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Sociological Aspects and Theories Term Paper


The early sociologist Max Weber described three dimensions of social class. Explain those three dimensions and how they compare with contemporary notions of social class. Of the three dimensions, which dimension is the most influential determinant of social class? Explain your answer.

Max Weber distinguished three major dimensions of social class. Notably, this stratification fits the contemporary world. The first dimension is economical position of an individual in the society, i.e. property. Weber believed that those who have some property can influence the development of the state. However, Weber did not state that this is the most determinant of social class. The second dimension is prestige, which does not necessarily presuppose wealth, but can be more influential in society, e.g. opinions of scientists, writers, etc. Finally, the most influential dimension is power. There are people who do not possess property but can make others act in certain way. For instance, politicians usually determine policies of the state, even though they do not possess much property or enjoy prestige.

Explain the concepts of ASCRIBED vs. ACHIEVED status. In the U.S., Structural Functional theory would propose that all statuses are ACHIEVED, since the most capable achieve the greatest statuses through merit and superior performance. In contrast, the Conflict Theory perspective would claim that the opposite is true in the U.S. Describe what aspects of society Conflict Theory would cite in support of the argument that the highest statuses in the U.S. are ASCRIBED not ACHIEVED.

Admittedly, social status can be either ascribed or achieved. The concept of ascribed status presupposes that an individual is ascribed the status from the moment of birth or at some period of his life without his will or irrespective of his actions. On the other hand, achieved status is gained by an individual, i.e. it is given to the individual due to his/her merits or certain behavior. According to the Conflict Theory in the US the highest statuses are ascribed. Thus, people who pertain to higher social layers have more opportunities. Thus, their children have achieved status since from the very start of their lives they have more opportunities to become successful.

Explain the Evolutionary theory of stratification and the Conflict theory of Stratification. Which do you think comes closest to explaining the true nature of our system of stratification? Again, support your choice.

Evolutionary theory of stratification focuses on the development of society (which consists of certain parts/structures) which presupposes differentiation, integration and disintegration. In other words, more complex social structures develop and this leads to the development and social change. According to Conflict theory society which also consists of certain structures develops due to the conflict among these structures which struggle for resources.

It is possible to state that conflict theory is closer to explaining the nature of the contemporary system since Evolutionary theory explains it partially, touching upon only the outcomes of the development of society. However, initially different structures (people and groups of people) try to acquire more economical and other resources which leads to development of these structures, which, in its turn, leads to differentiation and disintegration of these structures.

Gordon Alport’s theory of contact between groups contradicts the common notion that prejudice will disappear when members of diverse groups interact with one another. Explain his theory. Also, explain why the roots of racial and ethnic antagonism are seated in economic inequality.

Alport’s contact theory is based on the assumption that under certain circumstances prejudice can be diminished when the members of different groups interact. Admittedly, there are various prejudice concerning other groups within any group of people, be it a nation or a class in a high school. According to the contact theory, if individuals find themselves in equal positions (they are equal economically, socially, politically, etc.) they are more open to acknowledged better side of individuals pertaining to the other group. People do not generalize, but can see certain people who basically behave in quite similar way and prejudice is diminished.

However, if there is no equality (especially economically) people will tend to focus on the fact that aliens (those pertaining to a different group) have more opportunities and economical resources. Admittedly, this leads to conflict where individuals try to gain more economical resources.

Explain some of the mechanisms of racial and ethnic mobility, and how various groups at the bottom of the stratification system in the U.S. have managed to achieve equality with other groups. How do ethnic enclaves and population pockets within cities help to expedite upward mobility?

Admittedly, ethnic and racial mobility is not as widespread as social mobility due to the fact that difference between the groups is obvious (skin color, facial features, etc.). Nonetheless, ethnic and racial mobility is possible, and takes place in many multinational states. The major mechanisms of this kind of mobility are assimilation and accommodation. Thus, minority groups, so to speak, follow the rules which exist in the society of the majority. Notably, ethnic enclaves and population pockets which exist in many cities help to expedite the mobility since in these enclaves newcomers may take their time to understand the peculiarities of the culture and life of the majority (without facing difficulties of living in a “hostile environment”) and start accommodating or assimilating.

What are the functions of the family? Explain how the process of modernization has created transformations within the family regarding romance and love?

The major functions of the family are socializing new members of the society in accordance with basic conventions and laws existing in the society and stabilizing adult members of the society. Admittedly, strong families can be regarded as the major support of the existing order in the society. Modernization has caused certain changes in the perception of family. For instance, at present there is certain liberalization in the field. This also led to the fact that the role of romance and love was increased. Thus, now spouses can divorce (i.e. destroy a family) in attempt to find romance and love in some new relationship.

Discuss how technological innovations have allowed us to work smarter than our predecessors. How has working smarter also changed the composition of our labor force within the U.S.? In your opinion, why do you suppose Conflict theory would argue that the introduction of modern technology can be destructive to the cultures of lesser developed societies? Can you give an example?

The development of technology enabled people to become smarter and faster. At present machines help people to carry out some mechanic or too difficult work, whereas people can concentrate on their improvements. More so, technology enabled people to share ideas faster and it removed borders. Thus, societies can develop faster since people will be able to accumulate economical resources faster. Nonetheless, in terms of Conflict theory it is possible to assume that lesser developed societies would be deprived of the benefits of the technological development. These societies would lag behind developed societies. Eventually lesser developed societies can cease to exist since the conflict for resources will lead to drastic changes in the societies. Thus, people are living less developed societies and assimilate to developed societies.

Name four factors within societies that contribute to internal social change. Discuss each one. In your opinion, which of the four factors is the most influential in creating internal social change? Support your choice.

One of the factors contributing to internal social change is economical development of the country. People try to gain more economical resources and in the course of this struggle the internal stratification can be reshaped. The second factor can be worsening of economical situation within the country. Social strata which are at the bottom would start their struggle for their well-being. The third factor which can contribute to the internal social changes is technological development.

The technological development leads to economical development of the country which in its turn leads to new shifts within societies since new opportunities appear and, thus, social groups struggle for more economical resources. The fourth factor which can contribute to internal social change is growing conflict within society.

For instance, the tension which existed among different ethnic groups within the society can reach the point when overt conflicts start. In the course of this struggle among ethnic groups many internal social changes may occur, e.g. reshaping of social stratification. The most influential in creating social change is worsening of economical situation in the country. Scarcity of economical resources will make social groups to start conflict and struggle for better living conditions. No other factor can be as potent as the absence of fundamental human needs.

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