Theories of Sociology
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One of the important perspectives is a structural-functionalism. This approach focuses on “various components of society without prioritizing or assessing their importance to the social system as a whole; in effect all elements of a society are weighed equally” (Naiman, 2004; pp.18). In terms of internet, a functionalist would see the internet as a resource that brings efficiency in the lives of individuals for the reason that it is convenient. It also allows people to interact with one another around the world. A functionalist would ask questions regarding the function of the internet in the society would be: how does the internet help people access their provisions faster? How does it help people acquire knowledge and how can services be accessible to the demanding population? Thus, it mainly considers the benefits for all instead of few individuals.
The internet is more efficiently used now a days because it saves one’s time. An individual can spend few minutes online, booking a flight ticket instead of going to the travel agency in-person or calling the customer services and going through a long hectic procedure. As the technology gets advance, it plays even greater role in shaping the lives of the individuals. Also, some people may wish to visit the bureaucracies. However, others may not have the time to visit the offices due to family responsibilities or for other reasons. Functionalist theorist would see a vast benefit when it comes to administrative related online services. It eliminates the waiting list and makes life easier for the citizens and it will take less space in the bureaucracies.
The administrative application process also saves papers from being wasted. One can simply send an application online instead of filling out paper work. A contributor to this perspective, Talcott Parsons, “focused on the socialization process, whereby society instills within individuals an outlook in which it is possible for them to pursue their own self-interest while still serving the interests of the system as a whole” (George and Goodman). In this case, the individuals get their work done fast online and it also helps the environmental aspect, which is beneficial to the general population. Further there are many resources online. This perspective comes into conflict with the conflict theory.
A Conflict theorist looks at inequality of an individual or groups such as class, gender, and race. Conflict theory put emphasis on the significance of “interests over norms and values, and the ways in which the pursuit of interests generated various types of conflict as normal aspects of social life, rather than abnormal or dysfunctional occurrences” (Marshall, 1998). Internet is essential now days for everyone regardless of the age group. However, a conflict theorist would view Internet to have inaccurate information, unaffordable for everyone, and brings alienation in the life of workers. The conflict theorist would ask questions such as, which group would benefit from the internet access? And how is inequality form from the accessibility of internet?
Although most people have access to the internet at home, there are some who are not provided with the same advantages. This may become an issue for those individuals because they might have to visit the libraries or their school to do their work. However, it is not always possible due to the expenditure on transportation, unless it is a walking distance. A conflict theorist would look at this issue and consider it as inequitable because an individual has to go through a lot of struggle. The blame may be put on the government because the tax rate should be reduced to help everyone have an easy access to the internet. Everyone should have equal opportunities. Thus many questions would come from a conflict theorist at this point, such as; does everyone have the equal opportunities? Can everyone afford the internet, or most importantly the computer in the first place? This is simply one issue that can be covered from this perspective, however there are many more such as copyright issues, online services (causing isolation from workplace and clients), and much more. Now to understand the internet from a micro level, symbolic interactional theory can be taken into an account.
Symbolic interactional theory looks at the interaction among individuals and what importance and meaning does the interaction hold in the life of the individuals. Interaction between human beings can either take place face to face or through the internet. Now days, a person relies on the internet based connection than face to face. Since internet is such a great resource that everyone is keen about, the question is what benefits can it bring? The benefits of internet use can be exploring many different nationalities, numerous resources available and the use of slang language for quick interaction. The symbolic interactionalist may look at the questions like how knowledge is acquired through the use of the internet. And how that knowledge may affect an individual’s perspective?
A person gets to read many things in different forms such as learning on their own. Also, through watching YouTube videos a person could gain benefits of doing things on their own because YouTube provides online tutorials on crafts, architecture, products etc. Although, by using YouTube may affect many systems that provides art courses or architecture classes, but in a way YouTube may save a lot of an individual’s time and money. The use of online tutorial makes one independent and gives them sense of self-confidence. “I think self esteem is central to everything you do. It affects your behaviour and thoughts. It changes how you feel about and value yourself.” (Perera, 1998). Simply from trying an activity from any tutorial site, one will gain satisfaction and confidence because they can follow the step to step tutorial on their own to form something big. This self-confidence will help them in the real world when it comes to dealing with something serious. A symbolic Interactional view would consider providing such resources to the people, in helping them learn to work on their own and build self-confidence. The development of self-confidence will lead the person to motivate other around them through the spread of their knowledge gained.
All these three theories focus on different levels of society, from a micro to the macro level. The functionalist theorists would see enormous benefits in the intervention and use of internet. It permits people to communicate online, personally and professionally. Also, it saves time when it comes to accessing the administrative services. Symbolic interactional theory would also see benefits in the use of internet, but instead of looking from a bigger perspective, it rather focuses on individuals. The benefits such as exploring many different nationalities to be able to know the person ethnicity very well and the use of slang language for quick interaction. People associate meaning and symbols with a person or a thing as mentioned above. The internet gives people sense of visualization and independence to think for themselves instead of relying on the stereotypes that the society forms. On the other hand, a conflict theory would focuses on groups. From a conflict theorist view, the internet does not provide advantages for every individual, nor does it provide disadvantages for every person. There are few who can make money or save time from the usage. However, there are others who are disadvantaged by the services. These inequalities are for those who can afford the internet, but in reality not everyone can afford the internet. Thus there are groups of people who do not have the same benefits.
GORDON MARSHALL. "conflict theory." A Dictionary of Sociology. 1998.
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Naiman, Joanne. "Sociology and the Study of Society." How Societies Work: Class, Power, and Change in a Canadian Context. Toronto: Irwin, 2004.
Perera, K. "The Importance of Self Esteem and Self worth." Building Self Esteem. 2012 Web. 17 September 2014.
Ritzer, George, and Douglas J. Goodman. "Structural Functionalism, Neofunctionalism, and Conflict Theory." Sociological Theory. Boston: McGraw-Hill, 2008.