Symbolic Interactionism & Feminism


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A brief intro for high school students about two important sociological theories.

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Symbolic Interactionism & Feminism

  1. 1. <ul><li>Two More Sociological Theories </li></ul>
  2. 2. <ul><li>Conflict theory’s assumptions: competition for scare resources and the struggle for power are at the heart of all social interactions </li></ul><ul><li>Examples are abundant: child abuse, terrorism, sexism, strikes, economic control of populace by big banks, etc.. </li></ul><ul><li>they don’t deny that some social relationships are ‘functional’ but ask the bigger question, ‘For whom are they functional’? Not all social relationships are positive for the society (functionalist’s perspective) -example of rules in prison </li></ul>Review of Conflict Theory
  3. 3. Critique of Conflict Theory <ul><li>over emphasis of the significance of power struggles </li></ul><ul><li>ignores many aspects of social life where consensus is possible (example: shared values - health care system) </li></ul><ul><li>struggle happens but so does harmony and balance </li></ul>
  4. 4. Review Functionalism <ul><li>Functionalists assume that balance, harmony and consensus are the motors of social relations (interdependent parts that change with challenges and conflict but ultimately seek equilibrium) </li></ul><ul><li>Each part (group) exists for a reason and has a ‘function’ to perform </li></ul><ul><li>a change in one group of the society will mean a corresponding change in another group </li></ul><ul><li>social systems don’t change as long as their parts function properly </li></ul>
  5. 5. Critique of Functionalism <ul><li>Overemphasizes the harmony and balance possible in social systems </li></ul><ul><li>presume that order is more basic than change </li></ul><ul><li>implies that the status quo is best </li></ul><ul><li>doesn’t explain revolutions and sudden change well (especially in societies where abuse of power brought about the revolution...Egypt, Libya, etc..) </li></ul>
  6. 6. <ul><li>Example of prisons: What is functional for the guards might be highly dysfunctional for the prisoners </li></ul><ul><li>Cutbacks in funding means fewer guards and this is seen as dysfunctional by society but functional by inmates because the prison has been weakened </li></ul><ul><li>Manifest function: protect society </li></ul><ul><li>Latent function: create better criminals? </li></ul>Manifest & Latent Functions
  7. 7. Symbolic Interactionism <ul><li>3rd theory (George Mead & Charles Cooley) </li></ul><ul><li>a micro orientation focusing on how individual people behave in particular social settings </li></ul><ul><li>Functionalist and conflict theory see groups, organizations and institutions as exerting STRONG influence on people’s behaviour </li></ul><ul><li>Sym. Int. = social structures only have the meaning that the individual assigns to them </li></ul>
  8. 8. Symbolic Meaning <ul><li>The meaning of a social reality is not predetermined: its meaning is created by the individual </li></ul><ul><li>Example: marriage or living together? Predetermined meaning or not? </li></ul><ul><li>Meaning is made as a result of people interacting together; thus = symbolic interactionism </li></ul><ul><li>People don’t respond to the world around them but to the meaning that they collectively apply to it. </li></ul>
  9. 9. Changing Times <ul><li>As socially accepted definitions change (example: being ‘gay’ or ‘immigrant’) our behaviour changes. This change is the result of the shift in attitudes that people create because they have redefined what X means. </li></ul><ul><li>In research, symbolic interactionists must spend vast amounts of time attempting to understand how their subjects perceive their world since their starting point is that no objective reality is possible because we assign meaning </li></ul>
  10. 10. Critique <ul><li>It is not a macro theory and therefore lacks the wider perspective of what make a society ‘tick’ </li></ul><ul><li>Yes, social reality is constructed and this liberates people to be able to change undesirable elements of their lives </li></ul><ul><li>But as a theory, it lacks a perspective of the ‘big picture’; ie: the institutions and power structures that exert pressure on the individual </li></ul>
  11. 11. <ul><li>Theories and research have been ANDROCENTRIC in traditional sociology </li></ul><ul><li>Research done on males does not reveal the female reality </li></ul><ul><li>Example: major theories of crime are based on research into men’s lives and poorly explain why women turn to crime. Social inequalities poor, homeless, drug addicts) are ideas supported by BOTH the powerful and powerless (the latter ‘buy into’ their own victimization) </li></ul>Feminist Theory
  12. 12. Conflict + Feminist <ul><li>unequal power relationships between men and women are easily explained by conflict theory </li></ul><ul><li>example: the pill, women in the workforce, babies, daycare and the economy </li></ul><ul><li>female juveniles serve longer prison sentences even for less serious crimes </li></ul><ul><li>precocious sexuality gets young women in trouble more than their male counterparts </li></ul>
  13. 13. Gender On 31 December 1999, a review of CSC's offender management system revealed that the majority of homicide offenders listed to date are male (96.6%). There were 211 (4.4%) cases of a female offender for whom a homicide offence was listed.
  14. 14. The Feminist Perspective <ul><li>It is clear that most crimes are committed by men but we still must account for class and minority status </li></ul><ul><li>system social inequalities exist and are accepted as ‘reality’ by both powerful and powerless </li></ul><ul><li>the privileged are challenged only when the ‘powerless’ gain resources sufficient to challenge them (example: women’s economic power) </li></ul><ul><li>Critique: objectivity or bias in research? </li></ul>
  15. 15. Case Study <ul><li>Examine this case using either one of the four theories you have learned so far. Click on the link to listen to the 14 minute video. Which theory best describes this social situation? </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul>