functionalists (Murdock,1949) see the Family as the “most importantinstitution and argued that the nuclear family performs four vital functionswhich are Sexual (Married adults enjoy healthy sex life which prevents affairsand ensure children are raise by both natural parents), reproduction, economic(family provides food and shelter) and educational” (socialisation).Functionalists are in favour of the nuclear family which provides a male andfemale role model and socialisation from two parents and are against gay andsingle parent families. Marxism argue that the family is used by capitalists toensure their wealth is passed on to their biological by controlling women’ssexual behaviour through a monogamous marriage, this was the best way of guarantyingyou are passing your wealth onto your true heir. Marxists also argue that withthis system the children of the rich grow up into wealth and the poor remainpoor furthermore they conclude that the family is a means of consumption bytrying to keep up with the material goods of their neighbours and by theirchildren demanding goods.
Interactionists argue that family shouldn’t be analysedby its structure (what it is) or its function (what’s it for) but by studyingthe individuals in the family and how they feel, interact and cooperate with eachother (Morgan, 1996). Symbolic interactionists conclude that shared activatesbetween family members creates emotional bonds and that families reinforce andrejuvenate bonds through symbolic rituals such as family meals and holidays.The are different perspectives on society with some agreementand disagree on the value and purpose of certain social institutions, forexample functionalists view the family as an important positive institution forsocialisation in contrast to Marxism which views the nuclear family as a capitalisttool which controls women’s sexual behaviour. Marxism and functionalism aremore interested in social institutions and class in contrast to Weber’ssymbolic interactionism which is more concerned with the individual also Weberand Durkheim see religion as useful part of socialisation, but Marxism seesreligion as dysfunctional and a method of social control. Furthermore, Marxismpremise that the economy shapes social life were as Weber concluded that it waspeople who shaped the economy. Both Weberian and Marxism conclude that socialclass is largely based on wealth. Marxism claims that the conflict betweensocial classes explains the social structure of society while Weber disagreesand claims that the social structure is based on value consensus furthermorefunctionalists argue that social institutions are there to help and fulfilvital functions in contrast to Marxists which infer that social institutionsare their to serve a small elite class with huge economic power.
Eachperspective also emphasises different things Marxists emphasises conflict, functionalismemphasises consensus and symbolic interactionism emphasises meaning and motivesfurthermore Marxism and functionalism conclude that behaviour is deterministic anduse the scientific method in contrast to symbolic interactionism which arguethat behaviour is caused by free will and uses more non-scientific methods.Symbolic Interactionism developed by Max Weber attempts tounderstand society by understanding the motivation of the individual’s actionsas opposed to understand society as a system. It focuses on how the individualinteracts with the world and their own own subjective experience of realityarguing that there is no objective reality. It focuses on how the person viewstheir self and how this affects their socialisation.
Weber (1922) inferredreligion was used to make sense of day to day life e.g. why do bad thingshappen to good people and that religion is a force capable of social change(Weber, 1905). Weber believed that sociologists should avoid making valuejudgments where action is viewed as good or bad as this would amount to bias. Weberpremised that social stratification was the result of the combination ofeconomic power, social prestige and political power (AQA Sociology 2008).Functionalists always ask the question what good it does theinstitution do for society and does it have a meaning full purpose? Functionalismfocuses on how all the parts which make up society operate to fulfil the needsof both the individual and society. Durkheim uses an “organic analogy toexplain his theory by comparing society to the human body” (AQA sociology,2008) just as a person is made up of organs that rely on each another to stayfunctional and healthy, society is also made up of social institutions which alsorely on each other to function effectively. Functionalism infers that Individualsare born into society and become conditioned by all the social influencesaround them as they are socialised by various institutions such as the family, massmedia and the economy.
Durkheim said that morality is the key to society’shealth and without it people would behave like animals and be swayed by theirdesires and instincts. Another important point is a social Conesus orcollective consciousness of share norms, values and goals which is needed for socialorder and stability so that conflict is avoided with other members of society.Functionalists premised that a dysfunctional society was the result of peoplenot forming an emotional attachment to the community their in. Durkheimdistinguished between two types of social order, “mechanical solidarity is thesocial integration of members of a society who have common values and beliefs”.
“These common values and beliefs constitute a collective conscience that worksinternally in individual members to cause them to cooperate and organicsolidarity is social integration that arises out of the need of individuals forone another’s service” (AQA Sociology, 2008). One popular sociological theory is Marxism which is aneconomic and social system based upon the economic and political ideas of KarlMarx and Friedrich Engels. Marxism is the system of “socialism of which thedominant feature is public ownership of the means of production, distribution,and exchange” (AQA sociology). Marxism is the antithesis of capitalism which isan economic system based on private ownership and pursuit of profit. Undercapitalism the people are exploited and forced to work for the capitalists inorder to survive which the workers are paid the bare minimum wage for and thisthen brings about alienation due to capitalist’s mass production of goods whichleaves people with little autonomy in their working environment. Marxism alsobelieves that religion is a farce and emphasis class conflict inferring that aCapitalist society has only two classes of people the bourgeoisie and theproletariat. The bourgeoisie are the owners of the means of production, theyown the factories, businesses, and equipment needed to produce wealth and thelabour force called proletariat. Marxists emphasis “False consciousness whichoccurs when the subordinate class are fooled into supporting the superior classwhich exploits it” (AQA Sociology, 2008).
Auguste Comte was a French philosopher born on January 19,1798 he coined the term “sociology in 1838 and he believed that sociologyshould be scientific and objective and that social phenomena could be reducedto laws”. “Auguste Comte came toappreciate the need for a basic and unifying social science that would bothexplain existing social organizations and guide social planning for a betterfuture”. “This new science he called sociology which attempted to reduce socialfacts to laws and synthesize the whole of human knowledge, thus rendering thediscipline equipped to guide the reconstruction of society” (EncyclopaediaBritannica). The three founders of sociology are Emile Durkheim (1858-1917),Max Weber (1864-1920) and Karl Marx (1818-1883). Sociology emerged as anacademic discipline in the ninetieth century as a response to modernity whichwas the shift to industrial capitalism, political global development andcultural shift away from religion to scientific thinking (AQA Sociology, 2008).The word sociology comes from the Latin “socios and “logis”which translates as the science of society.
In the oxford dictionary (no date)sociology is defined as “the study of the development, structure, andfunctioning of human society or the study of social problems”. So, sociology isa social science which tries to understand what holds social groups togetherand tries to explore possible solutions to the breakdown of social solidarityand study’s social institutions and agencies like mass media, family,education, religion, culture, the economy, legal systems and political decision’sand how they affect socialisation. Sociology’s purpose is to study’s societyand find out what is going wrong and how to correct it and more importantly whatis going right and how to continue it. A sociologist may study mass media andobserve the effects it has on a teenager’s values, norms and beliefs, they mayanalyse the nuclear family and how it fulfils vital functions, and they maystudy the effect of poverty and how it affects a person’s life chances. Sociologistsbelieve all behaviour is learned from the environment through observation,modelling and classic conditioning and that very little of human behaviour isinstinctive. There are three forms of research which is conducted bysociologists, one is descriptive research which aims is to gather information e.g. what stimulates more economic growth, subsidiesto small business or subsidies to multi-national corporation.
Next is explanatoryresearch which aims to find out the cause of social phenomena e.g. Why is druguse becoming a social norm? and finally action research takes place when anactual policy is changed to bring about a desired result and then the impact ofthe new change is examined as it happens e.g. increase tax on alcohol sales andwill it reduce binge drinking.