Category Archives: sociology

Socialization Agents

Socialization is the process in which people learn how to be members of a specific society. Several institutions play a critical role in the socialization of people, and these are the family, religion, schools, peers, job, and government. We will look at each below.

Family

The family is perhaps the strongest socializing agent in a person’s life. The earliest knowledge about the world and how a child sees the world is shaped by the family initially. The family continues to influence the child throughout their lives by accepting or rejecting the child’s actions.

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Different families also socialize their children in different ways. For example, worker-class families often emphasize obedience while middle and upper-class families focus on creativity and critical thinking. As such, these children from these different families are taught that different things are important.

Religion

Religion plays a critical role in socializing people. Even in families that do not encourage religion, they send a message that religion is not important. Often religion provides various ceremonies that are connected with the family. Examples can include weddings, funerals, and rites of passages ceremonies like Bar mitzvahs among Jews.

Religion also often provides a moral framework for a person. People learn right from wrong by going to church or reading the religious text of their religion. REligions also define roles for people in society, such as the role of the man and woman in marriage and the local leadership.

School/Peers/Government

Outside the home, the place that may have the most influence on individuals and socialization may be the schools. Teachers serve as role models and surrogate parents through spending entire days with children. Students learn about the values of their society at school as well. Schools do not only teach subjects but also help to shape a student’s worldview.

One of the reasons for the huge debate over education in the US is what values should be taught in school. Many parents are pushing back against what schools want to do in the classroom because, fundamentally, the parents do not support the current form of socialization in schools today.

Peers are often met at school and also influence the socialization process. Peers teach people how to interact with members of their age group. Peers can be a positive or negative influence on socialization. However, at least among young people, friends are generally a negative influence. This leads to the point that the different agencies spoken of here often compete in terms of their influence over a person.

The government is also mentioned here because the government is often heavily influencing the school. Through policies government influences almost all aspects of a person’s life. Such things that are influenced by the government are schools, salaries, health, retirement, marriage, among other things.

Governments are also often involved in shaping the values of their citizens. This is done by encouraging patriotism and nativism. America is famous for supporting the American way and the American Dream among its people. In addition, democratic values are highly encouraged and even exported to other countries.

Job

When people grow up, the workplace can also serve a role in socialization. Most workplaces and companies have a set of values that they want their employees to accept and model. There are also unwritten rules of interaction, such as dealing with superiors and how to deal with peers.

People also frequently change jobs, which means they accept and reject various values they have throughout their lives. For example, something that is acceptable in one company may be unacceptable in another. Sometimes the only way to learn this is to gain the approval or disapproval of others in the company.

Media

Another powerful influence on socializing is media. People often decide what is right or wrong based on the media. Media has such influence on people’s lives now that there are accusations of “fake news” when views are shared that are not appreciated by one side or the other.

There is also the idea of “cancel culture,” which involves punishing someone by making them disappear from the internet for saying something that offends somebody. This is yet another example of socialization as it provides examples of things that should be said in the online context. This is even more amazing because people can be canceled for things they said before “cancel culture” even existed. In other words, a person needs to be perfect even before the standards change; otherwise, they will be held responsible for something they said even before saying such a thing was so offensive.

Conclusion

As long as people live among each other, socialization will be important. The examples provide here share a glimpse of the major agents in the socialization of people.

green trees between white concrete buildings

Organization, Bureaucracies, & Schools

A school is a type of formal organization. An organization is a group of people who are working together as a body to do something. A formal organization is an organization that has rules and regulations. Another trait of many organizations is that they often have traits of bureaucracies. This post will explore different types of organizations and also explain the characteristics of bureaucracies.

Organization Types

There are several types of organizations. A voluntary organization is an organization that is based on a common interest. Many of the clubs that one would find in a school would qualify as a voluntary organization. Examples would include student council, art club, photo club, or drama club. These are generally voluntary in that students can choose or not choose to participate, and they often involve hobbies students enjoy. For teachers, voluntary organizations might include associations such as the National Education Association (NEA) or Kappa Delta Pi. Teachers are often the leaders of various after-school clubs and thus members of these organizations at the local school level.

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Coercive organizations, as the name implies, are organizations people are compelled to join. School is a coercive organization for many students as many young people do not want to be there. Another example is a prison, as most inmates do not want to be inmates. This leads to the point that different people have different views of organizations. A teacher will probably not think of their school as a coercive organization, but a student might.

Total institutions are organizations that have sweeping powers over the lifestyles and choices of the members. Prison is one such example. In addition, many cults can have a large influence over the lives of their members in a way that is totalitarian. With time, schools have been given more and more responsibility for students’ lives to appear as total institutions. Schools’ responsibilities now include transportation, breakfast, after-school programs, sports, sex education, supporting students with disabilities, second language instruction, etc. Some of these examples are so old that they seem comical. However, there was a time when schools did not do these things.

Lastly, a utilitarian organization is an organization people join for a reward such as a salary or prestige. For example, teachers may see the school at which they work as a utilitarian organization because of the money. A student who goes to college may see the college as a utilitarian organization because of the reward of a degree at the end of their studies. Again, how a person views an organization can vary as one voluntary organization is another person’s utilitarian organization

Bureaucracies

Organizations often become bureaucracies which are simple, highly formal organizations. It is difficult to tell when an organization is a bureaucracy. However, organizations exhibit several traits of bureaucracies when they reach this stage of development, and they are…

  • Strong hierarchy
  • clear division of labor
  • explicit rules
  • impersonal
  • meritocracies

Burecraies have a strong hiearchy. At schools, it is clear who is in charge. Often, you will see a picture of the principal somewhere and the rest of the administrative team. At the university level, you will have a president, VPs, Deans, Chairs, etc., clearly mapped out for everyone. There are also clear lines of labor. Teachers teach while administrators deal with administration only at smaller organizations do these lines blend. When an organization is larger enough, clearly delineating these things is critical to order.

Bureaucracies also have clear, explicit rules. Again, we all know how obsessed schools are with rules. There are rules for the cafeteria, the library, the classroom, the playground; there are general school rules. Then there are policies for teachers, parents, administrators, and the list goes on and on. The large number of policies and rules are overwhelming, especially if one moves to the district or state level.

Bureaucracies are also highly impersonal. For schools, this applies if the school is really big, perhaps several thousand students. Universities are often viewed as impersonal monsters where nobody cares, and they are often personified when people or students want to complain about them. A common name is “the system,” as in “the the system fail such and such.” Another term common today is “systemic racism”; however, systems are not alive and thus cannot actually be racists. People can be racist through the rules they implement and enforce within the system, but the system has no life or conscience of its own.

Lastly, bureaucracies are based on merit. Within the government, promotion is generally based on years of service and some sort of assessment. To become a teacher, a person has to receive a certain amount of training. To become an administrator, the same idea applies. Honor students earned good grades, which is the way they are being honored. The point is that in bureaucracies, merit is a common trait.

Conclusion

Organizations are a necessary part of the human experience. Everyone belongs to one organization or another for whatever reason. With time, organizations can grow and become bureaucracies that have their own pros and cons.

Society Types

Throughout human history, there have been various types of societies that people have been found to inhabit. Although it might not be totally fair or accurate to state that these societies have appeared in chronological order since most of these societies are still present today, the types that are considered “older” are not as frequently found as later forms of societies.

This post will cover several commonly found societies in the world. These types of societies are…

  • Hunter gather
  • Pastoral
  • Horticultural
  • Agricultural
  • Feudal
  • Industrial
  • Informational

Preindustrial Societies

The first four societies (Hunter-Gatherer, Pastoral, Horticultural, and Agricultural) are considered preindustrial societies.

Hunter-Gatherer

A Hunter-gather society focuses on hunting and foraging or gathering plants for food that are uncultivated. Family and tribe and generally important in these types of societies. Often, this society is migratory follow the resources they hunt or leaving an area once the resources are depleted.

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Hunter-gatherers are considered the oldest type of society. However, today they are rare to find, except for indigenous peoples in various parts of the world. As the world becomes more urbanized and centralized, many governments prefer to keep a closer eye on people who wander from place to place and thus often discourage this lifestyle. As such, hunter-gathers are continuing to decline in terms of their numbers.

Pastoral

A pastoral society is a society in which the people have chosen to domesticate animals and plants. Despite this development, pastoral societies still had a nomadic lifestyle because they had to follow the food source of their animals. With the domestication of animals also came the use of the animals not just for food but also for clothing, transportation, and a general surplus of food. With this surplus, people began to specialize in various occupations needed by their society.

Horticultural and Agricultural

Horticultural societies developed in places with enough rain to allow people to stay in one place and grow feed in permanent settlements. Unlike the other two societies mentioned, horticulturalists did not live a nomadic lifestyle. What horticultural societies were missing was strong, reliable tools, which came with the development of agricultural societies.

Agricultural societies involved the use of tools that took farming from subsistence to a commercial level. People could not farm not just for survival but for profit. Various techniques for farming also developed, such as the use of fertilizers, crop rotation, and tools were use to boost yields. Specialization was also stronger, and many people would work in various occupations that had nothing to do with farming. Examples include the scholar, blacksmith, merchant, and more. With these various classes came division as one class or the other was viewed as superior to another.

Federal

Feudal societies are commonly found in the Middle Ages in Europe and in places such as Russia, Japan, and Thailand, among other places. This society did not involve a major technological change in how food production took place but was rather a time of power consolidation.

In any society, people begin to figure out how to exploit the rules to their advantage or to simply break the rules. Feudalism was essentially a rich gentry at the top exploiting the poor under them. All the poor seemed to get was protection from other rich people who wanted to conquer their village and become their slaves. There was no social mobility, and it was no way to break away and become independent.

Industrial Societies

The birth of industrial societies involves developing many forms of machinery that automate or speed up tasks. For example, steam-powered helped with transportation (trains and boats) and farm production (cotton). The improvements in technology led to increased factory production and allowed average people to own what used to be considered luxury items. Items such as paper and glass were quickly being made available for everybody.

It was during this time that people took their focuses away from the family to economic activity. A new generation of capitalists was able to unseat the feudalists from their seats of power. Essentially, capitalists were people who knew how to exploit and break the new rules for wealth and power.

Post-Industrial Societies

Perhaps the latest form of society is the post-industrial society, also known as the information age. Now, instead of making food (preindustrial focus) or making things (industrial focus), the information society uses various technical skills related to dealing with data. Today, there are jobs such as data scientists, analysis, computer science, etc., that focus on dealing with information in one way or another.

Work and career are also becoming much more important. A feudal farmer was not worried about a career, only surviving the day and relaxing in the even. The farmer’s life was focused on his family and not climbing the corporate ladder. Now, people are often socialized to put job and career before most other matters, which has weakened family relations.

Conclusion

Today people live in all of the societies mentioned here. It’s up to the person to decide which one of these societies works best for them. The primary goal was to share the various types of society found in the world today.

Terms Related to Culture

Culture is a term that is often thrown around but totally understood. This post will define what culture is along with definitions of other terms related to it.

Culture

Culture is the beliefs, values, and practices people learn in a specific context or society. A society is a group of people who hold to a similar culture. From this definition alone, we need to understand what beliefs and values are and, naturally, terms related to these.

Values are the standard for what is good in a culture. The idea of good is related to axiology in philosophy. The ideal culture is how people ought to behave, while the real culture is how people actually behave. For example, ideally, a child will not talk back to their teacher, but the reality is different. It is important to understand the difference between ideal and real culture because people are unaware of this distinction.

Beliefs are ideas that a group of people holds to be true and relate to epistemology. For example, different cultures have different views on religion, the role of women, and or communication. Whatever they believe is essentially a truth to them, even if this is not the best assumption.

Norms are another term related to culture, and these are the proper behaviors in a culture. These norms can be formal and informal. Mores are norms related to moral behaviors such as lying. It is okay in many cultures to lie in specific circumstances. Folkways are norms that are missing this moral component. An example of a folkway would be a handshake. Shaking hands has nothing to do with right or wrong but Is an expected custom in the West.

When people violate these values, beliefs, norms, etc., social controls are implemented. Social controls are ways employed to force people to comply with the local culture.

Types of Cultures

There are also different types of cultures. High culture is the culture of the elite or royalty. They usually have a distinct way of behaving. Popular culture is the culture of the masses. A subculture is a culture within a culture such as any migrant community in the West.

Counterculture is a subset of the majority culture that rejects the beliefs and values of the majority culture. Essentially, when a group of people is numerous enough to reject the mores of the majority, there is potential for a subculture.

Problems with Culture

There are problems with culture, but they are normally associated with people’s perception of culture rather than with the culture itself. FOr example, ethnocentrism is the belief that one’s own culture is superior to others. IT is generally assumed that ethnocentrism is bad. However, this is generally coming from a perspective of cultural relativism, which states that a culture should be judged by its standards and no one else’s. Whether this is right or wrong depends on who you ask.

When ethnocentrism becomes extreme, it can lead to cultural imperialism, which is imposing one’s culture on someone else. The best example of this is looking at any colonial period and or empire that conquered another people. A group with more power thinks their way is better and looks to force this on the people they defeated.

However, when cultural relativism goes to an extreme, it leads to xenocentrism, which is the belief that another person’s culture is superior to one’s own. Again, what a person believes is their own business, but these are terms that people should be aware of when looking at culture.

Conclusion

All cultures are different and how people view them is different as well. The approach a person takes to a culture depends varies based on the culture they come from. Whether a culture is good or bad, right or wrong, is ultimately left to the individual to decide.

Basic Sociological Theories

In this post, we will look at several significant theories of sociology. These are basic ideas that anyone familiar with the field would know.

Functionalism

The functional perspective in sociology sees society as structured in a way that the parts of society are interrelated and connected. Each part or piece of society’s primary purpose is to meet people’s social and biological needs. The ideas behind this thought were developed by Herbert Spencer, who compared society to the human body. As the various body parts work together, so do the various social institutions of society.

Social institutions are the organizations in a society that meet the social needs of people. Examples of social institutions include schools, government agencies, churches, families, hospitals, etc. When these various institutions work together to benefit individuals, a state called dynamic equilibrium is met, and society is generally stable.

With the development of any society, specific laws, morals, values, etc., govern individual people’s behavior. These rules are called social facts. These rules protect society from social unrest and insecurity. For example, perhaps all countries have rules against theft and murder as allowing such behavior to go unpunished would unleash chaos.

There are times when society tries to improve the general condition of members, and these are called manifest functions. An example would be encouraging people to buy a home and providing ways to do this. Latent functions are unsolicited outcomes of manifest functions. An example would be an increase in do-it-yourself repairs as more and more people buy homes. When a social process has a negative outcome, it is called a dysfunction. One example of this would be bankruptcy, as people cannot pay for the homes they purchased.

Conflict Theory

Conflict theory is a theory proposed by Karl Marx, one of the leading proponents of Communism. Marx saw the world as a battle between social classes. This battle can be seen in the inequality in which people have access to the various social institutions of society such as schools, homes, money, jobs, etc. The people who have the most access also work nefariously to ensure others never obtain the same amount or maybe none of these resources.

Out of Marx’s ideas of conflict theory came the contribution of the Frankfurt school and their work with critical theory. Critical theory expands conflict theory to include race, religion, sexuality, gender, and essentially anything that is not a part of the majority’s values. The majority oppresses all minority positions in one way or another. This further expands into ideas developed in intersectionality and critical race theory, queer studies, and more.

The idea of conflict has had a significant impact on the average person. Few people are familiar with functionalism, but almost everyone in the West has heard of inequality and how some have more than others. In addition, Conflict Theory is not content to be a theory but encourages rectifying the inequality in society. Communism, critical theory, critical race theory, Queer Studies, Feminism, and more do not just describe society but want to change it actively.

Symbolic Interactionist Theory

Symbolic interactionist theory is focused on relationships between individuals rather than the broader society. Proponents of this perspective look for patterns in the relationships among people. Instead of looking at inequality and oppression as a conflict theorist, a symbolic interactionist looks at the relationships between activists as they challenge the system. There is an emphasis on symbols and the meaning behind them.

Constructivism is the belief that we construct reality. A term commonly associated with this is social constructs. For example, people have proposed that race, sexuality, and gender are social constructs. In other words, these ideas only exist because people say they do. Naturally, this is highly controversial, but specific ideas that used to be considered fixed are now considered fluid as people challenge existing norms.

Conclusion

These major sociological theories are used as a lens through which many experts see the world. Most of these theories do not have a direct impact on the average person. However, these views influence educators and leaders who either train the next generation or are leading the current one.

Terms in Sociology

This post will begin the exploration of sociology. Whenever possible, connections will be made to education and teaching. For now, we will look at some fundamental terms of sociology and a brief look at the history of this field.

Terms

Sociology is the study of the interaction of groups and societies with each other. This study can take place at a macro or micro-level, depending on the interests of the researcher. A micro-level analysis would examine small group and even individual interactions, while a macro-level analysis looks at the interaction between societies.

One aspect of society that sociologists study is culture. Culture is the beliefs and practices of a group. Culture is often studied using sociological imagination, which is an awareness of a person’s behavior and experience as it contributes to shaping the choices and perceptions of a person.

A concept closely related to culture that is also studied in sociology is called social facts. Social facts are the cultural rules that govern life. For example, a sociologist might look at how communication norms have changed since the arrival of social media.

History of Sociology

Sociology appears to have been around much longer than when it was first considered its own independent discipline. Greek philosophers study subjects and concepts associated with sociology, such as social cohesion, conflict, and power. Enlightenment philosophers such as Kant, Voltaire, and Hobbs also developed principles, such as calling for social reform, considered a part of sociology.

Auguste Comte is credited with reinventing the term sociology and popularizing it. Comte proposed that scientists could study society the same way that it was done in the natural sciences. When this happens, the world’s social problems, such as poverty and education, can be solved. The term for scientifically studying society is called positivism. This optimism that science can improve society may be what inspires the push for so much social reform today.

The ideas of Comte were translated from French to English by Martineau, which helped Comte’s ideas to spread. Other early pioneers of sociology include Karl Marx and his Conflict Theory. George Mead is the person who created the term “significant other,” which was initially not limited to a person someone was married to but rather to any important person in someone’s life.

Max Weber may have been one of the most influential of the early sociologist. He challenged Comte’s views on positivism with antipositivism. Antipositivism is simply rejecting the traditional scientific notion of objectivity for being subjective in one’s research. Weber also contributed quantitative and qualitative sociology as distinct research methods.

Conclusion

There is more to the background of sociology than what is provided here. One clear thing is that perhaps the pioneers of this field did not know the impact this discipline would have on the world in the near future