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One very important debate in sociology is the importance of
the family. Functionalists (Murdock,1949) see the Family as the “most important
institution and argued that the nuclear family performs four vital functions
which are Sexual (Married adults enjoy healthy sex life which prevents affairs
and 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 and
female role model and socialisation from two parents and are against gay and
single parent families. Marxism argue that the family is used by capitalists to
ensure their wealth is passed on to their biological by controlling women’s
sexual behaviour through a monogamous marriage, this was the best way of guarantying
you are passing your wealth onto your true heir. Marxists also argue that with
this system the children of the rich grow up into wealth and the poor remain
poor furthermore they conclude that the family is a means of consumption by
trying to keep up with the material goods of their neighbours and by their
children demanding goods. Interactionists argue that family shouldn’t be analysed
by its structure (what it is) or its function (what’s it for) but by studying
the individuals in the family and how they feel, interact and cooperate with each
other (Morgan, 1996). Symbolic interactionists conclude that shared activates
between family members creates emotional bonds and that families reinforce and
rejuvenate bonds through symbolic rituals such as family meals and holidays.

The are different perspectives on society with some agreement
and disagree on the value and purpose of certain social institutions, for
example functionalists view the family as an important positive institution for
socialisation in contrast to Marxism which views the nuclear family as a capitalist
tool which controls women’s sexual behaviour. Marxism and functionalism are
more interested in social institutions and class in contrast to Weber’s
symbolic interactionism which is more concerned with the individual also Weber
and Durkheim see religion as useful part of socialisation, but Marxism sees
religion as dysfunctional and a method of social control. Furthermore, Marxism
premise that the economy shapes social life were as Weber concluded that it was
people who shaped the economy. Both Weberian and Marxism conclude that social
class is largely based on wealth. Marxism claims that the conflict between
social classes explains the social structure of society while Weber disagrees
and claims that the social structure is based on value consensus furthermore
functionalists argue that social institutions are there to help and fulfil
vital functions in contrast to Marxists which infer that social institutions
are their to serve a small elite class with huge economic power. Each
perspective also emphasises different things Marxists emphasises conflict, functionalism
emphasises consensus and symbolic interactionism emphasises meaning and motives
furthermore Marxism and functionalism conclude that behaviour is deterministic and
use the scientific method in contrast to symbolic interactionism which argue
that behaviour is caused by free will and uses more non-scientific methods.

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Symbolic Interactionism developed by Max Weber attempts to
understand society by understanding the motivation of the individual’s actions
as opposed to understand society as a system. It focuses on how the individual
interacts with the world and their own own subjective experience of reality
arguing that there is no objective reality. It focuses on how the person views
their self and how this affects their socialisation. Weber (1922) inferred
religion was used to make sense of day to day life e.g. why do bad things
happen to good people and that religion is a force capable of social change
(Weber, 1905). Weber believed that sociologists should avoid making value
judgments where action is viewed as good or bad as this would amount to bias. Weber
premised that social stratification was the result of the combination of
economic power, social prestige and political power (AQA Sociology 2008).

Functionalists always ask the question what good it does the
institution do for society and does it have a meaning full purpose? Functionalism
focuses on how all the parts which make up society operate to fulfil the needs
of both the individual and society. Durkheim uses an “organic analogy to
explain 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 stay
functional and healthy, society is also made up of social institutions which also
rely on each other to function effectively. Functionalism infers that Individuals
are born into society and become conditioned by all the social influences
around them as they are socialised by various institutions such as the family, mass
media and the economy. Durkheim said that morality is the key to society’s
health and without it people would behave like animals and be swayed by their
desires and instincts. Another important point is a social Conesus or
collective consciousness of share norms, values and goals which is needed for social
order and stability so that conflict is avoided with other members of society.
Functionalists premised that a dysfunctional society was the result of people
not forming an emotional attachment to the community their in. Durkheim
distinguished between two types of social order, “mechanical solidarity is the
social integration of members of a society who have common values and beliefs”.
“These common values and beliefs constitute a collective conscience that works
internally in individual members to cause them to cooperate and organic
solidarity is social integration that arises out of the need of individuals for
one another’s service” (AQA Sociology, 2008).

One popular sociological theory is Marxism which is an
economic and social system based upon the economic and political ideas of Karl
Marx and Friedrich Engels. Marxism is the system of “socialism of which the
dominant feature is public ownership of the means of production, distribution,
and exchange” (AQA sociology). Marxism is the antithesis of capitalism which is
an economic system based on private ownership and pursuit of profit. Under
capitalism the people are exploited and forced to work for the capitalists in
order to survive which the workers are paid the bare minimum wage for and this
then brings about alienation due to capitalist’s mass production of goods which
leaves people with little autonomy in their working environment. Marxism also
believes that religion is a farce and emphasis class conflict inferring that a
Capitalist society has only two classes of people the bourgeoisie and the
proletariat. The bourgeoisie are the owners of the means of production, they
own the factories, businesses, and equipment needed to produce wealth and the
labour force called proletariat. Marxists emphasis “False consciousness which
occurs when the subordinate class are fooled into supporting the superior class
which 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 sociology
should be scientific and objective and that social phenomena could be reduced
to laws”.  “Auguste Comte came to
appreciate the need for a basic and unifying social science that would both
explain existing social organizations and guide social planning for a better
future”. “This new science he called sociology which attempted to reduce social
facts to laws and synthesize the whole of human knowledge, thus rendering the
discipline equipped to guide the reconstruction of society” (Encyclopaedia
Britannica). The three founders of sociology are Emile Durkheim (1858-1917),
Max Weber (1864-1920) and Karl Marx (1818-1883). Sociology emerged as an
academic discipline in the ninetieth century as a response to modernity which
was the shift to industrial capitalism, political global development and
cultural 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, and
functioning of human society or the study of social problems”. So, sociology is
a social science which tries to understand what holds social groups together
and tries to explore possible solutions to the breakdown of social solidarity
and study’s social institutions and agencies like mass media, family,
education, religion, culture, the economy, legal systems and political decision’s
and how they affect socialisation. Sociology’s purpose is to study’s society
and find out what is going wrong and how to correct it and more importantly what
is going right and how to continue it. A sociologist may study mass media and
observe the effects it has on a teenager’s values, norms and beliefs, they may
analyse the nuclear family and how it fulfils vital functions, and they may
study the effect of poverty and how it affects a person’s life chances. Sociologists
believe all behaviour is learned from the environment through observation,
modelling and classic conditioning and that very little of human behaviour is
instinctive. There are three forms of research which is conducted by
sociologists, one is descriptive research which aims is to gather information e.g.  what stimulates more economic growth, subsidies
to small business or subsidies to multi-national corporation. Next is explanatory
research which aims to find out the cause of social phenomena e.g. Why is drug
use becoming a social norm? and finally action research takes place when an
actual policy is changed to bring about a desired result and then the impact of
the new change is examined as it happens e.g. increase tax on alcohol sales and
will it reduce binge drinking.

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