Saturday, May 19, 2012

AS LEVEL: Social order is derived from consensus and shared values. Discuss.

The society we live in consists of a large variety of personalities and identities. Social order is defined as the conservation, maintenance and enforcement of the "normal" ways of relating and behaving in a society. Therefore, the belief that social order derives solely from consensus and shared values stated by the functionalist are not sophisticated enough to explain the sustenance of social order. There are much more aspects that correlate and help sustain social order. The basic social cement of constructing and maintaining social order is based on the three important aspects: socialization, social sanctions and the self-interest in every individual.

Socialization is often argued to be the main determinant of human behavior. Therefore, by socialization, we are taught what is right and wrong in our society. The best example is shown in feral children. We are of the same species, yet without socialization, they turn out primal and animal-like. Therefore it is proved that we internalize the values and norms to everyday life behavior which results in social conformity and then, social order. This aspect was explained by Functionalism stating social order is a web of shared norms and values regulated in everyday life.

Social sanctions are defined as rewards and punishments for every individual’s behavior and social actions that is judged by society based on the shared norms and values. Social sanctions can be categorized as informal or formal. An example of an informal social sanction would be isolation or teasing from peers for a social action that is out of the boundaries of shared norms. On the other hand, formal social sanctions are enforced through formal settings and institutions like the legal system and the government. Hence, social sanctions are what help regulate human behavior by what society reacts to a social action. This factor was related and clarified by Marxism.

The self-interest in every individual also plays an important role on the reason why people follow and conform to the rules and norms of society. It is in their own best interest to follow and conform because humans and our ancestors are proven to be mammals that live in packs. If an individual is isolated from the society, it would mean great difficulties for the person to go about his life because we live in an integrated society where one cannot just survive by oneself. Furthermore, it is wiser to conform and live in a peaceful society rather than a chaotic one. As a result, people follow the rules and help maintain social order because it is making everything easier on them. This is the neglected aspect that both stands of the argument failed to explain.

The functionalists claim that society is a large integration of functional institutions. They believe that every part contributes to the infrastructure that constrains humans’ behavior and choices. The arguments presented by functionalism are flawed because it doesn’t touch on the conflict that happens often in society. The theory has strong assumptions that the society lives in a constant state of consensus.

Emile Durkheim, a French sociologist stated that the society is a being on its own. It is a basis where all the values and norms of individuals are socialized and passed on. He claimed that although humans are “homo-duplex”, the good side always dominantly controls the selfish side because the values of society are internalized and believed by the individual. Therefore, the claim that social order derives from consensus still carries partial truth.

Social order could also be explained by the functional prerequisites of a society that was presented by Talcott Parsons, an American sociologist. He believed that in order for a society to survive and proliferate, it had to fulfill some requirements which are goal-attainment, adaptation, integration and latency of shared norms and values. The goal-attainment meant a mutual drive among all individuals in a society. It is necessary for the individuals to work together and share basic views. Adaptation, the second functional prerequisite signifies adaptation of the society to the natural world and its changes. If a society is unable to adapt, the natural world would practice a classic “survival of the fittest” and eliminate it. The third functional prerequisite is integration. It is proven that integration maintains the order in society because everyone will be in consensus and it helps individuals internalize the society’s values and shared norms. Lastly, latency of shared norms and values also plays an important part in the survival of a society. It regulates the practice of norms in humans and helps reinforce social boundaries. Looking at how a society survives also proves that social order is sustained from consensus.

The contradicting view that social order is derived from practice of power and economical oppression are supported by Marxism. According to Karl Marx, social order is based on the perpetuation of false-class consciousness and the ruling class ideology. The economic base is used to control and limit the working class and their life choices. The superstructure of society such as schools and the legal system are manipulated by capitalists to reinforce the rules and regulations of the ruling class, hence, creating social order.

The false-class consciousness is imposed on the working class by repressive state apparatuses and ideological state apparatuses which are collaborated into different parts of society. Ideological state apparatuses indoctrinate the ideas of being the perfect “proletariat” into the working class and hence, creating false-class consciousness. This creates social order because the proletariats are obeying to the rules of the bourgeoisies. Examples of the ideology state apparatuses are the system of schools and media. Repressive State Apparatuses are institutions which demand social order and use force or sanctions to sustain it. Examples of repressive state apparatuses are the legal system and the armies of a country. When the conflict of interest is exposed, social order controlled by the ruling class would shatter and then coercion would occur.

Another theory that explains social order in the context of conflict and oppression is Feminism. This theory believes that social order is a picture painted by the dominant class, men. Men oppress to keep themselves in power and the women in a lower and submissive class in society. Feminists claim that society and most institutions in it, such as family, are merely constructed by men to reinforce the image of social power. Women are expected to take on the role of the caregiver and nurturer in a family. It has become the ultimate assumption that sustains social order because the expected aren’t questioned anymore. This concludes that feminism views social order as an image created by men to assure and exploit women.

But other than the two theories that speak on coercion and restrain of choices, the interpretivist view takes a different stand and declares that social order is derived from the people within society itself. It could be explained by the social action theory by Max Weber. The social action theory explains that people attach meanings to their social action. Verstehen, which is German for understand, is one of the key points of the social action theory. It means that you have to understand the meaning behind the action to get to the core of a social action. This helps explains social order because it believes that social actors are free to interpret the meaning of following the rules and conforming to society which usually means that it is in their best-interest to do so.

Other than Max Weber’s social action theory, ethnomethodology can be used to explain social order. It looks at how people make sense of the world, constructing social order by themselves. Harold Garfinkle refuses to see individuals in society as ‘cultural dopes’ but claims that they have their own thoughts and ways. They actively take part in making sense of everything in their lives. Individuals firstly document everything using the documentary method. Then, their brains seek out the tendency of a happening with everyday scenes from their memories which is called the underlying pattern. Then, it becomes part of their social reality. Hence, ethnomethodology is the ultimate interpretive theory that explains social order because it looks deep into how individuals make sense.

In conclusion, though the theories above touched on important aspects of how social order is maintained, yet, it is still irrelevant to go with either side of the argument. There are much more facts that correlate and help sustain social order. The basic social cement of constructing and maintaining social order is based on the three important aspects: socialization, which is a stand provided by Functionalism, social sanctions, which is strongly supported by Marxism and Feminism and the self-interest in every individual, which the social action theory and ethnomethodology spoke on. Hence, it is a balance of a number of aspects that maintains social order and that the functionalists’ view that social order is based on consensus and shared values are only partially valid.


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  4. this is amazing. it puts into perspective the ideology of social order. this really help me understand what to do for my essay

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