Sociology: Power and Authority’s Contribution

Sociology: Power and Authority’s Contribution

Two main factors are necessary for the existence Of social order: predictability Of society and operative behavior of individuals (Hector and Horned, 2003). In this essay I will describe how Values and norms’ and ‘power and authority’ account for social order, drawing on the explanations offered in Theories of Social Order: A Reader (2003) by Michael Hector and Christine Horned. The first explanation is based on people cooperating voluntarily and following informal rules, while the second focuses on the ability of one group to control and coerce another into obeying the rules.

I will discuss limitations of both theories and suggest that neither provides an entirely convincing explanation of social order on its own. Values and norms are internal and external criteria for evaluation (Hector and Horned, 2003), individuals use them to judge which actions are good or bad, appropriate or not and hence regulate behavior. Therefore it could be assumed that if people share the same values and norms they act in a predictable and cooperative manner which leads to the establishment of social order. The processes that could be responsible for the development of these phenomena will be discussed below.

Internationalist is a process through which individuals incorporate values present in their social environment into their own mind (Hector and Horned, 003). Freud (1 930 in Hector and Horned, 2003) suggests the following mechanism for this process. A completely helpless and dependent infant internalizes the parent figure in Odder to prevent the parent’s disapproval and ensure continuity of care. Thus the child’s conscience or superego is developed, it evaluates potential actions and counteracts aggressive instincts, promoting cooperative behavior.

One of the weaknesses of Fraud’s theory is that it is based on the ‘fear of loss of love’ and argues that it continues into adulthood due to the fear Of loosing God’s love. This explanation neglects the existence of order in societies in which people do not believe in such love and hence cannot be applied universally. In addition Fraud’s theory relies heavily on an analytical argument, lacking empirical evidence, which makes it less persuasive. Deuterium’s analysis of suicide rates, on the other hand, has a more objective, statistical basis.

Hector and Horned (2003) explain in their introduction that because suicide is often seen as an antisocial act, the rates of suicide could be used as indicators of social disorder. Druthers (1 897 in Hector and Horned, 2003) notes an increase of suicides in the state of anomie, the condition when here are no values in the society. This proves the importance of values for social order. However, Druthers (1 897 in Hector and Horned, 2003) also finds that rates of egoistic suicide, and hence social disorder, are higher in groups that are less integrated and value individualism.

This suggests that values can be antisocial as well as proboscis. Social order therefore cannot be explained by values alone, because they can account for antisocial as well as cooperative behavior. Unlike Freud and Druthers, Christine Horned (2001 in Hector and Horned, 2003) suggests explanations for how the contents of norms could emerge. One possibility is that normative simply means the same as typical or frequent behavior. However according to Horned (2001) there seems to be a difference between purely habitual behavior and acts that follow social norms.

Another explanation is that norms arise from self-interest of the individuals. People encourage behaviors that benefit them and punish the harmful actions (Hector and Horned, 2003). This idea is supported by Saffron’s discussion of interactions between strangers. Coffman (1 963 in Hector and Horned, 2003) argues that the goal of social interaction between two people is not to cause harm or discomfort to either of them. This leads to the emergence of norms such as civil inattention.

This example shows how when people are following social norms their behavior becomes predictable: civil inattention is expected and cooperative: people act in consensus towards a common goal, in this case avoiding mutual discomfort. To understand why people comply with these norms further explanations are needed. Hector and Horned (2003) note that unlike internalized values, norms have to be enforced externally. They suggest that: ‘norms are more likely to be enforced if doing so will provide benefits for group members with minimal forts for enforcement (Hector and Horned 2003199).

This argument although logical is not very convincing because punishment is often associated with some cost for the person enforcing it, for example the discomfort of a direct interaction with a stranger. In addition Fear and Gcater (2002 in Hector and Horned, 2003) provide empirical evidence for what they call ‘altruistic punishment’. In their experiment participants kept punishing group members for selfish behavior even at a significant cost to themselves. Fear and Gcater conclude that people experience negative emotions when norms are broken and sanctioning deviant behavior interacts these emotions.

This suggests that although norms are regarded as external criteria for evaluation, external factors alone are not enough for them to be effective, they also need to have some internal basis to account for social order. One of the issues with explaining social order simply as people following norms is that the norms are regularly violated and do not prevent deviant behavior. In addition norms cannot fully account for social order in capitalist societies where according to Engel’s (1 884 in Hector and Horned, 2003) a minority (the capitalists) dominates and exploits the majority (the working class).

Engel’s considers coercion by a central authority, the state, ‘necessary to moderate the conflict and keep it within the bounds of ‘order’ ‘(Engel’s, 1884 in Hector and Horned, 2003:1 79) Hobbes’ (1 651 in Hector and Horned, 2003) explanation of social order is also based on a central authority. According to him all humans desire approximately the same things and therefore if given complete freedom are in a state of a constant competitive struggle.

The authority of a state to which the individuals surrender part of their freedom is the only way to prevent conflict and disorder. One of the problems with Hobbes’ theory is that he assumes humans to be rational egoists, which is not necessarily true. The opposite is suggested by the findings of Joseph Henries et al. (2004) that most people play the Ultimatum Game pro-socially rather than selfishly, as a rational egoist would. However even under the assumption of rational egoism this theory has serious limits.

Hector and Horned (2003) raise the question of why would selfish individuals give up their freedom and cooperate to establish a state. This could not be done through military power alone, as it would require total control and too many resources (Hector and Horned, 2003). It is possible that a situational mechanism takes place altering the internal state of individuals and making them more likely to comply with authority. Marxist argue that religion, media or education could be indirect ways the state uses to influences people and ensure cooperation (Hector and Horned, 2003).

Weber (1921-22 in Hector and Horned, 2003) offers a different explanation, emphasizing the need of people’s belief in the legitimacy of the authority in order for it to be effective. Hobbes (1651 in Hector and Horned, 200311 68) suggests that people accept authority because of ‘love of Ease’, meaning ace and security. This could be interpreted not simply as a functional approach, but also as an indication that values, such as the value of peace, could play a role in the compliance with authority, and hence social order.

Most probably a combination of different mechanisms ensures people’s obedience to authority, but it appears that power and authority alone are not enough to account for social order and require additional mechanisms to be effective. Another point of weakness of the explanation of social order by power and authority is Willis’ (1981 in Hector and Horned, 2003) study of oppositional school culture “Learning to labor”. From this study it is evident that a presence of a formal authority, in this case the school, does not ensure obedience.

Instead ‘there is an aimless air of insubordination’ (Willis, 1981 in Hector and Horned, 2003:206) present in a group of school students. The students’ rejection of the school system does to a great extent determine their future lives and limits their social mobility. Willis (1 981 in Hector and Horned, 2003:215) sees their oppositional culture as a ‘preparation for entry into working class’. This indicates that a formal authority structures the society, making it more predictable, but does not always account for the second part of the definition of social order, the cooperative behavior.

Finally, power and authority do not explain order in cacophonous societies, or more broadly in situations during which no authority is present, for example interactions between friends (Hector and Horned, 2003). As presented in the examples above power and authority significantly contribute to social order but do not fully explain its existence. Moreover, it appears that some internal basis such as value of peace or belief in legitimacy might be necessary for people to obey authority. Values and norms also provide only limited explanation.

It is, for example, not clear why some values rather than others are internalized, or why norms are broken. Consequently although both phenomenon foster social order, they cannot fully account for it. The two explanations despite being seemingly opposite are not necessarily mutually exclusive. If combined, they could offer a more convincing account of social order by complementing each other. For example, values and norms could explain cooperative behavior in the absence of authority, while power enforce rules when norms and values fail.

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