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Globalisation is simply put the “worldwide diffusion of practices” as Ritzer (2003) says and is the process in which different societies are pressured by others to employ their practices whether it is due to abetter system or because of necessity. Following Ritzers’ theories on globalization, links were made to Marxist imperialistic theories; creating the concept of “cultural imperialism”. Globalisation as a process can be divided into two categories; each then split into another three.
One aspect is globalization. This focuses for nations, corporations and organizations to grow and spread their influence around the world. As Marx predicted, due to capitalistic ideals the organizations had to continue to spread further otherwise it would destabilize. Naturally, upon expanding to every available location within its own country they look to other countries to continue to expand. Additionally, where these organizations, especially American ones, have so much power already, they can produce products at greater efficiency, calculability, predictability, and control. This is McDonaldisation and its many benefits make capitalist expansion somewhat desirable in the eyes of those on the receiving end. Lastly, Americanisation can be seen as the “propagation of American ideas, customs, social patterns, industry, and capital around the world” (Ritzer 2003)
However, the lesser-known side of globalization is glocalization. This process looks at the way that people within a society influenced by globalization can influence the way the practices are imposed on them. For example, McDonald’s is at the forefront of the fast food industry and while its stores have opened worldwide, they still hold small differences on the menu depending on what country you are in. So this links to part of Giddens’ (1990) definition of globalization; “local happenings are shaped by events occurring many miles away and vice versa”. The idea is that while there is a homogenous, more efficient method of production; their culture will in some form or another evolve into something new. Les Back (1998) characterizes the global and local cultures as a relationship rather than as opposites because while global pressures influence all societies, the societies essentially still get to pick and choose what parts of the culture they like as if there is no demand for something, the organizations will have no interest there. While these organizations do produce advertisements that target specific people, the individuals of the society ultimately still choose.
Globalisation as a whole does seem to converge towards a set of global norms and single predominant industries but the world hasn’t reached that point and to say that McDonald’s or any other form of McDonaldization has replaced traditional restaurants is an oversight. McDonald’s offers cheap quick convenient food but that doesn’t mean that the people who travel to France are going to want to eat McDonald’s when they have gone down the road of their permanent home. They will want to experience what that country specifically has to offer otherwise there is no point in investing their time or money in going there. Of course should an individual choose out of their own rationale or some other reason that they want to avoid the local cultures of an area, they can to an extent. To what extent are young people’s futures determined by society? Discuss in relation to the structures agency debate.
There is a huge debate in a number of fields involving structure and agency. On one pole of the spectrum, everything that happens in one’s life is determined by external forces; the idea of structure. Then on the other is the concept that each individual shapes their own future. There are scenarios where either one can be argued more compellingly than the other; for example, something like the choice to dye your hair pink can be seen as an act of agency because while there will be factors that led you to that choice, ultimately the final decision was yours. Meanwhile, the fact you pay taxes is nearly infallibly up structure except for the rare situations where people evade their taxes.
Emile Durkheim, an esteemed structural theorist, says that “if they have existed before you, it is because they exist outside you” while referring to social facts. These are factors outside of control of the individual like race, gender and class that upon being born you fit into and as Marx said “Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please” because we do not choose what circumstances were under while making choices as these circumstances we are under are transmitted from the past. However, structures are composed of many individual agents that occasionally change the structure they are within. Revolutions are examples of agents acting against their structures because they are displeased with their circumstance.
While the agency is about how our decisions influence our lives; it doesn’t pretend that we can achieve anything with enough willpower. We can control what we do but not the consequences. Herbert Blumertheorises that throughout our life our interactions create meanings associated with what we have interacted with. However, the link with the agency is that we understand these meanings and then we can change them through interpretation meaning we each perceive things in our own way based on our previous interactions.
However, a far more balanced view is that we create our structures as agents as well as structures forming our behavior; a view employed by Anthony Giddens. His view of individuals places them as knowledgeable agents and structures not only as factors that limit your options but also enabling your options.
So to evaluate all of this I believe that younger people experience must greater agency on influencing their future but a lot less agency in their immediate impact. Your young life influences to what degree you are influenced by structures later in life. For example, the degree to which we try at school and spend less time on video games and such will affect our knowledge and the less knowledge we have, the less we can make conscious and rational decisions. Additionally, any symbolic interactions we develop when we are young may be carried with us until we die and impact every decision of our life. For reference, while society associates obesity with bad health, if an agent were to meet an obese person who seemed very happy when we are young our outlook on obesity may be completely different for the rest of their life.
What is the best way to study crime and deviance sociologically? Discuss in relation to the positivism versus interpretivism debate. Studying issues in the world can be done in a number of different ways. These are known methodologies. When it comes to crime and deviance there is a wide range of crimes that would require a different approach to tackle as the (socially constructed) motives would be different. The methodologies hold different philosophies that allow research to be taken and be more useful to the sociologists behind it. These include ontological and epistemological principles that show how the research is conducted (Sarantakos 2005: 30).
Positivism encompasses the ideology that everything we perceive is socially constructed and therefore personal accounts would be biased and not represent real life; a view popularised by Durkheim. People’sreasoning is normally explainable through the social norms they experience. This makes the only valid form of data the ones measurable objectively. Its epistemological principles are based around AugusteComte’s idea that “sociology should emulate the method of the natural sciences”. The aim of this type of research is to find laws that are innate to humans’ behavior. This makes the findings from positivistic research like surveys and official statistics generalizable to other places in similar conditions. Graphs are plotted for data from these to find correlations between certain factors. One criticism though is the obvious neglection of the individual’s agency’s in any data ascertained. For example, while the empirical data may show that an ethnic group is more likely to commit a certain crime; the correlative nature of this data means that any particular individual is neither certain nor uncertain to perform this crime at any given time. Additionally, the positivistic views cannot be claimed to be theory or value-neutral because they are still constructed by a person who sees the world in their way.
On the other side of things is interpretivism which roots from the mantra that each person holds their own agency and doesn’t just respond to external social forces. This methodology accounts for an individual’s complexity and their own understanding of the same “objective reality” while respecting that their reasons for making actions are unique. This type of research aims to gain a better understanding of reasons for people’s actions on an empathetic level, meaning the methods involved aren’t scientific; allowing the world to be seen from the persons’ perspective. This is used because asWeber said; “social reality is not objective and determining but constructed and reconstructed through social action” therefore “sociology should proceed from the perspective of the point of view of social actors”. This methodology, however, is extremely specific and will have difficulty painting a bigger picture but is much better at looking at smaller groups.
In conclusion, to base changes to government policies on quantitative data alone seems short minded as there are lots of other sociological factors that will have summated to those statistics as oppose to the person just either performed the crime or not. For example to say that because of a correlation between baby’s health and whether they have been breastfed or not, breastfeeding must be enforced as it causes good health has other ramifications and can never objectively be better for anyone without taking into account everything going on in the How can we understand health sociologically? Discuss in relation to the biological versus social determinism debateOur health is something we often take for granted until it is put into question. A purely biological definition of good health is being free of disease or ailment whereas a sociological definition of health looks at social health and puts a greater focus on mental health too. NHS and other medical organizations are moving towards a more dualistic system that involves both social and biological analysis and procedures.
The definition of health as seen by (WHO, 2006), is “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease and infirmity”; however this is argued to be neglecting aspects of health such as spiritual, emotional and sexual health and is clearly very difficult to acquire state. Sociology argues that the definition of health is much more flexible and dependent on factors like time period, location, and culture. This can be seen in health magazines where the standard of good health is set as muscular and toned men or thin and accentuated curves. These bring awareness away from social causes of mental health issues and brings more of the people’s focus on the biological and aesthetic parts of health. This culture of focus on biological health and the dependency on clinical trials to find one’s problem and then remedy it also leads to a culture where if your problem doesn’t fit into the objective criteria that the biological approach offers; your problem must be made up.
The social causation approach allows social issues and medical diseases alike to be prevented and thus save money on the treatment of long-term incurable diseases like dementia. For example, families of those at risk for dementia (perhaps elderly people who receive less than a certain amount of visits at a retirement home) can be warned of how often they visit them. Social causation involves looking at quantitative data showing how individuals that share a common social factor are more or less likely to have or get a certain disease and then take the necessary measures to reduce the impact of a said social factor or reduce the number of people in that demographic. According to the stress process model, stress predisposes people in marginalized groups (like long-term poverty) with ill-health.
A great deal of our current medical systems bias’s comes from our recent history where technological advancement has heavily driven society since industrialization and its rapid improvement would only further propagate the peoples’ support and lead to an increase in funding and focus on the biological side. Additionally, biology is a science founded a long time ago and is a lot easier to relate to because we can see the effects of biological problems, whereas sociology is a relatively new science and is based around the way peoples’ brains operate which is much harder to prove.
To summarise, there is a clear disparity in prioritization between biological and sociological approaches of health based on the biased history of health despite clear benefits of acknowledging social causation; possibly because to acknowledge such a thing sooner could compromise the power of those in high social status. How can social class help us understand the conflict in contemporary Britain? Discuss in relation to the conflict versus consensus debate.
Marx and Durkheim view society similarly, and yet different in that their theories both say society functions similarly to a machine: each component being subject to the same causal laws but still operating together to function as a whole; and then the other hand seeing societies operating under different laws altogether. These different laws are categorized into different system theories known as the conflict and consensus approach. These are essentially structural approaches to sociology and suggest that an individuals’ actions can be described by social forces.
Durkheim’s description of society acts under the assumption that the individuals share a consensus on the norms and values followed. This approach means that the world’s social order converges into towards a point of stability and is propagated by institutions that form conventions and moral codes; in turn leading to behaviors being replicated through generations of people within said institutions. He also discusses how simple societies become a more complex version of itself where its values vary more. In turn, as these societies become more complex and successful with time, the population increases and their needs diversify, resulting in an increase in the division of labor. However, Durkheim also warns of over-division of the labor as when work is divided so much that it is meaningless, society will undergo’anomie’; the breakdown of norms and values.
Parsons, however, has gone on to elaborate that every social system needs four functional prerequisites. It must be capable of changing to suit new situations then set and achieve goals. Its constituent parts need to remain in good relations and must continuously ensure there are motivating cultural patterns to keep individuals working.
On the other side of things completely resides the conflict approach that explains peoples interactions within society. Marx looks at norms and says they are based around socio-economic relations and this legitimizes the exploitation of one class by another under the ideology of capitalism. Max Weber also has looked into conflict and adds the stratification of class, status, and party. He says that power is the probability that someone will achieve what they want despite others resistance. In his works, he also argues that those who exercise power, justify their actions by assuming that their ideas must be important.
Looking at Britain from a conflict approach you can see that there is the difference in opinion within the country and its democratic governing system reflects this otherwise all the votes would be the same. For example, the country was so heavily torn in opinions of whether to leave the EU that the votes ended up48% to 52% and removes power from expatriates and gives it to the citizens. There is clearly not a consensus in this matter and the policy revolves around people of particular social classes not being comfortable with the power they have. On the other hand, society views talking in a library as generally wrong. Dahrendorf approaches society in a much more balanced way, saying perhaps we need to look at aspects of both in order to account for society rather than assuming either is 100% accurate. Should the internet be understood as part of the modern project? Discuss in relation to the modernity versus postmodernity debate.
The internet’s impact on society is widely debated among the sociological community. It is our most effective method of spreading information to date but can we really say it has impacted people more than say T.V. or the telephone? However, to really decide whether the internet should be a part of the modern project; the first question that need be asked is if we are in a late-modern or postmodern social era.
Modernism occurred between the ages of 1650 and 1950 (arguably ongoing as late modernism) and involved philosophies that the world was progressing towards either a utopia or dystopia and sought to take control of nature using science and technology. The aspects of modernism have a theme of giving greater agency to certain people rather than agency to everyone as a whole. For example, the establishment of state meant that the individuals in the government gain control over individuals outside of it; capitalism allows those with money to have more control over others which goes hand in hand with all the factories built during industrialization. Modernism is often referred to as an explosion.
Postmodernism, on the other hand, is more deemed an implosion, where all of society’s value has moved from masses and masses of product to value being put into information and knowledge. Additionally, it discusses media and hyper-reality; the internet offering a source of all media and allowing engagement in a hyper-reality in the form of anonymous online interactions where people act completely differently in. Lyotard (1984) also discusses postmodern theorists’ skepticism when it comes to metanarratives like that of Weber or Marx. This is because they believe that the world is too complex and dynamic to be able to create and apply any given metanarrative that can be representative.
While it is difficult to argue that the internet is a part of modernity’s initial iteration; it could be categorized within late modernity. Part of late modernity that is observed by Beck (1992) in ‘risk society’ London: Sage’ was that the individuals of society are expected to constantly identify ourselves with what we are aiming to become as opposed to what we are. Late-modernism is referred to by Habermas as an “unfinished progress” and while our actions can have ‘negative’ consequences, if we use logical reasoning, we will converge towards a utopic society.
The internet makes information that was otherwise available for few people available for everyone and can be argued to give the people more information and strengthen the power of democracy as someone who is educated in a field can more reasonably make decisions. However, the internets’ facilitation of this information is another opportunity for people with their own interests to influence those who get to vote. Therefore, if there are individuals behind the information influencing the people, the internet is a tool used to exercise power and influence nature through science and technology. If not, it is a tool that gives access to information to everyone and allows people to make opinions about things. So is our outrage at social issues actually due to our social reflexivity or some kind of manipulation from higher powers?
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