SOC101: Introduction to Sociology What do we understand by the sociological perspective The sociological perspective is an approach in the interpretation process of studying the social world taking a close look at the different ways that individuals behave among themselves in their relationships in society, where their needs, values, beliefs and interests give a specific shape to their everyday lives in a common setting. The sociological perspective is the particular way that sociologists use in order to understand the human social behaviour in their search for the objective reality that underlies beneath the relationships of people in society. The sociological perspective or viewpoint changes according to the different sociologists that endeavor in the task of studying the social behaviour of individuals. But sociologists look at social relationships in a completely different way than other scientists like psychologists, philosophers, historians, economists, biologists, and people in general (The Pathway, 2008). So the sociological perspective tries to be objective, and it implies a critical evaluation of the evidence found in social research. It is based on the concept of social imagination coined and explained by C. Wright Mills (1959). The sociological perspective is not the same as the sociological paradigms or frameworks, which are the theories used to explain social life in a coherent and meaningful way assuming a specific sociological perspective with the help of the social imagination.
2) Discuss the relationship between the individual and society from a structural perspective.
One of the major debates in Sociology comes from the concepts of structure and social action. According to the structural perspective the way in which society is organised determines or constrain the behaviour of the individual. This position -taken to an extreme- sees the individual as a victim or a puppet of the social system because the actions of the individual are a product of the socialisation process that the individual goes through in order to adapt to roles, norms, beliefs, values and interesests of the specific society where he/she is born. The structural perspective make a strong emphasis on the way that society is organised and it powerful influence in the social behaviour of the individual. On the other hand, the social action perspective is the opposite of the structural perspective in Sociology. While the structural perspective is a macro point of view, the social action perspective is a micro point of view making emphasis on the interactions of the individuals in small groups or organisations. Anthony Giddens takes an ecclectic position on this debate arguing that both the structure and the social action are the sides of the same coin. So Giddens speaks of the process of "structuration" in the following terms: "The way forward in bridging the gap between the "structural" and "action" approaches is to recognise that we actively make and remake social structure during the course of our everyday activities" (Connect Publications, 1996). "Structuration" is a sociological perspective that makes much more sense than the most popular sociological perspectives.
3) Give three functions performed by either the religion or the family in society according to functionalist theories, and comment critically on the problems on one of them.
Functionalist theories try to explain the human social behaviour from the basic idea that there must be organic unity in any social system where the needs of the individual are satisfied through social organisms that allow the survival of the social system. So McClelland states that "A functionalist might argue, for instance, that every society will have a religion, because religious institutions have certain functions which contribute to the survival of the social system as a whole, just as the organs of the body have functions which are necessary for the body’s survival" (McClelland, 2000). Prominent functionalists like Emile Durkheim, Bronislaw Malinowski, Auguste Comte, and Talcott Parsons (Livesey &. Lawson, 2006) have studied the functions of religion in society, providing plausible explanations from the sociological point of view. The following functions of religion have been suggested, among many others:
1.- Religion provides integration and cohesion by giving common values, common experiences and common interpretations to individuals in society.
2.- Religion satisfies the need of social commitment and social solidarity in a periodic and collective basis when individuals meet in a common cause.
3.- Religion gives explanations for the unknown realities that cannot be explained through scientific knowledge.
This last function of religion is incomplete since the individual’s needs are not only reduced to matters of knowledge. Many sociologists had argued that as scientific knoweldge increases there would be a decline in religion in modern society. They miss the fact that love is a common link among most of the religious and secular systems. There is a vital need to love and to be loved that cannot be satisfied with scientific knowledge. Even faith and hope will cease, but love will preval according to the Bible (I Corinthians 13:13). On the other hand, unconditional love leads to the idea of universal reconciliation (GTFT.Org, 2008. Knoch, 2006). The satisfaction of this fundamental need of the individual in society can only be met through a coherent and valid system of religious beliefs.
Connect Publications. (1996). Are People the "Puppets of Society". (online). Available from http://www.connectpublications.co.uk/pdf/Central%20Issues%20in%20Sociology/puppetssample.pdf (Accessed February 19, 2008).
GTFT.Org. (2008). God’s Truth For Today. (online). Available from http://gtft.org (Accessed February 20, 2008).
Knoch, A. E. (August 12, 2006 ). The Reconciliation of the Universe. (online). Concordant Publishing Concern. Available from http://www.gtft.org/Library/knoch/TheReconciliation.htm (Accessed February 20, 2008).
Livesey, C., &. Lawson, T. (May, 2006). Religion. Functionalist Theories. In A2 Sociology for AQA. (online). Available from http://www.sociology.org.uk/crelign.htm (Accessed February 19, 2008).
McClelland, K. (February 24, 2000). Functionalism. (online). Grinnell Collage. Available from http://web.grinnell.edu/courses/soc/s00/soc111-01/IntroTheories/Functionalism.html (Accessed February 19, 2008).
The Pathway. (2008). The Sociological Perspective. (online). Available from http://www.sociology.org.uk/pathway2.htm (Accessed February 18, 2008).
Wright Mills, C. (1959). Excerpt from "The Sociological Imagination".. (online). Available from http://www.camden.rutgers.edu/wood/207socimagination.htm (Accessed February 18, 2008).