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Soc 101 - Sociology and Politics

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Sociology and Politics

Alan Hodge

SOC101: Introduction to Sociology (ACK1131B)

Instructor: Peter Conis

August 29, 2011

Sociology and Politics

As politics and most other social institutes are either regulated or governed by the government, I am always reminded of a quote I was told in my English class back in high school. "Never depend upon institutions or government to solve any problem. All social movements are founded by, guided by, motivated and seen through by the passion of individuals" (Mead, n.d). In this paper I will identify how the three theories in sociology: Conflict, Interactionism and Functionalism affect the social institute of politics

First, social institutions are large-scale, macro-level social structures that include politics, the economy, religion, education, medical care, etc. (Vissings, 2011,p. 321). Or another way of understanding it is that social institutions are a complex of positions, roles, norms and values lodged in particular types of social structures and organizing relatively stable patterns of human activity with respect to fundamental problems in producing life-sustaining resources, in reproducing individuals, and in sustaining viable societal structures within a given environment (Turner, 2003)

How each of the sociological theories will then affect this social institute of politics we must remember each of the three theories. First as we look at the Conflict Theory which was developed by Karl Marx 1818-1883, this theory assumes that the institutions and interactions within society foster inequality and competition. (Vissing, 2011, p.11). Under this notion or theory, Marx stated that society is on an uneven and unequal distribution of advantages and disadvantages, thus leading the society to dwell on these differences and how they are dispersed within each of the different class levels which people are divided within. This caused the lower class to demand change to receive what the upper class had and they were going without. The conflict theory itself leads to conflict, war and destruction. What arises out of this conflict is change sometimes wanted change, other times change can be in the wrong or unwanted direction as well all depending on who started or wanted the change, as well as which side is considered the Victor in the end.

I believe that when looking at the Conflict Theory view through Marx's eyes we must understand it as it is within the definition of the materialist view. Thus the most important part of social life is in the provision of basic necessities of life. These being the providing of food, shelter and clothing. Marx summarized this as "In the social production of their existence, men inevitably enter into definite relations, which are independent of their will, namely relations of production appropriate to a given stage in the development of their material forces of production. The totality of these relations of production constitutes the economic structure of society, the real foundation, on which arises a legal and political superstructure and to which correspond definite forms of social consciousness. The mode of production of material life conditions the general process of social, political and intellectual life. It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but their social existence that determines their consciousness" (McClelland, 2000)

Next after that of the Conflict theorist's approach is the Functionalism approach or theory, this theoretical approach held that all social structures (institutions or stable units of society) exist because they fulfill some specific functions (Vissing, 2011, p.9). This perspective is associated with both Comte and Durkheim based on an analogy between social systems and organic systems. The character of a society's various institutions must be understood in terms of the function each performs in enabling the smooth running of society as a whole. Stable and made of intellectual social structures that work in harmony. Against change and believes changes reinforces the death of society (Barnes, 1995, p.118).

The last theory is that of the Interactionism theory or approach. In this theory the focus is on the role of symbols and language in human interaction. This theory is unlike the other two is based on the micro instead of the macro level. What is meant by this is that we react to things on the basis of meanings or labels that we ascribe to those things. The meanings are influenced by social interactions we have with others, which we modify to new situations when we encounter them (Vissing, 2011, p.15).

Now that we understand the views of each of the theories, we can

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