I feel sorry for people who have no theoretical basis to help organize their thoughts and guide their explorations.
Lack of conscious, logical, theoretical underpinnings just might be the root cause of most of the misunderstandings in the world today, which are in turn the root cause of most of the trouble we see. When Thomas Jefferson began writing the Declaration of Independence in 1773, the vast majority of the world's population was illiterate, including many of the peoples of the United States. His theoretical basis for writing the document was stated that "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness".
Lewis & Clark,
funded by the Jeffersonian era Congress in 1803, set out to find and
chart waterways across the newly doubled-in-size nation along the
Missouri and Columbia rivers. Their guiding theoretical assumptions
were that 1) such a waterway likely did exist and just needed to be
found, and 2) the exploration would be good for the indigenous Native
American nations and the new United States of America, and 3) the
existing indigenous nations would be helpful in their quest.
When considering any aspect of social life, it is always helpful
to try to place thoughts in terms of some theoretical frameworks.
For our class this term, we are going to try to keep three theories in mind. Structural-Functional theory, Symbolic Interaction theory, and Social Exchange theory. These are known as "classical" social theories and some would argue that they might be dated. However, like many good ideas - gravity, hot dog buns, the pneumatic tire - aside from minor tweaks, there's not much wrong with these ideas today.
Social Context: A changing and troubled world.
The 20th Century is characterized as a period with unprecedented progress and unprecedented problems. With all the progressive steps (i.e., achievements in medicine, space exploration, artificial intelligence, and computer science) comes severe problems (i.e., economic fluctuations, stagnant personal finance, population control, violence, massive ignorance) and changes in the way human beings relate to each other. The standard linear conception (the traditional view) of child rearing suggests we need only do what our parents did and everything will be just fine - which is probably true enough if we could, in fact, do what our parents did. In order to rear children like they were reared in the past would require the religiosity of the past, the polity of the past, the educational system of the past, and most importantly, the economy of the past. In other words, the standard line is that women, if they are to be mothers, need to stay home and raise their children.
Empirically, depending on the preparation of the mother, this is good for children. However, it flies in the face of the economic reality of family life and other things we know about family life in the late 20th century. A standard linear conception of social change belies the systemic reality of conditions under which families must survive. Often seemingly isolated social or technological changes can send reverberations throughout the social system and into the lives of generations of any given family. Can you think of a time in U.S. history when family life was better on the whole than it is now? A time when the divorce rate was low, children were much more likely to have two parents (one of which was always on call for them, and every father had a pretty good job? If you can think of such a period of time, you aren't thinking with all the facts in mind. We have a general theory that helps to put the idea of change over time into perspective. It also allows us to think about the individual's place in society, and the importance of each individual's contributions to society for the good of the whole. That theory is Structural-Functionalism (SF).The Davis-Moore hypothesis, for example, used SF to explain and legitimize the status quo politics of the late 1950's social stratification system in the United States. Davis and Moore theorized that competiton, even though it was often wasteful, was necessary to allow a clear means for the brightest among all of us to rise to executive and leadership positions (it's a "cream of the crop" corollary to SF). Structural functional theory suggests that whenever two or three people are gathered together, they create order, they manufacture organization and, they build social systems using social forms. This is one of the results of Parsons' notion of Social Action, which is based on the Unit Act:
The concept of Social Integration means that there are no elements of society that are in actual conflict with each other. If socialization works, then each of us will value similar ideals, hold similar goals, understand the importance of cooperatively working toward the same ends (argue with this as you sit in class with your classmates and discuss the relative merits of your various degree programs). It is the culture, then, that provides the basis for meeting social and personal goals.
Culture provides an environment that allows specific socialization patterns to emerge, molding each personality to relative conformity, allowing specific role performances to occur. Every aspect of society is consistent with all other parts. On a global level, Structural-Functional theory explains how and why all of the elements in a society might cooperate with each other to form social progress. SF can be graphically illustrated according to the model to the right of the text.
The Institution of the Family in our own society provides individuals with a set of tried and true behavioral codes. Follow these rules and you will grow up wanting to marry one day, raise a passle of kids, and eventually bounce grandchildren on your knee. Each institution partially meets the needs of each of the others.
Functional Requirements of Society
Structural-functional theory begins to answer the question of order
in society. The Hobbesian Question is "in a society where competition between
individuals is paramount, how is order possible?" The answer is that
human beings are social animals that create social forms (i.e., social
structure), in order to organize the elements of society. Let's
take an example from real life.
On October 28th, 1929, life in American society was a hectic and busy model of functionalism. Bakers were buying sacks of flour and other materials to make the bread that would be bought by families to be eaten that evening. Clothing manufacturers in the industrial northeast were creating new styles for the coming fashion season from cloth woven in mills in the southeast. The virgin wools and cottons from which cloth was woven was purchased from farmers in the south and west. School children were thinking about having fun at recess, or the hot meal their mothers would provide after their chores after school. Everybody's busy - everybody has a place in the social order. With few exceptions, even the poor were included in the social order. In fact, about 60% of the population was poor.
The next day, October 29th, 1929, the stock market crashed in New York City. This is the first day of the Great Depression. Massive, world-wide economic failure has left whole societies in poverty around the globe, with the exceptions of societies "too primitive" to have constructed currency based economies. They were left untouched. The Hobbesian question simply asks, "Why didn't we beat each other to death for the few scraps of food still in existence? Why didn't schools shut down? Why didn't millions starve to death? Weren't we in competition for each other's goods? The answer is that we weren't entirely in competition with each other.
Think of the many ways in which the five social institutions integrated and adapted to the strained times of the Depression. The political system/government introduced large-scale social programs designed to aid families while simultaneously providing work and stimulating the economy. Religion consoled and comforted us, giving us faith that we could overcome current troubles. Educational facilities were turned into meeting houses and central locations for the disbursement of emergency goods. Our Polity also later declared war on Germany and Japan, which instantly provided work for thousands.
Of course, these remedies didn't begin to happen by October 30th. Social responses to crisis take time. The crisis has to "soak in". Representing the Economy, Henry Ford responded to the depression by recommending that workers plant vegetable gardens to supplement their paychecks. Mr. Ford also allowed his workers to float short term loans to get them through the temporary difficulties, not knowing that the Depression would last until 1941. The general response by Government and the Economy's spokesmen was to "work harder", because hard work was the myth what made America great. The very leaders of the economy didn't understand the economy at its most fundamental level, even though they were the ones who constructed it.
There was plenty of "stuff" (i.e., products, goods, things), in fact, there was too much stuff, and that was the problem - we had overproduced and it was a buyer's market in the extreme. After the "work harder" strategy failed, a new set of leaders were elected to think the problem through again.
This is Parsons' Theory of Social Action in action:
Problem -> Analysis -> Strategy -> Evaluation -> New Strategy -> Solution.
Now think about the nuclear family of the 1930s. If social theory is the study of social forms, and the family is a social form, then family studies should look at the functions of various forms of the family as they relate to the rest of society. Read that again. This time think about the dominant family form today, the Dual Earner Family, compared to the dominant family form in 1930.
In 1930, the average family was rural, lived on a farm or in a small city. Children lived under the guidance of both parents and attended school when it was convenient for the operation of the family farm. Parents' (society's) expectations of young men were that they would acquire skills necessary to make a living and go to work. They would marry sometime after proving their hand at their livelihood. For young women, the expectation was to prepare themselves to be good mothers and wives - marry by 21, have children to raise, and make a home for their family. Introductions to potential marriage partners were made through relatives or friends, and through semi-official channels such as church. Courtship was managed rigidly with young men seeking permission to "see a father's daughter socially".
In the decades to follow, the gender role divisions that worked so well for pre-depression society no longer made functional sense. As society needed more workers in factories, first in the northeast, later throughout the country, women were partially redefined from wives, mothers and homemakers to workers, wives, mothers and homemakers. The war years from 1941 to 1945 are interesting in that while we were not willing as a society to commit our daughters to combat, a distinction not extended to our sons, we were quite willing to view young women as riveters in defense factories. Of course, women were once again re-redefined as primarily mothers and housewives after the concerted efforts of men and women succeeded in ending the war. All of this flexibility was possible, according to the SF approach, because of social structure.
A social need (the war and preparation for it) leads to changes in the
Economy, which redefines gender roles.
When the social need is over, society was free to un-define women as
Interestingly, Economy was a labor-intensive factory model that served well until two things happened:
- the cost of labor increased dramatically due to the rise of labor unions
- technology advanced to such a degree that high labor costs could be offset by using non-union labor in offshore countries, giving rise to the concept of multinational corporations.
At this point, the Economy changed to an information and service model that didn't need the muscles of male workers nearly as much as it needed the willingness of women to work for 60% of the pay that men demanded. This one social change in the Economy has probably caused most of the social changes in the latter half of the 20th century.
The Building Blocks of Social Structure
finally allows the SF theory to move away from the "big picture" toward the individual's place in the grand scheme of things. The building blocks of social structure are:
How do we make a connection between the Economic Institution and individuals in love with each other? Here's how: Positions in social space and their associated Roles make up a formally structured relationship. Whenever two or more positions are linked together through two or more role sets, we have social structure. Therefore, cumulative structured relationships build social structure.
Virtually every relationship an individual may enter into is covered
by social structural elements. What do you call the Ph.D. who teaches your
Theory Class (to his face, that is)? You use whatever name he or she demands
that you use, such as Professor, Doctor, Teacher, or Mr./Ms.! And your
beloved sweetie pie? How about, darlin', sugar, honeybunch, baby, sweet
babu, lover, snuggums, pet, dearest? Each name connotes a part of
your relationship with this other person.
In SF terms, suppose the person occupying Status A is the eligible bachelor, college graduate with gobs of earning potential. Occupying Status B is the lovely and talented unattached, nearly graduated coed, with desires for home and family life. Both A & B are mammals with biological drives for safety, comfort and sexual outlet. Status A has been socialized to desire "love" from one such as Status B (i.e, those lips, those eyes, that curvaceous nature!). Status B has been socialized to desire "love" from one such as Status A (i.e, that professional appearance, that strong back, that studly persona).
Society actively constructs those desires in A & B, then provides critical means to allow A & B to find each other, through school, friends, church, and as a last resort, bars. According to functionalism, "who" A is and "who" B is, is irrelevant. Any two healthy specimens, given the appropriate attributes, can view each other in terms of the functional aspects of love. Once they find each other, they will enter into quite standardized, albeit exotic to them, coupling rituals designed to cement reciprocal commitment, extended family loyalty, and long term association.
Suppose A & B are not functionally suited for "love" as defined by the culture (i.e., they are the same sex, married to other people, extreme age difference, different religions, different races, different social classes). Their love relationship will not be functional to society and will not be tolerated well by society. Agents of social control will make their union uncomfortable and nearly impossible. Socially ill-suited As and Bs will probably never even consider the possibility of a union in the first place. If they do, social control agents will work to undo the relationship and set things right again.
Thus, Love is INTEGRATIVE to society, in that it helps individuals
to meet their adaptive tasks.
Love is ADAPTIVE to the social system, in that it allows the system
to procure behaviors from its members. If
a specific structure is adaptive and integrative to the social
it is functional and is continued.
If social changes result in rendering a specific aspect of social
structure as non-adaptive or non-integrative, then it is no longer
functional and will die out.
At the individual level of observation, if we observe two people interacting with each other, how might we organize our thoughts about their relationship? Person A is dressed in work clothing and is busy writing down instructions on a clipboard as they are given by Person B. Person B is dressed in a business suit. Occasionally Person B alters his instructional voice to ask a question of Person A, who stops writing and thinks for a minute before uttering two or three options for Person B to consider. Person B chooses one option or another and continues to instruct, occasionally pointing to various aspects of the room the two are standing in. What can we assume from this brief description, given our previous discussion of social institutions?
The Institution of the Family
Let's try another example. In order to propagate the society, there needs to be some reason for the intermingling of male and female biological juices. However, in order to maintain social order and avoid conflict, society must control that intermingling so that the resulting propagation can eventually lay claim to the properties and birthrights of the interminglers. So persons holding Status A at birth (the ascribed status of female gender) have the world defined for them in such a way that they learn to deeply desire "love" from a person of opposite Status B (the ascribed status of male gender).
How does A find B? How will she know he's the right one? Social structure comes to the rescue. Avenues of opportunity have been built so that our two lovebirds can, and most likely will, be thrown together. Once they find each other (they go to the same church, the same school, live in the same or similar neighborhoods, shop at the same stores, share the same goals), they will enter into quite standardized, albeit exotic to them, "coupling rituals" (dates) all designed to result in the binding of two extended families into one, to produce children, and to entrench the interminglers in the routine business of everyday family life.
Suppose A and B are not suited for "love" (they are the same sex, married to others already, have a large age difference, come from divergence social classes or have conflicting religious training, or wildly difference ethnicities). Then, love will not develop between them because it is not functional to either society or to the individuals concerned. In other words, there has to exist a preponderance of similarity (homogamy) of social characteristics before love can even be considered.
In many ways, social structure is oppressive. We marry each
other for love, but what has really occurred is that society has once again
forced us to make the only decision that we are allowed to make. Ninety-four
percent of all Americans marry at least once. Almost all who do marry
cite love as the reason for their decision. Once again - love is
INTEGRATIVE to individuals in that it helps individuals to solve personal
dilemmas. Love is also ADAPTIVE to the social system in that it allows
the system to procure behaviors from its members that are functional
Symbolic Interaction Theory asserts that human individuals develop their personalities through interaction with others, by exchanging meaningful symbols with each other for the purpose of defining themselves. To fully analyze social interaction in terms of its symbolic nature, we must have firm notions about:
The Process of Socialization: Basic Assumptions
What all this means is that concepts like family, love, mental illness, spouse abuse, healthy family functioning, are all concepts that carry symbolic weight in the minds of a society's members. None of these concepts exist outside the mind. Instead, all are symbols that represent something else by association, resemblance, or convention. When we laugh at a joke, cry at a movie, become outraged over a news story, we are symbolically interacting with our fellows and sharing in a culture that provides meaning to events. Everyone has laughed at the cartoon character who is fearful of ghosts and gets so scared that he repeatedly runs into things. The cartoon character's dilemma is funny to us because we ourselves have been scared enough to do stupid or silly things.
Consider once again, the The Situational Hypothesis: "Things perceived as real will be real in their consequences." - (W.I. Thomas, 1923). Here's another true story, this time about the Ponototoc Snake House.
If a person only partially believes in ghosts (in this case - snakes that aren't there), depending on the way his or her culture portrays the apparition, that person will behave as if ghosts are real and apparent in the everyday world. Placed in the right context, a ghost becomes a Significant Symbol (i.e., a symbol that draws out the same emotional appeal in the majority of individuals).
Self Consciousness is arrived at via:
The Primary Group is the device through which our culture is transmitted (see the Chap 4). Through interaction with parents, we acquire language (the second in a series of artificial symbols, the first being the meaning associated with feelings we get from nurturing behaviors of our parents). After rudimentary language acquisition, we move in larger cognitive and social circles (e.g., playmates, kindergarten, first grade and on to high school, college, adult and professional relationships). As we grow and develop (e.g., as we are socialized), we encounter Secondary Groups - the educational system, business associates, and governmental agents. Members of our Primary group serve as socialization agents, whose job it is to groom us for interaction with the larger, Secondary, society. George Herbert Mead explained this process of socialization.
George Herbert Mead's contributions to social-psychology is immeasurable. The most important was his theory of socialization, or humanization known as The Generalized Other theory of personality development. Those of you with a familiar reading of Piaget will find Mead interesting because, like Piaget, Mead asserts that socialization occurs through a maturational process. Through interaction with others we pass through three stages of social and personal development (see Figure 11 below).
Figure 11. - Mead's Generalized Other
After one comes to understand the expectations society demands, the
bifurcates into two parts - the "I", or Inner self and the "me",
or transitory public self. This accounts for Self-consciousness
Incidentally, this is exactly why we think Drew Carey is so dang funny!! Our failure to recognize this fact, while simultaneously becoming a master of it, accounts for much/some of the pain, confusion, and disappointment that each of us encounters between the ages of 1 and 99 years. We fall prey to so many manipulations of our hearts and minds:
The nice thing about symbolic interaction theory is that it answers the Hobbesian Question--"If it is human nature to be aggressive, then why does not civilization end in an all out war of all against all?" Symbolic interaction allows that an unwritten code of conduct exists by virtue of our presence among our fellows.
It is through our interaction with others:
Three Big Ideas in SI Theory: Mind Self & Society
Mind uses symbols to designate objects in the environment, the meaning of which is completely constructed by each individual. Mind inhibits inappropriate lines of action by using imaginative rehearsals.
Self emerges as the individual acts symbolically toward himself and others. The self is simply a continually redefined role repertoire.
Society is organized patterns of interaction among diverse
Roles are similar enough in the collective of minds for empathy to
Society is nothing more than the collective shared meaning of the rules
by which we interact. The interaction between the ever present society and all its social
control agents, the developing self, and the individual mind that constantly
mediates between social and personal mandates is also Mead's definition
of symbolic interaction.
Social Exchange Theory - Basic Assumptions:
Concepts: The language of Social Exchange theory betrays its self-interest assumption that we are all in it for ourselves. The basic formula for predicting the behavior for any properly socialized individual in any situation is: Behavior (Profits) = Rewards of interaction - Costs of Interaction.
Distributive Justice refers to an individual's perception of the reward structure and his/her rightful portion of it. Thus, it is possible for privileged individuals to feel slighted or punished because their rewards for behavior are smaller than another persons. In an academic setting, for example, salary raises are usually given according to job performance. A publication in a refereed science journal will be worth some percentage amount of salary increase--say .25%. Faculty who have higher salaries will receive a higher dollar raise (.25% of a large chunk salary) compared to faculty who have lower salaries (.25% of doodly-squat). Doodly-squat salaried folk will feel righteous indignation over this arrangement until their salaries approach the large chunk level.
The Principle of Least Interest was invented by Waller and Hill during their research on the Princeton man back in the 1930s. They were interested in the college male's perception of women they dated. They found that, in a dating relationship, the person who had the least interest in continuing the relationship (usually the male) also had the most power in that relationship. Thus, the one most interested in continuing the relationship had to work much harder to maintain it:
Most Interested: "I made you a wonderful meal, darling. May
I serve you your evening cocktail before we dine?"
Least Interested: "Thanks, but I decided to go out with my friends tonight."
Most Interested: "Oh, that sounds wonderful. You don't get out enough. Should I put dinner away for later?"
Least Interested: "No - We'll find something."
Most Interested: "O.K. - I love you! Be careful out there. I'll be here when you get home."
Scarcity of any product promotes intervention by society to regulate its distribution on a collective level. Customs, laws, and rules govern the distribution and trade of scarce resources - all dictating the cost of each item. The relative worth (in social terms) is embedded in the culture. How much is love worth, or alienation of affection?
According to Nye's work with SE theory and family relationships, the
strategic concepts of social exchange theory are:
Rewards--the pleasures, satisfactions, and gratifications that come from an intimate relationship.
Costs--the pains, dissatisfactions, missed or frustrated gratifications that are perceived as being part of an intimate relationship.
1. Punishments 1. Praises
2. Negative reinforcements 2. Positive reinforcements
3. Uncertainty over the 3. Assurances over the
nature and extent of nature and extent of
rewards and costs of rewards and costs of
+ 4. Many, many other costs. + 4. Many, many rewards.
Add ______________ _____________
Profit = Total Costs + Total Rewards
Because of the uncertainty built into human relationships, we tend to compare our relationships to others in proximity and in the culture. Comparison Level is a standard by which the person evaluates the rewards and costs of a given relationship in terms of what he or she feels is deserved. Level of Alternatives is the lowest level of outcomes that a partner will accept in light of alternative opportunities to engage in relationships with people other than his or her partner.
The Norm of Reciprocity means that there is a cultural norm in
most societies that maintains the importance and correctness of returning
the favor. It is a form of indebtedness. If a person extends
their hand in friendship, except in very narrow and specific circumstances
we are bound by the norm of reciprocity to return the gesture by extending
our own hand.
Some statements that follow from the Norm of Reciprocity are:
Changing Sex Roles - Early on in our evolution children were socialized into very strict gender roles: boys did socially defined masculine things, while girls were encouraged to do feminine things. See the chart below:
This was the case, but not so much so anymore. Owing largely to the advances of the information age and an economy that reflects technological advances, societal reasons for maintaining such a rigid division of the genders have vanished - leaving only a sociocultural desire on the part of some men and women to behave traditionally (i.e., I like big families. I want lots and lots of children. - ask me more about this in class!). As a result there is high potential for confusion over the way to go about initiating/maintaining relationships.
Changing Marital Expectations & Behavior Patterns
One school of thought suggests that as the family lost or delegated its functions away to other social institutions, the remaining functions became much more important. Because it is the main, and often the only, remaining function, Love increases in importance as the other functions are lost to official agencies and the like. GET THIS: Consequently, marriages can more easily fail when love wanes a little and there is nothing else to bind the family together. This is known as Dependence on Romantic Love to the exclusion of other factors.
Dual-Career Marriages. The gender roles of the past were probably based on husband/father working outside the home and wife/mother working inside the home. Today many women have options for education and career that have never before been afforded them. On the other hand, many (most) mothers expect, are expected and do have to work to support their families (as do fathers). The result is a dominant family form where all the adults work at nonfamily endeavors, leaving little time to meet the constant needs of children, maintain a home, and maintain the near environment.
Increased Incidence of Divorce (Due primarily to the
economic progress of women as a group). The law has changed making
more affordable in the short term.
Divorce, while not always devastating, is disruptive in almost every family where children are involved. The incidence is up, still, which means disturbances in the normal developmental process for over half the children in the country.
Speaking only about recent marriages (1980-1991)
Geographic Family Mobility
This generation will be the new nomads. Already families move once every five years or so on the average. The idea of growing up on the same street as all one's friends is a movie cliché today. By moving so often, friendships are disconnected, isolation mounts, family members become rootless. This will only increase. It is an established fact the one of the primary correlated factors of the teenage suicide rate is the "rootlessness factor". In areas of the country where the "new arrival rate" is high, so is the suicide rate for teenagers.
Changing Patterns of Intimate Relationships.
One of the most intimate experiences in life is the sharing of sexual intimacy with another person. Since 1970 and the beginning of the so-called Sexual Revolution there has been a dramatic change in the frequency and duration of sexually intimate relationships. For one thing, they are more frequent and of shorter duration than ever before