Sociology: dynamic social groups

Sociology: dynamic social groups

Conclusion Society comprises lots of diverse and dynamic social groups: students, parents, the working class, politicians, celebrities, as well as colleagues in work places and people in leisure clubs. So how do all of these different social roofs interlink and work together in society and how do people know how to behave in different situations and groups?

From the moment we enter the world we have society expectations of different genders, a baby dressed in blue one day would receive different comments than the same baby dressed in pink the following day, and rules and knowledge thrust upon us – we are taught to say please and thank you and to respect our elders; we are in education from as young as four learning how to behave in society; it is instilled in us that in order to succeed we must educate ourselves and behave in certain ways and to follow norms – shared sets of values which dictate how we should behave in society (Silva, 2009).

Social life can be broken down into different levels, macro – the large scale structures of social life, such as states and nations; mess – intermediate structures, social institutions such as schools and prisons which looks at patterns of behavior; and micro – small structures such as personal interactions (Silva, 2009).

Ordered society is an example of a macro society – using laws and common understanding (norms) (Silva, 2009) of acceptable behavior based on respect for all people leading to a generally peaceful and law abiding population to order society which is broken down into rules and is governed by laws and surveillance. Ordered social situations are an example of a micro society – behavior which is learned (solicitation) which Often uses unwritten rules, such as not quelled jumping or saying please. An example of a mess society would be a school or prison.

Irving Coffman, a micro sociologist who studied social patterns of everyday fife and who had a modernistic approach, (Silva, 2009) undertook studies and wrote several books that were based around how we present ourselves to society and looked into the theory that social change is created by actions being worked and reworked and that patterns of interaction create social order (Silva, 2009) as opposed to social change being created by power. Saffron’s basic principle was that we are all playing roles in society – as though performing in a theatre production.

Coffman believed that society is not a separate entity but, instead, is a construction created by the actions of individuals together and the unwritten rules of society (Silva, 2009). As mentioned above, Coffman used the theatre as a metaphor to describe his theories: the stage was where people performed to society, trying to give their best performance, and the backstage was where they could be themselves and stop performing (Silva, 2009). Coffman studied trust and tact and the use of body language, such as eye contact.

He said that people would interact with each other using their body language to convey messages, such as nodding your head at somebody to display approval or to acknowledge them (Silva, 2009). However, Saffron’s theories regarding performance have been criticized as he seems to assume that people are being false and putting on a false identity to society (Taylor, 2009). It may be said that people aren’t being false but are adapting and acting appropriately in different social situations.

In comparison, Michael Faculty, a French philosopher, studied the correlation between language, knowledge and power and how this is used to control society in the form of social institutions, such as schools and welfare systems (Silva, 2009). He believed that the power of rulers and lawmakers was seed to discipline and order society. Whereas Coffman focused on the present and how we interact with each other on a personal level, Faculty focused on the historical processes of discourse (genealogy) and concentrated on language and knowledge.

To Faculty individuals appeared to be passive, docile and of being of little importance (Silva, 2009). Faculty had similar themes to George Orwell, an author who wrote the book ‘1 984’ the theme of which was surveillance of all aspects of life, even cameras in bedrooms. Instead of seeing schools and colleges as a source of education ND developing young people into socially acceptable adults, Faculty saw institutions as detrimental to individuals, that they were implemented to condition people into how the lawmakers want us to act and behave in society.

Faculty identified surveillance and hierarchy as a means of social control, which is also very prominent in modern day society with the inclusion of CATV on most streets and data being saved from the websites that we use, as well as the Government Census which is carried out every ten years. Both Coffman and Faculty believe that power in society is created by people. However, Coffman believes that we all contribute towards the construction of social order whereas Faculty believes that power lies within discourse of the ruling groups (Silva, 2009).

For example, if we take the social institution of a school. Coffman would say we are acting or performing as a ‘good’ student if we attend school on time, bring the correct ‘props’ (books, pens) and listen to the teacher. However, he would say we could take on the role of a ‘bad’ student by forgetting our homework or wearing incorrect uniform. Faculty would say that schools are reared by authorities and kept in place by punishment and forms of surveillance (CATV in schools, monitoring of PC’s). Sing Saffron’s theories every individual would be included in the running of the institution, using social interactions to create social order and change. Whereas using Focuses theories the lawmakers would create order by using power and knowledge. Both Coffman and Faculty understand the importance of norms (knowing how to behave in different social situations in a socially acceptable manner) and that society is ordered by norms and rules.

However, Faculty showed hat language was the cause of this, whereas Coffman showed that this was due to the way we act and interact with each other during social interactions. Again, both Coffman and Faculty acknowledge that society is ordered by norms and rules and that rules may be set by law but that some social rules may be informal or unwritten, such as averting your gaze on the London Underground or waiting your turn in a queue.

But do we really need all these rules, regulations and laws to live by? Are they really creating social order or creating individuals mindlessly following rules? In 1 989 Hans Modern, a French engineer, created a road system in a town of 43,000 people in Attracted in the Netherlands (Silva, 2009). Modern used the ‘shared space’ philosophy which combines public spaces, such as parks and schools, with roads.

Modern implemented his own traffic calming measures, known as ‘psychological traffic calming’ (Silva, 2009) by removing road markings and warnings as well as raising the road to the same level as the pavement Modern’s theory was that when road users and pedestrians were not told explicitly how to act (with the use of traffic lights, road signs, speed limits) whilst using the road they would engage in more eye contact, body language and stop ‘behave[ins] like zombies’ (Silva, 2009, quoting Glassing, 2004) and start using common sense.

The integration of parks and schools into this ‘shared space’ were used as an alternative to road markings and traffic warnings and Modern believed that these ‘contextual signals’ (Silva, 2009) had more effect on a drivers behavior than the typical road signals. In essence, the Attracted Experiment handed back control and order of the roads to the individuals rather than the lawmakers which is comparable with Saffron’s theory that social interactions create change.

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