Society Structural Functionalist Perspective Essay Research

Society: Structural / Functionalist Perspective Essay, Research Paper

Take Home Exam 1

1. The Structural/Functionalist Perspective looks at society as a system of interrelated parts. It assumes that the majority of society shares the same core values and appropriate forms of behavior. It looks at how persistent patterns of behavior or social structures function to implement society’s values. It distinguishes between manifest and latent orders. Manifest functions are those intended and easily recognized by most members of society. An example of this would be religion or churches. Latent functions are those that are neither readily apparent nor widely recognized. An example of this is the public welfare system. Since there is a high level of consensus about basic norms and values, the same can be said about the norm violations.

Ecological Perspective looks at the distribution of social activities across space and time. Social Disorganization Theory is a good example and theory used in the Ecological Perspectives. Social Disorganization Theory says that there are higher rates of deviance where there aren’t set norms or values. Big cities for example have so many types of people with differing beliefs doing all sorts of different things, resulting in a very unorganized or “disorganized” viewpoint for the consensus to look at. This results in deviance due to the fact that no one knows for sure everyone else’s values and what is despised. The books reasoning is that “ecological conditions associated with urban life disrupt traditional social controls, thereby promoting unconventional and deviant behavior.”

There are several similarities, and differences, both in the theories these perspectives contain and also in the overall perspectives themselves. Some of the similarities are both perspectives look at the people that make up the society and there affect, as a whole, on the entire community. How the people live their lives based on their morals and values, turns into what is considered deviant in the society in which they live. Some towns may look at someone as a deviant if they cuss under their breath. Yet, in another society, someone could yell and curse and be looked at as the norm. Another example of this on a more deviant-lawful comparison could be running yellow lights or speeding. In a small town if someone did this with a police car around, you would probably be pulled over in a second with a ticket. In a big city however, with everyone doing it “the norm”, the police car either has to pull over the entire city, or change with the times.

There are also several differences. Structural Functionalist Perspective focuses more on particular societies whereas Ecological looks more on how things are set up. A clearer illustration of this is that Structural Functionalist Perspective looks at the people in the society, it talks about their values and the norms, and how this makes up deviant behavior. Ecological Perspective looks at how where people live affect what is considered deviant. It says that people don’t necessarily make individuals deviant, the major contributing factors are the location and society ecologically.

The movie we watched, “Trading Places” was a great example that took a bit of both of these perspectives and showed how different factors can affect deviant behavior. Eddie Murphy plays a poor criminal and Dan Akroyd plays a wealthy business man. Ecologically they are both from the same city in almost the same part of town. Eddie Murphy actually visits Dan’s workplace. But at the same time they live separate lives both ecologically and structurally. Though they are from the same part of town, Eddie lives on the streets and Dan lives in a high class apartment-type building. Structurally, Eddie deals with poor deviant people and he himself is a deviant. To him it is the norm to be deviant. People see him as a deviant both from the clothes he wears and his overall attitude. Dan on the other hand gets respected even by people who don’t know him based on his appearance and the kind of people he associates with. He is expected to act with a sense of pride and self respect and have good values. Eddie is expected to be a deviant and even if he were trying to be polite would still be viewed as deviant. When Dan is placed in the poor looking clothes and not given anything to show his stature appearance wise, he becomes “disorganized”. When Eddie is placed in nice clothing and a nice home, he is started to be treated with more respect and starts to act more mature. The people he used to associate with he now sees as deviants, as in the scene where he throws a party in his new home only to throw them out. One goes from a deviant to a man of good values with a sense of deviant behavior and not stepping beyond that line. The other goes from a man of good values to a deviant man with no sense of right and wrong. This entire movie shows not only these two perspectives but also how they really can affect individuals and a society.

4. One theory that could be used to analyze Eddie Perry would be the neutralization theory. Its not quite clear in the beginning but towards the end it starts to mold him and make more sense. I had trouble figuring out why exactly he would make these stories up. And why he would sell, but only sell certain drugs and in certain amounts or at extremely high prices yet would take others drugs for free. At first I thought it was sort of a power trip but them came the infamous PCP incident not to mention his moment with LSD, his most feared drug. Neutralization theory in a sense, makes excuses up for the individual to do deviant acts. In this instance, at first he won’t even think about selling PCP. No way is he going to sell this drug. He has heard of too many bad things happening resulting from this drug being taken and he doesn’t want to be a part of it. This relates to the theory not because he is making an excuse for himself to perform a deviant act, that will come later, but an excuse to let others do deviant acts because of him(The Denial of the Victim). Peer pressure alone, is the excuse needed for Eddie to give in. Now for the LSD incident. Eddie is, without a doubt, anti-LSD. He won’t sell it and he sure wont use it. However, LSD, a supposed “white drug” and well known for loosening inhibitions, finally needs to be done to prove a point. In his eyes he needs to take the drug to show to his peers, both higher and lower ranking to him, that he is a normal person, though one of the few blacks in a predominately white school, and that even he can just “chill” sometimes, in order to fit in more.

As for the lies, they are clear even in his drug taking. He will do anything just to fit in or be part of the norm. He feels like he has to do the dramatic to become one of the “druggies”. He makes up crazy stories about fights he has been in, gives in to peer pressure, and takes LSD, which in his eyes is the devil, just to be part of the norm. This falls under the Strain Theory. He has all of these negative relationships with everyone. He turns to deviance to fit in. This is clear when they go to the Picnic at Fort Rock. He is there but he isn’t like them. He can’t just chill out. He is so uptight. This is also part of the reason he takes LSD. Because he wants to prove that he can let his body go. One of the characteristics with individuals in Strain Theory is violence and this comes out shortly after taking the LSD. After this the negative relationships only grow worse. The worse the relationships got the more deviant he became. Examples of this were clear when he returned to Harlem. Deviant acts such as violence, which were not of his character were starting to happen, and eventually and ultimately his life of deviance came to an end one week after graduation.

2. In Social Disorganization Theory there are no set norms or lines of deviance. Pretty much everything goes because there is no line between right and wrong. Deviance is very high for several reasons. There is no one to look at for values or morals because of the wide variety. Deviant behavior is seen differently by everyone because of the variety of values and morals. The hard thing about this is that there are no norms, and deviance is anything against the norm.

With Social Learning people get there norms, values, morals, and deviance from watching others. There is a finer line of right and wrong but it also depends on who you learn from.

Two examples, one for each theory, can be taken from the movie “Gone in 60 Seconds.” The younger brother falls into acts of deviance from watching his big brother steal cars. He saw his brother doing it, learned things from him, and went on to do these same deviant acts when he grew up. The little brother is a great example of Social Learning Theory. As for the big brother, he fits under the Social Disorganization Theory. He grew up with all kinds of people. The people he did his deviant acts from were from all walks of life. There wasn’t a set of norms. Everyone was into the deviant acts for different reasons. The neighborhood was less structured when he was a youth compared to now. The little brother lives in a society with clear set rules. This is made clear with the law enforcement officials and by not completing the order.

There are some similarities between the two theories but more differences. Some of the similarities would be that in Social Learning Theory, everyone could be learning from different people. If this was the case then it would fall under the other theory. In both theories deviance has the chance to be very high. If all people learn from other is deviant behaviors in one theory, and in the other there is no set boundaries for the rules, the chance for huge amounts of deviance is very high.

As for the differences, the list could go on and on. In Social Disorg. Theory, deviance is not learned it is forced due to a lack or norms. In Social Learning Theory, the norms are those of the people or the society being learned from but, no less, there are set norms to look at. In Social Learning Theory, you looking at the norms of society and the bold line separating bad from good. In Social Disorg. Theory, with no norms, no set rules to follow, deviance runs rampant.


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