Sociology 2 Essay, Research Paper
Sociology is a field which developed over a millennia ago, but it was not until the nineteenth century that it came into the fore as a bona fide social science, in need of its own classification apart from other social sciences. Sociology, the study of the process of companionship (pg.396, Ambercrombie,Hill,Turner), is a discipline, which is not exclusively independent in and of its self, yet borrows from many other disciplines such as: history, geography, and anthropology.
American sociology is fundamentally analytical and empirical; it proposes to examine the way of life of individuals in the societies prefers to explain institutions and structures in terms of the behavior of individuals and the goals, mental states, and motives which determine the behavior of members of various social groups (pg.5,Aron).
A specialization within Sociology is social stratification. This segment of sociology attempts to deal with the structures of any given society and ones relationship with the institution. Social stratification means that inequality has been hardened or institutionalized, and there is a system of social relationships that determines who gets what, and why (pg.11, Kerbo). Through various paradigms, and theories we are able to come to a better understanding of social stratification.
The paradigm that is most rational to my understanding of social stratification is the critical-conflict. In this paradigm the state embodies the interests of the “common citizen,” and mediates between primitive human desires and the rational need for freedom and well being. Conflict theorists view that definitions of norms and values are also a source of conflict over who has the right to create laws and justice. As a consequence, not only behavior but also power relationships become important topics to study. Unlike the structural-functionalist view of society, which views harmony as the basis of order, conflict theorists see conflict as the natural state of social existence. Despite their critical examination of power relations, conflict theorists tend to accept the fundamental existing social arrangements, and instead of arguing for new social systems tend to argue for rearrangement of existing relations.
This paradigm (critical-conflict) shares with the uncritical-conflict paradigm an image or model of society that considers conflict and power as the key to social order (at least in present societies). The power of one group Such as an upper class or a power elite leads to social order. A powerful group is usually able to coerce or manipulate subordinate classes (through force, threat of force, withholding of jobs, or other means) because of the dominate group s influence over basic institutions in the society ( such as the economy, government, courts, and police)(pg.88, Kerbo).
The critical-conflict theorist, I feel is the most plausible is Karl Marx and his Marxian view of social stratification and inequality. Marx viewed capitalism as a mode of production that results in the exploitation and virtual enslavement of the wage laborer by the owner of capital. Marx recognized various modes of production and considered each to be associated with a particular social structure (pg. 348, Marx). Capitalism as a mode of production consisted of two factors, the means and modes of production. The means of production incorporate the material, instrument, and product of labour, and these determine the relations of production which are the relative position[s] of these individual groups to one another (pg.161, Marx). Capitalism, Marx believed, was fueled by greed for increased wealth at the expense of laborers and to the ultimate destruction of the entire system. Marx said that capitalism would, create bourgeois society (pg.363, Marx). The combination of the influence on the social structure and structural changes produced the social structure that fundamentally characterizes capitalism. Yet Marx himself predicted the fall of capitalism and the emergence of classlessness. In various writings, Marx predicts that capitalism must inevitably end with a clash between the bourgeoisie in which the proletariat finally wins the class war. They will win through a revolution, which does away with class division and private property, as we know them. After the victory of the proletariat, Marx asserts, human beings will live in a truly classless society.
One of the reasons why Marxism has fallen into such disrepute lately among many leftists has partly to do with Marx s insistence that the proletariat must lead the war against class, which is essentially a war against the bourgeoisie. Perhaps a better way of understanding Marxism, and updating the idea of revolution for the 21st Century, would be to speak of revolution as something the Middle Class and Working Class must fight together. A classless society can only be achieved when both the middle-class and the Working Class call a truce and share the spoils of war equally among themselves. Moreover, viewing revolution and a classless society as the results of a cross-class joint effort makes it clear that everyone has a stake in ending class war and capitalism. Indeed, the Working Class and Middle Class also have the bourgeoisie, who own the means of production and supply both classes with their livelihoods , as a common enemy.
The point of revolution should not be death to the Middle Class, which is often how Marx s words about the victory of the proletariat are read. If anything, revolution means death to all classes alike. Ultimately, revolution should bring a new form of social life. In a world where people work together, rather than in competition with each other, we would be capable of creating the materials and goods to ensure our survival. This post-revolutionary society would be one in which everyone would have access to the means to live comfortably. And society would be devoid of false consciousness directed at people and connected to objects, since no one class would keep valuable property to itself. Some might perceive my views as radical I see them as viable.
“The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles,” Marx wrote in the Communist Manifesto (with the exception of the history of the primitive community, Engels added subsequently). “Freeman and slave, patrician and plebeian, lord and serf, guild-master and journeyman, in a word, oppressor and oppressed, stood in constant opposition to one another, carried on an uninterrupted, now hidden, now open fight, a fight that each time ended, either in a revolutionary reconstruction of society at large, or in the common ruin of the contending classes…. The modern bourgeois society that has sprouted from the ruins of feudal society has not done away with class antagonisms. It has but established new classes, new conditions of oppression, new forms of struggle in place of the old ones. Our epoch, the epoch of the bourgeoisie, possesses, however, this distinctive feature: it has simplified class antagonisms. Society as a whole is more and more splitting up into two great hostile camps, into two great classes directly facing each other: Bourgeoisie and Proletariat.” (Campbell)
Relative to the knowledge I have gained about stratification thus far, the theory that best explains the existence of the Upper Class and the Corporate Class in the United States is the functionalist perspective. In functionalism groups are viewed like living organisms. These groups and group processes are studied as parts of a functioning whole. Also in this perspective aspects and behaviors of society may have obvious functions or hidden functions with in society.
The structural functionalist perspective gives us important insight into how societies ensure that all positions in the division of labor are filled. Every society, no matter how simple or complex, differentiates people in terms of prestige and esteem and possess a certain amount of institutional inequality. Critics argue divisive, and a source of social disorder (pg.387-393,Tumin).
In structural- functionalism there are a select and limited few that can perform any given talent. The most talented people are to perform the most important jobs. And to reinforce this notion is to ideally pay those people more money for their talent. Yet in our society people who have the talent to become a corporate lawyer, or a top surgeon fundamentally lack the essential tools such as: family name, wealth, and networking opportunities. These tools are utilized to gain access to the training necessary to achieve in a meritocracy like the United States. As the Upper Class and the Corporate Class wonder why those on the bottom are not able to pull themselves up by their boot straps and find solutions to their social, political, and economic predicament. The people on the bottom are screaming the solutions yet the Upper Class and Corporate Class are turning a deaf ear.
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2.) Aron, Raymond, Main Currents In Sociological Thought. Anchor Books: 1968.
3.) Campbell, Ken. Http://cst.colorado.edu/psn/Marx/bio/Marx-karl/Granat/z.Html March 1,1999.
4.) Kerbo, Harold R., Social Stratification and Inequality: Class Conflict in Historical and Comparative Perspective. McGraw-Hill Companies,Inc. New York: 1996.
5.) McLellan, David., Karl Marx: Selected Writings. Oxford University Press: 1979.
6.) Tumin, M., Some principles of stratification: A critical analysis. American Sociological Review, New York:1954