Objectives • Gain a thorough understanding of the different social institutions: family, education, political systems • Understand the main ideas of the Marxist and Functionalist perspectives • Understand the Marxist and Functionalist perspective on social institutions
Social Institutions • Social Institutions are a fundamental part of the operations of society. They are the major organising framework in social life. Social institutions have evolved overtime and therefore embody what the society holds valuable in relation to family, education, religion, the justice system, the economy and health.
Each social institution has functions that ensure the smooth working of the social system as they often illustrate the need for order, uniformity and consensus. • Social institutions determine and guide behaviour: they signify what is accepted and what is not • Social institutions are intangible. They are represented through our cherished beliefs and ideas (values)
Sociological Perspectives • A sociological perspective may best be described as a way of seeing or understanding social reality. • Two of the dominant sociological perspectives that can be used to analyse social institutions are: The Functionalist Perspective and The Conflict Perspective (Marxism)
Functionalism • Is the oldest and most dominant sociological perspective. • Holds a conservative understanding of society and the way social institutions impact on the lives of members. The maintaining of the status quo is of utmost importance • The functionalists are of the view that society can be harmonious for all
Functionalism Cont’d • They believe that if there is consensus, then there is the likelihood of order, stability, uniformity and rationality in social life • Everyone has a role to play in society, and if performed effectively this results in maximum productivity and minimum behavioural problems, imbalances and dysfunctions.
The Conflict Perspective (Marxism) • This perspective holds an opposing view to the Functionalists • They argue that Functionalist explanations of society disregard the views of the underclass • They identify 2 main classes in society: bourgeoisie and proletariat- upper class and lower class
Conflict Perspective Cont’d • They emphasize on conflict and tension between the social groups/ classes in society and not consensus • The conflict stems from the contradictions in social life and how social institutions seem to value some groups over others • Any social order that occurs is as a result of elitist social control (one group oppressing the other)
The Social Institution of The Family • The family forms the bedrock of society. Socialization begins in the family, and therefore this institution has the responsibility of transmitting values and norms to the individual and therefore governs individual behaviour
The family transmits values on: • The role and responsibilities of its members • Religion • Education and accepted behaviour upon reaching adulthood E.g. “When I leave school, I want to get a good job, marry and settle down, and have two children.” The family transmits the expectations of society and socializes its members to internalize society’s goals as their own. Some common values associated with the family are: love, belongingness/ togetherness, sharing (cooperation), support, encouragement, caring for the young or old, provision of shelter, child rearing
The Functionalist Perspective on the Family • The functionalists argue that the family should carry out several functions for order, stability and harmony to exist in society. These are: • Reproduction • Socialization • Economic Cooperation • Provision of love and togetherness If the above functions are carried out in an optimal manner and if everyone plays a role, then families would be happy and society would not be threatened by any breakdown of social order. The Functionalist view o the family has ethnocentric overtones. It assumes that families are nuclear and that marriage is the basis for the formation of a family. Such a perspective cannot accommodate the many diverse forms that exist in the region. However the idea of the “nuclear family” is still held as ideal.
The Conflict Perspective on the Family • The family is associated with exploitation, oppression and domination • Nuclear families are seen as products of capitalism where labour has to move to where employment is located, leaving the extended family behind • The employer can exploit workers effectively without this support network in place • The oppressed worker in turn oppresses his wife and children • The nuclear family therefore fits the agenda of the capitalist- sexual division of labour The assigning of roles through the institutional values associated with the family, has contributed to family oppression, abuse and violence which results in an unequal distribution of power that jeopardizes gender relations and even produces generational conflict.
The Social Institution of Education • Education as a social institutions contains our deep beliefs and values about what the young should know and how learning should take place • Schooling is seen as the main route to becoming educated
The Functionalist Perspective on Education • Education is seen as an agent of “secondary” socialization in society. • Schools are the main mechanism through which secondary socialization takes place. They provide the link between what is taught in the family (primary socialization) and the wider society • Culture is transmitted through education: the value of obedience, regularity, integration and cohesion, punctuality ,work ethic • Selection devices such as exams sort students into different types of schools e.g. Formal academic institutions versus technical/ vocational institutions • Education supports the institution of religion. In the Caribbean there are strong values which give status to denominational education, for e.g. St. John’s Catholic Primary School • Historically one of the main function of the church was education
The conflict Perspective on Education • Education was instituted in order to provide for the needs of the capitalist economy: Capitalism needed a supply of educated workers and so the education system developed to provide this • The education system mirrors the inequalities present in society: the education system is seen to discriminate against the poor. Schooling has several mechanisms which ensure that the poor cannot compete effectively • The education system contributes to a cycle of social reproduction (maintaining of the status quo) • The above is often done through the presence of the “hidden curriculum”
The social Institution of Religion • Religion refers to that realm in society where our beliefs about a supernatural power and how these impact on our lives are expressed • Specific religions, churches, mosques, temples halls of worship are tangible outcomes or forms of social organizations that reflect the beliefs and values of religion
The Functionalist Perspective on Religion • Social order is crucial to the functionalists and therefore a fundamental function of religion is the maintenance of social stability through consensual values • Commitment to certain beliefs, rituals and forms of worship are seen as mechanisms that increase the levels of social solidarity among people. • Religions are often conservative in nature and therefore play a major role in social cohesion, as values such as obedience, sobriety, truth, discipline among others are taught
The Marxist Perspective on Religion • Religion is regarded as serving the needs of the capitalist class • The values taught in religion mirrors those of the capitalist • Religion serves to maintain the status quo and therefore serves to teach the proletariat to accept their status in society (the meek shall inherit the earth). Reality is distorted by promoting the notion that the social order and suffering are manifestations of “the will of GOD” • The capitalist structure of society is so exploitative that the Marxists argue that religion is an avenue that eases suffering and deadens pain