Sociology or the science of society is basically designed to develop an understanding through which the ways and procedures of societal operation are comprehended in a much better and organized way. The foundation of sociological principles and injunctions is based upon the consolidated functioning of different institutions that ultimately contribute their respective roles in making a certain society a peaceful and harmonious place to live.
The role of these institutions and their respective influences upon the life of a common man are further enlightened by various sociologists and the different theories that they have presented. Irrespective of the fact that the perspectives of each sociologist does vary from the other all of them show a common similarity of contributing ways and methods through which the society can move towards betterment and greater development as far as exercising of norms, morals and ethics are concerned.
These institutions include first and foremost, the family which is considered intrinsic due to its profound and significant role as the prime agency of socialization and training, educational institutions through which an individual is introduced to a more practical world of norms that prove to be of extreme help when stepping into life beyond college or university premises, political institutions develop an understanding of different components and stakeholders that are involved in the policy making process, economic institutions help in comprehending the operations of different financial and monetary forces and their respective influence on the society.
Other than these institutions like mass media and religion are also some of the chief factors of socialization that play their designated roles in either adding further chaos or turmoil or playing their desired role in its alleviation. During the course of this discussion we will be highlighting some of the major aspects that are related to different sociological theories and the ways through which they affect the working and functioning of the economic institutions prevalent in the society.
Economic Institution and theories of sociology
One of the prime theories that need to be discussed in context of the influence that it has upon economic institutions is the functionalist theory pioneered by famous sociologist Emile Durkheim. The functionalist theory basically looks society as being composed of an institutional framework in which the functions of different institutes are similar to those of different body organs in the human body.
Since the functioning of a system in the body is influenced by the collective action of different cells, tissues and organs, likewise a society cannot function smoothly unless all different institutions work collectively to make the societal mechanism more functional. It is also important to mention here that all institutions need to work and fulfill their pre-requisites in order to play their role in the most effective way possible.
In context of the economic institution the theory of functionalism can be applied in the way that it sheds light upon the functions that financial agencies and forces need to fulfill, which includes the production and distribution of goods, assigning of individuals to different roles which are most clearly manifested in the form of their occupational roles and devising ways through which output from goods and services can be distributed in a uniform manner. The conflict theory on the other hand as devised by the father of modern socialism and advocate of communism Karl Marx pre-dominantly accentuates upon encouraging a uniformly based system of economy and also develops a relation between the infrastructure and superstructure which are the most integral components of economic functioning in a society.
The features of the theory also emphasizes upon the fact that since the overwhelming level of specialization present in the free-market system of economy completely isolates workers from people engaged in other departments it acts as a hurdle in fostering social bonds and relations between different people and members of the society, hence unlike functional theory it sheds light not only upon economic anomalies of a capitalist economy but also the social barriers that come into existence because of such a system. (Schaefer, 2009)
Apart from all this the theory of internationalism is dependent upon the micro-sociological belief that the meaning of an issue is produced through the interactions of individuals. With the help of this communicative strategy a face-to-face interaction between people is facilitated which constitutes actions, reactions and mutual adaptations.
To a certain extent the core doctrine of the interactionist theory shows considerable resemblance with the conflict theory in the sense that they are also termed as neo-Marxists through which they believe that an individual as a consumer has enough authority and potential to alter any aspect of his or her life that he or she wishes to do.
Hence in other words during the process of interaction any individual can be a consumer. At the same time it is also important to mention that it differs from the functionalist theory in the sense that unlike the injunctions of the functionalist theory which talks about the symbiotic relationship between different institutions, the interactionist rely their philosophy completely upon the importance of an individual in the society and the changes that this interaction can bring within the society.
Individual and the theories
These three key sociological theories do not only influence the way institutions operate but also have a profound influence upon individualistic and their role within the specific institution. According to the functionalist theory the individual is an integral element of the society and hence the relation of this individual with any institution plays a vital role in the development of the society.
Through the functionalist theory an individual basically develops an understanding about his position in the society and the importance of different institutes that influence him within their respective capacities. Furthermore, the individual with the help of the functionalist theory comprehends that all institutions of the society also have a symbiotic existence and that for the society to grow and progress it is intrinsic that the interdependency existent between the different institutes is clearly understood, for instance talking about the economic institution it is also important to discuss the changes in the political institution that beget a change in the subsequent formulation of economic policies.
In addition to this the functionalist theory also helps in the understanding of consumer-supplier relationships and also cements the fact that resources and services must be distributed among people on the basis of uniformity and equity.
The conflict theory and the economic institution share a very close relationship and since the approaches used by the pioneers of the conflict theory are also individualistic in nature, it is important to consider them carefully. The theory inculcates an understanding that since an individual is a social animal; the environment of an organization that he or she works in must not marginalize people from each other, but under a free- market economy the circumstances do not promote the prevalence of such relationships.
Due to the high degree of specialization present in corporations people of one particular department where they work are completely unfamiliar with the people that are involved in some other set of tasks, thus the adverse effect of infrastructure on superstructure becomes quite prominent in this entire scenario where due to the norms and ethics that govern the functioning of the economic system act as a barrier towards the fostering of social bonds and relations. (Schaefer, 2009)
Analyzing the effect on the individual on the interactionist theory provides a comprehensible manifestation about the productivity that healthy interaction between individuals. The environment that facilitates fruitful interaction among employees that work in an organization can pave ways for greater development and progress within the organization.
But this is only made possible if under a certain situation employees belonging to different departments and engaged in diverse tasks and assignments are allowed to communicate effectively with each other rather than restricting them to their very own departments.
Social Change and Theories
Social change is defined as the process through which a profound change within the social structure and mechanism either through violent or peaceful means and strategies. The change intends to foster change not only in the structure of the society also alters the earlier prevalent working of institutions, social relations and behaviors that govern the society.
In the context of sociological theories that have been enlightened during the course of this discussion it is important to mention that it is the element of social change that all sociologists and the pioneers of these theories intend to grapple with, but all three theories approach this element with variable strategies and methodological application that synchronizes with the fundamental approach of the theory itself.
In this aspect it is first important to consider the functionalist theory which intends to promote social change through subtle and tactile means such as population growth and technological innovations as the core reasons and factors that can contribute to social change in the society. It is also worth mentioning here that the social change facilitated by the advocates of the functionalist school of thought are usually not violent in nature or does not lead to massive bloodshed unlike the change that is campaigned by other theories.
Most of the functionalists believe that due to changes in technology and other developmental accomplishments that will engulf the society through which a gradual change will begin to foster within the society expanding the circumference of their understanding thus leading to a change in the working of the society, hence in other words it can be said that the change through functionalists is usually positive and is aimed towards the progress of the society in a healthier and beneficial direction.
On the flip side the conflict theory mainly talks about the components of social change being cultured by the social discrimination and hierarchical stratification that is promoted by the free market system of economy. According to the advocates of conflict theory it is the social segregation of people on the basis of affluence that will ultimately aggravate a fuel a rebellion through which the road towards a revolution against this discriminatory system of wealth allocation will finally come to an end. (Schaefer, 2009)
Therefore in stark contrast to the functionalist school of thought the social change that the advocates of conflict theory talk about are much more rebellious and aggressively provoked revolutions. Conflict theorists also adhere to the fact that the ignition of this resentment for free market economy and the inequality that it based upon will ultimately come to an end with the eradication of the thesis of this doctrine after which the antithesis of publically and state owned economic system will substitute it as the new thesis.
Apart from both these ideologies interactionists rely that change can only be bought through healthy interaction and productive communication between people. They accentuate upon the fact that it the root cause through which ideas are exchanged between people is through interaction, it is thus the root cause through which can act as the harbinger of change in the society. It is through interaction that new ideas are discovered and explored thus they can be termed as the key reason through which social change can be embedded within the foundations of the society.
Societal views and theories
On a macro societal level the economic institution can play a highly influential role in paving way through which society can be affected massively. In the context of the functionalist theory the equality based producer consumer relationship that the advocates of this theory intend to inculcate within the society tend to culture and subsequently nourish better economic relationships between all major economic stakeholders thus intending to bridge the gap of affluence and poverty between the two segments of the society. (Schaefer, 2009)
The conflict theory on the other imposes an effect upon the society by dictating and redefining new norms for the restructuring of the infrastructure which is also aimed towards removal of barriers that increase the gap between the rich and the poor and also promote the concentration of wealth into a few hands only.
Another profound effect of the conflict theory is that it also intends to induce a change in the superstructure governing the existing norms, values and morals of a society by changing the infrastructure and its respective elements. Thus through the conflict theory a complete rejuvenation of a new society is intended.
Last but not the least interactionist also intend to aim their core argument upon the fact that it is through interaction that any problems or grievances relating to economic issues here in particular can be addressed in the most effective way possible thus facilitating the initiative through which the seeds of change can be sowed within the foundations of the society.
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