Throughout the semester I have explored many topics in sociology. While exploring these topics, three main theoretical perspectives were used. I will briefly illustrate each of the main theoretical perspectives of functionalism, conflict theory, and symbolic Interactionism. During this semester I have watched two films, Food Incorporated and The Vernon Johns Story. I will describe how a theoretical perspective is used in each of these examples. Then I will provide my own two examples where concepts and theoretical perspectives can be illustrated.
My First example is the Boston Marathon Bombings and the second is the Mass Media’s coverage of the Boston Bombings. The Functionalist Perspective is a sociological perspective that emphasizes each part of society contributing to the survival of that society. In Sociology in Modules, they define the functionalists perspective as, “A sociological approach that emphasizes the way in which the parts of a society are structured to maintain its stability (Schaefer 15).
” The functionalist perspective can be compared to the human body model. Each part of the body performs specific tasks. For example, our legs allow us to walk or run and our lungs allow us to breathe. Without each and every body part, one simply cannot perform to the maximum potential. Now when a functionalist is looking at a society, they may see different social groups that contribute to a larger population. The Conflict Perspective is a sociological perspective that views the world as a constant struggle.
In our textbook, Sociology in Modules, they define the conflict perspective as, “A sociological approach that assumes that social behavior is best understood in terms of tension between groups over power or the allocation of resources, including housing, money, access to services, and political representation (Schaefer 15). ” There are many areas where conflict can arise in today’s society. Religious groups, political parties, and different social classes, may all have conflicting views with other or opposite groups.
Examples of the conflict perspective include means of production versus labor and the concentration of wealth. In recent history, the conflict perspective is becoming more popular. With, “The widespread social unrest resulting from battles over civil rights, bitter divisions over the war in Vietnam, the rise of the feminist and gay liberation movements, the Watergate political scandal, urban riots, and confrontations at abortion clinics have offered support for the conflict approach (Schaefer 16). ” Groups in society with different viewpoints often pose a great threat to conflicting parties.
The Interactionist Perspective is the third main sociological perspective where the traditional way of thinking comes from typical human interaction between groups. Sociology in Modules defines the interactionist perspective as, “generalizations about everyday forms of social interaction in order to explain society as a whole (Schaefer 17). ” The interactionist perspective is also know as symbolic interactionism. I believe it is much easier to look at it from a symbolic interactionism perspective because symbols are easier to understand.
From a symbolic interactionist perspective, one may see the world we live in as full of objects. These objects can come on the form of people, places, things, thoughts, feelings, or symbols. Symbolic interactionism looks at these symbols to characterize groups by their symbol. Each symbol may be different. For example, a symbol could be the type of color of car you drive, what you wear to work or school everyday, or even tattoos. Groups in society are often characterized by their symbols. These symbols allow people with similar symbols to communicate with ease.
Food Incorporated is a documentary film that portrays the corporate farming industry in the United States as unhealthy, harmful, abusive, and inhumane. Food Inc. the movie really gave me something to think about, it only reinforced my beliefs to eat healthy and support organic and free-range grass fed meats. The most meaningful thing to me was when one of the contributors said the corporate farming industry only wants to grow their products “bigger, fatter, cheaper, faster”. This agribusiness in only in it for the sake of business and they don’t see the other side.
On the other side there are these products that are being mass-produced in factory farms. This seemingly only affects the lower class Americans who can only afford the cheapest of food products at the super market. From a financial standpoint, it only makes sense that people are forced to consume such low quality products at their demise. As the conflict theory would describe it, this is a constant struggle between the producer and the consumer. The producers are producing animal products in close quarter factory farms and feeding them corn, which is not a naturally occurring meal.
Specifically cattle and chickens are given hormone shots to make them grown bigger, fatter, and faster. These farms do not treat the animals well at all. The animals live in horrible conditions, often times in their own manure. This causes disease to reach to food that eventually people eat. There are cases that come up all the time where products need to be pulled from the shelves in stores because of contaminated foods. The Vernon John’s story is a true story turned into a movie that portrays a Minister, Vernon John, who leads the African Americans in the fight for civil rights.
This film demonstrated the development of social change in the south. First, the blacks do not measure up to the whites in social class. They often held position in social that were not important of looked down upon. For example, the position that Vernon John holds is viewed as a conflict by white law enforcement officials. During the early 1900s, Black Americans were being segregated from society. Secondly, During this time, African Americans were not recognized by society as having any value other than slavery. Race and ethnicity played a large role in society during this time.
African American Racial groups formed and they were discriminated against. Vernon John is a leader of social change. He stepped up and faced the danger in speaking his views. The movie illustrates two great examples of hate crime in the 1920s. The first is when Vernon John was driving in his car late at night to bring a girl who had been raped to the hospital. The white policemen pulled Vernon John over and just antagonized him for no reason. Another example is when part of Vernon John’s church was set on fire. This was obviously planned by the white Americans out of hatred for Vernon Johns following and community.
The blacks were heavily being discriminated against. Third, the government used force and power to exercise their will against Vernon John and the Black Americans. The movie demonstrates a great example of what goes on in society today. Although the United States may not be going through the exact same situation of discrimination as the 1900s, we are still facing sorts of discrimination and hate crimes today. Which leads me into my next example, the recent Boston Marathon bombings. The Boston Marathon bombings is an alleged terrorist attack that happened during the finish of the 2013 Boston Marathon.
On April 15th, 2013, two Muslim brothers from Massachusetts detonated two explosives near the finish line of the Marathon, killing three people and injuring more than 200 people. The 2013 Boston Marathon Bombings display the conflict some people have with society. I am not in the head of the bombers or the investigators so I am only speaking from an outside perspective. With that being said, I cannot imagine what they were thinking when setting off these two explosions in front of thousands of people. From the suspects point of view, they must have seen the world from a conflict perspective.
They must have believed that they didn’t fit into society. In a Wall Street Journal article, one suspect claims “he and his brother were angry about the U. S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and the killing of Muslims there” (Authorities Say Bomb Suspects Planned NYC Attack). My only guess is that their hatred for the United States is so fierce that they concluded in carrying out these horrible acts. It appears that other groups from over seas heavily influenced the suspects. This is just one example of how government, religion, and cultural differences can become conflicting in society.
The mass media can influence the coverage of any story by the time it reaches the public. The mass media is defined by Sociology in Modules as, “print and electronic means of communication that carries messages to widespread audiences” (Schaefer 153). The leverage they have is huge in what information/sources they have and what they release. In the coverage of the Boston Bombings, the media helped the public understand of what precautions they should take around the threatened area. The media also helped people from across the country understand what was happening in Boston.
In this case, I believe the media did a good job in providing accurate information to the public. However, this is not always the case. The conflict view states that gatekeeping can control what information reaches the public. For example the media can choose on which pieces of news to report on, leaving out specifics that could totally twist the story. They can also choose which sources they want to use which may also have an affect on the outcome of the story. Not all social classes have access to certain news sources. Many sources are behind a pay wall, which prohibits some potential viewers from accessing the information.
The functionalist view would say that the mass media plays a role in society that keeps it moving forward. Sociology in Modules says, “the mass media is to occupy our leisure time—from newspaper comics and crossword puzzles to the latest music releases on the Internet. While that is true, the media have other important functions. They also socialize us, enforce social norms, confer status, and promote consumption” (Schaefer 154). This is all very true and it reinforces our viewpoints of the media. Overall, multiple theoretical perspectives can portray the mass media.
Indeed, concepts and theoretical perspectives learned in class are used to illustrate events in society today. First, the example of the Vernon John’s story gives one the ability to see the upbringing of social change through the civil rights movement. The second example of the Food Inc. production is one that produces for profit without taking into consideration all the ethical and health needs of American citizens. Third, my example of the Boston Marathon Bombings illustrates conflict and hates crimes in our culture today. Lastly. The mass media acts as an agent between information and the public through print and electronic versions.
The conflict and functionalists theoretical perspectives can be used to analyze the mass media. Therefore, social concepts and theoretical perspectives are used throughout the society we live in today. ? Works Cited “Authorities Say Bomb Suspects Planned NYC Attack. ” WSJ. com. Associated Press, 26 Apr. 2013. Web. 26 Apr. 2013. Food, Inc. Dir. Robert Kenner. Movie One, 2008. DVD. Schaefer, Richard T. Sociology In Modules. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2011. McGrawHills Connect. Web. 4 Apr. 2013. The Vernon Johns Story. Dir. Kenneth Fink. 1994. DVD.