Higher Sociology

Understanding Human Society 2

Sociology: Understanding Human Society 2 (Higher)

Acknowledgements
SFEU (Scottish Further Education Unit) gratefully acknowledge the contribution made to this publication by Learning and Teaching Scotland who have granted permission to use material previously produced by HSDU. SFEU also thank SQA for permission to reproduce parts of the Arrangement documents.

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Contents
Guide to the learning and teaching pack Statement of standards Introduction to the Unit and learning and teaching approaches - Tutor guide to studying theories for each of the four topics Suggested reading and resources for the Unit Learning and teaching materials on:  Topic 1: The sociology of the family  Topic 2: The sociology of welfare and poverty  Topic 3: The sociology of crime and deviance  Topic 4: The sociology of the mass media 3 4 10 11 12

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Guide to the learning and teaching pack
The purpose of these support notes is to provide the basis of a course for teachers and lecturers for the third Unit in the revised Higher Sociology Course. There are four sociological topics in this Unit, two of which must be studied for the Course and Unit assessment. The four sociological topics are: 1. 2. 3. 4. The sociology of the family. The sociology of welfare and poverty. The sociology of crime and deviance. The sociology of the mass media.

Key words are printed in bold font for emphasis and internalising. In each instance the topic should be introduced on a fairly broad basis, looking at some of the key features and definitions of the topic. The support notes then concentrate on four of the theories outlined in the Course specification, but these are not a prescriptive list. Other relevant theories, from either the Unit specification, or otherwise, may be used to supplement or replace the theories discussed. It is important for teachers and lecturers to read the Unit and Course specifications and particularly the mandatory requirements for each. The general approach for each of the four study areas will be to begin with a general introduction looking in particular at some of the key features and key changes that have taken place within the area of study. The notes will then study and analyse four of the theories from the list within the Unit specification. These support notes will then cover specified aspects for the topics, including sub-strands of these aspects. The aspects and sub-strands are located in the Unit specification. In doing so, these support notes specifically cover the following for each of the four topics:      Key features. Changes and definitions. Theories and evaluation. Aspects – including specific areas that cut across each aspect. Studies and evaluation.

The Unit specification provides details on both the mandatory requirements for the study of this Unit and general and specific guidance designed to help teachers and lecturers in the delivery of this Unit.

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Statement of standards
Unit: Understanding Human Society 2 (Higher)
Outcome 1 Describe sociological topics and their relationship to human society. Performance criteria (a) Describe sociological topics succinctly and correctly. (b) Describe key features of sociological topics succinctly and correctly. Outcome 2 Evaluate the contribution of key sociological theories to an understanding of sociological topics. Performance criteria (a) Correctly apply relevant and contrasting sociological theories to topics. (b) Provide a balanced evaluation of the contribution of contrasting sociological theories to understanding topics. Outcome 3 Evaluate selected aspects of sociological topics using different sociological theories and studies. Performance criteria (a) Explain aspects of topics in a balanced way by taking account of different sociological studies. (b) Use relevant evidence from a range of sociological studies to support the explanations. (c) Develop sociological arguments, based on evidence and examples used in relevant sociological studies. (d) Make balanced evaluations that refer to evidence and arguments from contrasting sociological theories. Evidence requirements for the Unit The Appendix details the content/context for the Unit. Evidence Requirements apply to the Unit as a whole and, therefore, apply holistically to all Outcomes of the Unit. Candidates must produce written and/or oral evidence for all Outcomes and Performance Criteria of the Unit for it to be achieved. The assessment should take the form of an unseen, closed book, supervised test that should be completed in one hour. The assessment should take the form of an extended response-type (essay) question.

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The essay-type response for the Unit assessment should provide evidence to cover all the Outcomes and Performance Criteria, and should begin with an appropriate introduction addressing definitions and features relating to the topic. The essay should then provide contrasting theoretical discussion on the topic, with appropriate analysis and evaluation. A major aspect of the topic should be introduced, followed by two studies, where the main findings and an appropriate evaluation should occur for each study. A summary/conclusion should provide some final evaluation of evidence and argument from contrasting sociological studies. Two of the four options will be selected for study in this Unit, with candidates being asked to prepare for Unit assessment in any one of the topics studied. The assessment instrument can use an appropriate sample of Unit content. For example, if a candidate demonstrates knowledge, understanding and an ability to analyse and evaluate one topic, then it is inferred that she or he will be able to demonstrate the same level of achievement for the other topic covered in learning and teaching in the Unit. Each topic allows for coverage of all three Outcomes (including all Performance Criteria), ensuring that Unit assessment that samples one topic will provide adequate inferred evidence of overall Unit achievement. Any requirement for reassessment will be based upon a different sample from the range of content, where appropriate, and candidates must attempt a different instrument of assessment, on either topic, in its entirety. Achievement will be decided by the use of a cut-off score of 60%. The National Assessment Bank items illustrate the standard which should be applied and also the nature and extent of the sample to be used. If a centre wishes to design its own assessments for this Unit, they should be of a comparable standard. Centre-devised assessment items may be sent in to SQA for prior moderation. Appendix: Content and context NB. This Appendix is within the Statement of Standards, ie. the mandatory requirements of the Unit. Two of the following four topics must be covered in terms of learning and teaching in this Unit. For the purpose of Unit assessment, either of the topics covered in learning and teaching may be used for the purposes of sampling. Two contrasting theories, two studies, two features, two changes and three aspects will be covered for each topic, as follows:

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Topic 1: Sociology of the family
Candidates should be introduced to the topic of the sociology of the family with some of the key features and definitions of the topic:   Any two relevant, contrasting sociological theories. Any two relevant studies.

NB. Some of the points listed below could equally be considered features or changes since many changes become features. Two features, from:     The various family types – single, nuclear, reconstituted, adopted. Marriage and divorce. Conjugal roles. Power and patriarchy.

Two changes, from:    Changes in the provision of key functions of the family. Changing family patterns. The changing structure and organisation of the family.

Three aspects:    Changes in family patterns – an analysis of two features and two studies. Conjugal roles – an analysis of two features and two studies. Marital breakdown – an analysis of two features and two studies.

The following areas must be covered in the teaching of each of the above aspects:    The changing role of women in the family. The changing role of men in the family. Power relationships.

NB. It is envisaged that the above areas would be taught naturally through each of the aspects and should not result in additional content. Please note that Unit and Course assessment will not specify or focus entirely on these areas.

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Topic 2: Sociology of welfare and poverty
Candidates should be introduced to the topic of the sociology of welfare and poverty with some of the key features and definitions of the topic:   Any two relevant, contrasting sociological theories. Any two relevant studies.

NB. Some of the points listed below could equally be considered features or changes since many changes become features. Two features, from:    The welfare state and social policies which alleviate poverty. Indicators of the experience of poverty (eg. health, income and wealth, education, housing). Those most likely to experience poverty (eg. the elderly, children, women, ethnic minorities).

Two changes, from:   Definitions and measurement of poverty, for example, ‘absolute’ to ‘relative’ measurements of poverty. The widening gap between the rich and poor.

Three aspects: 1. Poverty and the welfare state – an analysis of two features and two studies. 2. The welfare state and social inequality – class – an analysis of two features and two studies. 3. The Welfare State and social inequality – gender – an analysis of two features and two studies. The following areas must be covered in the teaching of each of the above aspects:    Health. The underclass. Employment and unemployment.

It is envisaged that the above areas would be taught naturally through each of the aspects and should not result in additional content. Please note that Unit and Course assessment will not specify or focus entirely on these areas.

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Topic 3: Sociology of crime and deviance
Candidates should be introduced to the topic of the sociology of crime and deviance with some of the key features and definitions of the topic:   Any two relevant, contrasting sociological theories. Any two relevant studies.

NB. Some of the points listed below could equally be considered features or changes since many changes become features. Two features, from:   Definitions of crime and deviance and the socially constructed nature of crime and deviance. The measurement and validity of criminal statistics.

Two changes, from:    More women convicted of crimes. New types of crime – eg. computer crime, people trafficking. Nature and definition of crime and deviance, change and diversity.

Three aspects:    Labelling and the self-fulfilling prophecy – an analysis of two features and two studies. Crime statistics – an analysis of two features and two studies. Gender – an analysis of two features and two studies.

The following areas must be covered in the teaching of each of the above aspects:    Poverty. The penal system. Social class.

It is envisaged that the above areas would be taught naturally through each of the aspects and should not result in additional content. Please note that Unit and Course assessment will not specify or focus entirely on these areas.

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Topic 4: Sociology of the mass media
Candidates should be introduced to the topic of the sociology of the mass media with some of the key features and definitions of the topic:   Any two relevant, contrasting sociological theories. Any two relevant studies.

NB. Some of the points listed below could equally be considered features or changes since many changes become features. Two features, from:     Definition of the mass media. The types of the mass media. Role of the mass media. Media consumption/audiences.

Two changes, from:    The changing types of the mass media (eg. satellite TV, Internet). The changing nature of the mass media (eg. ownership and control, trends in organisation). The impact of the mass media on its audience, in terms of ownership, bias and influence.

Three aspects:    Ownership and control – an analysis of two features and two studies. Socialisation – an analysis of two features and two studies. Bias, influence and attitude formation – an analysis of two features and two studies.

The following areas must be covered in the teaching of each of the above aspects:    Gender. Ethnicity. Political bias.

It is envisaged that the above areas would be taught naturally through each of the aspects and should not result in additional content. Please note that Unit and Course assessment will not specify or focus entirely on these areas. In each topic, where there are substantially different approaches within a theory, the comparisons and contrasts within that theory may be sufficient for the purposes of analysis and evaluation. For example, manipulative and hegemonic Marxist approaches to the role of the mass media, or liberal, radical or feminist approaches to many areas of sociology.

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Introduction to the Unit and learning and teaching approaches
Introduction to the Unit
For candidates studying this Unit as part of the Higher Sociology Course, advice regarding approaches to learning and teaching are contained in the Course specification. It is suggested that the learning experience at this level should be varied, to encourage enthusiasm for the subject and to stimulate and prepare candidates for independent study. The Unit should be approached using a wide range of stimulus materials and teaching approaches. Candidates should be encouraged to draw upon their own experiences, where appropriate, and should have access to resources such as audio-visual material, invited speakers, Internet, ICT and paper-based resources. Where appropriate, the material should be up to date and relevant to the Unit, the level of study and the interests of the candidates. For the Higher Sociology Course it is recognised that certain key sociological commentary and research, regardless of publication, is appropriate. Comparisons with more up to date research should be used, where appropriate. The emphasis throughout should be on interactive learning, whether through whole class, small group, or individual activity. The Unit may be delivered on a flexible basis and may also be suitable for open learning and on-line delivery. The Outcomes are interconnected and should be approached as such. It is recommended that, wherever possible, Outcomes should be covered in an integrated way. An Outcome-by-Outcome approach, which could lead to a compartmentalised view of sociology, should be avoided. If undertaking this Unit as part of the Higher Sociology Course, it is advised that the Studying Human Society: The Sociological Approach (Higher) Unit is delivered first. This would allow for an introduction to theories and research methods before applying them to the topics within this Unit.

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Tutor guide to studying theories for each of the four topics
Teaching the above theories, indeed the teaching of any theory, can be approached in a number of ways. For example, students can be given a reading list and asked to take their own notes with or without an outline structure provided by the tutor. Conversely, a highly structured set of notes can be given out with or without questions. There are, of course, approaches lying somewhere in between. Whatever approach is taken is dependent upon a number of circumstances. For example, FE college tutors might prefer an approach that gives students greater opportunity to write their own notes or add to those given out by the lecturer. Mature students may have a greater capacity to undertake such an approach. However, schoolteachers may rely more on a structured approach given the age of students, time restrictions, etc. However, in both instances time restrictions will be a factor. The approach taken throughout these support notes will be to lean towards a more structured approach with quite detailed support notes, but with the opportunity for students to expand on these notes with reference to reading lists. Questions could be included. However, it is felt that the structure of questions depends very much on the specific approach undertaken. Certainly, questions should be asked. Most of the suggested texts have questions already set and these can be used. Alternatively, tutors may wish to construct their own. Rather than set specific questions, the support materials have a list of suggested triggers/discussion points that can be used as starting points for specific questions. Tutors may also wish to take into account the structure of the NABs and the exam when constructing questions. In each of the four areas in this Unit, notes will be provided for four of the central theories from the list within the Course specification. However, as is indicated, this list is not prescriptive and teachers/lecturers are free to teach other perspectives that they feel meet the criteria laid down in the Unit specification.

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Suggested reading and resources for the Unit
Suggested textbook reading for these topics are:     Haralambos, M. and Holborn, M. (2000) Sociology: Themes and Perspectives. 5th Edition. Collins. Kirby, M. et al. (1997) Sociology in Perspective. Heinemann. Taylor, P. et al. (1998) Sociology in Focus. Causeway Press Ltd. Sweeney, T. et al. (editors). (2003) Sociology and Scotland: An Introduction. Unity Publications Ltd.

Two useful reference books are:   Lawson, T. and Garrod, J. (2003) Complete A-Z Sociology Handbook. 3rd Edition. Hodder and Stoughton. Garrod, J. et al. (2003) A-Z Sociology Coursework Handbook. 3rd Edition. Hodder and Stoughton.

Two useful reference books for studies are:   Blundell, J. and Griffiths, J. (2002) Sociology since 1995, Volume 1. Connect Publications. Blundell, J. and Griffiths, J. (2003) Sociology since 1995, Volume 2. Connect Publications.

Suggested websites Most general sociology sites have materials on most aspects of this Unit.          Hewett School: http://www.hewett.norfolk.sch.uk/CURRIC/soc/class/class.htm Sociology Central: http://www.sociology.org.uk/cload.htm Sociology Learning: http://www.chrisgardner.clara.net/sls1/home.htm Sociology Online: http://www.sociologyonline.co.uk Association for the Teaching of Social Science (links page): http://www.le.ac.uk/education/centres/ATSS/sites.html The Internet Sociologist: http://www.vts.rdn.ac.uk/tutorial/sociologist The Social Science Information Gateway (SOSIG) Sociology Search Engine: http://www.sosig.ac.uk/sociology Social World – Sociology Web Directory: http://www.angelfire.com/ma/Socialworld/Sociology.html A Sociological Tour Through Cyberspace: http://www.trinity.edu/~mkearl/index.html

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Topic 1: The sociology of the family

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The sociology of the family
Tutor Guide: Activity on key features and changes in family structure
As an introduction to the topic of the family, the key features of and changes to the family should be explored. This could be done in a number of ways: 1. Through class/group discussion looking at personal experiences. Areas that could be explored could be conjugal roles, power and patriarchy. This can and has led to lively discussion in past exercises. However, in school and college classroom situations, this exercise must be approached with great caution, given what some pupils/students may well have experienced within their own family situations. 2. A different approach could be role-play as a means of tackling issues within the family, such as conjugal roles and power. Further issues, such as agenda setting, ideological power and patriarchy can be explored. Again, sensitivity and tact should be exercised. 3. Another approach could be a small exercise in research, exploring some of the key features of the family and changes that have taken place through a survey, questionnaire or interview. Skills and knowledge that have been acquired within Studying Human Society: The Sociological Approach could be applied here. These are merely suggestions. Tutors should use the research methods and methodologies with which they are comfortable and that they feel best prepares students for the demands of Unit assessment and the final external exam (the Course assessment). Teachers and lecturers should also be aware of the logistical and time restraints that are placed on both teachers and students. Some of the questions/issues that could be put to students include the following:        What type of family do students live in, in terms of structure, eg. nuclear, extended, single parent, etc.? How does this structure compare to that of your parents’ parents? What are the conjugal roles in the family with respect to parents? To what extent are they joint or segregated? The concept of dual burden could be explored here. Does this vary from one type of family to the next? How do these conjugal roles compare to students’ own aspirations, particularly school pupils, when they become adults? What about power within the family? Who sets the agenda? Where does ideological power lie? Is there continued patriarchy within relationships? What about institutions such as marriage – to what extent do they have a continued relevance? How have issues such as divorce, abortion and marital breakdown changed over the years? How have these impacted on the family?

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Types of family
There are a number of key types of families recognised by sociologists. They include:  Extended family:  This is a family structure where the nuclear family has been added to. Such additions can be horizontal, eg. two sisters can be living together with their husbands and children. Or vertical, eg. with the addition of grandparents or grandchildren. The extended family structure was more common in previous centuries and in the first half of the 20th century.

Nuclear family: A nuclear family is one where there is an adult male and adult female with dependent children. This family structure became increasingly common in the later half of the 20th century. It is the family structure that functionalists see as the structure most suited to stable relationships.

Reconstituted family: This is a family where one or both of the adults have already been married. As a consequence there will be the presence of step-children. With the changes that have taken place with respect to social issues such as divorce, this type of marriage has become increasingly common in the last 30 years.

Single-parent or lone-parent family: This is a family structure where the dependent children are living with only one parent. Again, with the social changes that have taken place in recent years, this type of family structure has become increasingly common. They account for over one in four families in Britain, over 80% of which are headed by a woman.

Refer to:   Taylor et al. Sociology in Focus. Chapter 7, pp. 244-253. Haralambos and Holborn. Sociology Themes and Perspectives. Chapter 8, pp. 523544.

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Background to key features, definitions and structure of the family
Introduction Most people in any society, including the United Kingdom (UK) or Scotland, have been born and brought up in a family. Moreover, on reaching adulthood, most children, when they become adults, will form some type of family relationship and have children of their own. Therefore, family structure has a major impact on the lives of individuals and so is seen as a central topic for sociological study. The family, in whatever structure, is seen as a norm in social relationships, and this is a view constantly re-stated by opinion leaders in society, such as the mass media, politicians and religion. Definitions of what the family is, or should be, form the basis of huge areas of government policy from welfare to employment. This, in turn, has major implications for whole groups within society, such as women. Sociology, in looking at the family, tries to get beyond myths and stereotypes. It attempts to compare and contrast the vast range of family types and the massive changes that have taken place in the family in the United Kingdom today. Before we look at some of explanations of the family provided by major sociological theories, we can begin by looking at some of the key features of the family and the changes to it that have taken place. Key features/definitions of the family Many sociologists see the family as the ‘cornerstone of society’, as it is found in all societies in some form or another. Early sociological approaches saw the family as an inevitable outcome of a biological, evolutionary process. There is a commonly held view that what holds families together is the biological need or drive to reproduce. This view is known as sociobiology. The main exponent of sociobiology was George Peter Murdock. In his study, Social Structure (1949), Murdock concluded that some form of family existed in all societies, the most common being the nuclear family. Murdock also argued that the nuclear family was the most successful because it fulfilled four key functions that were necessary for the continuity of society. These four key functions were: 1. First, the family has a sexual function, in that it regulates sexual behaviour within society. 2. Second, it has a reproductive function, in that it produces the next generation in society. 3. Third, it acts as a basic economic unit, co-operating in tasks and sharing in resources. 4. Finally, it has an educational function in socialising children into the culture of their society.

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Today, most sociologists would reject Murdock’s perspective as being too simplistic and, indeed, socially conservative. The diversity of family structures is now far greater, and in many societies the nuclear family is now far less common, eg. the growth of single parent families. Moreover, there are alternative family types, such as the kibbutz system in Israel. Key changes in the structure of the family and in the sociological study of the family There have been major changes in the structure of the family in modern industrial society. For example, if we look at divorce in the UK, the divorce rate changed from less than 1,000 per annum to over 200,000 per annum over the course of the 20th century. In particular, the Divorce Reform Act of 1971 had a massive impact. Also, changing values, such as a rising expectation of marriage, especially amongst women and the changing role of women, particularly in expectation of employment as well as a domestic role within marriage, have had a major impact. Such changes have led to a huge increase in single parent families, the vast majority of which are headed by a woman. Not only has the rising divorce rate contributed to the increase in single parent families, but also changing attitudes towards marriage as an institution and relationships in general within the family, have also been factors, eg. cohabitation. Such changes have, in turn, led to fundamental changes in the way sociologists have studied the family. Although many sociologists still recognise the functions outlined by Murdock, they argue that, even by the 1950s, how these functions are fulfilled have changed markedly and that this has changed the role of the family. For example, Talcott Parsons, in Family, Socialisation and Interaction Process (1955), argues that some of these functions have been taken over by other agencies within society, such as the welfare state. Murdock’s views have been increasingly criticised since the 1950s, particularly by feminists. For example, Annie Oakley, in her book, Housewife (1976), totally refutes Murdock’s view that the nuclear family is the structure best suited for fulfilling the needs of society, given the obvious consequences for women; namely a secondary domestic role that is economically dependent on the husband and is reflected in areas such as conjugal roles, power and patriarchy. However, given the contrasting views of Young and Willmott in The Symmetrical Family (1973), where they argue in support of increasing symmetry (or a sharing) in conjugal roles, we can see the diverse nature of sociological approaches to the family in the post-war period.

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Student Activity: Types of family
Using the sources referred to in suggested reading and resources for the Unit and the accompanying notes, answer the following questions. Your tutor may wish you to work individually or in pairs. 1. Describe the main differences between extended, nuclear, reconstituted and single parent families.

2. Describe the four essential functions of the family as defined by Murdock.

3. In what ways would you say these functions are carried out by families in Britain today?

4. Would you say that all families in the UK today fit Murdock’s definition? If not, how do different family structures undermine Murdock’s definition?

5. To what extent has the nuclear family been affected by changing attitudes to: (a) The institution of marriage?

(b)

Divorce?

6. What are your own views on the changing nature of the family? To what extent do you feel, in modern society, equality has been reached between men and women within family roles?

7. What changes do you feel are necessary to achieve gender equality within the family?

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The functionalist theory on the family
 Functionalism sees society as being based on consensus and agreement. It therefore assumes that if an institution exists then it must have a function or purpose. The family, as with all social institutions, exists primarily as a means of fulfilling the functions outlined by Murdock. Functionalism also emphasises the interdependence of social institutions. Therefore, it emphasises the interrelationship between the family and other social institutions. For example, the relationship between the family and the education system, whereby the family is an agent of socialisation before and during the period children go to school. This is reflected in Murdock’s study, Social Structures (1949). Another leading functionalist is Talcott Parsons. His thinking is reflected in Family, Socialisation and Interaction Process (1955). Parsons, like Murdock, sees the family as performing essential functions. However, he argues that these are becoming increasingly specialised in industrial society. He sees two key functions being performed by the family, which are: 1. The primary socialisation of children. 2. The stabilisation of adult personalities. Evaluation  Functionalism is seen as strong in emphasising the positive aspects of the family. Moreover, the functionalist view that some form of family is to be found in just about every society, and that the nuclear family is the most common form of family, still has considerable validity. It is also supported by new right thinking, which sees the decline of the family and family values as a major contributor to modern social problems. Attempts to replace the family with other forms of social relationships, eg. in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge, have been disastrous. Here, in an attempt to replicate the Cultural Revolution in China, the Khmer Rouge forcibly marched the entire population of the capital Phnom Penh into the countryside. They then systematically broke down normal family relationships in an attempt to create a new social order based on agrarian work. In so doing, over one-third of the population was killed, including virtually the entire professional class. Functionalism has been increasingly criticised as concentrating only on the positive aspects of the family and neglecting or simply ignoring the negative aspects. Feminists are highly critical of functionalism in its analysis of women and their role within the family, particularly in areas such as conjugal roles and reproduction. It is also criticised by Marxists for ignoring the way in which capitalism uses the family as a means of exploitation. Marxist feminists would criticise it for ignoring the division of labour within capitalism, which has subjected women in industrial society to a subjugated conjugal role based on an economic dependence on the male wage.

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Both Murdock and Parsons were criticised for basing research and findings on middle class American families, which was unrepresentative of American society, let alone other societies. Suggested reading     Haralambos and Holborn. Sociology: Themes and Perspectives. 5th edition Collins. Chapter 8, pp. 503-510. Kirby et al. Sociology in Perspective. Heinemann. Chapter 7, pp. 234-242. Taylor et al. Sociology in Focus. Causeway Press Ltd. Chapter 7, pp. 232-237. Sociology and Scotland: An Introduction edited by Sweeney et al., Unity Publications Ltd. Chapter 7, pp. 160-163.

All the above texts, apart from Haralambos and Holborn, have useful questions and exercises that can be used as questions by teachers/lecturers. Sociology in Focus is particularly useful in using further sources on which questions are based.

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Functionalist theory on the family
     Sees consensus and agreement as the basis of society. Institutions have a function and social institutions are linked. All such institutions have to be functioning properly for society to be functioning properly. One of the most important of these institutions is the family. Murdock’s study Social Structures (1949) is a definitive early study. It sees four essential functions of the family: 1. 2. 3. 4. A sexual function in that it regulates sexual behaviour within society. It has a reproductive function in that it produces the next generation in society. It acts as a basic economic unit, co-operating in tasks and sharing in resources. It has an educational function in socialising children into the culture of their society.

Parson’s study, Family, Socialisation and Interaction Process (1955) identifies two key functions: 1. The primary socialisation of children. 2. The stabilisation of adult personalities. Strengths:    Functionalism is seen as strong in emphasising the positive aspects of the family. It is also seen as strong in emphasising importance of the family, as some form of family structure is to be found in almost every human society. Also, where alternatives have been tried, eg. the destruction of normal social relationships under the Khmer Rouge, the results have been catastrophic.

Weaknesses:    Highly criticised for overstating the positive aspects of the family and ignoring negative aspects. Heavily criticised by feminists for ignoring subjugation of women and indeed being supportive of domestic role for women, economically dependent on the husband. Functionalist studies such as Murdock’s and Parsons’s have been criticised for being unrepresentative as they were based on white middle class American families.

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Tutor Guide: Student activity on functionalist theory on the family
A Student Activity with questions is provided for this exercise, but areas that the tutor may wish to discuss as a starting point include:     Sociobiology as a starting point in looking at sociological theories in general and the functionalist perspective of the family in particular. An understanding of functionalism both generally and with specific reference to the family. This allows for an understanding of a consensus perspective. How the functions of the family have changed from Murdock’s original four to Parsons’s two and beyond. We can also study both Murdock and Parsons in greater depth, for example, by looking at Murdock’s four functions in greater detail, as well as by looking at Parsons’s two essential functions and also at concepts such as primary and secondary socialisation. A critique of the functionalist approach both in terms of not only criticisms but also how it is supported, eg. by the new right. Criticisms allow an understanding of other theories, some of which students will look at in greater depth, for example feminism. Liberal feminism (which has been roundly criticised by other feminist approaches for its suggestions that there is now a greater sharing of conjugal roles), radical and Marxist feminism, and Marxism itself. This, therefore, provides a useful set of explanations on conflict perspectives of the family.

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Student Activity: Functionalist theory on the family
With reference to the handouts and discussion points provided by your tutor, as well as your wider reading on this topic, answer the following questions. 1. Would you say that functionalism sees the family as operating independently within society? Explain your answer.

2. Explain what is meant by the family acting as an agent of socialisation.

3. Expand on the two key functions that Parsons sees the family fulfilling.

4. Describe two of the strengths of the functionalist explanation of the family.

5. Describe two of the weaknesses of the functionalist explanation of the family.

6. To what extent do you think functionalism adequately explains family structures and roles in modern society?

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Marxist theory on the family
  Marxism is a conflict theory and analyses the role of the family in capitalist society. Marxism sees the capitalist system as one that produces monogamy. This reflects the increasing importance of private property and wealth under capitalism. Monogamy is the system best suited to transfer such private property and wealth. This view is reflected in Friedrich Engels’s work The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State (1884). Marxists also see the family increasingly as a unit of consumption, in that it consumes the products of capitalist society, thus supporting capitalism’s continued existence. The family is also important for capitalism as it perpetuates the subjugated role of women as producers of not only unpaid domestic labour, but also of future generations of workers. The views of Marx and Engels are reflected in the work of Eli Zaretsky, in Capitalism, the Family and Personal Life (1976). Here, Zaretsky argues that the family is unable to provide the support needed to allow the proletariat to cope with the brutal pressures of capitalism. Moreover, he criticises the family as a means of propping up capitalism by providing unpaid female domestic labour.

Evaluation  Marx and Engels have overlapping strengths. Marxism is seen as strong in explaining conflict within the structure of the family. Engels, specifically, has a strength in explaining how kinship ties and the duties and obligations of relationships in early societies have been transferred to capitalism. Marxism is perceived to be good at explaining the economic functions of the family within modern capitalism; in other words, how the family as a working unit is exploited by the capitalist system. It also provides a good explanation of how women are exploited both as free domestic labour within the family and as a source of cheap part-time and/or temporary labour when in paid employment. Here, there is an overlap with Marxistfeminist approaches. Marxism is, however, criticised for placing too much emphasis on the economic system as a determinant of the family and neglecting other factors, such as religion and ethnicity. It also is criticised for failing to recognise the diverse nature of family structures that have developed within capitalism, for example, the growth in the number of single parent families. Some experiments in providing alternatives to the nuclear family in the name of Marxism have proved disastrous, as was the case in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge. Also, the collectivist approach of the Israeli kibbutz system has been criticised for stifling creativity amongst children.

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Finally, it is criticised by feminists, even Marxist-feminists, for neglecting if not ignoring gender as a form of oppression and exploitation, both within the family and the capitalist system in general.

Suggested reading     Haralambos and Holborn. Sociology: Themes and Perspectives. 5th edition. Collins. Chapter 8, pp. 512-515. Kirby et al. Sociology in Perspective. Heinemann. Chapter 7, pp. 237-238. Taylor et al. Sociology in Focus. Causeway Press Ltd. Chapter 7, pp. 238-241. Sociology and Scotland: An Introduction. edited by Sweeney et al., Unity Publications Ltd. Chapter 7, pp. 164-165.

All the texts above apart from Haralambos and Holborn have useful questions and exercises that can be used as questions by teachers/lecturers. Sociology in Focus is particularly useful in using further sources on which questions are based.

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Marxist theory on the family
      Marxism is a conflict theory and analyses the role of the family in capitalist society accordingly. Sees the capitalist system as one that produces monogamy, reflecting the increasing importance of private property and wealth under capitalism. Monogamy is the system best suited to transfer such private property and wealth – Engels, The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State (1884). Sees the family as a unit of consumption, in that it consumes the products of capitalist society, thus supporting capitalism’s continued existence. The family is also important for capitalism as it perpetuates the subjugated role of women as producers of unpaid domestic labour and future generations of workers. Zaretsky, in Capitalism, the Family and Personal Life (1976), argues that the family is unable to provide the support needed to allow the proletariat to cope with the brutal pressures of capitalism. Zaretsky criticises the family as a means of propping up capitalism by providing unpaid female domestic labour.

Strengths:     Explains conflict within family. Engels explains how kinship ties, duties and obligations of relationships in early societies have transferred to capitalism. Good at explaining the economic functions of the family within modern capitalism; how the family as a working unit is exploited by the capitalist system. Good explanation of how women are exploited as free domestic labour and as a source of cheap part-time and/or temporary labour (overlap with Marxist feminism).

Weaknesses:    Economically deterministic, neglecting other factors such as religion and ethnicity. Criticised for failing to recognise the diverse nature of family structures that have developed within capitalism, eg. the growth in number of single parent families. Some experiments in alternatives to the nuclear family in the name of Marxism have proved disastrous, ie. Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge; collectivist approach of the Israeli kibbutz system has been criticised for stifling creativity amongst children. Criticised by feminists (and Marxist-feminists) for neglecting/ignoring gender as a form of oppression and exploitation, within the family and the capitalist system in general.

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Tutor Guide: Student activity on the Marxist theory on the family
Useful starting points for questions would be:   Studying Marxism as a conflict theory in marked contrast to the consensus nature of functionalism. Further study and analysis of Engels and others. As far as Engels is concerned, an exploration of the work of the anthropologist Lewis Henry Morgan and his study Ancient Society (1864), would be useful in explaining the background to Engels work and how he relates the study of early societies to the modern capitalist system. Zaretsky’s work can also be studied in more detail, for example, his rejection of the idea that the private life of the family in capitalist society can be separated from the pressures of the capitalist system. The link between Marxism and Marxist-feminism can also be explored. This allows for an analysis of how Marxist-feminists are both supportive of and also highly critical of Marxism. The extent to which Marxism allows us to understand the family in the context of modern capitalist society can also be explored. Does it still have relevance given developments of the past 15-20 years, namely the continuance of capitalism and the collapse of most communist regimes? How does Marxism relate to other perspectives, for example, black feminism, which is highly critical of the ethnocentric approach of Marxism and indeed other perspectives? Also, is criticism from the political right, specifically the new right, valid?

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Student Activity: Marxist theory on the family
In groups or in pairs, use the knowledge you have gained from your reading on the Marxist theory on the family to answer the following questions: 1. Describe how Marxism analyses the family within the context of the capitalist system.

2. In what ways would a Marxist analysis overlap with a feminist analysis of the family?

3. Explain two of the strengths of Marxism in analysing the family.

4. Explain two of the weaknesses of Marxism in analysing the family.

5. To what extent do you feel Marxism adequately explains the role of the family within modern capitalist society?

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Feminist theories on the family
 Feminism rejects other sociological perspectives as being ‘male-stream’ – ie. maleorientated. This is as applicable to the family as any other social institution. Feminists argue that other sociological perspectives neglect the suppression of women within the family structure. Such an approach would be applicable to a feminist critique of functionalism, which takes a consensus approach; Marxist-feminism and radical feminism see society and the role of the family in terms of conflict. Feminism is also highly critical of the new right, which they argue places particular emphasis on, and supports, patriarchy within the family; patriarchical is the concept that feminists – particularly radical feminists – use to explain their view that society is male oriented and male dominated. Marxist-feminism is highly critical not only of other sociological theories, but also of Marxism itself for failing to explain why, within social classes, women are worse off than men. Marxism is seen as neglecting the gender subjugation of women within the family. Marxist-feminists, such as Margaret Benston in her work, The Political Economy of Women’s Liberation (1972), argues that within capitalism women are exploited within the class system as a distinct group of unpaid domestic labour. Other Marxist-feminists, such as Fran Ansley in The Future of Marriage (1976, edited by Bernard), argue that in fulfilling the role of a housewife, women are providing stability for men, who will take out their emotions engendered by the capitalist system on their wives, eg. domestic violence. Women, even as housewives, are, therefore, contributing significantly to the capitalist system. Annie Oakley, in The Sociology of Housework (1974), argues that the division of labour within capitalism has forced women to become economically dependent on the male wage. Radical feminism is highly critical of patriarchy within the family. They see the family as a social institution that is crucial in sustaining patriarchy within the family, with men reaping the benefits. Radical feminists, such as Kate Millett in Sexual Politics (1970), argue that the family, along with other social agents, allows men to dominate women. In its extreme form this is domestic violence, rape and murder. This is a view taken by Dobash and Dobash in Violence Against Wives: A Case Study Against Patriarchy (1980). Radical feminists argue that the solution is to provide a radical alternative to the nuclear family.

Evaluation  A strength of feminism is that it addresses the issue of women within society. This is particularly applicable to social institutions such as the family. It is generally recognised that this has been an area neglected by other sociological theories and research. Liberal feminism was seen as strong in challenging the orthodoxy and conformity of post-war Western Society in the 1940s and1950s. Liberal feminists, such as Betty Freidan, challenged the ‘Hi honey, I’m home’ mentality of the era.

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Marxism-feminism is seen as good at analysing the role of women in the family in a class context and in explaining the economic subjugation of women. This is because the family creates built-in gender inequality in employment, as women are forced into cheap, low paid, part-time and often temporary labour because of their domestic roles. Radical feminism is good at highlighting issues such as violence within the family. This has led to increasing rejection of such behaviour as being acceptable. It is also linked to progress in areas such as job-sharing, better childcare facilities, paternity leave and longer maternity. However, radical feminists are critical of many of these social policies as they see them as institutionalising (or ‘ghettoising’) the role of women in areas such as domestic labour and child-rearing responsibilities. Feminism is criticised, however, for over-emphasising the negative aspects of family life, whereas many women are satisfied in traditional family roles such as child rearing. Liberal feminism is criticised by other strands such as radical and Marxist-feminism. It is criticised for being a status quo form of feminism, accepting things as they are. For example, it is criticised by radical feminists for analysing the family as an institution in a positive framework. Both Marxist-feminism and radical feminism are criticised for over-emphasising the economic system and patriarchy, respectively, as major determinants of family structure, whilst ignoring the diverse nature of families within a given society. They are also criticised by other strands of feminism. For example, power feminists criticise them for inhibiting the progress of women towards equality within modern society. Black feminists criticise them for being ethnocentric, analysing the role of women from a white perspective, whilst often the family can be a source of support for women in the face of institutionalised racism.

Suggested reading     Haralambos and Holborn. Sociology: Themes and Perspectives. 5th edition. Collins. Chapter 8, pages 514-523. Kirby et al. Sociology in Perspective. Heinemann. Chapter 7, pages 272-278. Taylor et al. Sociology in Focus. Causeway Press Ltd. Chapter 7, pages 239-241. Sociology and Scotland: An Introduction. edited by Sweeney et al., Unity Publications Ltd. Chapter 7, pages 165-170.

All the texts above apart from Haralambos and Holborn have useful questions and exercises that can be used as questions by teachers/lecturers. Sociology in Focus is particularly useful in using further sources on which questions are based.

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Feminist theories on the family
         Feminism rejects other sociological theories as ‘male-stream’ – they neglect the suppression of women. Marxist-feminism and radical feminism see society and the role of the family in terms of conflict. Feminism is also critical of the new right, which supports patriarchy. Marxist-feminism is highly critical of other sociological theories and also of Marxism for failing to explain why women are exploited by their class and gender. Marxist-feminists argue that in fulfilling the role of a housewife, women are providing stability for men. Marxist-feminists argue that working class men take out their frustrations of powerlessness within the capitalist system on their wives, ie. domestic violence. Radical feminism sees the family as a social institution that sustains patriarchy within the family. They argue that the family and other social agents, allow men to dominate women – in its extreme form this is domestic violence, rape and murder. They argue that the division of labour within capitalism has forced women to become economically dependent on the male wage – the solution is to provide a radical alternative to the nuclear family.

Strengths:  Feminism addresses the issue of women within society, both as a political movement and set of sociological theories – the role of women is an area largely neglected by other sociological theories and research. Liberal feminism challenges the orthodoxy and conformity of post-war Western Society in the 1940s and 1950s – ie. Betty Freidan challenged the ‘Hi honey, I’m home’ mentality of the era. Marxist-feminism is good at analysing the role of women in the family in a class context and in explaining the economic subjugation of women. Radical feminism highlights issues such as violence within the family, which has led to increasing rejection of such behaviour as being acceptable. Radical feminism is also linked to progress in areas such as job-sharing, better childcare facilities, paternity leave and longer maternity.

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Weaknesses:    Feminism is criticised for over-emphasising the negative aspects of family life – many women may be satisfied in traditional family roles Liberal feminism is criticised by radical and Marxist feminism for being a status quo form of feminism Both Marxist-feminism and radical feminism are criticised for over-emphasising the economic system and patriarchy as major determinants of family structure, whilst ignoring the diverse nature of different types of families within a given society Power feminists criticise other feminists for inhibiting the progress of women towards equality within modern society Black feminists criticise them for being ethnocentric, analysing the role of women from a white perspective, whilst often the family can be a source of support for women in the face of institutionalised racism.

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Tutor Guide: Student activity on feminism
Useful starting points for questions would be:   Studying feminism as a conflict theory in marked contrast to functionalism/consensus. Further study and analysis of feminism. For example, further exploration of radical and Marxist-feminism by examining the works of writers such as Benston, Dobash and Dobash and Oakley, as well as other such as Shulamith Firestone. There are also other strands of feminism that are only touched on in the notes, which could be developed. For example, there is liberal feminism with writers such as Betty Friedan, power feminists, such as Camilla Paglia and black feminists, such as Helen Carby. Another concept that can be explored is ‘difference feminism’. Haralambos and Holborn (5th edition) has a particularly good section on this on pages 519-523. The importance of feminism and its impact on society can be analysed by exploring a whole range of issues within society. For example, the impact of the feminist movement on social issues, such as abortion, divorce and domestic violence in modern Western society? What about government policies in areas such as welfare provision and employment – what has been the impact of feminism in these areas? The link between Marxism and Marxism-feminism can also be explored. This allows for an analysis of how Marxist-feminists are both supportive of and also highly critical of Marxism. An analysis of black feminism allows us to explore the issue of ethnicity within society and the whole question of race and racism from a feminist perspective. This allows a critique not only of other sociological theories, but also reflects the highly diverse nature of feminism as a perspective on its own, and how these different strands are often highly critical of each other.

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Student Activity: Feminist theories on the family
In groups or in pairs, use the knowledge you have gained from your reading on the feminist theory on the family to answer the following questions: 1. Describe what feminists mean by male stream perspectives, and why they are highly critical of them?

2. In what ways is feminist theory specifically critical of: a) Functionalism?

b) The new right?

c) Marxism?

3. Describe the feminist analysis of patriarchy within the structure of the family.

4. Explain two strengths of feminist theory.

5. Explain two weaknesses of feminist theory.

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The new right perspective of the family
 New right thinking emerged in the 1980s and 1990s. It sought to re-affirm the importance of the family against what it saw as an attack from the liberal values and culture of the 1960s and 1970s. Such liberal values were seen as undermining the role of the family within society. The new right sees the family as the cornerstone of society. They would also argue that the nuclear family is the ‘normal family unit’. Such views relate to a sociobiological view of the family, whereby it is natural to have a nuclear family as a means of preserving and continuing society. For example, Ferdinand Mount, in The Subversive Family: An Alternative History of Love and Marriage (1982), refers to what he describes as the timeless ‘duties of care prescribed by the biological ethic’ in the ‘natural family’ (quoted from Taylor et al. Sociology in Focus. Causeway Press Ltd. pp. 236). They feel that the ‘traditional family’ is under threat. They reject the functionalist view that the modern nuclear family is performing the functions of society efficiently. Groups such as the moral majority in the United States and the Adam Smith Institute in Britain argue that social trends such as greater sexual permissiveness, an increase in single parent families, greater tolerance of homosexuality, easier divorce and the influence of feminism, has led to a breakdown of marriage as an institution and society in general. The new right has been highly influential politically, both in the United States and United Kingdom. Its right wing perspective has been reflected in the policies of the Republican governments of Ronald Reagan, George Bush and George W. Bush in the US and in the Thatcher and Major Conservative governments. Indeed, many political and social commentators have accused the Blair governments of being none too dissimilar to the new right. This has been seen in areas such as welfare and employment policy, as well as social issues, such as abortion (though not all of these areas relate to both the UK and US). Supporters of the new right argue that their analysis of modern Western society is supported by evidence. For example, record levels of divorce and single parent families, increasing social problems such as rising crime, particularly violent crime, sexually transmitted diseases and drug addiction all reflect the breakdown caused by the undermining of social institutions such as the family, according to new right thinking. They would also argue that these problems support the new right’s criticisms of liberal government policies in the past. These include welfare systems that encourage a culture of dependency, a view supported by new right sociologists, such as David Marsland in Welfare or Welfare State? Contradictions and Dilemmas in Social Policy (1996). He is critical of welfare policy such as universal provision, which he argues does not reflect real need, but merely encourages dependency on state handouts.

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Evaluation  The new right is criticised for blaming the victims of circumstances that are not of their own making. For example, single parents both in the US and UK have been blamed for raising their children inadequately when the real reasons were poor benefit levels, high levels of unemployment and sexual and racial discrimination. It is also the case that the ideal ‘traditional family’ to which the new right aspires is one which is very much in a minority. Less than 20 per cent of families in Britain have a working father, a mother who stays at home, and children. The implementation of new right policies both in the UK and the US has done nothing to improve the lives of millions of women or indeed men on low income, or in poverty. In their study of the new right, The Family and the New Right (1992), Pamela Abbott and Claire Wallace argue that such policies: ‘Have been more concerned with re-asserting the rights of middle-class men and maintaining capitalism than they have been with a genuine concern for men, women and children and the quality of their lives.’ (Quoted from Haralambos and Holborn. Sociology: Themes and Perspectives. 5th edition. Collins. pp. 576.) Suggested reading    Haralambos and Holborn. Sociology: Themes and Perspectives. 5th edition. Collins. Chapter 8, pp. 574-577 Kirby et al. Sociology in Perspective. Heinemann. Chapter 7, pp. 268-269 Taylor et al. Sociology in Focus. Causeway Press Ltd. Chapter 7, pp. 236-237.

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The new right perspective on the family
     New right thinking emerged in 1980s and 1990s. It sought to re-affirm the importance of the family against what it saw as an attack from liberal values and culture, seen as undermining the role of the family. Sees the family as the cornerstone of society – nuclear family is the ‘normal’ family unit. Such views relate to a sociobiological view of the family – ie. nuclear family is ‘natural’. The ‘traditional family’ is under threat – eg. ‘moral majority’ in the US and the Adam Smith Institute in UK argue that sexual permissiveness, increase in single parent families, tolerance of homosexuality, easier divorce and the influence of feminism, has led to a breakdown of marriage as an institution and society in general The new right has been highly influential politically, both in the UK and US.

Strengths:  Supporters of the new right argue that their analysis of modern Western society is supported by evidence, in areas such as record levels of divorce and single parent families, increasing social problems such as rising crime, particularly violent crime, sexually transmitted diseases and drug addiction. They would also argue that these problems support the new right’s criticisms of liberal government policies in the past, including welfare systems that encourage a culture of dependency.

Weaknesses:  Criticised for blaming the victims of circumstances that are not of their own making – single parents both in the US and UK have been blamed for raising their children inadequately when the real reasons were poor benefit levels, high levels of unemployment and sexual and racial discrimination. It is also the case that the ideal ‘traditional family’ to which the new right aspires is one which is very much in a minority – less than 20% of families in Britain have a working father, a mother who stays at home and children. The implementation of new right policies both in the UK and the US has done nothing to improve the lives of millions of women or indeed men on low income or in poverty.

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Tutor Guide: Student activity on the new right perspective
Useful starting points for questions would be:  The new right is almost universally condemned by sociologists and runs counter to nearly all sociological perspectives. Indeed, it is almost a throwback to sociobiology. It can, therefore, be studied as a counterpoint to the other sociological theories. Another possible area of explanation is that, despite the widespread rejection of new right thinking sociologically, it has been willingly and keenly embraced by politicians. Why is this? Moreover, why have politicians been able to successfully exploit such thinking by being repeatedly elected? On this basis a major focus for discussion and study would be the implementation of new right thinking in the form of government policies both in the US and the UK. Areas such as restrictions on the availability of abortion in Britain and in particular the US, and the impact of such restrictions on women and family life are worthy of study. There is also the whole area of welfare policy. For example, the redefinition of community care by the Thatcher administration from care in the community to, in reality, care by the community had major implications for women as unpaid carers. Other areas would include the creation of a cheap pool of female part-time and/or temporary labour through changes to union laws by successive Conservative governments; emphasis on ‘family values’ by John Major when he was Conservative Prime Minister and the political fallout with a huge swing to Labour amongst women; the cut in single parent benefits by Blair’s Labour government; and emphasis on work within welfare policy as a move away from what is perceived as a dependency culture.

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Student Activity: New right perspective on the family
In groups or in pairs, use the knowledge you have gained from your reading on the new right perspective on the family to answer the following questions: 1) In what ways is new right theory critical of liberal society?

2)

In what ways does the new right support the sociobiological view of the family?

3)

‘The new right has had no impact on modern Western governments.’ Discuss this view.

4)

Describe two strengths of the new right theory in analysing modern Western society.

5)

Describe two criticisms of the new right’s analysis of modern Western society.

6)

To what extent do you think new right theory is applicable to the family today?

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Aspects of the sociology of the family
As well as features and changes in key functions of the family and at least two contrasting theories, certain aspects must be covered. Within the topic option of the family these aspects are:    Changes in family patterns – an analysis of two features and two studies. Conjugal roles – an analysis of two features and two studies. Marital breakdown – an analysis of two features and two studies.

The following areas of these aspects must also be covered:    The changing role of women. The changing role of men. Power relationships.

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Aspect: Changes in family patterns
Features  A starting point for many of the changes has been the industrialisation of modern society. As a consequence, this has had a major impact on the functions performed by the family. There has been increasing specialisation as other social agencies, for example, the welfare state took over certain functions. Another major change has been the urbanisation of families. With the industrial revolution, the huge movement of families from the countryside to the cities led to a change, in that families ceased to be units of production, and became units of consumption. The specialisation of functions carried out by the family has also had an impact on family structure. As the number of functions has been reduced, the need for the extended family has been reduced. This, in turn, has led to the growth in the nuclear family. Further changes in the 20th century have seen the subsequent decline in the nuclear family and increase in diversity of family types, eg. the growth of single parent families and reconstituted families. The sexual division of labour caused by movement from land to industrial cities had a massive impact on the role of women. Increasingly, women were confined to domestic roles. Where women did enter paid employment, it was often in so-called ‘women’s’ occupations, such as nursing, care, cleaning and secretarial work. In post-industrial society, further changes have taken place as far as the role of women within the family is concerned. For example, as the 20th century drew to a close, changes such as a decline in family size, changes in divorce and abortion laws, the growth of female employment and single parent families, have all led to significant changes in the role of women. To some extent, there has been progress towards sexual equality, but women still face widespread discrimination and inequality within the family.

Studies and an evaluation of their strengths and weaknesses  Numerous studies have taken place on changes in family patterns. For example, in the 1950s Talcott Parsons carried out a number of functionalist studies. In ‘The social structure of the family’ (1959, in The Family: Its Functions and Destiny), Parsons argues for the concept of the isolated nuclear family, which he argues is an inevitable outcome of increasing specialisation. William Goode’s study, World Revolution and Family Patterns (1963), looked at changes in family structure as a result of industrialisation. Goode is generally regarded as taking a functionalist approach. He saw industrialisation as undermining the extended family for a number of reasons: increased mobility of the workforce weakened links within the family; increased social mobility also led families to cut off ties from lower social strata. Like Parsons, Goode argues that functions previously performed by the family are now performed by other agencies within society, such as the welfare state.

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These studies are seen as strong in recognising changes within industrialised society. For example, the workforce is much more mobile and growth of services, such as those provided by the welfare state, have reduced the number of functions performed by the family. Also, at the time of publication the nuclear family was the prevalent family structure in Western industrial society. However, they are also criticised for arguing that the nuclear family is the most suitable form of family structure. Both Goode and Parsons are criticised for ignoring the negative aspects of the nuclear family and also negative aspects of industrialisation. For example, feminists are particularly critical of the view taken by Goode and Parsons, which is supportive of a family structure, ensuring a subservient role for women. Even where women have achieved equality of opportunity in areas such as employment, they have not achieved such equality in conjugal roles. Delphy and Leonard’s Familiar Exploitation (1992) is a radical feminist study. As with other radical feminist studies it argues that the family is a form of economic oppression of women by men. They argue that patriarchy has been retained within family structures irrespective of changes. This is a radical view also expressed by Purdy in Babystrike (1997). She emphasises the continued exploitation of women within the family structure due to the continuing responsibility of childcare placed on women. Studies such as Delphy and Leonard’s and Purdy’s in highlighting and analysing issues such as the continued inequalities between men and women within the family, in areas such as domestic labour, unequal distribution of power and childcare demands. However, Delphy and Leonard are criticised for assuming that inequality is always patriarchal in that all families have a man as head, whereas almost 90 per cent of single parent families are headed by a woman. They are also criticised for basing their studies on data that is unrepresentative. Purdy is criticised for putting too much emphasis on childcare and ignoring other factors as causes of inequality between men and women within the family. Other studies reject the view that industrialisation has inevitably meant the end of the extended family and the growth of the nuclear family. Michael Anderson’s study, Family, Household and the Industrial Revolution (1971), was based on a study of Preston in the 19th century. The functions included providing welfare services in areas such as homelessness, illness, unemployment and care for the elderly. Anderson’s study is seen as strong in challenging pre-conceived views about the impact of industrialisation on the family. Also, extended families were prevalent well into the 20th century, particularly amongst working class families. However, Anderson is criticised by others who studied 19th century Britain, such as Elizabeth Roberts. In A Woman’s Place: An Oral History of Working Class Women 1890-1940 (1984), Roberts supports Anderson’s view that extended families were important. However, she is also critical because she feels Anderson understates the support given by women within working class communities not only to other family members, but also to individuals in other families. She also criticises Anderson for arguing that individuals within families acted largely out of self-interest. In contrast, Roberts found that women in particular gave emotional and sometimes financial support with little expectation of any return.

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Other useful studies include Choosing Childlessness by McAllister and Clarke (1998) and Growing Up in Stepfamilies by Barnes et al. (1998). For both, see Blundell and Griffiths’s Sociology since 1995, Volume 2, (2003).

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Aspect: Changes in family patterns
Industrialisation has had a major impact on the functions performed by the family, leading to increasing specialisation.        Urbanisation – families ceased to be units of production and became units of consumption. Specialisation of functions has had an impact on family structure – as the number of functions has been reduced, the need for the extended family has been reduced. This has led to the growth in the nuclear family. 20th century – decline in the nuclear family and increase in diversity of family types, eg. the growth of single parent families and reconstituted families. Sexual division of labour caused by movement from land to industrial cities had a massive impact on the role of women. Post-industrial society – changes such as a decline in family size, divorce and abortion laws, the growth of female employment and single parent families. Some progress towards sexual equality, but women still face widespread discrimination and inequality within the family.

Studies and an evaluation of their strengths and weaknesses  Talcott Parsons, ‘The social structure of the family’ (1959, in The Family: Its Functions and Destiny): - Functionalist approach. - Argues for the concept of the isolated nuclear family, which he argues is an inevitable outcome of increasing specialisation. William Goode, World Revolution and Family Patterns (1963): - Looked at changes in family structure caused by industrialisation. - Generally regarded as taking a functionalist approach - Saw industrialisation as undermining the extended family – ie. increased mobility of the workforce weakened links within the family; increased social mobility also led families to cut off ties from lower social strata. Goode and Parsons – studies are seen as strong in recognising changes within industrialised society – eg. the workforce more mobile and growth of services has reduced the number of functions performed by the family. - At the time of Goode’s and Parsons’s publications the nuclear family was the prevalent family structure in Western industrial society - They are also criticised for arguing that the nuclear family is the most suitable form of family structure - Both Goode and Parsons are criticised for ignoring the negative aspects of the nuclear family and industrialisation - Feminists are particularly critical of Goode and Parsons, whom they argue support a subservient role for women within the family.

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Delphy and Leonard, Familiar Exploitation (1992): - Family is a form of economic oppression of women by men. - Patriarchy has been retained within family structures irrespective of changes. - Radical feminist view. - Delphy and Leonard are criticised for assuming that inequality is always patriarchal in that all families have a man as head; almost 90% of single parent families are headed by a woman. - They are also criticised for basing their studies on unrepresentative data. Purdy in Babystrike (1997): - Emphasises the continued exploitation of women within the family structure due to responsibility of childcare placed on women. - Radical feminist view. - Purdy is criticised for putting too much emphasis on childcare and ignoring other factors as causes of inequality between men and women within the family.

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Student Activity: Changes in family patterns
Using the information and directed reading provided to you by your tutor, answer the following questions: 1. In what ways has each of the following had an impact on changing family structures: (a) Industrialisation?

(b) Urbanisation?

(c) Specialisation of functions?

(d) Sexual division of labour?

2. Choose any three studies that you have covered. Evaluate the extent to which they explain changes in family structure.

3. To what extent do you feel that family structure has changed in recent years? You may wish to discus this with older members of your family to draw comparisons.

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Aspect: Conjugal roles
Features    Conjugal roles are those roles defined by a society’s culture and values on a gender basis, as an integral part of the socialisation process. In the past sociobiologists, such as Murdock, would argue that they are biologically based, but such a view is now generally rejected by sociologists. Feminists, particularly radical feminists, see such roles as another form of patriarchy in a society whose organisation and purpose is the domination of women by and for men. Conjugal roles can relate to a number of different facets within the family structure. For example, it can relate to power within marriage, eg. Stephen Edgell’s study, Middle Class Couples (1980). This is usually defined as the relative earning capacity of each spouse to determine the course of their shared life. Edgell interviewed husbands and wives about decision-making and found that men dominated in the decisions that were perceived as important. It can also relate to agenda setting, ie. who decides what questions/issues are discussed. It can relate to ideological power, ie. the ability to persuade people – usually women – to accept that which is against their own interests, for example, a subservient role within marriage. Another important concept is that of segregated conjugal roles as opposed to joint conjugal roles. Segregated conjugal roles are seen as a feature of past societies. Now, many argue that there are joint conjugal roles with a sharing of roles and implicit equality. Such a view is rejected by many feminists who argue that women now experience the dual burden of full/part-time employment coupled with still having to do all or most of the domestic work. This also impacts on the changing role of men within the context of conjugal roles. From a functionalist perspective men are seen as increasingly taking on a greater workload within the context of conjugal roles. This is a position taken by studies such as Willmott and Young’s as outlined below. However from a feminist perspective little has changed. This is reflected in studies such as Oakley’s and Edgell’s again outlined in more detail below.

 

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Studies and an evaluation of their strengths and weaknesses  Willmott and Young’s The Symmetrical Family (1975) argued that now there was symmetry in areas such as domestic labour. Presenting a functionalist view, they argued that household chores and leisure time between husband and wife were now fairly evenly shared. The conjugal bond in modern families was strong so joint conjugal roles were prevalent. Their study was seen as strong as it recognised changes that have taken place. For example, it recognises changes since industrial society in areas such as increased equality in domestic chores, increased opportunities for women in areas such as employment, greater affluence amongst the working classes and family life becoming increasingly privatised and nuclear. However, such a view of symmetry and equality is criticised by a wide range of sociologists. Feminists, such as Annie Oakley, are particularly critical of Young and Willmott for arguing that symmetry has been achieved. Feminists have heavily criticised Wilmott and Young’s findings for being misleading, eg. the conclusion that 72 per cent of men do housework based on their response to one question. Stephen Edgell’s study, Middle Class Couples (1980), is also critical of Willmott and Young. Edgell interviewed husbands and wives about decision making and found that men dominated in the decisions that were conceived as important, for example, finance and moving house. Annie Oakley’s 1974 book, Housewife, is seen as a definitive Marxist/socialist feminist study. Oakley argued that conjugal roles had changed markedly in the 20th century. In pre-industrial Britain, women worked alongside men; however, industrialisation led to the sexual division of labour. Women then became increasingly excluded from paid work and reliant on the male wage. Thus heralded the development of segregated roles. A strength of her study is that it identifies and foregrounds the development of separate conjugal roles with the inherent inequality, subjugation and exploitation of women. It also identified differences on a class basis, with greater equality amongst the middle class compared to working class. However, even here there existed little equality. Oakley, as with other feminists, is criticised for emphasising the negative aspects of the family and neglecting positive aspects and progress that women have made. Oakley was also criticised for basing conclusions on a very small sample that was not representative of the population as a whole, and for failing to study changes in conjugal roles over a period of time. Other studies include Parenting in the 1990s by Ferri and Smith (1996), Family Life by Allan (1985) and Teenage Mothers: Decisions and Outcomes by Allen et al. (1998). See Haralambos and Holborn’s Sociology Themes and Perspectives 5th edition (2000), pp. 552-563 and Blundell and Griffiths’s Sociology since 1995 Volume 2, (2003).

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Aspect: Conjugal roles
     Conjugal roles are those roles defined by a society’s culture and values on a gender basis. Sociobiologists, such as Murdock, would argue that they are biologically based, but such a view is now generally rejected by sociologists. Feminists (ie. radical) see such roles as patriarchy in a society whose organisation and purpose is the domination of women by and for men. Marxist-feminists would see them as linked to the capitalist structure. Conjugal roles can relate to a number of different facets within the family structure, such as power within marriage, eg. Stephen Edgell’s study, Middle Class Couples (1980). Conjugal roles can relate to ideological power, ie. the ability to persuade people – usually women – to accept that which is against their own interests, for example, a subservient role within marriage. Segregated conjugal roles as opposed to joint conjugal roles. Segregated conjugal roles are seen as a feature of past societies. Many argue there are joint conjugal roles with a sharing of roles and implicit equality, but this is rejected by many feminists who argue that women now experience the dual burden of full/part-time employment coupled with still having to do all or most of the domestic work.

  

Studies and an evaluation of their strengths and weaknesses ● Willmott and Young’s The Symmetrical Family (1975): - Supports functionalist approach. - Argued there was now symmetry in domestic labour: household chores and leisure time between husband and wife were now fairly evenly shared. - The conjugal bond in modern families was strong so joint conjugal roles were prevalent. - A strength of their study was it recognised changes that have taken place since industrialised society. - Feminists, such as Annie Oakley, are particularly critical of Young and Willmott for arguing that symmetry has been achieved. - Wilmott and Young’s findings were heavily criticised for being misleading – eg. the conclusion that 72% of men do housework based on their response to one question.  Stephen Edgell’s study, Middle Class Couples (1980): - Interviewed husbands and wives about decision making and found that men dominated in the decisions that were conceived as important – eg. finance and moving house.

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Annie Oakley’s Housewife (1974): - Seen as a definitive Marxist/socialist feminist study. - Argued that conjugal roles had changed markedly in the 20th century. - In pre-industrial Britain, women worked alongside men; industrialisation led to the sexual division of labour. - Women then became increasingly excluded from paid work and reliant on the male wage. - Thus came the development of segregated roles. - A strength of her study is that it identifies and foregrounds the development of separate conjugal roles with the inherent inequality, subjugation and exploitation of women. - Identifies differences on a class basis – greater equality amongst middle class women than working class women. - However, even here there existed little equality. - Oakley, as with other feminists, is criticised for emphasising the negative aspects of the family and neglecting positive aspects and progress that women have made. - Oakley was also criticised for basing conclusions on a very small sample that was not representative of the population as a whole, and for failing to study changes in conjugal roles over a period of time.

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Student Activity: Conjugal roles
Using the handouts and directed reading given to you by your tutor, answer the following questions. You may answer these questions individually, in pairs, or in small groups. 1. What is meant by conjugal roles?

2. Describe the relationship between conjugal roles and: a) Power.

b)

Agenda setting.

c)

Ideological power.

3. What do you understand by the concepts of: a) Segregated conjugal roles?

b)

Joint conjugal roles?

4. Which of the two definitions in Question 3 do you feel is more relevant in modern society? Explain your answer.

5. Choose any three studies on conjugal roles and evaluate their analysis of changing conjugal roles in modern society.

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Aspect: Marital breakdown
Features  One of the major features of marital breakdown in the latter part of the 20th century and into the 21st century has been the changing divorce rate. There has been a huge rise in the divorce rate in the UK due to a number of factors. One of the major factors has been the change in the divorce laws, which made divorce much easier. Of particular importance were the Divorce Reform Act 1971 and the Matrimonial and Family Proceedings Act 1985. Rising expectation of marriage, with couples unwilling to accept ‘empty shell marriages’, is another factor that has made divorce much more likely. The changing role of women within the family has been another significant factor. This is reflected in the fact that three-quarters of divorces are filed by women and that far fewer women than men remarry. Also indicative of marital breakdown is separation which, like empty shell marriages, is notoriously difficult to measure. Although there are statistics for legal separation, it is also the case that many more couples simply split up. Figures for empty shell marriages are even harder to find. Another major reason for divorce is domestic violence, central to Dobash and Dobash’s study, Violence against Wives (1979). Another factor is the changing role of men which of course is linked to the changing role of women as the two are inexorably linked. Functionalists such as Parsons and Fletcher argue, from a functionalist perspective that an increase in marital breakdown reflects not a decline in the value placed on marriage but an increase by both men and women. This they argue is reflected in the high rates of re-marriage. From a Marxist perspective Hart in When Marriage Ends: A Study In Status Passage (1976) argues that both men and women find their changing roles difficult to reconcile as women increasingly go out to work as to satisfy the demands of modern capitalism.

 

 

Studies and an evaluation of their strengths and weaknesses  One of the defining studies is R. Fletcher’s The Family and Marriage in Britain (1966). Fletcher’s functionalist interpretation of an increase in divorce rates was that it was evidence of increased expectations of marriage by couples. Thus, the conclusion was drawn that couples were no longer prepared to put up with empty shell marriages. Moreover, given that most divorcees remarry, then it was higher expectations rather than disillusionment with marriage as an institution that was responsible for an increase in divorce rates. Fletcher’s study is seen as strong in recognising and explaining changes in divorce trends. It is also has a strength in recognising the increases in opportunities for women within marriage. This was particularly the case in areas such as divorce, employment and conjugal roles. This explains both increases in divorce and why 75 per cent of divorce petitions are from women.

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However, he is heavily criticised by feminists for overstating the progress made by women. A figure of 75 per cent does not reflect progress and equality experienced by women. Rather, it confirms a greater level of disillusionment experienced by women within marriage, thus confirming continued inequality. A second study is N. Hart’s When Marriage Ends (1976). This study identifies three main sets of factors that cause marital breakdown: 1) factors that affect the value attached to marriage, eg. raised expectations lead to increased marital breakdown. 2) factors that affect the extent to which there is conflict between spouses, eg. specialisation of functions. 3) factors that affect the opportunities to escape from marriage, eg. changes in the divorce laws. Hart’s study is seen as strong in recognising the impact of changes in society on marriage, particularly with respect to women. It is also recognised as having strengths in recognising the demands put on women by modern capitalism. This, in turn, leads to cheap, often part-time and/or temporary labour, thus leading to a dual burden of paid work and domestic work and conflict with a spouse over conjugal roles. However, Hart’s Marxist study and others are criticised for over-stating the decline of marriage as an institution. Causes of marital breakdown are open to different interpretations and marriage is still central to most peoples’ lives. Other studies include Chester’s The Rise of the Neo-conventional Family (1985), Gibson’s Dissolving Wedlock (1994) and Absent Fathers by Bradshaw et al. (1999). See also Haralambos and Holborn’s Sociology: Themes and Perspectives, 5th edition (2000), pp. 563-572 and Blundell and Griffiths’s Sociology since 1995 Volume 2 (2003).

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Aspect: Marital breakdown
  Major feature of marital breakdown from late 20th century has been the changing divorce rate. Huge rise in the divorce rate in the UK due to a number of factors: - Change in the divorce laws, making divorce easier. - Divorce Reform Act 1971 and Matrimonial and Family Proceedings Act 1985. - Rising expectation of marriage – couples unwilling to accept ‘empty shell marriages’. - Changing role of women within the family – reflected in the fact that 3/4 of divorces are filed by women and far fewer women than men remarry. - Separation and ‘empty shell marriages’ – difficult to measure. - Domestic violence (central to Dobash and Dobash’s study, Violence against Wives (1979)).

Studies and an evaluation of their strengths and weaknesses  R. Fletcher, The Family and Marriage in Britain (1966): Functionalist: - Increase in divorce rates was evidence of increased expectations of marriage by couples. - Concluded that couples were no longer prepared to put up with ‘empty shell marriages’. - As most divorcees remarry, it was higher expectations not disillusionment with marriage as an institution that led to an increase in divorce rates. - Seen as strong in recognising and explaining changes in divorce trends. - Recognises the increases in opportunities for women within marriage – ie. divorce, employment and conjugal roles. - He is heavily criticised by feminists for overstating the progress made by women. - Rather than reflect progress and equality experienced by women, his study confirms a greater level of disillusionment experienced by women within marriage, thus confirming continued inequality.  N. Hart’s, When Marriage Ends (1976): Marxist: - Identifies three main sets of factors that cause marital breakdown: 1. Factors that affect the value attached to marriage. 2. Factors that affect the extent to which there is conflict between spouses. 3. Factors that affect the opportunities to escape from marriage. - Seen as strong in recognising the impact of changes in society on marriage. - Recognises the demands put on women by modern capitalism. - However, Hart is criticised for over-stating the decline of marriage as an institution. - Also, causes of marital breakdown are open to different interpretations and marriage is still central to most peoples’ lives.

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Student Activity: Marriage breakdown
Answer the following questions that relate to the breakdown of marriage. The reading that you have been directed to should help inform your responses. 1) Describe the impact of each of the following on divorce as a factor in marital breakdown in the last 30 years: a) Legal changes.

b)

‘Empty shell marriages’.

c)

The changing role of women.

d)

Domestic violence.

2)

Take any two studies on marital breakdown and evaluate their contribution to an understanding of the topic.

3)

To what extent do you feel marital breakdown is a problem in modern society? Or is it an inevitable consequence of changes in family structure?

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Topic 2: The sociology of welfare and poverty

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The sociology of welfare and poverty
Tutor Guide to activity on key features, definitions and changes in welfare and poverty As an introduction to the topic of welfare and poverty, the key features, definitions and changes in welfare and poverty should be explored. This could be done in a number of ways. 1) Through class/group discussion that looks at personal experiences. Areas that could be explored could be how students/pupils define poverty, explaining concepts such as absolute as opposed to relative poverty, and how poverty is measured. This can and has led to lively discussion in past exercises. However, this exercise must be approached with great caution given what some students may well have experienced in their personal lives. Role-play through tackling issues within the area of welfare and poverty. Issues could include defining welfare provision, the impact of welfare provision on individuals and how it varies from one group to the next. Changes in provision of welfare in a political context over a period of time could also be looked at. Again, sensitivity and tact should be exercised. Another approach could be a small exercise in research, exploring some of the key features, definitions and changes of welfare and poverty that have taken place, through a survey, questionnaire, interview or any method(s) of research as cited in the Course and Unit specifications. Knowledge and skills that have been acquired within Studying Human Society: The Sociological Approach could be applied here.

2)

3)

These are merely suggestions. Tutors, lecturers and teachers should use the research methods and methodologies with which they are comfortable and which they feel best prepares students for the demands of Unit assessment and final Course assessment. Teachers/lecturers should also aware of the logistical and time restraints that placed on both teachers and students. Some of the questions that could be put to students include:             How do you define poverty? What criteria do you use for measuring poverty and how does this relate to your own lifestyle and society in general? Do you know what is meant by relative and absolute poverty? What is your understanding of welfare provision? How does welfare provision impact on your own lives? How does welfare impact on different groups, eg. children, single parents, the unemployed, low paid, etc.? What are your views on welfare provision? What is the role of the state/individuals/communities/the voluntary sector in providing welfare and where should the balance lie? What is current government policy on welfare and what is the thinking behind it? How does this relate to past government policy? To what extent is it different and to what does extent does it overlap? What are your views on universal welfare provision as opposed to ‘means-tested’ welfare?

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Background to key features, definitions and changes in welfare and poverty
Introduction The welfare system in the UK today and, indeed, in most industrial countries, impacts on just about everyone. The concept of a welfare system ‘from the cradle to the grave’ may be under pressure in some ways, but it is still very much a reality. Today, as it has been in the past, welfare and poverty are major social, economic and political issues. As such, it is worthy of sociological consideration and study. Issues such as welfare, poverty and deprivation are linked to and affect every aspect of society, including major social institutions such as the family, education, health, crime and deviance, employment and unemployment. The comprehensive nature of welfare as an issue was recognised by William Beveridge, whose 1942 report formed the basis of the current welfare state in post-war Britain. Beveridge recognised the need for, and advocated, a comprehensive and integrated welfare system to tackle issues such as unemployment, poverty, squalor, poor housing and poor education. In this topic, we will look at some of the key features of welfare and poverty, how welfare and poverty are defined, and how welfare policies have developed over the years from the Victorian era up to the Blairite definition and approach. We will then look at some of the key sociological definitions. Key features/definitions In studying welfare and poverty in a sociological context, we have to begin by looking at how the concept of poverty is defined and measured. This is centrally important not only in itself, but it also helps determine what welfare policy and provision will be put in place by governments. There are a number of different definitions of poverty. For example, it is sometimes distinguished from social inequality. Social inequality can be seen as inequality within society where some people are better off than others. This does not necessarily mean, however, that those at the bottom are by definition, poor. This leads us to the usual way in which sociologists define poverty, either in absolute or relative terms. Absolute poverty measures poverty against that which is considered to be the basic needs of people. If people do not have access to these basic needs then they are experiencing poverty. Relative poverty defines poverty in the context of the society under scrutiny. In this context, poverty is measured in relation to, for example, the ability of individuals to experience the lifestyle of the majority or a substantial proportion of society. Also, it may look at poverty in the context of the relative wealth of the nation in which relative poverty is experienced. For example, the UK ranks high among the world’s richest nations, yet many people are homeless or struggle to make ends meet, even for many who are actually in paid employment. Thus, such people would be seen as experiencing poverty relative to the wealth of the nation. A definitive of absolute poverty was carried out by Seebohm Rowntree in York in 1899. His study, Poverty: A Study of Town Life (1901), concluded that 33 per cent of York’s population experienced poverty, unable to afford ‘the basics’. ‘The basics’ included fuel and light, rent, food and clothing.

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However, in a later study, Poverty and the Welfare State (1951), he concluded that by 1950 this figure had fallen to 1.5 per cent, because of significant improvements in living standards. A definitive study of relative poverty was carried out by Peter Townsend. In his study, Poverty in the United Kingdom (1979), he argued that poverty was not at a fixed permanent level but was relative to the expectations and culture of society. Townsend used a ‘deprivation index’ of 12 characteristics, including a week’s holiday, afternoon or evening entertainment, ownership of a refrigerator, sole access to flushing WC, fixed bath or shower and a gas or electric cooker. Therefore, whilst having a flushing loo is not an absolute necessity, given that the vast majority of people in Britain have such access, then a lack of it – in relative terms – means that those individuals are experiencing poverty. Both the absolute and relative approaches concentrate on poverty in material terms, though such material poverty or material deprivation is criticised by many sociologists as being an inadequate definition. They argue that a better way to define poverty is through multiple deprivation, where lack of access to other social institutions such as the power structure, employment opportunities and good education opportunities, leads to deprivation. Indeed, such a definition reflects Beveridge’s thinking of the comprehensive nature of poverty and the subsequent response in terms of universal welfare provision from the cradle to the grave in areas such as health, housing, employment and education. Other areas that could be studied include how poverty affects different groups, for example, the impact of poverty on women in areas such as unemployment, poor levels of pay, sexual discrimination in the workplace, problems faced by single parents, etc. Similarly, the impact of poverty on ethnic minorities, different age groups such as children and the elderly and different social classes can also be studied. Major changes in the provision of welfare As we have seen, poverty can be defined in a number of ways. In particular, there is a clear distinction between absolute and relative poverty. How poverty is defined is of crucial importance in determining the type of welfare provision made available, if indeed there is any. Originally, the concept of poverty was held to be one of individual responsibility; if you were poor, then it was your own fault. This was prevalent in Victorian and pre-Victorian thinking. Many philanthropists at this time, out of a sense of responsibility and perhaps guilt – given their wealth being created from industry – felt action had to be taken to try to alleviate poverty. Such thinking was reflected in the Poor Law Amendment Act 1834. If anything, this legislation made it more difficult for the poor to seek any help. Only the elderly and sick could seek help within their own homes. All others who were seeking help had to go to the workhouse, where the conditions were made deliberately harsh so that those attending would prefer life on the outside. This is reflected in market liberal theory, whereby the state should not intervene. Such thinking remained in place until the beginning of the 20th century. By then, the need for some level of competence in areas such as health and education, needed to provide an industrial working class, had forced a succession of governments to take reformist action.

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For example, the Public Health Acts of 1848 and 1875 were passed, setting up health boards, as well as the construction of proper sewerage systems in cities to prevent the outbreak of diseases, particularly cholera. In the first decade of the 20th century, Liberal governments introduced measures that can be seen as the basis of the modern welfare state. These included old age pensions for those over 70 in 1906, and National Insurance for workers in 1911 to provide health insurance for the workforce. This system remained in place, largely unchanged, until 1945. The experience of ‘the depression’ in the 1930s and the huge social upheaval caused by World War 2, meant that a majority Labour government swept to power in 1945, determined to implement a comprehensive welfare system. They based it on the Beveridge Report, which identified five ‘social evils’. These ‘evil giants’ were want, disease, ignorance, squalor and idleness. The welfare state as we know it stemmed from the reforms put in place by the Labour between 1945 and 1951. The Education Act 1944 had already established a state education system and in 1948, with the setting up of the National Health Service (NHS), the modern welfare state came into being. This was also reflected in a commitment to widespread state intervention in the economy, a massive house-building programme and a commitment to full employment. Such policies reflected a collectivist culture, whereby widespread state intervention was necessary in order to overcome poverty. There was a general consensus on this approach up until the 1970s. Even before the coming to power of Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government in 1979, the Labour government of 1974-1979 was starting to withdraw from the post-war consensus. Whether this was because of a change of thinking or because of economic pressure is open to conjecture. However, during this period, before North Sea oil was discovered, the Labour government was facing massive economic problems. Thus, when they were bailed out by international financiers, the price that had to be paid was a massive cut in public spending, particularly on the policies that underpinned the welfare state. This meant that a commitment to full employment went out of the window and unemployment doubled during this period. When Labour’s relationship with the trade unions broke down completely in ‘the Winter of Discontent’ in 1978-1979, the outcome was the introduction of an 18-year Conservative government influenced by a new right, monetarist policy outlook. Thatcher was heavily influenced by what she saw as the Victorian values of prudence. She was also influenced by the free market economics of the monetarist school and by her own experiences of 1970-1974, when, as a member of Edward Heath’s cabinet, she felt the Conservative government had reneged on manifesto promises and resorted to state intervention. Therefore, she was determined to pursue policies reflecting a liberal free-market approach to economics. This meant cuts in public spending and the encouragement of the private sector. Unsurprisingly, this had a substantial impact on welfare policy. Emphasis was put on self-reliance, individual responsibility and a move away from a ‘culture of dependency’ on the state. This impacted on welfare policy in a number of areas. For example, it led to the selling of council housing and a huge reduction in the number of new council houses being built. It also led to the privatisation of ancillary services within the NHS, and, in care for the elderly, it led to a redefinition of community care from care in the community to care by the community.

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When Tony Blair’s Labour government came to power in 1997, his approach was based on what he and certain ‘social democratic’ thinkers, such as the British sociologist, Anthony Giddens, referred to as ‘the Third Way’. By this, Blair maintains he is not a Conservative, nor is he ‘old’ Labour, committed to a total rejection of the private sector. Rather, he presented himself as a pragmatist prepared to cut a path through the middle, or a ‘Third Way’ between these ideological positions to utilise the best of both worlds. His governments’ policies reflect this. For example, one of his first policies was to cut benefits for single mothers in order to encourage them back into work. However, he combined this with a National Childcare Strategy to provide the support necessary for women with children to seek employment. Suggested reading     Haralambos and Holborn. Sociology: Themes and Perspectives, 5th edition. Chapter 5, pp. 291-303. Taylor et al. Sociology in Focus. Chapter 5, pp. 163-177. Kirby et al. Sociology in Perspective. Chapter 14, pp. 555-558 and 577-582. Sociology and Scotland: An Introduction. edited by Sweeney et al., Chapter 8, pp. 177-182.

Another useful source is the website of the Department of Work and Pensions at www.dwp.gov.uk

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Student activity: Measuring poverty
Having read the handout, ‘Background to key features, definitions and changes in welfare and poverty’, as well as any additional reading directed by your tutor, work in groups to answer the following questions: 1) Draw up a list of measurements you would use to determine and define poverty in modern Britain. (In theory, the list could be any length, but try to keep it to within 12 measurements.)

2)

Compare your list with others in the class. What differences and similarities are there?

3)

Can you find some consensus or agreement of how poverty can be measured? On this basis can you draw up a class/group measurement of poverty?

4)

Compare and contrast absolute poverty with relative poverty. Which of the two do you feel is a more valid definition, giving reasons for your answer?

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5)

Compare this to your own lifestyle. On this basis, how would you describe your own standard of living?

6)

Choose two groups in society who would normally be associated with poverty. What sort of welfare provision is provided for such groups?

7)

What are your own views on the type of welfare provision for your chosen groups? For example, do you feel it is largely the state’s responsibility to provide welfare or should the responsibility largely lie with the individual?

8)

Do you feel benefits should be ‘means-tested’ (the amount paid varies according to a person’s means/wealth)? Explain your answer.

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Welfare and poverty – key features/definitions/changes
         Concept of welfare system from the cradle to the grave central to provision of welfare in post-war Britain. Reflected Beveridge Report on which current welfare state was based. Poverty is difficult to define. Absolute poverty measures poverty against absolute basic needs of people. Relative poverty measures poverty within context of society being studied. Rowntree’s studies of York measured poverty in absolute terms; concluded that poverty had fallen markedly from 1901 to 1951. Townsend (1979) used concept of relative poverty – index of 12 characteristics. Provision of welfare in Victorian Britain based on the assumption that poverty was an individual responsibility. 1st major reform under Liberal government of 1900s – old age pensions and National Insurance recognised responsibility of the state to provide welfare.

● Beveridge Report (1942) – five ‘evils’ or ‘giants’ of poverty.  Post-war consensus started to change in late 1980s and particularly with Thatcher/Major governments from 1979-1997 – return to Victorian values and emphasis on the individual. Blair seen by many to have maintained much of this in his ‘Third Way’ approach.

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Student Activity: Essay on definitions of poverty and welfare
Using the information given in the handout, ‘Background to key features, definitions and changes in welfare and poverty’, as well as other directed reading, write a short essay of no more than 500 words describing how poverty is defined, and how welfare provision has evolved and changed since the 19th century.

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The new right perspective on welfare and poverty
 The new right perspective on welfare and poverty is reflected in much of the policies of the Thatcher and Major governments from 1979-1997. Indeed, critics of Blair argue that new right thinking is also reflected in much of his welfare policy. New right thinking places emphasis on individual responsibility and independence from the state in providing for oneself and one’s family. It also emphasises the importance of the market and market economics in providing the wealth necessary to provide for everyone in society, including the poor. The new right, therefore, take an approach to welfare and poverty that combines social/moral values with an economic approach. In terms of social and moral values the new right argues that poverty is caused by an absence of values, which encourage hard work, responsibility, thrift and self-reliance. As a result, a ‘culture of dependency’ develops that encourages millions to ‘scrounge’ off the state. This culture of dependency stems from the liberalism of the 1960s and 1970s and is linked to other social evils, such as the decline of the nuclear family, an increase in sexual permissiveness and a decline in morality. This has resulted in associated problems such as single parent families unable to cope, record divorce and abortion rates and a rise in crime and violence. Economically, the new right argues that the state should play a minimal role in all areas of society, including the provision of welfare. If the market is left to function, then it will produce the wealth needed to provide welfare. Therefore, incentives such as low taxation are needed to encourage initiative and drive. The wealth produced by this entrepreneurial culture will trickle down to the poor. Thus, the new right are highly critical of social approaches such as the Beveridge Report and economic policies based on the Keynesian approach that formed the basis of the post-war consensus. This was reflected in the abandonment by Thatcher of the post-war consensus on the provision of welfare by the state and the intervention of the state in the economy. Such views are reflected by politicians and sociologists. For example, P. Saunders in his 1995 work, Capitalism: A Social Audit, argues that the rise of problems such as single parents and the associated problems they face is a direct result of the welfare state, which has allowed women an option which did not exist before. D. Marsland argues in Welfare or Welfare State? (1996) that the welfare state has contributed to a culture of dependency. He also argues that poverty in Britain is exaggerated by those who have a vested interest to do so. In other words, he is putting forward an absolute rather than relative definition of poverty.

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Evaluation  The new right is seen as strong in challenging many of the assumption on which welfare policy was based in post-war Britain. Despite a consensus of over 30 years that welfare provision should be the responsibility of the state, it was perceived by the new right that in many cases little progress had been made in overcoming inequality and poverty. It is ironic that 1979 was not only the year that Thatcher came to power, but also when Townsend published his definitive work. Yet, in so doing, new right supporters would argue that Townsend was merely confirming the failure of the very policies he was seeking to support, namely that after 34 years of state intervention, in terms of relative poverty little progress had been made. There is also evidence to support the new right in that social issues such as divorce, abortion, the huge change in family structures (particularly the rising number of single parents) and inner city decay have all become major social problems that the welfare state has failed to solve. However, the new right is criticised in a number of ways. It is criticised for arguing that being poor is the individual’s fault and that their poverty is divorced from the social and economic framework in which they find themselves. It is also criticised for arguing that the provision of welfare increases poverty and deprivation and adds to the social, moral and economic decline of society. They are particularly criticised for arguing that universal welfare provision has created a culture of dependency, when critics would argue that it is means-tested benefits that trap an underclass in poverty from which they have little chance of escape, or indeed which gives them little motivation to escape. Marsland is also criticised for attacking what he describes as the ‘poverty lobby’ without producing any substantive evidence to support his attacks and allegations. The new right is also heavily criticised as being ideologically and/or politically driven, with many studies being seen as more akin to right wing social commentary than objective sociological research and analysis.

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Suggested reading     Haralambos and Holborn. Sociology: Themes and Perspectives, 5th edition. Chapter 5, pp. 317-319 and pp. 343-344. Kirby et al. Sociology in Perspective. Chapter 14, pp. 563-564. Taylor et al. Sociology in Focus. Chapter 5, pp. 155-156. Sociology and Scotland: An Introduction, edited by Sweeney et al., Chapter 8, pp. 189-192.

All the texts above, apart from Haralambos and Holborn, have useful questions and exercises that can be used as questions by teachers/lecturers. Sociology in Focus is particularly useful in using further sources upon which questions are based.

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New right perspective of welfare and poverty
          The new right places emphasis on individual responsibility and minimal role for the state. Reaction to liberalism of 1960s and 1970s – sees provision of welfare in a social/moral as well as economic context. Welfare policy linked to social problems such as divorce, abortion and sexual permissiveness. Reflected in much of the thinking in Thatcher and Major governments’ welfare policy. Critics of Blair argue it is reflected in his governments’ policies too. Emphasises economic policies such as low taxation and privatisation, which will create wealth to overcome poverty. Defines poverty in absolute rather than relative terms. Some supporters argue that poverty no longer exists in countries such as Britain. Sees the welfare state as encouraging ‘culture of dependency’. Saunders and Marsland – welfare state encourages vulnerable groups such as single parents to become increasingly dependent on welfare payments, thus losing ability to be self sufficient in their lives.

Strengths:   Supporters argue that this perspective recognises and addresses repeated failure of post-war consensus. Seen as recognising social problems such as divorce, abortion, rise of single parent families, inner city decay that they argue stem from repeated failure of welfare policies since 1945.

Weaknesses:    Criticised for emphasising role of individual and fostering culture of blame. Largely if not totally ignores social and economic framework of society and its role in deprivation. Criticised for arguing that universal welfare provision is major cause of dependency culture and ignoring impact of means tested benefit in trapping ‘underclass’.

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Tutor Guide: Student activity on the new right perspective
Useful starting points for questions would be:

The new right is in marked contrast to almost all other sociological perspectives in analysing welfare and poverty, though some overlaps with the functionalist, individualist, and culture of poverty approaches exist. The undoubted impact of new right thinking on government policies on welfare and poverty both in Britain and the US. We can explore the new right in more depth by looking at the thinking that influenced politicians such as Thatcher. In so doing, we could look at politicians such as Sir Keith Joseph, who was in many ways Thatcher’s guru and one of the architects of new right thinking in the UK. Another major proponent of new right thinking is David Willetts. Blair’s thinking can also be analysed for evidence of a new right political outlook. To what extent has Blair maintained a new right philosophy within New Labour welfare policy? For example, his pronouncements on the family, changes to single parent benefit, welfare to work and the New Deal all emphasise the need to move away from a culture of dependency? Other proponents of new right thinking such as Murray and his theory of an underclass can be examined.

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Student Activity: The new right on welfare and poverty
Read the handouts provided by your tutor, along with any further directed reading and answer the following questions. Be prepared to feed back your answers in a plenary session. 1) Explain new right thinking on welfare and poverty.

2)

How does the new right analyse the role of the individual and the role of the state in explaining poverty and providing welfare?

3)

Referring to its strengths and weaknesses, to what extent would you say that the new right adequately explains welfare provision in Britain today?

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Marxist theory on welfare and poverty  
Marxism, in marked contrast to the new right, sees poverty as a direct consequence of capitalism and it also sees poverty as serving the interests of capitalism. Poverty is a direct consequence of the owners of the means of production, the bourgeoisie, exploiting those who do not own the means of production, the proletariat. This is reflected in all aspects of poverty, whether it is an education system based on social class division, a labour market that is controlled by the bourgeoisie and is thus able to exploit the vulnerable, eg. single parents, or a political/power structure that is dominated by the ruling class. Marxists also do not see the poor as a separate group in their own right, but merely the poorest section of the working class. Marxism is also highly critical of the welfare system, which it argues also serves the capitalist system. Here, there is some disagreement amongst Marxists. Some Marxists argue that the creation of a welfare state is, to some extent, a genuine concession won by the working class from the ruling class. This is a position taken by Ralph Miliband in his work The State in Capitalist Society (1969). However, Miliband also argues that such concessions alleviate and release pressure within the system and thus preserve capitalism. Other Marxists argue that such concessions are in essence a con. They are simply a means whereby capitalism is preserved through state intervention because left to its own it will periodically suffer stagnation and depression, as it did in the 1930s, for example. This is a position taken by Ernest Mandel in Marxist Economic Theory (1968). Marx himself argued that reforms to limit the length of the working day were merely to maintain a higher level of efficiency on the part of workers who otherwise would be too tired. Similarly, the provision of elementary education in the latter half of the 19th century was simply because there was a need for basic numeracy and literacy on the part of the industrial workforce.

 

Evaluation

Marxism is seen as strong at analysing the impact of economic and social class on poverty. Often these are understated or even ignored by other sociological perspectives. It is also seen as strong in explaining the seemingly contradictory nature of welfare provision and the welfare state within capitalist society. For example, it explains how capitalism encourages the accumulation of profit, but at the same time legitimises the exploitation of the working class through the creation of the welfare state. The welfare state creates the illusion of attempting to overcome inequality and providing for the poor, whilst in reality, some Marxists argue, little or no progress has been made in these areas since 1945. This is a view supported by J. O’Connor in The Fiscal Crisis of the State (1973). Such a failure to redistribute wealth is also supported by Westergaard and Resler in Class in a Capitalist Society (1976).

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 

Marxists are criticised, however, for over emphasising economic factors for causing poverty, largely to the exclusion of all other factors. Feminists are highly critical of Marxists for ignoring gender as a major factor in poverty. Marxists fail to explain why women within social classes experience far greater poverty than men. They also fail to explain the discrimination experienced by women, both within factors causing poverty (eg. discrimination in the labour market), and discrimination within the welfare system (eg. cuts in single parent benefits). Over 80 per cent of those affected in each case are women. Even Marxist feminists are critical of Marx. Marxism also is criticised for ignoring the impact of ethnicity. Poverty levels in countries such as the US and UK are far higher within ethnic communities compared to the white populations. Marxism fails to adequately address this or why the welfare system has failed to tackle this issue. Black feminists are particularly critical. Marxism is also open to criticism within the context of human history. Developments within the last 15-20 years have seen the collapse of regimes that were ostensibly Marxist and the continuing survival of capitalism.

Suggested reading

   

Haralambos and Holborn. Sociology: Themes and Perspectives, 5th edition. Chapter 5, pp. 339-340. Kirby et al. Sociology in Perspective. Chapter 14, p. 566. Taylor et al. Sociology in Focus. Chapter 5, pp. 156-157. Sociology and Scotland: An Introduction. edited by Sweeney et al., Chapter 8, pp. 192-193.

All the above texts, apart from Haralambos and Holborn, have useful questions and exercises that can be used as questions by teachers/lecturers. Sociology in Focus is particularly useful in using further sources on which questions are based.

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Marxist theory on welfare and poverty
    Sees poverty as a direct consequence of capitalism. Sees the welfare state as serving the capitalist system. Miliband – genuine concessions have been won although this merely alleviates pressure. Welfare system is merely a means of capitalism avoiding stagnation as in the depression of the 1930s.

Strengths:   Strong in analysing the impact of economic and social class on poverty. Helps to explain contradiction between exploitation of the working class and welfare system that is set up to alleviate poverty and deprivation.

Weaknesses:    Criticised for ignoring whole range of factors – eg. nationalism, ethnicity and gender in explaining poverty. Feminists are highly critical of Marxists for failing to explain why, within social classes, women are worse off than men. Criticised within the context of recent history with the survival of capitalism and the demise of most communist regimes in the world; those that have survived, such as China have largely moved to a capitalist economy.

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Tutor Guide: Student activity on Marxist theory on welfare and poverty
Useful starting points for questions would be:

Studying Marxism as a theory is in marked contrast to the new right in terms of how poverty is defined, what the causes of poverty are and consequently what welfare policy should be. As poverty and welfare is closely linked to the economy, greater exploration of Marxism could be undertaken. This could look at variants of Marxism, for example, the differences between evolutionary and revolutionary Marxism, Western Marxism and analytical Marxism. In studying these variants of Marxism, we can explore how Marxism has evolved to meet the challenges of the 20th and 21st centuries and how it seeks to explain the continuing survival, if not success, of capitalism. Indeed, it can be argued that given the shift to the right and subsequent/consequent increasing inequality in recent years in societies such as Britain and the US, the need to explain welfare and poverty from a conflict perspective such as Marxism is greater than ever. The link between Marxism and Marxism feminism can also be explored. This allows for an analysis of how Marxist feminists are both supportive of and also highly critical of Marxism.

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Student Activity: Marxist theory on welfare and poverty
Work in pairs to answer the following questions that relate to your class handouts and any other directed reading: 1) Explain how Marxism analyses the concept of poverty.

2)

To what extent are Marxists united in their analysis of the welfare system within capitalism?

3)

Describe the Marxist analysis of the welfare system in the 19th century.

4)

In what ways does Marxism explain the contradiction of providing welfare within the capitalist system?

5)

In what ways is Marxism criticised by feminists?

6)

In what other ways are Marxists criticised?

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Feminist theories on welfare and poverty 
Feminism rejects other sociological perspectives as being male-orientated or ‘malestream’. This is as applicable to welfare and poverty as with any other social issue. Feminists argue that other sociological perspectives neglect or simply ignore the higher levels of poverty experienced by women and the failure of the welfare state to address this issue. Radical feminists argue that both poverty and the welfare state are the products not of capitalism but of patriarchy. Such patriarchy can be found at any stage of human history and modern capitalism is no exception. Radical feminists argue that industrialisation and capitalism led to the division of labour found in modern family structures. This condemned women to greater levels of poverty as they became dependent on a male wage, thus losing any opportunity of economic and financial independence. Marxist feminists argue that capitalism is a particular form of exploitation of women. Margaret Benston, in her work, The Political Economy of Women’s Liberation (1972), argues that under capitalism women are exploited within the class system as a distinct group of unpaid domestic labour. Thus, unpaid domestic labour on the part of women serves the needs of capitalism, allowing men to provide cheap industrial labour. Moreover, even when women have increasingly returned to work in the latter part of the 20th century, the lack of any proper support mechanism in areas such as childcare facilities forced women into a pool of cheap part-time labour. Feminists would also argue that those social institutions designed to help workers and the low paid, such as trade unions, have consistently and consciously discriminated against women in areas such as wage differentials, thus adding to their poverty. Feminists are also highly critical of the welfare state. In particular, they criticise the assumptions on which Beveridge based his report, specifically that married women, particularly those with children would not, indeed should not, seek employment. This discriminated against women. For example, benefits based on National Insurance contributions such as the Old Age Pension put women at a severe disadvantage. This is a position taken by F. Williams in Social Policy: A Critical Introduction (1989). Moreover, such assumptions of the role of women meant that no serious attempt to provide proper childcare facilities was undertaken until Blair’s government came to power in 1997, 50 years after the welfare state came into being.

Evaluation

In general terms, feminism is considered strong in that it has addressed the issue of women within society. This is as true of welfare and poverty as it is with all aspects of society. Women face greater levels of poverty within society than men in all areas. For example, most part-time workers are women; they earn on average only 80 per cent of male wages and the gap in earnings shows no sign of narrowing any further.

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In other areas of welfare, such as health, women, although living longer than men, experience higher levels of morbidity (ill health) than men. Feminism has foregrounded such issues. Marxist feminists are seen as strong in adding to the failures of both Marxism and other strands of feminism, in explaining the exploitation of women and the resultant poverty, and failure of the welfare system both in terms of social class and patriarchy. Feminism has also highlighted the failure of the welfare state in overcoming poverty and deprivation experienced by women. This is in large part a result of the patriarchal assumptions on which it was based, and again this has been highlighted by feminists, particularly radical feminists. Feminism is criticised, however, for overstating gender as a cause of both poverty and the failure of the welfare system. It is criticised for ignoring other factors such as social class and ethnicity. It is also criticised for ignoring the progress that has been made in tackling poverty on a gender basis. Although legislation such as the Equal Pay Act 1970 and the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 are generally regarded as weak pieces of legislation, redress through EU legislation and directives has been much more successful in areas such as part-time workers rights, and being paid equally for jobs that are defined as of equal value with those predominantly done by men. Moreover, such rulings are retrospective, thus women have been able to claim pay going back years. It is also the case that there are many more women in work today and government policies such as the Working Tax Credit and National Childcare Strategy have been made to encourage this trend and to make it financially viable. Feminists are criticised for ignoring such progress. Much of the criticism comes from within feminism itself. Marxist feminists are critical of radical feminists for failing to take account the impact of social class in a capitalist context. Black feminists are critical of both radical and Marxist feminists for taking an ethnocentric (white) approach and ignoring the impact of ethnicity on poverty and welfare.

Suggested reading

   

Haralambos and Holborn. Sociology: Themes and Perspectives. 5th edition Chapter 3, pp. 163-179. Kirby et al. Sociology in Perspective. Chapter 14, pp. 566-567. Taylor et al. Sociology in Focus. Chapter 5, p. 157. Sociology and Scotland: An Introduction. edited by Sweeney et al., Chapter 2, pp. 2021.

All the above texts, apart from Haralambos and Holborn, have useful questions and exercises that can be used as questions by teachers/lecturers. Sociology in Focus is particularly useful in using further sources on which questions are based.

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The feminist theory on welfare and poverty
     Feminism rejects other sociological perspectives as being ‘male-stream’. Women become dependent on men economically and so suffer greater levels of poverty. Benefits are based on the assumption that women stay at home. Marxist-feminists argue that capitalism plays a crucial role in condemning women to poverty through creating a distinct group of unpaid domestic labour. Feminists also argue that women are failed by social structures, such as trade unions, that consistently discriminate against women in areas such as job differentiation.

Strengths:    Feminism is seen as strong in that it has recognised an otherwise neglected issue. Marxist-feminism is seen as strong in analysing the impact of capitalism on women in modern industrial society. Feminism has also highlighted the failure of the welfare state to overcome the inequalities faced by women, resulting in continued higher levels of poverty than men.

Weaknesses:    Feminism is criticised for overstating gender and ignoring other factors such as ethnicity and social class. It has also been criticised for ignoring the progress of women that has been made in achieving equality through legislation. Different strands of feminism are highly critical of each other – black feminists are critical of other strands of feminism for ignoring ethnicity as a factor.

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Tutor Guide: Student activity on feminist theories on welfare and poverty
Useful starting points for questions would be:

 

Studying feminism as a conflict theory. Further study and analysis of feminism. For example, looking at inequality in areas such as employment, looking at concepts such as horizontal and vertical segregation, the dual labour market theory, and market segmentation. A further fruitful area of study could be looking at sexual discrimination in the trade union movement and the failure of the unions to actively, let alone successfully, campaign on behalf of women’s labour rights. Further exploration of differing strands of feminism. This allows not only for a further understanding of feminist theory towards welfare and poverty, but also their fundamental differences. As with other topics such as the family, there are other feminist theories on welfare and poverty that could be explored. They include liberal feminism, with writers such as Betty Friedan, power feminists such as Camilla Paglia, and black feminists such as Helen Carby. As mentioned earlier, the link between Marxism and Marxist feminism can also be explored. This allows for an analysis of how Marxist feminists are both supportive of and also highly critical of Marxism.

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Student Activity: Feminist theories on welfare and poverty
Read the following questions and, using the materials provided by your tutor and any other directed reading, answer the following questions: 1) In what way is feminism critical of other sociological theories’ approaches to welfare and poverty?

2)

Explain why radical feminists argue that patriarchy is responsible for the continued exploitation of women under a welfare state.

3)

Explain why Marxist feminists argue that capitalism is a source of exploitation of women under a welfare state.

4)

In what other ways are feminists critical of the welfare state as a source of discrimination against women?

5)

In what ways has feminism been criticised in its analysis of welfare and poverty?

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The culture of poverty theory on welfare and poverty  
The culture of poverty theory argues that across societies the poor have developed a lifestyle or culture that is different from other groups within society. This theory was developed in the 1950s. Much of it is based on a series of studies carried out by an American anthropologist, Oscar Lewis. In Five Families (1959), The Children of Sanchez (1961) and La Vida (1966), Lewis studied the lifestyle and culture of the poor in Latin America, specifically Mexico and Puerto Rico. Lewis concluded that the poor had developed a culture with its own norms and values to help them survive and cope with their poverty. He called this a ‘design for living.’ This culture was then passed on from one generation to the next. Lewis was, therefore, arguing that in some ways such a culture was positive in that it helped the poor cope with poverty. Within this culture of poverty, Lewis identified a number of key aspects. For a start, the poor felt marginalised in society. They also lived for the immediate with little or no thought or planning given to the medium or long-term future. The poor also accepted their lot and saw little chance of escape from their poverty. Thus, there was a combination of fatalism and resignation. Within the family structure there was a high level of men abandoning both their wives and their children. Many families were headed by a woman as a result. Violence within the family was also common. Lewis also found that on a more general level there was little or no participation by the poor. For example, there was little or no organisation of poor communities in order to take any form of positive action. Thus, the poor took little or no active part in organisations such as the trades unions, many were disenfranchised and few bothered to vote. This reflected the fatalism and resignation mentioned above. Lewis argued that such attitudes constituted a culture of poverty because they gave the poor a framework to work within and they were passed on from one generation to the next. He also argued that such a culture perpetuated and contributed to poverty because it defeated any concerted attempts to change the situation. The poor not only accepted their poverty, but through their almost total lack of participation in any mechanism that sought to change it, they actively obstructed such mechanisms. Lewis also argued that by the time children were even six or seven years old, they had already absorbed so much of this culture that it had been passed on and so poverty was perpetuated for another generation. Lewis argues that such a culture of poverty is particularly applicable to the poor in pre-industrial societies or those where capitalism is at an early stage. In developed societies, it is far less prevalent and indeed may not exist at all. However, this view is not supported by everyone. M. Harrington in The Other America: Poverty in the United States (1963) argues that such a culture of poverty can be found in all types of societies including advanced societies such as the US.

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Evaluation

  

The culture of poverty theory has been widely criticised. However, it is a fact that there is widespread poverty within societies – both pre-industrial and industrial. It is also true, as Lewis points out, that poverty is transmitted from one generation to the next and this has gone on for generations. Moreover, those who criticise the culture of poverty theory and who would be supportive of state intervention through welfare services in order to overcome poverty, can be criticised for failing to explain why, in the 21st century, such policies have failed to narrow the gap between the rich and the poor. However, the criticisms of the culture of poverty far outweigh supportive arguments. For example, there is plenty of evidence, even amongst poor developing countries, that the poor do not accept their lot with an air of resignation and fatalism. In a study of the shanty towns of Peru, ‘Poverty and Politics in Cities of Latin America’, published in Urban Poverty: Its Social and Political Dimensions (1968), W. Mangin found that the poor had a very high level of political activity and community participation. He also found little evidence of the level of family break up described by Lewis. Similar high levels of participation among black communities were found by Charles and Betty Lou Valentine in their study ‘Making the scene, digging the action and telling it like it is: anthropologists at work in a dark ghetto’, published in AfroAmerican Anthropology (1970). Such studies, and many others, conclude that there is no culture of poverty, but rather that poverty is a result of the social and economic constraints placed on the poor by society, what is defined as situational constraints. Critics, therefore, reject the view that the poor have a culture of their own, separate from mainstream culture, which constrains them and perpetuates poverty.

Suggested reading

   

Haralambos and Holborn. Sociology: Themes and Perspectives. 5th edition. Chapter 5, pp. 319-321. Kirby et al. Sociology in Perspective. Chapter 7, pp. 592-594. Taylor et al. Sociology in Focus. Chapter 5, pp. 182-183. Sociology and Scotland: An Introduction. edited by Sweeney et al., Chapter 8, pp. 189-190.

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Culture of poverty theory on welfare and poverty
            Culture of poverty theory argues that the poor have developed a lifestyle or culture different to other groups. Theory developed in the 1950s. Much of it is based on a series of studies by Oscar Lewis – Five Families (1959), The Children of Sanchez (1961) and La Vida (1966). Lewis studied the lifestyle and culture of the poor in Latin America, specifically Mexico and Puerto Rico. Lewis concluded that the poor had developed a culture with its own norms and values to help them survive and cope with their poverty – a ‘design for living’. This culture was then passed on from one generation to the next. Within this culture of poverty Lewis argued the poor felt marginalised, lived with little future planning and saw little chance of escape from poverty. He also argued that such a culture perpetuated and contributed to poverty because it defeated any concerted attempts to change the situation. The poor accepted their poverty through almost total lack of participation in anything that sought to change it. Lewis argues that such a culture of poverty is particularly relevant to the poor in preindustrial societies or those where capitalism is at an early stage. In developed societies it is far less prevalent and may not exist. However, Harrington in The Other America: Poverty in the United States (1963), argues that such a culture of poverty can be found in all types of societies including advanced societies such as the US.

Strengths:    It is a fact that there is widespread poverty within both pre-industrial and industrial societies. It is also true that poverty is transmitted from one generation to the next. Critics of culture of poverty theory who are supportive of state intervention through welfare services can be criticised for failing to explain why such policies have failed to narrow the gap between the rich and the poor.

Weaknesses:   Criticisms of the culture of poverty far outweigh supportive arguments. Plenty of evidence even amongst poor developing countries that the poor don’t accept their lot with resignation and fatalism.

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  

Other studies have found high levels of political participation amongst the poor and little evidence of family break up. Rather than a culture of poverty, poverty is a result of the social and economic constraints (situational constraints). Critics reject the view that the poor have a culture of their own, separate from mainstream culture, which constrains them and perpetuates poverty.

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Tutor Guide: Student activity on the culture of poverty approach to welfare and poverty
Useful starting points for questions would be:

The culture of poverty is almost universally condemned by sociologists and runs counter to nearly all sociological theories. It is also closely linked to new right thinking. This could be explored along with links to other concepts, such as the underclass. To what extent is it relevant in the 21st century to talk about the poor as being responsible for their poverty? As with the new right, the culture of poverty has been latched onto by politicians both in the US and UK as a means of explaining the persistence of poverty in modern industrial society. How relevant is such an approach? How easily can it be condemned? It is also used to justify free market policies towards Third World countries, whereby the poor will only benefit through the acceptance of capitalism and free market economics. With the ongoing march of globalisation, this is an area worthy of exploration. What can also be explored is not only such an explanation of poverty but also the welfare policies based on such an analysis. For example, the welfare reforms of the Thatcher, Major and to some extent Blair governments reflect this. What evidence is there, if any, of the acceptance of a culture of poverty by such politicians, eg. Norman Tebbit’s ‘on yer bike’ speech when a government minister in one of Thatcher’s cabinets? What about the Reagan and (both) Bush administrations in the US? Are their links with this theory and right wing, neo-conservative thinking on these and other issues, such as the role of women, the family, abortion, etc.? How has this been reflected in policy?

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Sociology: Understanding Human Society 2 (Higher)

Student Activity: The culture of poverty approach to welfare and poverty
Working in small groups, answer the following questions. The handouts and directed reading given to you by your tutor will provide the detail required. 1) Describe, in detail, Lewis’s culture of poverty.

2)

What evidence is there to support Lewis’s theory?

3)

Discuss the criticisms that have been made of the culture of poverty theory.

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Aspects of welfare and poverty
As well as features, definitions and changes in welfare and poverty, and at least two contrasting theories, certain aspects have to be covered. Within the option of welfare and poverty these aspects are:

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Poverty and the welfare state – an analysis of two features and two studies. The welfare state and social inequality – class – an analysis of two features and two studies. The welfare state and social inequality – gender – an analysis of two features and two studies.

The following areas of these aspects must be covered:

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Health. The underclass. Employment and unemployment.

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Aspect: Poverty and the welfare state
Features  The modern definitions of poverty and welfare responses to it can be traced back to welfare found in Victorian society. Assumptions were that poverty was the fault of the individual, which underpinned policies such as the Poor Law and the workhouses. The earliest form of government welfare systems were introduced by the Liberal government in the 1900s. In particular was the introduction of National Insurance schemes and Old Age Pensions, which lasted largely unchanged until the end of World War 2. The modern welfare state was introduced by the 1945 Labour government, based on the Beveridge report of 1942. It heralded in a comprehensive system and it confirmed the state’s commitment to overcoming poverty and inequality. This was to be achieved by tackling five central and related problems of squalor, ignorance, want, disease and idleness. It was based on Keynesian command economics, which advocated full employment and an expansion of public ownership of key industries, among other key policies. Such a post-war welfare policy was sustained until the late 1970s, when the Labour Callaghan and Thatcher Conservative governments began to ‘roll back the frontiers of the state’. Until that time, both successive Conservative and Labour governments since 1945 had a consensus on such a policy. Since then, particularly after the coming to power of Thatcher in 1979, there has been a move away from a collective commitment of the state to individual responsibility. Such a change means there is no longer commitment to full employment, there has been a movement away from benefits to training schemes to discourage a so-called dependency culture, an introduction of charges in areas such as health (ie. prescriptions, dental and ophthalmic), increasing privatisation and use of the private sector in all areas of welfare provision, eg. PFI/PPP. Also, there has been an increasing use of families and the voluntary sector in caring, with the redefinition of concepts such as community care, from care in the community to care by the community. This particularly affects groups such as the elderly and the physically and mentally ill.

Studies and an evaluation of their strengths and weaknesses  A major study on welfare and poverty was carried out by Frank Field in Losing Out (1989). Field’s analysis could be seen as essentially a socialist analysis. He argues that there is an underclass in Britain. However, unlike Charles Murray’s new right analysis, Field argues that the underclass are victims of changes in modern Britain and of inadequate government policies. Field argues that this underclass is made up of three main components. They are the long-term unemployed, in particular school leavers and older workers; secondly, he identifies single parent families, particularly single mothers; and finally, there are elderly pensioners who are heavily dependent on the state pension.

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Field argues that the underclass is caused by a number of factors. These include rising unemployment, the policies of successive Conservative and Labour policies reflecting Thatcherite and Blairite thinking, increasing inequality between rich and poor and, finally, changing attitudes towards the poor reflected in new right thinking. Field argues that a number of changes have to be made to government policies to tackle the problems of the underclass and, indeed, to eradicate it. These include an expansion of training schemes, real increases in benefits and also the introduction of a minimum wage. Field’s study is seen as strong at identifying the existence of an underclass without at the same time having the associated ‘blame culture’ of studies such as Murray’s. Field’s study also recognises the repeated failure of government welfare policies of a prolonged period of time in dealing with poverty and the increasing gap in inequality between the rich and the poor. His proposals are seen as strong as they are radical compared to what has previously been implemented. However, Field is criticised for actually identifying an underclass in itself, even without a blame culture. He is also criticised for ignoring some key issues, in particular ethnicity as a major cause of poverty. Although Field’s definition is seen as distinct from Murray’s, critics argue that Field has increasingly identified with not only Murray’s definition of underclass but also some of his solutions. For example, he argues that benefit reform should be designed to encourage hard work and discourage laziness and dishonesty. A definitive Marxist study of poverty is J.C. Kincaid’s study Poverty and Equality in Britain (1973). Kincaid is highly critical of existing welfare strategies, which, he argues, have not only failed to help overcome poverty, but also are not designed to. Kincaid argues that welfare systems merely preserve and protect capitalism. Within capitalism, there is little incentive to provide for the poor. Moreover, welfare benefit levels must be kept low to act as an incentive for workers to actively seek work. As far as Kincaid and other Marxists are concerned, welfare is not designed to help the poor, because the levels must be kept particularly low in order to help produce the pool of cheap labour that capitalism needs. So, benefit levels must be even lower than the lowest pay. Kincaid’s analysis is seen as strong in explaining the continued inequality in the UK. Repeated welfare policies since 1945 have failed to overcome inequality and poverty. This was true even before Thatcher came to power in 1979. Since then the impact of new right thinking gives greater credence to Kincaid’s analysis, eg. the creation of a huge pool of cheap part-time female labour in the 1980s and cuts in single parent benefit in 1997. A continued increase in inequality supports Kincaid’s view that poverty is necessary within capitalism and that the welfare system is controlled by the market. The rich depend upon poverty for their wealth.

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However, along with other Marxist analyses of poverty, Kincaid is criticised for having for having an over-simplistic view of poverty. For example, he is criticised for overstating the impact of the economy and understating or even ignoring factors such as ethnicity and gender. Marxists such as Kincaid are also criticised for failing to explain why particular groups, other than social classes, are poor. They are also criticised for failing to adequately explain variations within the working classes and why some are poor and others are not. Other studies include an update on the Rowntree studies A Study of Town Life: Living Standards in The City of York 100 years after Rowntree by Huby, Bradshaw and Gordon (1999), Breadline Britain in the 1990s Gordon and Pantazis (ed) (1997) and Poverty and Social Exclusion in Britain by Gordon, Adelman and others (2000). Townsend has also updated his research in ‘Poverty and Policy: What Can We Do About The Poor?’ In Sociology Review (1997).

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Aspect: Poverty and the welfare state
          Victorian attitude to poverty was that it was the responsibility of the individual. The earliest form of government welfare systems were introduced by the Liberal government, in the 1900s. In particular the introduction of National Insurance schemes and Old Age Pensions. The modern welfare state was introduced by the 1945 Labour government based on the Beveridge Report. It was a comprehensive system and confirmed the state’s commitment to overcoming poverty and inequality. Sustained until late 1970s. Since Thatcher, there has been a move away from a collective commitment of the state to individual responsibility. No longer commitment to full employment; movement away from benefits to training schemes to discourage dependency culture. Introduction of charges in areas such as health, increasing privatisation and use of private sector in all areas of welfare provision – eg. PFI/PPP. Increasing use of families and voluntary sector with redefinition of concepts such as community care, from care in to care by, affecting groups such as the elderly and the mentally ill.

Studies and an evaluation of their strengths and weaknesses  Frank Field, Losing Out (1989): - Could be defined as a socialist analysis. - Argues that there is an underclass in Britain who are victims of changes and government policies. - Underclass is made up of three main components: long-term unemployed, single parent families, and elderly pensioners. - Underclass caused by rising unemployment and Thatcherite and Blairite policies. - Argues that government policies need to change to tackle the problems of the underclass. - These include an expansion of training schemes, real increases in benefits and the introduction of a minimum wage. - Strong at identifying the existence of an underclass without at the same time having the associated ‘blame culture’ of studies such as Murray’s. - Recognises the repeated failure of government welfare policies in dealing with poverty and increasing gap in inequality between rich and poor. - Field is criticised for identifying an underclass in itself, even without a blame culture. - Criticised for ignoring ethnicity as a major cause of poverty. - Although Field’s definition is seen as distinct from Murray’s, critics argue that Field has increasingly identified with not only Murray’s definition of underclass but also some of his solutions.

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Sociology: Understanding Human Society 2 (Higher)

J.C. Kincaid Poverty and Equality in Britain (1973): - Marxist analysis. - Argues that welfare systems merely preserve and protect capitalism. - Within capitalism, there is little incentive to provide for the poor in itself. - Under capitalism, welfare benefit levels must be kept low to act as an incentive for workers to actively seek work. - Welfare is not designed to help the poor; the levels must be kept particularly low in order to help produce the pool of cheap labour that capitalism needs. - Kincaid’s analysis is seen as strong in explaining the continued inequality in Britain. - Repeated welfare policies since 1945 have failed to overcome inequality and poverty – true even before Thatcher came to power. - Impact of new right thinking gives greater credence to Kincaid’s analysis – eg. a creation of huge pool of cheap part-time female labour in the 1980s and cuts in single parent benefit in 1997. - However, along with other Marxist analyses of poverty, Kincaid is criticised for having an overly simplistic view of poverty, ignoring ethnicity and gender.

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Student Activity: Poverty and the welfare state
Using the reading materials handed out by your tutor, along with any directed reading, work in pairs to answer the following questions: 1) Describe, in detail, how government policies on welfare and poverty have changed from Victorian times to the present.

2)

Describe Field’s analysis of an underclass in Britain.

3)

To what extent is Field’s analysis valid?

4)

Explain Kincaid’s Marxist analysis of welfare and poverty.

5)

To what extent is such an analysis valid?

Scottish Further Education Unit

93

Sociology: Understanding Human Society 2 (Higher)

Aspect: The welfare state and social inequality – class
Features  There is considerable evidence that social class is a central and crucial factor in, and a cause of, poverty. Townsend’s major study in 1979 showed that almost all poor people had one thing in common – they belonged to the lower social classes. In areas of welfare, such as health inequality, there is clear evidence of the link between social class and poverty. Townsend’s view was substantiated by the Black Report (1980) and the Acheson Report (1998). The poorest areas, with people in the lowest social classes, experience the highest rates of morbidity, infant mortality, and premature deaths from strokes, heart disease and cancer, etc. National Health Service (NHS) figures in 2004 show that men living in Scotland’s most deprived areas (most of which are in Glasgow) can expect to die 10 years earlier than the Scottish average. Glasgow’s Shettleston and Maryhill boroughs come out worst, with the highest percentage of smokers, lowest average income and highest rates of unemployment. Many see social class inequalities as the central cause of poverty, eg. Marxists argue this is a product of the capitalist system.

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Studies and an evaluation of their strengths and weaknesses  Peter Townsend carried out a definitive study on poverty, Poverty in the United Kingdom (1979). Townsend’s study was based on a relative definition of poverty and so challenged the absolute definition used by successive Conservative governments. Townsend also used criteria that measured poverty beyond a purely material definition. Townsend’s study was highly critical of many of the relative definitions of poverty including those used by the government. Townsend argues that such measurements grossly underestimate the true levels of poverty as they are linked to average income. Such a measurement he argues is largely arbitrary as it is fixed by the government and the average income varies from year to year. Townsend developed an alternative definition of relative poverty, which he felt was more accurate and so more valid. This definition was based not only on measurements of consumption, but also on the ability of individuals to participate in their community. Townsend’s studies are seen as crucial because they helped to re-establish poverty and the provision of welfare as a central political issue in the UK, particularly when successive Conservative governments were marginalizing such issues and, indeed, arguing that poverty (in the absolute terms that they felt were the only relevant terms), no longer existed in Britain. Therefore, Townsend’s conclusions challenged the basis of government welfare policy at the time.

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Townsend’s study was seen as strong in the way he measured poverty. He challenged not only absolute explanations, but also typical relative explanations. His development of a ‘deprivation index’ using 12 types of deprivation experienced by families was seen as a far more accurate and valid measurement of poverty in the UK. However, Townsend’s work is criticised in a number of ways, because there are perceived weaknesses in his study. For example, there is a lack of clarity in his deprivation index in that it is not clear enough as to how these 12 types of deprivation were chosen. They are also criticised for not always having a clear link to poverty. Townsend is also criticised for underestimating the impact of cultural factors that may have an impact on lifestyles and, as such, merely reflect a lifestyle rather than being a symbol of poverty and deprivation. Townsend is also criticised as he is seen as having determined the ‘poverty line’ in an arbitrary manner. Finally, he is also criticised for ignoring absolute poverty, which critics (including many sociologists) argue is a valid form of measurement in itself, and the elimination of which is a valid goal. Much of the new right analysis on poverty has come from the studies and writings of Charles Murray. His publications outlining his concept of the underclass, Losing Ground (1984), based on the US, ‘Underclass’ (1989), an article based on the UK, and his article, ‘The Crisis Deepens’ (1993), all reflect the individualist views of the new right. Murray, like Field, argues that an underclass exists in poverty. However, unlike Field, he argues that such poverty is largely self-constructed by the poor themselves because of their own culture and values. This applies to the poor both in the UK and the US. Murray looked at areas such as illegitimacy, crime and unemployment. The conclusions that he drew were that the problems experienced by the underclass merely reflected their culture and, as such, were largely ‘self-inflicted’. For example, unemployment was not a problem in itself, but was simply a reflection of the underclass’s unwillingness to seek and take work. He argued this was particularly applicable to male youth unemployment. Much of what Murray proposes is a return to Victorian values and approaches to welfare. For example, he talks about divisions in society represented by the ‘new Victorians’ and the ‘new rabble’. Given that he believes ‘illegitimacy’ (children born outside marriage) will be commonplace amongst the new rabble, he argues for disincentives in the benefits system for single mothers. Murray is supported by the new right, who argue that he is simply recognising the problems that liberals and others have chosen to ignore for decades. For example, it is a fact that societies such as Britain are facing problems such as record divorce levels, abortion rates, sexually transmitted diseases and levels of violent crime. Murray and the new right believe that this is down to a poverty culture that the poor immerse themselves in.

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Previous liberal definitions of poverty and the welfare systems that have been put in place to combat such poverty have failed after decades of attempts. Moreover, legitimacy may be added to Murray and others on the new right, as much of this thinking has been incorporated into government policies in the US and UK since the late 1970s. However, Murray is heavily criticised for blaming the poor for the poverty they experience rather than recognising the social, economic and political factors outside their control. He is also criticised for failing to produce empirical evidence to substantiate his claims. Murray’s publications have been argued to be little more than subjective social commentaries informed by his own socio-political or ideological outlook. Other research has undermined Murray’s claim that there is a cycle of deprivation. Many people do move out of poverty and also people move into poverty as a result of losing their job, etc. He is also criticised for arguing that there is an underclass ‘culture’, for example, an unwillingness to work. Many people in poverty have become unemployed as a result of economic factors that they have had no impact upon. Also, many jobs offer rates of income that maintain people below the ‘poverty line’, whereby they legitimately claim social security benefits because the state recognises that their ‘wage’ is insufficient to live on. His assertions about the attitudes of single mothers are also questioned by many researchers, who argue that the concentration of single mothers in deprived areas is a result of housing policy rather than a reflection of a culture of poverty.

Other studies include a number by Westergaard, namely Who Gets What? The Hardening of Class Inequality in the Late 20th Century (1995), Class in Britain since 1979: Facts, Theories and Ideologies (1996) and ‘The Black Magic Roundabout: cyclical social exclusion and alternative careers’ in Youth, the Underclass and Social Exclusion (1997).

Scottish Further Education Unit

96

Sociology: Understanding Human Society 2 (Higher)

Aspect: The welfare state and social inequality – class
      Considerable evidence that social class is a central and crucial factor in, and cause of, poverty. Substantiated not only by Townsend, but also by Black Report (1980) and Acheson Report (1998). Poorest areas with people in lowest social classes experience highest rates of morbidity, infant mortality, premature death from strokes, heart disease, cancer, etc. NHS figures in 2004 – men living in Scotland’s most deprived areas can expect to die 10 years earlier than Scottish average. Glasgow’s Shettleston and Maryhill come out worst with highest % of smokers, lowest average income and highest rates of unemployment. Many see social class inequalities as central cause of poverty, eg. Marxists argue this is product of capitalist system.

Studies and an evaluation of their strengths and weaknesses  Peter Townsend, Poverty in the United Kingdom (1979) Socialist Definition was based on relative terms; challenged absolute definition Highly critical of official statistics used by governments to measure poverty – grossly underestimated the level and intensity of poverty in UK Definition based not only on measurements of consumption, but also on ability of individuals to participate in their community Studies seen as crucial – helped to re-establish poverty and provision of welfare as a central political issue, particularly when Conservative govts were marginalising such issues and even argued that poverty no longer existed in Britain Study seen as strong in the way he measured poverty He challenged not only absolute definitions but conventional relative definitions also His development of a ‘deprivation index’ using 12 types of deprivation was seen as a far more accurate and valid measurement of poverty in UK Townsend’s work is criticised in a number of ways – eg. lack of clarity in his deprivation index (not clear enough as to how 12 items were chosen and not always having a clear link to poverty) Criticised for underestimating the impact of cultural factors that may impact on lifestyles and merely reflect a lifestyle and not necessarily be a symbol of poverty and deprivation Criticised for ignoring absolute poverty that critics and many sociologists argue is a valid form of measurement in itself, the elimination of which is a valid goal.

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Charles Murray, Losing Ground (1984); ‘Underclass’ (1989); ‘The Crisis Deepens’ (1993): - Reflects views of the new right and individualist theory. - Like Field, argues that an underclass exists in poverty. - Unlike Field, argues that such poverty is largely self-constructed by the poor themselves (in US and UK) due to their own culture and values. - Looked at ‘illegitimacy’, crime and unemployment. - Argued problems experienced by the underclass merely reflected their culture and were largely self-inflicted. - Proposes return to Victorian approaches to welfare (‘new Victorians’ and ‘new rabble’). - Argues illegitimacy will be commonplace amongst the new rabble; therefore, disincentives in benefits system for single mothers required. - Supported by the new right who argue he is simply recognising problems, such as divorce, abortion and violent crime, that liberals ignored for decades. - Liberal definitions of poverty and the welfare systems put in place to combat such poverty have failed. - ‘Legitimacy’ added to Murray and new right as much of this thinking has been incorporated into govt. policies in the US and UK since late 1970s. - Heavily criticised for blaming poor for poverty experienced, rather than recognising the social, economic and political factors outside their control. - Criticised for failing to produce empirical evidence to substantiate his claims – seen as subjective, ideologically driven social commentary. - Other research has undermined Murray’s claim that there is a cycle of deprivation; many do move out of poverty. - Assertions about attitude of single mothers questioned by other researchers, who argue that concentration of single mothers in deprived areas results from housing policy rather than a reflection of a culture of poverty.

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Sociology: Understanding Human Society 2 (Higher)

Student Activity: The welfare state and social inequality – class
Work in small groups to answer the following questions. Your tutor will provide you with handouts and/or directed reading to help with your responses. 1) What evidence is there of a link between social inequality and social class?

2) In no more than 400 words, analyse Townsend’s and Murray’s explanations of the link between social class and poverty.

Scottish Further Education Unit

99

Sociology: Understanding Human Society 2 (Higher)

Aspect: The welfare state and social inequality – gender
Features  There is continued inequality in Britain on a gender basis. Women are far more likely to experience poverty than men for many reasons. For example, they are less likely to be working and their average income is still well below that of men. It is women who are concentrated in low paid, low skilled, part-time and/or temporary jobs, and are more likely to be heading one-parent families. They also more likely to be expected to be the unpaid carers for elderly and disabled relatives. This is reflected in areas such as health. Although, on average, women live longer than men, they face higher rates of morbidity (ill-health). Social class is an important factor here in that amongst the lower social classes the rate of longstanding illness amongst women is twice that of women in the highest social class. The thinking behind the welfare state was based on the assumption that women have a domestic role. Also, many welfare benefits are based on National Insurance contributions, which discriminate against women not in work. Despite numerous ‘universal’ welfare policies since 1945, only limited progress has been made by women, even before the coming to power of governments influenced by new right thinking. Moreover, recent governments’ welfare policies are seen by many as a setback to women’s equality and chances of breaking out of poverty, eg. there is an ongoing commitment to the nuclear family, cutbacks in single parent benefits, expectation of families (ie. women) taking responsibility for elderly and physically and mentally ill relatives, etc.

Studies and an evaluation of their strengths and weaknesses  L. Bryson carried out a study called Welfare and the State: Who Benefits? (1992). In it, she argues that women have to some extent benefited from welfare systems. For example, women live longer than men and parental benefits are usually paid to women. S. Walby, in her study Patriarchy at Work (1986), argues from a radical feminist perspective. She sees the welfare state as merely another example of patriarchy, whereby women are both discriminated against and dependent on the male wage. This is because they do not have the same access to levels of paid employment as men and because of the assumptions of Beveridge (1942), which meant that many benefits are based on National Insurance contributions. These studies and others are strong in that they identify and analyse a major yet neglected factor and source of inequality in Britain, namely gender. They also identify and highlight the continued failures within welfare provision to adequately address poverty amongst women. Such studies are seen as contributing to a crucial area in the debate on sexual equality within Britain and the extent to which this has been achieved, or not.

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They have also been criticised in a number of ways. Walby is critical of the view that women have made progress under the welfare system through protection in the workplace through the Factory Acts. She argues that, in fact, this has contributed to gender inequalities through excluding women from paid employment. F. Williams, in Gender, Race and Class in British Welfare Policy (1993), also argues that progress made by women within welfare systems has been very limited. However, they are criticised for underestimating progress that has been made, eg. policies such as the National Childcare Strategy in providing meaningful solutions to women by allowing them economic independence, which is a crucial factor in gaining sexual equality. They are also criticised for neglecting factors other than gender, for example, the poverty experienced by men. Other studies include ‘Women in Poverty’ in Old and New Poverty: The Challenge for Reform by Lister (1995) and ‘Poverty and Social Exclusion in Developments’ in Sociology 2003) by Sinclair.

Scottish Further Education Unit

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Sociology: Understanding Human Society 2 (Higher)

Aspect: The welfare state and social inequality – gender
 Continued inequality in UK on a gender basis – women far more likely to experience poverty than men, including fewer years in work, lower levels of pay, concentration of women in low paid, often part-time work. Women suffer higher morbidity than men. Social class an important factor – women in lower social classes have twice the rate of long-standing illness than women in highest social class. Thinking behind welfare state based on assumption that women have domestic role – discriminatory. Many welfare benefits based on NI contributions that discriminate against women not in work. Despite welfare policies since 1945, only limited progress has been made for women. Recent welfare policies seen by many as a setback to women’s equality and chances of breaking out of poverty, eg. commitment to nuclear family, cutbacks in single parent benefits, etc.

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Studies and an evaluation of their strengths and weaknesses  L. Bryson, Welfare and the State: Who Benefits? (1992): - Argues women have benefited from welfare systems – eg. they live longer than men and parental benefits are usually paid to women. S. Walby, Patriarchy at Work (1986): - Radical feminist theory. - Sees welfare state as another example of patriarchy. - Women are both discriminated against and dependent on the male wage, because they don’t have same access to levels of paid employment as men, and because of the assumptions of Beveridge, which meant that many benefits are based on NI contributions. Both studies strong in identifying and analysing a major yet neglected source of inequality in UK – gender. Both also identify and highlight continued failures within welfare provision to address poverty amongst women. Both studies seen to contribute to crucial debate on sexual equality within UK and extent to which this has been achieved. Both have been criticised in a number of ways: Walby critical of Bryson’s view that women have made progress under the welfare system through protection in the workplace through the Factory Acts. Walby argues that this has contributed to gender inequalities through excluding women from paid employment.

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Walby and Bryson also criticised for underestimating progress made, eg. National Childcare Strategy. F. Williams, Gender, race and class in British Welfare Policy (1993): - Argues that progress made by women within welfare systems has been very limited. All three above studies criticised for neglecting factors other than gender – eg. poverty experienced by men.

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Student Activity: The welfare state and social inequality – gender
Working in pairs and using the written resources at your disposal, answer the following questions. 1) For what reasons are women more likely to experience poverty than men?

2)

In what ways has the welfare state contributed to such inequality?

3)

To what extent do sociologists agree that the welfare state has successfully overcome inequality on a gender basis?

4)

Describe two of the strengths of a study on gender inequality within a welfare state.

5)

Describe two of the weaknesses of a study on gender inequality within a welfare state.

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Topic 3: The sociology of crime and deviance

Scottish Further Education Unit

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The sociology of crime and deviance
Tutor guide to activity on key features, definitions and changes in family structure As an introduction to the topic of crime and deviance, the key features, definitions and changes to crime and deviance should be explored. This could be done in a number of ways. 1) Through class/group discussion looking at personal experiences. Areas that could be explored could be how students define deviant behaviour and criminal behaviour. What are the differences, if any, between the definitions? This can and has led to lively discussion in past exercises. However, this exercise must be approached with great caution given what some students may have experienced in their personal lives. Role-play through discussing features and tackling issues within the area of crime and deviance. This could include definitions of crime and deviance, causes of criminal behaviour and suitable government policies on the basis of such analyses of causes. Changes in the definition of crime and deviance and changes in government policies for tackling crime over a period of time could also be looked at. Again, sensitivity and tact should be exercised. Another approach could be a small exercise in research, exploring some of the key features, definitions and changes regarding crime and deviance that have taken place through a survey, questionnaire, interview or indeed any method or methods of research as cited in the Course specification. Skills and knowledge that have been acquired within Studying Human Society: The Sociological Approach could be applied here.

2)

3)

These are merely suggestions. Tutors, lecturers and teachers should use the methodologies with which they are comfortable and which they feel best prepares students for the demands of Unit assessment and final Course assessment. Teachers/lecturers should also be aware of the logistical and time restraints on both teachers and students. Some of the questions that could be put to students include:          How do we define criminal behaviour? Are there differing levels of criminal behaviour? Give examples. Do you consider that some forms of criminal behaviour are more or less acceptable than others? How has criminal behaviour changed or been redefined in recent years, for example on issues such as drugs, or gun control? How do you think such changes affect government policies on dealing with criminal behaviour? What is your knowledge of government policies on dealing with crime? Should government policies concentrate on punishment or should the emphasis be on rehabilitation? Should it be a balance between the two? What about the prison system? Do you feel it works? Should greater emphasis be placed on alternatives such as tagging and community work?

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How do we define deviant behaviour? What do you as students classify as deviant behaviour? Can you give examples? Is deviant behaviour any different from criminal behaviour? Can you think of any circumstances where a deviant act may not be criminal? Can you think of any circumstances where a criminal act may not be deviant?

Suggested reading     Haralambos and Holborn. Sociology: Themes and Perspectives. 5th edition, Chapter 6, pp. 348-353. Taylor et al. Sociology in Focus. Chapter 13, pp. 455-459. Kirby et al. Sociology in Perspective. Chapter 11, pp. 420-434. Sociology and Scotland: An Introduction. edited by Sweeney et al, Chapter 11, pp. 269-272.

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Tutor Guide: Student activity on defining criminal and deviant behaviour
When students are undertaking the following Student Activity on defining criminal and deviant behaviour, you should provide them with prompts, where appropriate, in order to stimulate the group discussions.

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Sociology: Understanding Human Society 2 (Higher)

Student Activity: Defining criminal and deviant behaviour
Working in small groups, discuss the following questions designed to enhance your understanding of criminal and deviant behaviour: 1) What would you consider constitutes criminal behaviour?

2)

Taking into account the wide literal definition of criminal behaviour, can you think of any circumstances where you have committed a crime? Would you or the rest of society necessarily think of such behaviour as criminal?

3)

What would you consider constitutes deviant behaviour?

4)

Taking into account the definition of deviant behaviour, can you think of any circumstances where you have been involved in deviant behaviour? Would you or the rest of society necessarily think of such behaviour as deviant?

5)

To what extent, if any, is there an overlap between criminal and deviant behaviour? What does this tell you about the similarities and differences between deviant and criminal behaviour?

6)

Can you think of any circumstances where a deviant act may not be criminal?

7)

Can you think of any circumstances where a criminal act may not be deviant?

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Background to key features, definitions and changes in crime and deviance
Introduction Crime and deviance is a major issue in modern Western societies. However, this could be a statement that is applicable to any society within human history. Society, by definition, is made up of the relationships between individuals and the social structures that are developed to regulate such behaviour. What is defined as criminal or deviant behaviour is dependent on the norms and values of any given society, making it a relative concept. Certainly, in modern Western societies, crime and deviance, the causes and what solutions there are have become major social and political issues. In this Unit we will look at some of the key issues within the topic of crime and deviance. This will look at definitions of crime and deviance, how such definitions have changed, how policies designed to combat criminal behaviour have changed, and how society adapts to deviant behaviour. We will then look at some of the key sociological definitions. Key features and definitions Both deviance if we start with deviance, a good definition is given in Understanding Deviance by Downes and Rock (1988, p. 32): ‘Deviance may be considered as banned or controlled behaviour which is likely to attract punishment or disapproval.’ Within such a definition there is a very wide range of behaviours in terms of their perceived level of seriousness or degree of deviance. For example, the taking of life in the form of murder would be seen as an extreme form of deviance. In almost every human society, such behaviour would not only be seen as deviant, but also criminal. Further, it would almost certainly carry the severest of state sanctions. However, at the opposite end of the scale deviant behaviour can be as trivial as mild anti-social behaviour such as breaking wind in a socially unacceptable setting. Also, deviant behaviour might be that construed by many in society (particularly opinion formers, such as the mass media, politicians, celebrities, the police, etc.) as ‘abnormal behaviour’. For example, homosexuality was seen as deviant when it was illegal, and to some extent is still perceived as such by many people. Deviant behaviour, therefore, may be criminal or it may not. This depends upon the rules and laws of a particular society, which, in turn, are based on the norms and values of that society. In turn, these can change over time so unacceptable behaviour may become acceptable, and indeed vice versa. Criminal behaviour is seen by some sociologists as a concept that is easier to define when compared to deviant behaviour. This is because there are clearly defined formal codes of practice in the form of laws which, if broken, result in criminal behaviour. This is a view taken by Pease in an article entitled ‘Crime Prevention’, in The Oxford Handbook of Criminology (1994, p. 659):

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‘Crime comprises those actions which are deemed so damaging to the interests of the community that the state determines that it must take a direct role in identifying and acting against the criminal.’ However, this is seen by some sociologists as too restrictive a definition of crime given the vast range of criminal acts and the varying responses of the state. For example, the response of the state to white collar and corporate crime is seen differently by Marxist sociologists compared to other theories. Marxists argue that such crime is driven by issues of class bias and, because corporate crime is seen as more acceptable by the ruling class (which includes the judiciary) than lower class crime, the sentences tend to be less severe and the media tend to give them less attention. Another dimension in the sociological approach to crime is the notion of biological explanations, whether it is physiological or psychological. The leading exponent of a physiological approach was Cesare Lombroso, who, in his work L’Uomo Delinquente (1876), argued that criminals could be identified through physical characteristics such as large jaws, large ears, and high cheekbones. Although Lombroso’s work would be totally rejected by the overwhelming majority of sociologists and criminologists, there are those who well into the 20th century have supported such a physiological approach. Others have taken a psychological approach. This is, similar to the physiological approach, essentially trying to explain criminal behaviour biologically. However, they argue that criminal behaviour can be explained through analysing the psychological or mental make up and processes of the individual rather than their physical characteristics. Supporters include Hans Eysenck in Crime and Personality (1964), who argues that there are personality characteristics that are genetic and, therefore, are passed on from one generation to the next, pre-disposing some individuals to criminal behaviour. Both of these approaches are largely discounted in that there is little or no evidence to support them, and their methodologies have been heavily criticised as being unreliable. Additionally, they ignore the impact of social and economic factors as causes of crime. Major changes in crime and deviance As has already been mentioned, both deviance and crime are relative concepts and, as such, they can change as the norms and values of society change. This is true within the context of a historical perspective, even over a relatively short space of time. We can see this by looking at a number of examples. Abortion in Britain was illegal until 1967, unless it was in the most exceptional of circumstances on medical grounds. This reflected the social norms and values of the time, whereby pregnancy outwith marriage was socially unacceptable. However, by the time the Liberal Member of Parliament, David Steel, introduced his Private Members’ Bill that legalised abortion ‘on demand’, the more liberal culture of the 1960s had already begun to change these norms and values. Thus, abortion became much more acceptable and the law was changed accordingly. Ironically, since the 1980s and the establishment of the new right, the laws on abortion have been tightened. As a consequence, the restrictions on abortion are greater than they were 30 years ago. Similar changes have taken place with regard to other social issues. These include homosexuality, censorship and drugs. Homosexuality, since it became legal to bring it into line with the laws governing heterosexual behaviour, has become more accepted as a way of life in UK culture, but that does not mean that it is not still viewed as deviant by sections of the population.

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As laws on censorship have become more relaxed, we find that satellite and cable television have introduced a significant number of ‘adult’ channels. Also, so called ‘lad’s mags’ have proliferated substantially, despite – or possibly because of – their semipornographic content. Whilst controlled drugs remain illegal, the fact that cannabis has been reclassified downwards by the UK government and endless surveys suggest that a very large proportion of the population have used it recreationally at some point in their lives, it would be a challenging debate as to whether it remains deviant as well as criminal. As far as general approaches to criminal behaviour are concerned, government policies have reflected the culture of the times. In pre and early Victorian times, the emphasis was on punishment. Prisons were initially places to hold people (eg. debtors) and punishments such as executions or transportation (to the colonies) were more commonplace. However, as the 19th century moved on prisons became a more common form of punishment, reflected in practices such as the ‘treadmill’ and hard labour. Such an approach remained prevalent well into the 20th century. Capital punishment was retained until 1965 and the prison system is still central to dealing with crime. With the liberalism of the 1960s came an expansion of alternatives to prison, such as community work, and in Scotland, the Children’s Panel system. However, with the coming to power of Thatcher in 1979 and the emphasis on Victorian values, government policies once more emphasised punishment. One example of this was the introduction of ‘the short sharp shock’ of Young Offenders Institutions and the assertion by the then Home Secretary, Michael Howard, that ‘prison works’. Since Labour came to power in 1997, the central theme of government policy on crime is to be ‘tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime.’ This reflects Blair’s ‘third way’, which seeks to establish a break from the dogma of previous governments. Blair appears willing to implement conservative policies on any issue that he sees as valid, whilst at the same time claiming to retain traditional Labour values that he feels are still relevant in the 21st century. Therefore, being ‘tough on crime,’ reflects the prevalent theme of the 18 years of Conservative rule immediately prior to Blair coming to power, whereas being ‘tough on the causes of crime’ reflects Labour’s traditional position of recognising and tackling the social and economic deprivation that causes crime. Therefore, on the one hand there are anti-social behaviour orders (ASBOs) and prison figures at record levels, alongside tagging and community work. See Taylor et al. Sociology in Focus. Chapter 13, pp. 455 for more information.

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Crime and deviance – key features/definitions/changes
          Crime and deviance is a major issue in all societies. They are relative concepts – defined relative to the norms and values of a given society. Behaviour that is outside the norms and values of society and may or may not be criminal. Criminal behaviour – requires the intervention of the state through some form of sanctioned restriction or punishment. Biological explanations – physiological explanations whereby criminal tendencies can be scientifically detected and measured in physical characteristics (Lombroso). Psychological explanations – criminal behaviour is to be found in the mental make up of individuals. Both approaches have been largely discredited. Changes in society lead to changes in what is defined as deviant and criminal behaviour. Issues such as abortion, homosexuality, smoking and handguns reflect this. Change can lead to both greater and lesser tolerance/acceptance of certain forms of behaviour – laws will change accordingly.

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Student Activity: Definitions and features of crime and deviance
Working in small groups and using the handouts provided by your tutor, answer the following questions. 1) Using examples, to what extent do you feel Downes’ and Rock’s definition of deviant behaviour is adequate?

2)

To what extent does Pease adequately define criminal behaviour? Use examples in your answer.

3)

To what extent do you feel biological theories explain criminal behaviour?

4)

Explain how changes in norms and values lead to changes in what is considered deviant and criminal behaviour?

5)

How has penal policy changed in line with a change in norms and values?

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114

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Functionalist theory on crime and deviance
  The functionalist perspective sees society as a body of separate but interdependent parts all of which must function properly for society to function properly. Therefore, deviant and criminal behaviour would be seen by functionalists as behaviour that is outwith the norms of society and so is detrimental to the proper functioning of society. Therefore, such behaviour is dysfunctional. However, at the same time functionalism also argues that deviant behaviour has a positive function to perform. This is because if there was no deviant behaviour, then anything falling outside the norm would be considered deviant. Moreover, deviant behaviour is necessary as a challenge to the status quo, so that society can change, evolve and progress. Deviant behaviour reinforces the norms and values that people share, therefore acting as a support mechanism for society. Similarly, criminal behaviour has a positive function to perform in that it can also instigate change and progression within society. Only when crime rates are too high or too low does it become a problem. The first definitive functionalist study was Durkheim’s Suicide: A Study in Sociology (1897). Durkheim studied suicide rates across a number of European societies. Durkheim found that suicide rates varied both amongst and within societies. Also, he found that these differences were retained even when overall suicide rates in Europe rose and fell. He also established a link between suicide and the social factors within societies, for example, economic depression and war. From his findings, Durkheim concluded that suicide was a result of the social factors of a given society. Another central concept is that of anomie. This was introduced by Durkheim and developed by Robert Merton. Anomie is a situation in society where there is a lack of cohesion or social structure, resulting in the individual predominating. Merton developed this theory and applied it to US culture in the 1930s in Social Theory and Social Structure (1968 [1938]). Merton argued that such emphasis was placed on economic success in US culture that any means could be used to achieve such success. As a consequence any sense of a common set of norms or rules was abandoned in the pursuit of winning at any cost. As a consequence this lack of rules led to a situation of normlessness or anomie. Merton argued that individuals would respond to such anomie in different ways, including deviant and criminal behaviour. For example, the poor, unable to achieve economic success and wealth through legitimate channels would turn to crime.

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Evaluation  Functionalism was seen as strong in challenging biological theories on crime. Durkheim was instrumental in challenging such theories in the 19th century. Indeed, he deliberately chose suicide because it was seen as a form of human action that was closely linked to psychological traits. Functionalism is also seen as contributing towards macro-sociology. The concept of anomie in particular is seen as one which has had a major impact on sociological thinking in the 20th century. Although many sociologists would now argue that much of functionalist thinking is out of date, it still is seen as having a major impact in a number of areas. For example, the new right approach to crime and deviance is seen by many as having many of the key aspects of functionalism. Moreover, such thinking has been central to government policies in recent years both in the US and UK. Functionalism is criticised in a number of ways. Durkheim was criticised for using suicide rates that were in themselves unreliable statistics. Functionalists are also criticised for arguing that deviance and, in particular crime, has a positive role to play. They are also criticised for accepting the norms and values of society against which deviance is measured. For example, Merton is criticised for defining deviant behaviour set against the rules and laws of society without criticising these rules and laws themselves. It is also criticised for failing to explain why some people who do not succeed well in life do not turn to deviant behaviour. Nor does it explain why some criminal behaviour is not based on the desire to make money.

  

Suggested reading     Haralambos and Holborn. Sociology: Themes and Perspectives. 5th edition, Chapter 6, pp. 353-356. Taylor et al. Sociology in Focus. Chapter 13, pp. 468-471. Kirby et al. Sociology in Perspective. Chapter 11, pp. 436-438. Sociology and Scotland: An Introduction. edited by Sweeney et al, Chapter 11, pp. 272-274.

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116

Sociology: Understanding Human Society 2 (Higher)

Functionalist theory on crime and deviance
     Sees crime and deviance as being both dysfunctional and functional. Deviant behaviour allows change and innovation, it provides employment in the police, judiciary, etc. Allows a definition of the norms and values of society against which deviant behaviour is measured. Durkheim’s study on suicide seen as definitive. Merton – in US society pursuit of economic success is paramount, allowing anomie to occur.

Strengths:    Challenges previous theories, particularly biological theories. Important in contributing to understanding of structures within overall analysis of society, eg. macro-sociology. Anomie concept critical in 20th century sociological thinking.

Weaknesses:    Criticised for using unreliable statistics, eg. Durkheim’s suicide rates. Uncritically accepts norms and values of society against which deviant behaviour is set. Fails to explain why some turn to deviant behaviour while others in identical circumstances do not.

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Tutor Guide: Student activity on functionalist theory on crime and deviance
When constructing questions for students to develop their knowledge and understanding of crime and deviance, useful starting points could be:     Interpreting crime and deviance as both functional and dysfunctional. An understanding of Durkheim’s functionalist work. A discussion of Merton’s work, including the concept of anomie. A critique of the functionalist theory and how it allows us to understand not only functionalism itself, but also some of the other theories, in particular conflict perspectives such as Marxism and feminism.

Scottish Further Education Unit

118

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Student Activity: Functionalist theory on crime and deviance
Using the reading that your tutor has directed you to, respond to the following questions in pairs.  In what ways does functionalism see crime and deviance as both functional and dysfunctional within society?

In what ways can Durkheim’s study on suicide be used to support functionalist arguments?

Explain the concept of anomie, both generally and in the context of US culture, according to Merton?

Scottish Further Education Unit

119

Sociology: Understanding Human Society 2 (Higher)

Marxist theory on crime and deviance
 Marxism analyses crime and deviance from a conflict perspective. Marxists argue that the ruling class uses the agencies of the state to control the proletariat. Therefore, the ruling class will use agencies such as the political system, the police and the courts as agents of repression. The norms and values of society are the norms and values of the rich and powerful and serve their interests. They are imposed on the poor and weak and these norms and values are exploitative of the poor and weak. What is classified as deviant and criminal behaviour is behaviour that the rich and powerful classify according to their own norms and values. The laws of any given society will reflect this. In modern capitalist society, it is the norms and values of the bourgeoisie that prevail and which are imposed on the proletariat. This is reflected in the laws in capitalist society in a number of ways. For example, some sociologists argue that there is a huge number of laws dealing with property in capitalist societies, which reflects the importance of owning private property as a basis of wealth. Others argue that there is a general reluctance on the part of the ruling class to pass laws that control their vested economic interests. This is seen in the reluctance of the state to control large corporate interests. Snider, in The Politics of Corporate Crime Control (1993), argues that this is particularly applicable when governments offer huge economic incentives to encourage foreign firms to move into deprived areas. Snider also points out that in the US losses from corporate fraud are 20 times greater than losses from street crime, but little concerted effort is made to address it. Equally, there is little media attention on corporate crime compared to other forms of crime. Recent examples in the UK would include the inadequate response to disasters such as the Hatfield train crash, where many felt there was little accountability because of weak laws, and argue that crimes such as corporate murder or corporate manslaughter should be introduced onto the statute books.

Evaluation   Marxism is seen as strong at analysing crime and deviance that may derive from the economic structures of society, including continued class inequality in society. Marxism identifies that criminal behaviour is carried out by the rich as well as the poor. They present corporate and other white collar crime as being as, if not more, damaging to society than ‘working class’ crimes, such as burglary, mugging, etc. This is particularly the case in terms of the economic impact of corporate crime. Marxism is criticised for over-emphasising the economy as the main if not sole determinant of crime and deviance. For example, feminists are critical of Marxism in failing to explain or even recognise gender as a factor. It is also criticised for ignoring ethnicity and race as factors.

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Recent history has also undermined Marxist analyses of crime and deviance. Both continued to be major issues in communist societies in the 20th century. Critics would argue that in fact these societies saw the emergence of a new ruling class of communist officials and apparatchiks who simply defined crime and deviance in the same way as the ruling class did in capitalist societies. Therefore, any criticism of the system was defined as deviant and indeed criminal behaviour, eg. the persecution of dissidents in the Soviet bloc.

Suggested reading     Haralambos and Holborn. Sociology: Themes and Perspectives. 5th edition, Chapter 6, pp. 381-385. Taylor et al. Sociology in Focus. Chapter 13, pp. 480-481 Kirby et al. Sociology in Perspective. Chapter 11, pp. 443-445. Sociology and Scotland: An Introduction. edited by Sweeney et al., Chapter 11, pp. 277-278.

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Marxist theory on crime and deviance
   There is no value consensus in society; it is the values of the rich and powerful that are imposed on the poor and weak. Social agents such as the political system, the police and the judicial system impose laws that protect the interests of the ruling class. This can be seen in areas such as the huge number of laws concerned with private property and the lack of any concerted attempt to formulate and impose laws in areas such as corporate and white-collar crime.

Strengths:     Strong structural analysis. Analyses impact of economic factors on crime and deviance. Explains continued economic inequality within capitalist society. Particularly good at explaining laws that are seen as attacking the interests of the working class – eg. laws restricting trade union powers.

Weaknesses:   Seen as weak in failing to recognise and analyse factors such as gender and ethnicity. Failure of communist regimes to successfully tackle crime and deviance is also seen as a weakness.

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Student Activity: Marxist theory on crime and deviance
Useful starting points for constructing questions for student activities could be:  Looking at the Marxist analysis of the social agencies in capitalist society that enforce the interests of the ruling class. This could be done through studying contemporary examples such as the Hatfield rail disaster, deaths on construction sites due to poor health and safety investment, toxic dumping by companies because it is cheaper than legal disposal and the fining of Transco over the Larkhall explosion. Such corporate ‘crimes’ could be contrasted with crimes carried out by the working class, such as theft, benefit fraud, etc. The length of prison sentences, the greater likelihood of the working class being found guilty of crimes than the wealthy and the disproportionate media attention given to, for example, benefit fraud, which is far less damaging to the economy than corporate fraud and tax evasion, could be covered in questions. How Marxism links to other conflict theories such as feminism (including differences and similarities) could also be covered.

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Student Activity: Marxist theory on crime and deviance
In no more than 500 words write a critique of the Marxist analysis of crime and deviance. Use directed reading given to you by your tutor to help inform your answer.

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124

Sociology: Understanding Human Society 2 (Higher)

New left realist theory on crime and deviance
 The left realist theory is critical of both right wing perspectives on crime and deviance and also radical perspectives such as Marxist and radical feminist perspectives on crime and deviance. Left realists argue that long sentences and tough penal policies do not work. In this sense, they are critical of the right. However, at the same time they argue that society can be changed and reformed. Therefore, they oppose the revolutionary position taken by Marxists. Left realists argue that you do have to be tough on crime, but also that you have to tackle the causes of crime by looking at the problems within society. One of the leading left realism exponents is Jock Young. He has carried out a number of studies on the issue, including ‘Incessant Chatter: recent paradigms in criminology’ and ‘Left realist criminology: radical in its analysis, realist in its policy’, both in The Oxford Handbook of Criminology (1997). In these articles, Young argues that crime has become a serious issue in modern Western society, despite attempts by some sociologists to question this. Crime levels have increased markedly since World War 2 and Young argues that such increases are real, despite attempts by some sociologists to question the figures. Young and others also argue that it is the poor who are often the targets of crimes such as muggings and robberies. They criticise many on the left, such as Marxists, who they call left idealists, for painting a sometimes romanticised view of crime. They also question the left’s criticism of the perceived link between ethnicity and crime, arguing that there has been a real increase in certain crimes amongst ethnic communities. Left realism explains rising crime round three key concepts. First, there is relative deprivation where certain groups such as ethnic minorities are more likely to turn to crime if they feel relatively poor and deprived in modern society. Second, they talk about subcultures, whereby a certain group will develop a collective response to a situation if they feel that they are relatively deprived. Finally, there is the concept of marginalisation. This is when such groups do not have the organisation and access to power through conventional, legitimate channels such as the political system.

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Evaluation  Left realism has certainly been reflected in much of New Labour’s policy of being ‘tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime’ and, as such, has been highly significant. Left realism has been criticised in a number of ways. Their methods have been criticised for concentrating on research methods that produce quantitative data and neglecting qualitative methods, which would allow an understanding of the motives of offenders.

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They are also criticised for overstating the existence and importance of a subculture whereby criminals share a common set of norms and values. Relative deprivation is also criticised for failing to explain why in identical circumstances some people commit crimes whilst others do not.

Suggested reading     Haralambos and Holborn. Sociology: Themes and Perspectives. 5th edition, Chapter 6, pp. 391-399. Taylor et al. Sociology in Focus. Chapter 13, pp. 489-490. Kirby et al. Sociology in Perspective. Chapter 11, pp. 445-447. Sociology and Scotland: An Introduction. edited by Sweeney et al., Chapter 11, pp. 281-282.

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Left realist theory on crime and deviance
      Takes what it sees as a realistic view on crime, recognising failures of other sociological theories. Criticises many on the left for ignoring reality of rising crime, where the victims are usually the poor. Also criticises the right for supporting policies such as more prisons and longer sentences, which haven’t worked. Argues that you have to be tough on crime but also tough on the causes of crime, which are complex. Therefore, the problems of society have to be analysed before crime can be tackled. Relative deprivation, subculture and marginalisation explain crime.

Strengths:   Recognising the failings of other perspectives from both the left and right, and takes a realistic view of crime and its causes. Addresses the impact on the victims of crime, an aspect neglected in the past.

Weaknesses:    Restrictive in its use of research methods, particularly a neglect of qualitative methods. Understates impact of crimes such as corporate and other white-collar crime. Criticised for being anti-working class and racist.

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Tutor Guide: Student activity on new left realist theory on crime and deviance
Useful starting points for questions could be:      Comparing left realism to earlier sociological theories and examining to what extent it has taken sociological thinking forward. To what extent has left realism been incorporated into New Labour thinking? How successful have such policies been? To what extent is it true that left realism is anti-working class and/or racist? How valid are concepts such as relative deprivation, subculture and crime? How do they relate to other theories on crime and deviance, for example, Merton and anomie. How do they relate to other theories on crime and deviance and indeed to perspectives on other issues such as welfare and poverty, for example Townsend and Lewis?

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Student Activity: New left realist theory on crime and deviance
Working in small groups or pairs, answer the following questions, using handouts and directed reading given to you by your tutor. 1) In what ways is left realism critical of both right-wing and left-wing sociological theories in their analysis of crime and deviance?

2)

Explain the following concepts within the context of left realism: Relative deprivation.

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Subculture.

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Marginalisation.

3)

Describe three strengths of left realism.

4)

Describe three weaknesses of left realism.

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129

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Feminist theory on crime and deviance
 As with other issues, feminist theories on crime and deviance have only emerged in the last 30 years. Before that gender as an issue in crime and deviance was either largely ignored or explained in simplistic biological terms. Feminism has started to address a number of issues within crime and deviance. For example, girl gangs were studied by Campbell in Delinquent Girls (1981), and female prisoners by Worall in Offending Women (1985). These studies showed the continued impact of gender within crime. Campbell found that female gang members were still tightly controlled by their men whilst female prisoners were still victimised by a system that was dominated by sexist male values. Female offenders were not only seen as deviants in general terms, as men would be, but also doubly deviant because as women they were not fulfilling the ‘normal’ role ascribed to them by men. Much feminist theory on crime and deviance has been within the postmodernist approach. Smart, in an article entitled ‘Feminist approaches to criminology, or postmodern woman meets atavistic man’ (1995), criticises other theories for taking a positivist approach. In other words, crime can be scientifically analysed and explained and, on that basis, solutions can and will be provided. Smart argues that such an approach is male-orientated in that it reflects a desire to control, which she associates with men. She describes it as ‘phallogocentric’. She is also critical of such an approach because it argues that the only views that should be listened to are those of criminologists who are taking a scientific approach. Smart is critical of this because she argues it particularly discriminates against the views of women from being heard. Smart also argues that attempts to explain and deal with crime will always fail because there is no one single type of crime or criminal behaviour. Feminism on this basis offers alternative analyses of crime. These include, first, feminist empiricism, which argues that past studies have been written about men by men. What is needed is the collection of empirical evidence about females and crime. Second, there is standpoint feminism, which seeks to analyse crime by listening to the female victims of crime such as domestic assault, rape and other sexual violence. Third, there is feminist postmodernism that has been explained above; namely that there is no single type of crime or criminal behaviour. On this basis, other sociological theories have to be broken down and replaced with feminist postmodernism, which will allow a male dominated culture to be challenged in its analysis of crime and deviance.

Evaluation  Feminism has been accredited with changes to the thinking on crimes such as sexual harassment and rape. These are increasingly seen as unacceptable and the criminal justice system should treat them as such, according to feminists. The concept of victimology seeks to study the impact on victims and is seen as one that owes a lot to feminism in challenging 'male' concepts of crime. Therefore, such a challenge will benefit women who are the victims of crimes such as domestic violence and rape.

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It also raises questions about the role of women in within society as a whole, for example, the role of women within the family, welfare and poverty, etc. Feminism is, however, criticised for being too critical and dismissive of all other theories on crime and deviance. It is the case that other sociological theories have been instrumental in explaining the causes of crime and providing to some extent, solutions. For example, Marxism and the impact of the economic system on criminality. Some studies have been criticised for being based on samples that have been small and unrepresentative and from which too much generalisation has been drawn, eg. Carlen’s Women, Crime and Poverty (1988).

Suggested reading    Haralambos and Holborn. Sociology: Themes and Perspectives. 5th edition, Chapter 6, pp. 408-418 and 423-426. Taylor et al. Sociology in Focus. Chapter 13, pp. 484-485. Sociology and Scotland: An Introduction. edited by Sweeney et al., Chapter 11, pp. 279-280.

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Feminist theory on crime and deviance
  Feminism has challenged previous sociological theories for being male orientated and ignoring gender as a factor in crime and deviance. Feminist studies looked at female gangs, treatment of women in prisons, sentencing policy, to gain an understanding of the treatment of women within the criminal justice system. Women often seen as doubly deviant in that they were both criminals and women deviating from the patriarchal perception of what the role of a woman should be. Much feminist writing on crime and deviance within the context of postmodernism – challenges the view that crime and deviance can be explained within the context of one single theory. Feminist alternatives include feminist empiricism, studying empirical data, standpoint feminism, which seeks to understand and explain gender, and postmodernist feminism, which seeks to provide a feminist explanation through challenging existing theories.

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Strengths:     Challenges male orientated theories that a whole range of crimes have been seen as, to varying degrees, acceptable – eg. domestic violence, sexual harassment and rape. Has been seen as making an important contribution towards victimology. has been accredited with changes to the thinking on crimes such as sexual harassment and rape. Has been seen as important in challenging myths such as leniency in sentencing of women.

Weaknesses:   Too critical and dismissive of all other theories on crime and deviance. Some studies have been criticised for being based on samples that have been small and unrepresentative.

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Tutor Guide: Student activity on feminist theory on crime and deviance
Useful starting points for questions would be:     Looking at the impact of feminism within the context of what has gone before. To what extent has feminism advanced sociological thinking on crime and deviance? Looking at feminism in a postmodernist context. To what extent does feminism, in this context, bridge the gap between feminism and other sociological theories? To what extent has feminism changed perceptions of women, both within female crime and women as victims of crime? To what extent has feminist thinking had an impact on government policy on areas such as domestic violence, sexual harassment and rape?

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Student Activity: Feminist theory on crime and deviance
Using materials handed out to you by your tutor, answer the following questions. You may work in groups, pairs or individually. 1) To what extent has feminist theory advanced sociological thinking on crime and deviance?

2)

To what extent does feminism bridge the gap with other sociological theories?

3)

To what extent has feminism changed perceptions of women, both as perpetrators of crime and of women as victims of crime?

4)

To what extent has feminist thinking had an impact on government policy on areas such as domestic violence, sexual harassment and rape?

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Interactionist theory on crime and deviance
 The interactionist perspective on crime and deviance differs from other theories in that instead of concentrating on deviants and the factors in society which are seen as determinants of behaviour, they concentrate on the interaction between those who are defined as deviant by society, and those who define them as deviant. A definitive study was Howard Becker’s Outsiders (1963). Interaction theory concentrates on both how people are defined as deviant and why they are defined as deviant. It also looks at the effect of such a definition on the individuals involved. This was illustrated in Jock Young’s study of hippie marijuana users in Notting Hill and their interaction with the police in Images of Deviance (1971). Such interaction will be between social agents such as the education system, the judicial system, the criminal system, etc., and individuals such as delinquents and criminals. Lemert discusses such social interaction in Human Deviance, Social Problems and Social Control (1972) Interactionism puts particular emphasis on the meanings defined by those who are involved in the interaction. An example would be how a juvenile delinquent is defined by the police and how this relates to factors such as social class, ethnicity and gender. The interactionist approach thus rejects other theories as being positivist, in that they place emphasis on external forces in defining criminal and deviant behaviour. Rather it places emphasis on the interaction of the individuals, and the related meanings; meanings which are not fixed, but flexible.

Evaluation  Interactionism is seen as strong in recognising the importance of interaction with respect to crime and deviance. Validity is reflected in the variation of definitions from one society to the next. A further strength of interactionism is its recognition of the flexible nature of meanings. As such interactionism recognises and takes account of changing norms and values both within societies as well as amongst them. Interactionism, especially with respect to labelling, has also been credited with challenging long held perceptions of crime, in areas such as decriminalising cannabis and the treatment of juveniles, for example the Children’s Panel System in Scotland. Stephen Jones argues this in Criminology (2001). Interactionism however is criticised for understating the importance of external factors such as poverty and deprivation in crime.

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It has also been criticised for defining criminal and deviant behaviour solely on the basis of how it is defined by individuals in society. For example killing someone simply for pleasure would be considered deviant behaviour in any society, so such action is not defined simply by a particular social audience. It is also criticised for being too deterministic in that once an individual becomes deviant, the only real option is that their deviant behaviour simply becomes worse. This is a criticism made by Ackers in The Study of Deviance edited by Gibbons and Jones (1975).

Suggested reading    Haralambos and Holborn. Sociology: Themes and Perspectives. 5th edition, Chapter 6, pp. 372-379. Taylor et al. Sociology in Focus. Chapter 13, pp. 475-479. Sociology and Scotland: An Introduction. edited by Sweeney et al., Chapter 11, pp. 276-277.

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Interactionist theory on crime and deviance
 Interactionist perspective on crime and deviance differs from other theories. Instead of concentrating on deviants and factors in society which are seen as determinants of behaviour, they concentrate on the interaction between those who are defined as deviant by society, and those who define them as deviant. A definitive study was Howard Becker’s Outsiders (1963). Concentrates on both how people are defined as deviant and why they are defined as deviant. Also looks at the effect of such a definition on the individuals involved. Illustrated in Jock Young’s study Images of Deviance (1971). Such interaction will be between social agents such as the education system, the judicial system, the criminal system, etc., and individuals such as delinquents and criminals. Lemert discusses such social interaction in Human Deviance, Social Problems and Social Control (1972). Puts particular emphasis on the meanings defined by those who are involved in the interaction, eg. how a juvenile delinquent is defined by the police and how this relates to factors such as social class, ethnicity and gender. Rejects other theories as being positivist, in that they place emphasis on external forces in defining criminal and deviant behaviour. Rather it places emphasis on the interaction of the individuals, and the related meanings; meanings which are not fixed, but flexible.

Strengths  Seen as strong in recognising the importance of interaction with respect to crime and deviance. Validity is reflected in the variation of definitions from one society to the next. Recognises the flexible nature of meanings. As such interactionism recognises and takes account of changing norms and values both within societies as well as amongst them. Has also been credited with challenging long held perceptions of crime, in areas such as decriminalising cannabis and the treatment of juveniles, Stephen Jones argues this in Criminology (2001).

Weaknesses   Criticised, however, for understating the importance of external factors such as poverty and deprivation in crime. Has also been criticised for defining criminal and deviant behaviour solely on the basis of how it is defined by individuals in society. For example killing someone simply for pleasure would be considered deviant behaviour in any society. It is also criticised for being too deterministic in that once an individual becomes deviant, the only real option is that their deviant behaviour simply becomes worse. This is a criticism made by Ackers in The Study of Deviance edited by Gibbons and Jones (1975).

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Tutor Guide: Student activity on interactionist theory on crime and deviance
Useful starting points for questions would be: Looking at the impact of interactionist theory within the context of what has gone before. To what extent has interactionism advanced sociological thinking on crime and deviance? Looking at interaction theory and its impact on thinking on crime and deviance and indeed criminal policy from the 1960s onwards. Analysing interaction theory from a critical perspective, for example, some argue that it has led to an increase in criminal behaviour. Examining the link between interactionism and labelling.

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Student Activity: Interactionist theory on crime and deviance
Using materials handed out to you by your tutor, answer the following question: In no more than 1,000 words, write a critical essay on the interactionist theory on crime and deviance. Refer to areas such as the major studies, impact on criminal policy and criticisms of the theory, particularly in the last 20 years.

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Discussion of Aspects
As well as features, definitions and changes in crime and deviance and at least two contrasting theories, three aspects have to be covered. Within the option of crime and deviance these aspects are:    Labelling and the self-fulfilling prophecy – an analysis of two features and two studies. Crime statistics – an analysis of two features and two studies. Gender – an analysis of two features and two studies.

The following areas of these aspects must be covered:    Poverty. The penal system. Social class.

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Aspect: Labelling and the self-fulfilling prophecy
Features  Labelling theory argues that the agents of social control within society define and project certain groups within society as stereotypes. Therefore, in the context of crime and deviance certain groups – eg. youths, drug abusers – would be seen as more likely to indulge in deviant and criminal behaviour. As labels are applied, a ‘master status’ develops whereby the negative label predominates above all other labels/roles that the individual has and s/he will eventually react in accordance with such labelling. Thus we have the self-fulfilling prophecy. It is particularly associated with the work of Howard S. Becker and is derived from interactionist theory. It seeks to explain crime and deviance by looking at how such behaviour is defined by those who are observing it, by those who are taking part in it, and by the interaction between the two. Becker argues that deviant behaviour is not defined by the action itself but by the society in which it occurs. In other words, no act is inherently deviant; rather it is deviant only as defined by the norms and values of a given society.

Studies and an evaluation of their strengths and weaknesses   Two of the definitive works are Outsiders (1963) and ‘Labelling theory reconsidered’ in Deviance and Social Control (1974) by Howard S. Becker. Becker argued that deviant behaviour was defined by the norms and values of society. This would depend on the social factors involved. For example, how it was interpreted by those who were observing it, those who were responsible for the behaviour and by interaction between the two groups. Becker also studied the impact of such labelling on individuals, for example, those who were found guilty of crimes and sent to prison. Becker argued that such labelling conferred what he called master status, as such labelling superseded the labels/roles of the individual in other areas of his/her life. Becker also argued that such labelling of individuals according to what was defined as deviant led such individuals to behave accordingly and fulfil the label that assumed the master status. This was the self-fulfilling prophecy. This can lead to individuals joining others who were similarly labelled, for example, the poor, homeless or drug abusers associating together. Another definitive interactionist study was Asylums by Erving Goffman (1968). Goffman based his study on the treatment of mentally ill patients in what he called ‘total institutions’. Although these institutions were ostensibly there to support if not cure patients, Goffman concluded that they re-enforced the labelling of patients as deviants and encouraged them to accept such a definition, in other words encouraging a self-fulfilling prophecy. Goffman saw these institutions as de-humanising patients by stripping them of their identity. Goffman described this process as mortification.

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Other interactionist studies include ‘Primary and Secondary Deviation’ (1989) in Deviant Behaviour: A Text-Reader in the Sociology of Deviance by Edwin Lemert. Here, Lemert defines primary deviance as the action or behaviour that the individual commits initially, and secondary deviance that refers to the reaction of society to the action/behaviour. These interactionist studies are seen as good at explaining the importance of analysing the interaction of individuals within particular sets of circumstances. Such studies also took sociology forward from previous theories such as functionalism. This was because as well as trying to define deviant behaviour, these studies tried to explain how such behaviour is defined not by the behaviour itself but by social agents according to the norms and values of society. As such, these studies challenged definitions of ‘deviance’, thereby challenging the norms and values of society itself. However, these studies are criticised in a number of ways. For example, many (mainly structuralist) sociologists criticise this approach for arguing that deviance is defined mainly by social agencies. Rather they argue that most deviant behaviour is intrinsically deviant in itself. For example, many if not most crimes would be seen as deviant in almost every society in the world. It is also criticised for failing to explain why some people commit deviant and/or criminal acts and others in identical circumstances do not. In other words, if deviant behaviour was largely defined outside the action itself then there would not be such a variance in behaviour. It is also criticised for being deterministic, in that it implies that deviant behaviour is largely outside the control of the individual and within the parameters of the norms and values of society. This is a criticism particularly applicable to the self-fulfilling prophecy.

 

Other studies include a critique of labelling by Stephen Jones in Criminology (2001), and an article ‘The Saints and the Roughnecks’ in Deviance – The Interactionist Perspective by Chambliss (1987).

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Labelling and the self-fulfilling prophecy
   Supports interactionist approach. Labelling theory argues that certain groups are stereotyped by the norms and values of society. In the context of crime and deviance they will be seen as having shared characteristics that will make them more likely to take part in deviant/criminal behaviour. Leading from this is a self-fulfilling prophecy – those labelled will relate to and act in accordance with such labelling, hence self-fulfilling prophecy. Interactionist theory that seeks to explain crime and deviance through interaction of those who are observing the behaviour and those who are participating. Deviance defined largely by society rather than by the behaviour itself.

  

Studies and an evaluation of their strengths and weaknesses  Becker, Outsiders (1962): - Interactionist approach. - Becker argues that deviant behaviour defined largely by society and sees interaction between observers and participants as crucial. - Such labelling rests largely with society and will lead to self-fulfilling prophecy by participants of such behaviour. - Labelling is not passive but will be associated with values and sanctions of society. - Will also supersede other labels/roles of the individual, hence master status. Goffman, Asylums (1968): - interactionist approach. - applies similar thinking to treatment of patients in asylums. - mortification is process where individuals are stripped of identity. - re-enforces labelling and self-fulfilling prophecy. Lemert, ‘Primary and Secondary Deviation’ (1979): - Interactionist approach. - Distinguishes between primary and secondary deviance. - Seen as taking sociology forward. - Seeks to explain deviance within context of society, thus giving a better understanding of how societies address and respond to crime and deviance. - Explains the interaction of individuals within society as way of explaining society itself. - Fails to explain how behaviour in itself is deviant and such deviance can be almost universally applied, eg. Murder. - Fails to explain why some individuals take part in deviant behaviour and others don’t - Too deterministic, ignoring the ability of individuals to take decisions.

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Student Activity: Labelling and the self-fulfilling prophecy
Working in pairs or small groups, answer the following questions. The handouts and/or directed reading that your tutor will provide you with will help inform your answers. 1) Explain, in the context of crime and deviance, what is meant by: a) Labelling.

b)

The self-fulfilling prophecy.

2)

In what ways is this aspect connected to interactionist theory?

3)

Explain Becker’s theory of labelling and the self-fulfilling prophecy.

4)

Explain what Goffman meant by asylums being ‘total institutions’.

5)

What does Lemert mean by primary and secondary deviance?

6)

To what extent do these theories adequately explain crime and deviance sociologically?

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Aspect: Crime statistics
Features  Crime statistics have been widely used by sociologists to justify their findings. Such statistics are very open to interpretation and indeed can be interpreted in different ways. On the surface this would appear odd given that they are simply a set of raw totals. However, different factors can significantly affect how they are interpreted. The interpretation of statistics can vary in accordance with changes to the norms, values and laws of society. Laws pertaining to women are a good example. In areas such as divorce, abortion, rape and domestic violence, changing norms, values and laws will re-define what is considered as deviant and/or criminal behaviour. This, in turn, will affect criminal statistics in these areas. For example, until relatively recently, rape, according to Scots and English law, was not defined as a crime, therefore could not be included in criminal statistics and could not be prosecuted as a crime. Also, before the invention of computers and the advent of the Internet, computer crime (theft, ‘hacking’, accessing child porn sites, etc.) did not and could not exist. Therefore, a rise in computer crime is to be expected as more people have access to computers and the Internet. Similarly, because of changing attitudes there may be an increased police intervention on a particular issue, such as drugs misuse. This may be in the form of a crackdown, or it may be a greater level of tolerance. Either way, this will fundamentally affect criminal statistics and, indeed, may lead to variations in statistics from one part of the country to the next for behaviour that is identical. Criminal statistics are also very patchy. They record only reported crime and even here only partially. They do not show unreported crime, which can be far higher. Such factors as unreported crime will affect the research methods adopted by sociologists, for example, whether to use quantitative as opposed to qualitative methods, whether to use self-report studies, where people admit to crimes, or victimisation studies, where people record being a victim of crime, etc., to get a more accurate picture.

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Studies and an evaluation of their strengths and weaknesses  One of the most common and authoritative studies of criminal statistics is the British Crime Survey (BCS). The BCS attempts to measure crime not only through reported crime, but also by measuring unreported crime through victimisation studies. S. Box analyses criminal statistics from a Marxist perspective in Deviance, Reality and Society (1981) and Power, Crime and Mystification (1983, 1995). This Marxist analysis explains criminal statistics in terms of social class. Statistics are seen as highly distorted, reflecting the interests of the ruling class.

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Laws are there to reinforce the control over the proletariat by the bourgeoisie; for example, the huge number of laws concerning property and the lack of purpose in the state pursuing corporate and other white-collar crime, despite its fundamentally damaging economic effects. In some cases, working class victims may even be unaware that they are the victims of crime, for example, in the case of fraud. This will also be reflected within the context of the penal system in terms of class discriminatory sentencing policy. Heidensohn analyses criminal statistics from a feminist perspective in Crime and Society (1989). In so doing she argues that criminal statistics are both distorted and biased on a gender basis. For example, in a male-orientated criminal, judicial and penal system, crimes such as domestic violence, sexual harassment and rape will go largely unrecorded and unpunished. This reflects the patriarchal attitude of social agencies such as the police, courts and the mass media. Issues such as domestic violence will go largely unrecorded as the prevalent view may be what ‘goes on within a home, stays within the home’. The law does not usually tend to stop at the door of private households where other crimes are concerned, so the fact that it often chooses to in relation to domestic violence could be construed as the state being supportive of patriarchal society. Even cases that do make it to court may well result in lenient sentences because the woman was seen by the judge or jury as ‘asking for it’. Women themselves are reluctant to report such crimes because of fear of reprisal from their partner and a lack of confidence that it will be properly dealt with by the legal system. Different studies have contributed to an understanding of criminal statistics. For example, the BCS does give a more accurate picture of criminal statistics than police records because it attempts to measure unrecorded crime. Many people do not report crime for a number of reasons, including lack of confidence in the police and/or the criminal justice system, fear of reprisals and victimisation, lack of awareness that some behaviour is actually criminal, worries about increased insurance premiums, relationship with the perpetrator(s) of a crime, or they may have committed the crime themselves. The BCS also asks the same questions from one survey to the next so is useful in identifying trends in crime. However, it is fairly limited in measuring such trends because it only goes back to 1982. It is also limited because it can only give estimates of crime rates for the total population and it will underestimate crimes such as sexual violence where the victim is unwilling to report it. Marxist studies such as Box’s are useful in analysing crime on a class basis. Moreover, Marxists argue that the law places far more emphasis on attacking working class organisations – eg. making flying, secondary and mass picketing illegal, sequestration of funds for ‘illegal’ action, the removal of the closed shop, etc. – than trying to address the failure of the state to meaningfully pursue crimes of the wealthy, eg. corruption and fraud, white-collar crime, or the failure to make capitalist corporations accountable, as in the failure to gain a corporate manslaughter charge over the Hatfield rail crash.

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However, Marxists are criticised for analysing criminal statistics on the basis of a very simplistic economic definition of class. They ignore other factors such as gender and ethnicity. They also fail to explain why some members of the working class will commit crimes (including against other members of the working class) and others do not. Feminist studies, such as Heidensohn’s, have identified and foregrounded an otherwise neglected issue in criminal statistics, namely gender. Given the patriarchal nature of society, crimes such as domestic violence and rape do tend to be under reported. Feminists have contributed to the slowly changing attitudes about the increasing unacceptability of such behaviour, which in turn may lead to more accurate criminal statistics in these areas in future, as such crimes become more likely to be reported, recorded and prosecuted. However, feminists are criticised for analysing such statistics from a very restricted perspective, namely gender, and ignoring other factors such as class and ethnicity. Moreover, feminists are criticised for analysing criminal statistics in areas such as domestic abuse and sexual harassment from a purely feminist perspective, thus ignoring the domestic violence and sexual harassment that occurs against men and is perpetrated by women.

Other studies include Crime in England and Wales 2001/2002 by Jon Simmons and others which combines the British Crime Survey and details of crimes recorded by the police (2002), Youth at Risk? A National Survey of Risk Factors Among Young People by Beinart, Anderson, Lee and Utting (2002) and Crime Statistics: The Data Explosion and its Implications edited by Maguire, Morgan and Reiner (2002).

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Crime statistics
   Widely used by sociologists to justify findings and conclusions, but such conclusions wide open to criticism. Most crime goes unreported; even reported crime may not be pursued by police. Changing norms and values of society in areas will have impact on laws and thus criminal statistics, eg. in areas such as domestic violence sexual harassment and rape. Other factors that may have a significant effect – eg. police drives in response to political pressure – may distort the figures. Some factors also have an impact on research methods used by sociologists, eg. use of self-report and victimisation studies.

 

Studies and an evaluation of their strengths and weaknesses  British Crime Surveys: - One of the most commonly used and authoritative studies. - Annually produced. - Attempts to measure unreported as well as reported crime and uses victimisation studies. - Ostensibly unaffected by politics and theory. - Gives more comprehensive picture compared to police figures. - Good at detecting trends. - However, only goes back a limited time. - Can only make estimates of crime rates. - Does not include neglected areas such as crimes against women. Box, Deviance, Reality and Society (1981) and Power, Crime and Mystification (1983, 1995): - Marxist analysis. - Analyses criminal statistics on class basis. - Sees them as distorted in support of the ruling class, eg. crimes associated with ruling class not actively pursued, such as white-collar crime. - Good at analysing criminal statistics on a class basis, eg. white-collar crime figures suggest that it is not pursued vigorously. - Highlights previous theories, such as functionalism, as stereotyping the working class as a criminal class. - Criticised for ignoring other factors such as gender and ethnicity. Heidensohn, Crime and Society (1989): - Feminist approach. - Sees criminal statistics distorted on gender basis, eg. crimes against women unreported because of a lack of confidence or fear. - Women are neglected and inadequately dealt with by criminal system, thereby reflected in statistics. - Given the patriarchal nature of society, crimes such as domestic violence and rape tend to be under-reported.

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-

Feminists have contributed to the increasing unacceptability of such behaviour, which in turn will lead to more accurate criminal statistics in these areas in future. Identifies and raises profile of gender. Criticised for analysing statistics from a very restricted gender view, ignoring other factors such as class and ethnicity. Criticised for analysing criminal statistics in domestic abuse and sexual harassment from a purely feminist perspective, ignoring that which occurs against men by women.

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Student Activity: Crime statistics
Using materials your tutor has directed you to answer the following question. With reference to different studies, evaluate the accuracy of criminal statistics in measuring crime. (Your answer should be approximately 300 words.)

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Aspect: Gender
Features  Gender has long been seen as a neglected area within the topic of crime and deviance. This is a problem that feminists would argue is applicable to most if not all areas of sociological study, reflecting the male-orientated nature not only of society but also of many sociological studies. There are also specific reasons for such neglect within crime and deviance. First, most crimes are committed by men so female crime tends to be neglected. Second, serious crime is largely committed by men and much of the crimes committed by women are perceived as less serious so are seen as not meriting detailed study. However, in recent years gender within crime and deviance has been studied much more by sociologists, particularly feminists. This has enabled some of the stereotyping associated with gender and crime and deviance to be challenged. For example, feminists have challenged the traditional view that women are treated more leniently by the courts when sentenced, which, in turn was seen as a ‘chivalrous’ approach taken by the judicial system. This has been particularly the case when crimes committed by women are perceived as reflecting behaviour that deviates from the ‘norm’ as defined by men. In such instances women have experienced harsher sentences than men. Women have also experienced much greater vilification by the media for crimes deviating from the norm than men have. Indeed, gender is seen as one of the most important, if not the most important factor when it comes to crime and deviance. Gender is seen as crucial in explaining the higher levels of crime amongst men, in that, given their greater access to the public sphere, they have greater opportunities to commit crimes. For example, with domestic and childcare responsibilities, many women are simply not afforded the same opportunities to commit crime than men are. Gender is also crucial in explaining crimes aimed against women such as domestic violence, sexual harassment and rape.

Studies and an evaluation of their strengths and weaknesses.  Frances Heidensohn has carried out a number of studies from a feminist perspective. In Gender and Crime (1987), she analysed criminal statistics in a gender context, both in the US and in Europe. Her findings suggested that it was the case that relatively few crimes were committed by women. However, this only raised a number of questions. Given the male-orientated view of society, was this because a lot of female crime was unrecorded? It is now argued that female crime is increasing. It also raises the question of why women commit crimes. In Women and Crime, 2nd edition (1996), Heidensohn also raised the issue of conformity and non-conformity. In particular, she examined the way in which women seemed to conform more than men to the norms and values of society.

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Other feminist studies have looked at sentencing policy. M. Leonard, in ‘Masculinity, femininity and crime’ in Sociology Review (Vol. 5, No.1, 1995), quotes another sociologist, Steffensmeier, who argues that the courts tend to be more lenient to women as they do not want to separate mothers from their children. The prison system is defined as one that is more suited to men. Another reason for lenient sentencing is given by H. Allen in Justice Unbalanced (1987). Here, the argument put forward is that women who commit crimes are deviating from the norm and so the question of mental health is raised. Therefore, alternatives such as psychiatric care as opposed to prison are used. Such studies have highlighted the importance of gender as a crucial factor within crime and deviance and challenged the stereotypes associated with this issue. The same is true in areas such as domestic violence, sexual harassment and rape. By challenging sexist assumptions about the role of women in society and what is and is not deviant and criminal behaviour, gender studies on crime and deviance are instrumental in redefining such attitudes and behaviour as being totally unacceptable. However, some of these studies – particularly feminist studies – have been accused of contributing to rising female crime. This is because critics of such a feminist approach argue that if sexual equality is to be achieved, then part of such equality means that women should have the same access as men to commit crimes, and experience the same sentencing policies. However, others, such as Abbott and Wallace in An Introduction to Sociology: Feminist Perspectives (1990), claim that the arguments put forward that suggest women experience lenient sentencing are flawed. Often women experience harsher sentencing because they do not conform to the male-orientated perceptions of the role of women.

 

Other studies include Gender and Crime: An Introduction by Walklate (1995) ‘Women and Crime’ by Heidensohn in The Oxford Handbook of Criminology (1997) and The British Crime Survey (2000).

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Gender
     Gender and crime has not been seriously studied until quite recently. Low levels of female crime and perceived trivial nature of most female crime has contributed to such neglect. Has been studied much more in last 20-30 years. Has led to much stereotyping being challenged in areas such as crime statistics and sentencing policy, allowing for a much better understanding of statistics/policy. Led to changes in attitudes towards crimes against women such as domestic violence and rape.

Studies and an evaluation of their strengths and weaknesses  Heidensohn, Gender and Crime (1987): - Analysed criminal statistics trying to explain why female crime rates far lower than men. - Raises issues such as: are these statistics accurate; is female crime increasing; why do women commit crimes? - Question of conformity and non-conformity raised. Are lower levels of female crime a result of greater conformity by women? What does this tell us about the gender roles within society? Leonard and Allen, Masculinity, Femininity and Crime (1995) and Justice Unbalanced (1987): - Feminist approach. - Highlighted the importance of gender as a crucial factor within crime and deviance and challenged the stereotypes associated with this issue. - Argue that sentencing policy reflects a leniency towards women because of sexist perception of women within the criminal justice system. - Accused of being part of overall Women’s Movement contributing to rising female crime, as sexual equality can only be achieved, if women have the same access as men to commit crimes, and experience the same sentencing policies. Abbott and Wallace, An Introduction to Sociology: Feminist Perspectives (1990): - Feminist approach. - Women experience harsher sentencing because they do not conform to the maleorientated perceptions of the role of women.

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Student Activity: Gender and crime and deviance
Answer the following question that will relate to handouts and directed reading provided by your tutor. In no more than 300 words, explain the ways in which women have experienced inequality in both the study of crime and deviance and way crime and deviance is perceived by society at large.

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Topic 4: The sociology of the mass media

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Sociology: Understanding Human Society 2 (Higher)

The sociology of the mass media
Tutor Guide: Activity on key features, definitions and changes in the mass media As an introduction to the topic of the mass media, the key features, definitions and changes to the mass media should be explored. This could be done in a number of ways. 1) Through class/group discussion looking at personal experiences. Students could explore how they define the mass media and how they relate to it in terms of their own culture. What forms of mass media do they use and for what purpose? This can and has led to lively discussion in past exercises. However, this exercise should be approached with great caution given what some pupils may well have experienced in their personal lives. Role-play through tackling issues relating to the mass media. Issues could include whether the role of the media is to inform or entertain, to educate or indoctrinate. How women and ethnic minorities are portrayed in the media would also prove interesting and topical areas of debate. The question of whether the role of the media has changed and if so in what way, could be posed. Another approach could be a small exercise in research, exploring some of the key features and definitions of and changes to the mass media. This could be carried out through a survey, questionnaire, interview or indeed any method or methods of research as cited in the Course specification. Skills and knowledge acquired within Studying Human Society: The Sociological Approach could be applied here.

2)

3)

These are merely suggestions. Tutors, lecturers and teachers should use the research methods and methodologies with which they are comfortable and that they feel best prepares students for the demands of Unit assessment and final exams. The author is also aware of the logistical and time restraints that are placed on both teachers and students. Some of the questions/issues that could be put to students include the following:         How do we define the mass media in modern society? What form(s) does the mass media take today and how is it evolving? What is the role of the mass media in modern society? Is it there primarily to inform or to entertain, to educate or indoctrinate? If it is a combination where does the balance lie? To what extent does the mass media influence society? What is its impact on a society’s culture? To what extent can it have an impact within the power structures of society, for example, the political and judicial systems? How has the mass media changed? For example, what has been the impact on the media of a concentration of ownership? How has the sociological study of the mass media changed since its inception in the 1930s?

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Useful sources to use are:     Haralambos and Holborn. Sociology: Themes and Perspectives. 5th edition, Chapter 13, pp. 935-936, pp. 944-950 and pp. 956-963. Taylor et al. Sociology in Focus. Chapter 15, pp. 533-537 and pp. 544-550. Kirby et al. Sociology in Perspective. Chapter 15, pp. 602-603, pp. 624-629 and pp. 630-638. Sociology and Scotland: An Introduction. edited by Sweeney et al., Chapter 5 (gender and media), pp. 107-108; Chapter 6 (race and ethnicity and the media), pp. 141-143; Chapter 13 (culture and the media), p. 339 and p. 354.

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Student Activity: Definitions and features of the mass media
Working in small groups and using the reading that your tutor has directed you to, answer the following questions: 1) What do you consider to be a sufficient definition of the mass media?

2)

Provide as many examples of the mass media as you can think of. To what extent do you use each form of the mass media you have identified and for what purpose?

3)

Discuss how the mass media portrays women and ethnic minorities. portrayals positive or negative?

Are the

4)

To what extent do you think political bias is reflected within the media? Does the bias vary from one type of medium to the next?

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Background to key features, definitions and changes in the mass media
Introduction Since the early part of the 20th century the mass media has played a major role in the shaping of modern society. As technology has developed and created the opportunity to communicate with huge numbers of people, the mass media has developed and with it the media’s impact on society. The mass media as we know it can be traced from the 1920s and 1930s onwards when radio and then television allowed instant access to millions and ultimately billions of people. However, the mass media became firmly established in the late 19th century, with an increasing number of mass produced newspapers to meet the demand of the increasingly literate working class. The advent of cinema early in the 20th century was a celluloid precursor to television. As a consequence of the rise of the mass media, those in positions of economic, political or cultural power and influence could use the mass media to communicate their message and imagery to the population at large. If we look at the relationship between the media and politicians we can see that many leaders throughout the 20th century became increasingly interested in using it as a means of getting their own particular message across. Hitler realised the potential power and influence of the media after he watched Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, and he asked Lang to direct his Nazi propaganda films. Lang declined and fled to the United States. However, Leni Reifenstahl became the Nazi’s main filmmaker and her films, such as Triumph of the Will and her documentary of the 1936 Munich Olympics, show the power of imagery used by the mass media to help manipulate the population. Such developments continued throughout the 20th century and into the 21st century, and as we will see the power of the media – particularly television – has become almost an obsession with politicians. This is an obsession that is not always justified in terms of the impact the media actually may have as opposed to what politicians think it has. Key features and definitions of the mass media There are a number of key features of the mass media, which, in turn, are inexorably linked to its definitions. How indeed do we define the mass media? The word ‘medium’ refers to a single source of information or technique of passing on information. ‘Media’ is simply the plural. The term ‘mass’ media refers to more than one source of information that is designed to reach out to a large number of people, in other words a mass audience. We also have to consider what the role of the mass media is in modern society. Is it there to inform or to entertain? Does it seek to control (indoctrinate) people or educate them? In terms of the socialisation process does it shape the norms and values of society or do they shape it? These are difficult questions to answer. For example, measuring the impact of the mass media is difficult. Studies on the political impact of newspapers on voters at elections in the UK are inconclusive in their findings. However, the mass media is certainly a powerful entity as are those who own and/or control it. Those who send out media messages/information/etc. are relatively small in number and those who receive them are massive in number by comparison. Its potential power and influence is also enhanced by the fact that the communication is almost all one way.

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Such potential influence is also enhanced by the rapid technological developments that have taken place, such as satellite, cable and digital television and radio, as well as the most universally accessible form of mass media, the Internet. The mass media has enlarged audiences into billions in some cases, particularly the televising of the football World Cup and the Olympics. Thus, with such a literally global audience, the potential influence increases in proportion, which is a reality not lost on politicians or advertisers who wish to have their message or products, respectively, spread across the globe. Both exposure to different forms of the mass media and consumption of media products and/or consumer products projected through the media have become an integral part of the everyday lives of people in Western societies and indeed many millions of people in the developing world who are employed in manufacturing the products advertised via the mass media. Major changes in the mass media There have also been significant changes in the ownership and control of the mass media. Such ownership has become both concentrated and transnational. An obvious example would be Rupert Murdoch. In the UK alone, Murdoch’s News International Corporation owns more than one third of the newspapers, including The Sun, News of the World, The Times and The Sunday Times, as well as many regional and local newspapers. There is also the impact of his ownership of satellite television and other holdings in the UK, US, and Australia. Such an influence can be seen politically if we look at the support given by Murdoch’s newspapers to British political parties. It seems difficult to argue that it was wholly a coincidence that the party supported by Murdoch’s newspapers has won every General Election since 1979, but a closer look at election statistics and newspaper readership might suggest that it is just that. Whatever the reality, politicians certainly put a lot of stock in what is put into The Sun and News of the World, both of which even the New Labour government consider significant in testing the general mood of the British population. Such changes have also affected the way in which the mass media has been studied sociologically. The earliest studies reflected what was known as the hypodermic syringe model. Such early studies in the 1930s saw the impact of the media as being similar to the impact of a drug being injected into an individual’s veins. In other words, the impact of the media was sudden and dramatic on the audience. In post-war society, such a definition was seen as being too simplistic. A two-step flow model was developed. Such an approach felt that the media had to be analysed more within the context of how their messages were received and interpreted by different individuals. It also argued that certain individuals who were influential within groups in society were pivotal, acting as a link between the media and how it was absorbed by the public in general. These were known as opinion leaders in the two-step flow process. In turn, this was replaced by the cultural effects theory in the 1970s. This theory argues that whilst the impact of the media is certainly important, such an impact is one that is slower and more of a steady build up of ideas and attitudes over a long period of time compared to previous theories.

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Mass media – key features/definitions/changes
         Mass media has played crucial role in society throughout 20th and now 21st century – has allowed individuals to communicate to millions and even billions. Culturally, politically and economically important. In the 20th century, the impact of the mass media, particularly television, has become central as far as politicians are concerned in order to gain political success. Definition of mass media is important – how do we define it? Mass refers to the audience which now can be measured in massive numbers. Is it a source of education or indoctrination? Those who control it are relatively small in number compared to the many who are the audience receiving the message. Changes in the media have also been important – eg. concentration of ownership increases potential power of owners. Changes also reflected in the way in which the mass media has been studied in sociology.

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Student Activity: Features and definitions of the mass media
Working in pairs and using the handouts and directed reading provided by your tutor, answer the following questions. 1) Describe the changing role of the mass media since the 1920s.

2)

How would you define the term mass media?

3)

To what extent do you think the media informs or entertains, educates or indoctrinates?

4)

What has been the potential impact of a concentration of ownership?

5)

Explain what is meant by the following: a) Hypodermic syringe model.

b)

Two-step flow model.

c)

Cultural effects theory.

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Pluralist perspective on the mass media
 The pluralist theory about power in society in general is that no one group or elite dominates society. This is essentially a functionalist view. Instead, there is a range of interest groups who share power. Pluralists argue that the mass media reflect such a range of interests. This view is reflected in Personal Influence by Katz and Lazarsfeld (1955). Pluralists argue that the mass media simply reflects what the public wants. It may well be biased but this is merely a reflection of what people want and think, rather than trying to make people think in a particular way. An example would be political bias. Pluralists would argue that the press may well be conservative, but this merely reflects the fact that Britain is a generally conservative society. They also argue that TV news, regulated by legislation, is neutral, impartial and fair. This view is reflected in TV News: Whose Bias? (1985) by M. Harrison and also by Nick Jones in Strikes and the Media: Communication and Conflict (1986). Pluralists also argue that the mass media provide a wide and diverse choice for the masses. As a consequence, there is no one single dominant ideology, but rather a genuine choice for the consumer. As well as the media reflecting the prevalent culture of society, there is plenty of choice for minority views within society. As a consequence, because there is such a wide choice, pluralists argue that the mass media has little or no influence on the views of the masses. At the most it simply reinforces what people already believe.

Evaluation  Pluralism is strong in recognising the range and diversity within the mass media. For example, it is the case that there is a huge range of literature from broadsheet to tabloid newspapers, as well as papers reflecting the whole range of the political spectrum. It also recognises the ability of individuals to disseminate information and make up their own minds. For example, in the General Elections of 1997 and 2001, viewing figures dropped sharply during the campaign, suggesting that most people had made up their minds before the campaign started. Moreover, in the 1992 General Election the swing to the Conservatives was as great amongst readers of newspapers of the non-partisan Independent as it was amongst those who read pro-Conservative tabloids. Indeed, most readers of The Sun, which strongly advocated the Conservative Party and the potential damage that would be done by a Labour government, actually indicated in election exit polls that they voted for Labour. However, the pluralist perspective is criticised for ignoring clear evidence of bias, notably political bias and the impact such bias can have. For example, the political party which has been supported by Murdoch’s papers has won every election since 1979. When Murdoch’s papers switched to Labour in 1997, there was a 15 per cent swing to Labour amongst readers of The Sun.

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Pluralists are also criticised for ignoring the increasing concentration of ownership that exists within the mass media, which can be a powerful factor in defining the message projected and its impact on the public. Many pluralist studies are sponsored by owners of the mass media, or are in fact carried out by media journalists who are criticised for making no attempt to provide a critical analysis of the trade they ply.

Suggested reading    Haralambos and Holborn. Sociology: Themes and Perspectives. 5th edition, Chapter 13, pp. 936-937. Taylor et al. Sociology in Focus. Chapter 15, p. 540. Kirby et al. Sociology in Perspective. Chapter 15, pp. 616-617.

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Pluralist perspective on the media
      Pluralist theory in general states that no one group or elite dominates society. Instead there is a range of interest groups who share power in society and mass media reflects this. Mass media may well be biased but it is merely reflecting what people think. Mass media provides a wide and diverse choice for the masses; there is no one single dominant ideology, but rather a genuine choice for the consumer. Essentially a functionalist view. Mass media has little or no influence on the views of the masses; at most it simply reinforces what people already believe.

Strengths:   Recognises the range and diversity within mass media, eg. huge range of newspapers reflecting the whole range of the political spectrum. Recognises ability of individuals to disseminate information and make up their own minds.

Weaknesses:    Ignores clear evidence of bias – eg. political bias and its impact since 1979. Ignores increasing concentration of ownership that can be a powerful factor in defining the message projected and its impact. Many pluralist studies are sponsored by mass media owners or conducted by media journalists who may not be objective in researching their profession.

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Tutor Guide: Student activity on the pluralist approach to the mass media
Useful starting points for questions would be:  The extent to which pluralism is accurately reflected in the mass media. The pluralist perspective could be applied through a study of newspapers in Britain. To what extent is there choice politically and culturally? Ownership and concentration of ownership could be explored. What is the impact of these factors in both the content of the mass media and on consumers?

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Student Activity: The pluralist approach on the mass media
Using the handouts and directed reading provided by your tutor, answer the following questions. 1) Describe the pluralist perspective on the mass media.

2)

Find a newspaper article that you think reflects a biased view of the mass media and identify what makes it biased?

3)

Describe three strengths of pluralist theory.

4)

Describe three criticisms of pluralist theory.

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Marxist perspective of the mass media
 Marxism not only emphasises the ability of the media to influence people, but also to control them. Marxists see the mass media as a means whereby the ruling class maintains control and power through transmitting a conformist and conservative view of the world. This is reflected in Ralph Miliband’s The State in Capitalist Society (1974). A Marxist analysis of the mass media can be manipulative Marxism which places emphasis on the mass media as a form of economic capitalism, or hegemonic Marxism which emphasises the mass media as a means whereby the ruling class project a culture which reflects their own norms and values, largely to the exclusion of any other. Moreover, concentration of ownership increases such control. This is a view reflected in Murdoch: The Great Escape by Belfield, Herd and Kelly (1994). They argue that the mass media encourages the masses to accept the status quo. In so doing, the masses will accept the norms and values of the ruling class as the norms and values of society as whole. Marxists also argue that the ruling class use the mass media as a filter through which information is passed to the mass of the population. In emphasising the acceptance of the status quo, the media resists change and therefore works against the interests of the working class. The mass media will thus project capitalism positively, which, in turn, promotes a false consciousness, preventing the proletariat from developing a class-consciousness. This would enable them to be aware of their exploitation and thus overthrow capitalism. Marxists argue that the mass media has taken over the role of other agencies such as religion as the prime source of ideological control. Such control of the working class is known as the dominant ideology thesis. Much of this can be described as manipulative Marxism whereby with the everincreasing concentration of ownership and merger of transnational corporations within the media industry, owners are increasingly criticised for consciously manipulating content. Auletta’s study Three Blind Mice: How the TV Networks Lost their Way (1991) criticises the policies of General Electric after purchasing NBC News. Hegemonic Marxism rather than emphasising the mass media as a means whereby capitalism controls society for the pursuit of profit, places emphasis on the use of the ruling class to dominate society culturally. This is known as cultural hegemony. This is a view put forward by neo-Marxists. They argue that the mass media promotes the culture and values of the ruling class to the exclusion of all others. What is important is the promotion of a culture or set of ideas which reflect the culture of the ruling class. This is done through the media by promoting a set of values which allows the consumer to understand the world in which he/she lives.

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Such a set of values is promoted on a permanent, consistent basis and so these values become invisible and taken for granted. As a result the dominant culture of the ruling class in projecting the world in which we live becomes so commonplace, that such a view of the world becomes the norm. Alternative views of the world do exist but given the power held by media moguls outlined above, it is very difficult for them to survive let alone become established.

Evaluation  Marxism is seen as strong in analysing the mass media from a conflict perspective. In so doing it helps to explain the mass media as a source of inequality within capitalist society. It also helps to explain the perceived bias in the media. As far as Marxists are concerned, this is particularly important in a political and economic context. Marxism identifies and analyses political bias within the media, for example, newspapers promoting the prevalent capitalist culture of consumerism. This is particularly true of manipulative Marxism. It is also good at analysing the commercial and ideological content of the mass media by explaining the power of multi-nationals and funding of the media. For example, sponsorship of the media, advertising and concentration of ownership. Hegemonic Marxism allows an understanding of the dominant culture reflected within the mass media, a dominance which is increasing with the concentration of ownership within the media. However, Marxist theory is criticised in that the dominant ideology thesis underestimates the ability of individuals to absorb information and make up their own minds as to what they agree or disagree with. Critics would argue that individuals are not automatons who passively accept what they are told, but rather they are conscious beings who interact with and accept or reject a whole range of information sources. Hegemonic Marxism is criticised particularly by pluralists for arguing that all those in the media, for example journalists, share a dominant ideology. Indeed there are plenty of examples of investigative journalism exposing the ruling class. It is also criticised for arguing that there is one single dominant, ruling class with a single set of ideas and single culture. Again pluralists would argue that even within the ruling class itself there is a wide range of views which are often in conflict.

Suggested reading    Haralambos and Holborn. Sociology: Themes and Perspectives. 5th edition, Chapter 13, pp. 937-941. Taylor et al. Sociology in Focus. Chapter 15, pp. 540-541. Kirby et al. Sociology in Perspective. Chapter 15, pp. 605-606.

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Marxist theory of the mass media
  Emphasises ability of media to influence and control the masses. Marxist analysis can be manipulative Marxism which places emphasis on the mass media as a form of economic capitalism, or hegemonic Marxism which emphasises the mass media as a means whereby the ruling class project a culture which reflects their own norms and values, largely to the exclusion of any other. Sees mass media as a means whereby the ruling class maintains control and power through transmitting a conformist and conservative view. The masses will accept the norms and values of the ruling class as the norms and values of society. Ruling class use mass media as a filter through which information is passed to the mass of the population. Mass media projects capitalism positively, promotes a false consciousness and prevents the proletariat from developing a class-consciousness. Argues that mass media has taken over the role of other agencies such as religion as the prime source of ideological control – dominant ideology thesis. Manipulative Marxism argues with the ever-increasing concentration of ownership within the media industry, owners are increasingly criticised for consciously manipulating content. Auletta’s study Three Blind Mice: How the TV Networks Lost their Way (1991) criticises the policies of General Electric after purchasing NBC News. Hegemonic Marxism places emphasis on the use of the ruling class to dominate society culturally. This is known as cultural hegemony.

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Strengths:     Analyses mass media from a conflict perspective; helps to explain mass media as a source of inequality within capitalist society. Helps to explain the perceived bias in the media, particularly politically and economically, as it promotes capitalist culture. Analyses commercial and ideological content of mass media in explaining the power of multi-nationals and funding of the media. Hegemonic Marxism allows an understanding of the dominant culture reflected within the mass media, a dominance which is increasing with the concentration of ownership within the media.

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Weaknesses:   Dominant ideology thesis underestimates ability of individuals to absorb information and make up their own minds as to what they agree or disagree with. Critics would argue that individuals are not automatons who passively accept what they are told; rather they are conscious beings that interact with and accept or reject a whole range of information sources. Ignores the vast range of opinions held in society whether they are pro-establishment or anti-establishment; in modern industrial society there is a lack of a dominant ideology. Hegemonic Marxism criticised particularly by pluralists for arguing that all those in the media share a dominant ideology. Indeed there are plenty of examples of investigative journalism exposing the ruling class. Also criticised for arguing that there is one single dominant, ruling class with a single set of ideas and single culture. Within the ruling class itself there is a wide range of views which are often in conflict.

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Tutor Guide: Student activity on Marxist theory on the media
Useful starting points for questions would be:   Studying Marxist theory in marked contrast to pluralism. Applying Marxism to a study of a particular form of the media, for example, newspapers. To what extent is the Marxist analysis in areas such as media bias and the promotion of capitalism both valid and justified? The link between Marxism and Marxist Feminism can be studied. This would allow an understanding of the extent to which they both overlap in terms of their view on the mass media. Marxism can also be applied to areas such as ownership of the media, for example, Murdoch and News International’s concentration of ownership, type of ownership and the relationship between ownership and media content and editing. Also the similarities and differences between manipulative and hegemonic Marxism, and their respective strengths and weaknesses.

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Student Activity: Marxist theory on the mass media
Using the handouts and directed reading provided by your tutor, answer the following question. In no more than 500 words, analyse the Marxist theory of the mass media.

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Feminist theories on the mass media
 Feminists argue that the image of women in the media reflects the patriarchal nature of society, and how their portrayal in the media is decided by men and for men. Such patriarchal ideology is reflected all through the media according to Dutton in The Media (1986). The image of women in the media is usually in the form of wives, mothers and sex objects. Often they are also portrayed as dumb. In her 1983 study, Jackie, Angela McRobbie analysed adolescent magazines and concluded that patriarchal ideology was prevalent with romance being the centre of everything. Women are also portrayed as being inadequate when in a working environment. Working women are portrayed as having unstable or unsatisfactory relationships with male partners. Thus, the implication is that being a full time housewife is far more satisfying than going out to work. Feminists also argue that the media project women as a minority even though they constitute over half the population. This is reflected in programmes such as Woman’s Hour on Radio 4 and ‘women’s pages’ in newspapers and magazines. According to feminists, there is also widespread sexual exploitation, even in the mainstream media, for example, The Sun’s ‘Page 3’. The constant emphasis is on women’s domestic, sexual, consumer and marital activities to the exclusion of all else. Feminists see the media as an agent of ideological control. It is a major source of the socialisation of traditional gender roles and thus constructs an ideological image of what ‘femininity’ is from a patriarchal perspective.

Evaluation  Feminist studies have highlighted and addressed the issues of women and gender and the largely negative projection of these issues by the media. This is particularly seen as a strength of feminist studies because it is an issue that has been largely neglected by other sociological theories. Studies such as McRobbie’s are seen as strong in identifying sexual stereotyping even with adolescent literature. Feminist studies on the media have been criticised for overemphasising the impact of patriarchy. Critics have argued that there is scope within the mass media to change the projected image of women. Gamman and Marshment, in their study The Female Gaze (1988), argue that the changing genre of the television cop demonstrates how progress has been made in examples such as Prime Suspect and An Unsuitable Job for a Woman.

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Suggested reading    Haralambos and Holborn. Sociology: Themes and Perspectives. 5th edition, Chapter 13, pp. 956-957 and pp. 960-961. Taylor et al. Sociology in Focus. Chapter 15, pp. 555-556. Kirby et al. Sociology in Perspective. Chapter 15, pp. 607-608.

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Feminist theories of the mass media
    Feminists argue that the image of women in the media reflects the patriarchal nature of society – portrayal is decided by men, for men. Image of women in the media is usually in the form of wives, mothers and sex objects; often portrayed as dumb. Women are also portrayed as being inadequate when in a working environment – ie. as having unstable or unsatisfactory relationships with male partners. Feminists also argue that the media project women as a minority even though they constitute over half the population – reflected in programmes such as Woman’s Hour on Radio 4 and women’s pages in newspapers and magazines. Identifies widespread sexual exploitation in the media, with a constant emphasis on women’s domestic, sexual, consumer and marital activities. Sees media as an agent of ideological control – a major source of socialisation of traditional gender roles from a patriarchal perspective.

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Strengths:    Addresses issue of women and gender and the projection of these issues by the media. This is particularly seen as a strength as it has been neglected by other sociological theories. Studies such as McRobbie’s are seen as strong in identifying sexual stereotyping even within adolescent literature.

Weaknesses:   overemphasises the impact of patriarchy; there is scope within the mass media to change the projected image of women. Gamman and Marshment, The Female Gaze (1988), argue that the changing genre of the television cop shows how progress has been made in examples such as Prime Suspect and An Unsuitable Job for a Woman.

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Tutor Guide: Student activity on feminist approaches to the mass media
Useful starting points for questions would be:   Exploring concepts such as patriarchy within the media, possibly by studying a particular form of media, for example the coverage of women in newspapers. Comparing and contrasting different strands of feminism in terms of their approach to the mass media, for example, liberal feminism, Marxist feminism, power feminism and radical feminism. Looking at how women are projected in differing areas of the media, for example, the projection of women in advertising.

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Student Activity: Feminist approaches to the mass media
Using the handouts and directed reading given to you by your tutor, work in pairs to answer the following questions. 1) In what way is patriarchy projected within the context of the media in terms of: a) Adolescence.

b)

Work.

c)

Sexual exploitation?

2)

In what ways is the media seen by feminists as an agent of ideological control?

3)

In what ways has feminism contributed to a sociological understanding of the media?

4)

In what ways has feminism been criticised in its sociological analysis of the media?

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Discussion of Aspects of the sociology of the mass media
As well as different definitions and types of the mass media and its role, changes, and at least two contrasting theories, certain aspects must be covered. Within the topic option of the mass media these aspects are:    Ownership and control – an analysis of two features and two studies. Socialisation – an analysis of two features and two studies. Bias, influence and attitude formation – an analysis of two features and two studies.

The following areas of these aspects must also be covered:    Gender. Ethnicity. Political bias.

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Aspect: Ownership and control
Features  Ownership and control is a key feature of the mass media. In particular, there has been a concentration in ownership. This is particularly true of newspapers, but also of television with the advent of satellite television. Traditionally, newspapers were owned by wealthy families and headed by press barons, but with take-overs and mergers, ownership has passed into the hands of transnational corporations (TNCs) headed by people such as Rupert Murdoch. In the UK today, Murdoch’s News International Corporation owns over one-third of newspapers, including The Sun, News of the World, The Times and The Sunday Times. Two other companies, Mirror Group Newspapers and United Newspapers, own another 40 per cent between them. Such concentration of ownership also presents the opportunity of media moguls such as Murdoch to exercise control over the content of newspapers and, in turn, the impact of these papers on their audience. An example would be the backing of the Conservatives by Murdoch’s newspapers from 1979-1992, which resulted in four consecutive Conservative Party General Election victories, then his backing of Labour from 1997-2005, which has resulted in three consecutive Labour Party victories. Such concentration of ownership not only relates to newspapers but also to television. The almost total monopoly enjoyed by Murdoch with respect to satellite television through BSkyB is an example. Such ownership and control is also the case in other countries. Fox Television, also owned by Murdoch, was seen as central to the endorsement of George W. Bush’s policy in Iraq when reporting the American/British invasion.

Studies and an evaluation of their strengths and weaknesses  Much of the debate over ownership and control centres around contrasting sociological theories on the media, in particular, the contrast between Marxist and pluralist perspectives. From a Marxist perspective the ruling class is seen as an agent of ideological control in modern society, used by the ruling class to establish and impose its values on the working class. This is a view taken by Miliband in The State in Capitalist Society (1973). Miliband argues that the mass media is an agent of capitalist control, rejecting the pluralist theory that there is genuine choice. Crucial to this is the fact that the media is controlled by capitalists. Moreover, with the concentration of ownership that has taken place, then any notion of choice has disappeared. Such a view is also expressed by the Glasgow University Media Group (GUMG). They have carried out a number of studies on political coverage by the media. These include Bad News (1976), More Bad News (1980), Really Bad News (1982) and Message Received (1999).

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GUMG’s studies largely concentrate on political and industrial/economic coverage. They argue that the mass media project a predominantly capitalist conservative view, which reflects capitalist ownership and control of the media. Such studies are seen as strong in identifying and dealing with political bias in the mass media. They are good at questioning long held assumptions about the impartiality of the media, even among broadcasters such as the BBC and ITN which, by law, are supposed to be impartial. They are also strong in analysing the relationship between ownership of the media and its content. This is particularly applicable given the growing concentration of ownership. Such critical analysis is beneficial not only in dealing with domestic issues, but also in analysing international affairs, for example, the coverage of the Rwandan massacre that reflected a Western perspective hostile to any perceived threat to Western interests. However, they have been criticised in a number of ways. For example, political bias is a relative concept. The Glasgow University Media Group has been criticised for taking a left of centre stance that criticises coverage for being right wing when others would consider it impartial. They are also criticised for overstating the impact of the concentration of ownership. Critics would point to the failure of Murdoch to gain certain franchises and recent European Union (EU) rulings that challenge his monopoly in areas such as football coverage. Critics also argue that consumers are too intelligent to be swayed by political bias. GUMG are criticised by political analysts who support the Consumer Rational Choice Model. The latter argues that consumers (ie. voters) are too intelligent and well educated to be swayed by political bias. By contrast, pluralist studies argue that ownership and control have little or no influence on the audience. Whale argues this in The Politics of the Media (1977, pp. 84-85), where he states that it is the audience that shapes the media rather than the other way around. ‘The press is predominantly conservative in tone because its readers are. If a substantial number of people seriously wanted the structure of society rebuilt from the bottom, the Morning Star (a communist newspaper) would sell more copies than it does.’

Pluralists argue that even though there has been a concentration of ownership, because these media companies are joint-stock companies (share holdings), ownership and control has split. Therefore, this has little or no impact on the content as a result of owners’ influence. James Curran, in Mass Media and Democracy: A Reappraisal (1991), argues that the growth of commercial radio and television re-affirms the view that there is widespread choice with a core public sector combined with an expanding private sector. Thus, the impact of ownership and control is negligible given the real and diverse choice that exists. This supports the pluralist perspective.

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Studies such as Curran’s are strong in recognising the changing nature of British industry and how it applies to the mass media. Such conclusions are supported by the reality of a mass media that, despite a concentration in ownership, is run by a diverse range of individuals from differing social backgrounds, through joint stock companies. However, this tends to ignore the fact that the largest proportion of shares in any public liability company (PLC) are owned by either wealthy individuals or large institutional shareholders. The increasing range of choice and the increasing deregulation in areas such as local radio supports the pluralist nature of the mass media in modern Western society, again negating any impact of ownership and control. However, these studies are criticised in a number of ways. The argument that joint stock companies have replaced press barons and so have created a division between owners and content is seen as weak. There are plenty of examples of moguls such as Murdoch intervening directly, for example, the sacking of The Sun’s editor and the cancelling of Chris Patten’s contract to publish his memoirs as Governor of Hong Kong as a result of Chinese pressure. At the same time, Murdoch was trying to make inroads into the Chinese media and did not want to upset the Chinese government, so ensured that Patten’s book was held up. Patten’s book was to be published by a publisher that Murdoch owned. Pluralists are also criticised for arguing that there is genuine choice because of deregulation. Critics argue that there is an increase in mass culture that hinders the ability of the audience to reflect critically about society, which partially is a consequence of the concentration of ownership.

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Aspect: Studies and evaluations on ownership and control
   Debate centres largely on Marxist and pluralist theories. Marxist theory argues the ruling class uses mass media as an agent of ideological control in modern society. This is a view taken by Miliband in The State in Capitalist Society (1973): - Marxist approach. - Rejects pluralist view that there is genuine choice. - Crucial to this is the fact that the media is controlled by capitalists. - Concentration of ownership has taken place; any notion of choice has disappeared. - Such a view is also expressed by the Glasgow University Media Group. Glasgow University Media Group, Bad News (1976), More Bad News (1982), Really Bad News (1982) and Message Received (1999): - Neo-Marxist approach. - Carried out a number of studies on political coverage by the media. - Mass media projects a predominantly capitalist conservative view, which reflects capitalist ownership and control of the media. Above studies identify and deal with political bias in the mass media, even in the BBC and ITN that, by law, are supposed to be impartial. They analyse relationship between ownership of the media and its content. Such critical analysis is beneficial not only in dealing with domestic issues, but also in analysing international issues. However, political bias is a relative concept – eg GUMG have been criticised for taking a left of centre stance, which criticises coverage for being right wing when others would consider it impartial. They overstate impact of concentration of ownership. Consumers are too intelligent to be swayed by political bias, according to critics. By contrast, pluralist studies argue that ownership and control have little or no influence on the audience. Whale, The Politics of the Media (1977): - States that it is the audience that shapes the media rather than the other way around. - Pluralists argue that even though there has been a concentration of ownership, because these media companies are joint-stock companies (share holding), ownership and control have become split.

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J. Curran, Mass Media and Democracy: A Reappraisal (1991): - There is widespread choice due to growth in areas such as commercial radio. - Impact of ownership and control is negligible given the real and diverse choice that exists. - Recognises changing nature of British industry and how it applies to the mass media. - Despite a concentration in ownership, mass media is run by diverse range of individuals from differing social backgrounds, through joint stock companies. - Increasing range of choice and deregulation supports the pluralist nature of the mass media in modern Western society. - However, criticised for arguing joint stock companies have replaced press barons. - Criticised for arguing that there is genuine choice because of deregulation. - Critics argue that there is an increase in mass culture that hinders the ability of the audience to reflect critically about society, which partially is a consequence of concentration of ownership.

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Student Activity: Ownership and control of the mass media
Using the resources provided by your tutor, answer the following questions. In no more than 400 words compare and contrast the Marxist and pluralist perspectives on the media with specific reference to ownership and control.

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Aspect: Socialisation
Features  Socialisation is the process whereby the members of society learn and absorb the norms and values of that society. There are a number of agents of socialisation, such as the family and education system. The mass media is another key agent of socialisation. The mass media is part of the socialisation process in a number of ways. For example, it is seen as being a crucial part of the process of globalisation. This is the view that the world can no longer be seen in a purely national basis with states being controlled by governments. States operate increasingly within an international framework and the media is part of that process. The technology of the mass media in the 21st century means that audiences can be literally global and number in the billions. An example of the impact of globalisation can be explained from a Marxist perspective both in a manipulative and hegemonic sense. From a manipulative Marxist perspective the impact of globalisation, with moguls and transnational companies crushing any economic challenge, means that any real alternative to companies such SKY and Viacom are largely non-existent. Similarly hegemonic Marxists would argue that culturally the ruling class dominate and suppress any alternative culture and thus any alternative perspective of the world. Such cultural dominance can be political, social or artistic. Thus it plays a crucial part in the socialisation process. Leading from this is an analysis of the impact of the media in terms of socialisation from a postmodernist perspective. The role of the media is a crucial component of postmodernism and in particular the condition of ‘postmodernity’. This is because in the postmodern world society is saturated by the media. If we consider the extent to which consumers have access to the media and the range of access open to them, then this becomes clear. To quote Halarambos: ‘Postmodernity is a condition which is media-saturated: the media are not just one aspect among many of that condition, but are its intimate, defining aspect. In postmodernity the norm is complexity: there are many meanings and not one deep, profound meaning. Access to the multitude of messages transmitted via the media provides access to these meanings.’ – Halarambos and Holborn, Sociology: Themes and Perspectives, 6th edition Page 848.  As such postmodernism argues that in modern society the role of the media is both crucial and complex, given the huge range of sources available within the mass media. On this basis the difference between reality and imagery become blurred, therefore the concept of hyperreality is developed whereby the information which is projected by the media and absorbed by the consumer can be interpreted in many different ways. Again this is a crucial part of the socialisation process.

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The mass media is also a crucial part of the socialisation process in the image it projects of certain sections of society. Two good examples would be women and ethnic minorities. The media is frequently criticised for projecting a sexist and racist stereotypical image of these two groups in society. For example women are both under-represented in the media and represented in particular ways, although this has been changing in the last 20 years. In the past women were projected in traditional roles as housewives and mothers. However increasingly they have been projected in roles which are assertive and power based. Examples would be programmes such as Prime Suspect and An Unsuitable Job For A Woman. Also within the Bond movies M is now played by Judi Dench. As far as ethnic minorities are concerned again projection by the media can became stereotypical. This has been particularly true as far as the tabloid press is concerned on issues such as inner city rioting, immigration and terrorism. Representation on television is more complex. In general ethnic minorities are underrepresented, particularly Asians. Moreover the way they are represented is important. Whereas whites and their life patterns are projected as the norm, blacks are represented as a group whose lifestyle follows certain patterns but, by definition, is not the norm. Other studies have looked at the attitudes and culture within the media audience which such black representation may appeal to. Major issues such as the trial of O.J Simpson and the murder of Stephen Lawrence are examples, not only of media representation of blacks and black issues, but also of the complex nature of the messages sent out and the complex and differing ways they are absorbed within the socialisation process.

Studies and an evaluation of their strengths and weaknesses  Postmodernist studies have tried to explain the impact of the mass media in the modern world as explained above, largely through the concept of hyperreality. Baudrillard argues from this point of view in The Ecstasy of Communication (1988). Turkle also supports this view in Life on the Screen: Identity in the Age of the Internet (1996). Certainly, postmodernist studies are strong in recognising the complex nature of the modern mass media and its impact both on a national and global basis. We can understand this by exploring the concept of hyperreality mentioned above. This blurring of reality and imagery and the complex range not only of messages but also interpretation of such messages emphasises the importance of the media in modern society, and therefore within the socialisation process. For example Turkle’s study mentioned above argues for the culture of simulation whereby the audience identify more with the simulated world of television rather than with the real world. Such an analysis is seen as particularly strong when applied to the ways in which news is broadcast globally, recognising the dominance of a Western Anglo-American perception of the world. This is a result not only of the technology of the 21st century which makes both reporting and access global, but also the increasing dominance of fewer and fewer news agencies, all of whom are based in the West which project such a Western perception of the world. Therefore it has a major impact on the socialisation process in shaping peoples’ perceptions of themselves and the world in which they live.

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However, postmodernists have been criticised for overstating the impact of the mass media on the socialisation process in different societies. Critics argue, therefore, that audiences may be exposed to a huge range of sources of information, but this does not necessarily mean that they will be affected by such a complex range of sources. Critics, such as Webster in his study What Information Society? (1999), argue that there has been no discernable profound change in society because of the impact of technology. Therefore it has had little if any impact on the socialisation process. Feminist studies are critical of the media in the socialisation process because it projects women in a sexist and stereotypical way. Studies, such as McRobbie’s Jackie (1982) and Dutton’s The Media (1986), argue from this position. Women are portrayed from a patriarchal perspective and so the mass media plays a crucial role in promoting sexist attitudes within the overall socialisation process. Other studies concentrate on the role of women within the ownership and control of the mass media. Croteau and Hoynes, in Media Society: Industry, Images and Audiences (2000), argue that the running and control of the media are still controlled by men. For example: ‘In the USA in the mid-1990s women occupied only 6 per cent of top newspaper management positions, wrote only 19 per cent of front page stories, occupied only 20 per cent of news director posts in television stations and presented only 20 per cent of television news reports.’

Such feminist studies have highlighted and explained the impact of the media in portraying women in such a sexist and stereotypical fashion. This is particularly important because not only does it show how women are misrepresented, but also how this issue was simply ignored in the past. They are also strong in allowing women (and men) to reject traditional socialisation patterns. In so doing, it rejects this false consciousness and allows women to develop a true consciousness in their own minds. In other words, they liberate women with regard to their perceptions of themselves and other women within society. However, such studies have been criticised in a number of ways. There is no unified approach to their criticisms of the media. For example, liberal feminists argue that the media can be reformed from within whereas radical feminists argue that what is needed are alternative media structures run for and by women. Feminists would be criticised by pluralists for overstating the impact of the media on consumers and therefore on the socialisation process. These studies are also criticised for assuming that all mass culture is inevitably patriarchal and that there are deep-seated psychoanalytic processes within the male mind that constantly and inevitably lead to culture and the mass media being constructed through the ‘male gaze’. A number of studies have been highly critical of the way ethnicity and ethnic minorities have been presented within the mass media. For example, in Policing the Crisis (1979), Hall et al. were highly critical of the media’s coverage of crimes that are projected as ‘black’ crimes, such as mugging.

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A major study was carried out by Hartmann and Husband called Racism and the Mass Media (1974). In studying the British press from 1963 to 1970, they concluded that newspapers persistently projected ethnic minorities in a negative fashion. They were seen as a threat to white society and white culture. Hartmann and Husband’s approach was essentially pluralist in that they concluded that such messages had little impact on readers. Such studies are seen as strong in highlighting what was a neglected aspect of the media. Moreover, although Hartmann and Husband concluded that such reporting had a limited effect, they did conclude that an effect did take place. However, reports such as Hartmann and Husband’s are criticised for underestimating the impact of racist stereotyping. They were also criticised for using a small unrepresentative sample of school children. Marxist feminists are also critical because Hartmann and Husband failed to link racism in the wider class-based structure of society and how that impacts on the socialisation process. As a consequence, they did not analyse the media as a tool of the ruling class elite within which ethnic minorities – along with other perceived minorities such as women – are perceived. Van Dijk supports this view in his study Racism in the Press (1991).

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Aspect: Socialisation
    Process whereby members of society learn and absorb the norms and values of that society. There are a number of agents of socialisation such as the family, education system and mass media. Mass media is a crucial part of the process of globalisation, whereby states operate on a global basis and the world is reported as such, with global audiences of billions. Impact of globalisation can be explained from a Marxist perspective both in a manipulative and hegemonic sense. From a manipulative Marxist perspective, the impact of globalisation means that any real alternative to companies such as SKY and Viacom are largely non-existent. Similarly hegemonic Marxists argue that culturally the ruling class dominate and suppress any alternative culture and thus any alternative perspective of the world. Such dominance can be political, social or cultural. Thus it plays a crucial part in the socialisation process. Such globalisation can also be applied to the ownership and control of the mass media with transnational companies transcending national boundaries. Murdoch’s empire is an example. Leading from this is an analysis of the impact of the media in terms of socialisation from a post-modernist perspective. Postmodernism argues that in modern society there is no absolute truth; only relativism. There is therefore a reality as lived by individuals in their day-to-day lives and reality as portrayed by the media. The role of the media is a crucial component of postmodernism and in particular the condition of ‘postmodernity’. This is because in the postmodern world society is saturated by the media. If we consider the extent to which consumers have access to the media and the range of access open to them, then this becomes clear. Argues that in modern society the role of the media is both crucial and complex, given huge range of sources available. On this basis the difference between reality and imagery become blurred, therefore the concept of hyperreality is developed whereby the information which is projected by the media and absorbed by the consumer can be interpreted in many different ways. Again this is a crucial part of the socialisation process. Postmodernists argue that the two have become blurred. Individuals obtain what they experience as real knowledge about the real world from the media. However this is actually reproduced knowledge about a world, which in itself is reproduced or simulated. This is known as the hyperreal. The mass media is a crucial part of the socialisation process in the image it projects of certain sections of society – eg. women and ethnic minorities. The media is frequently criticised for projecting a sexist and racist stereotypical image of women and ethnic minorities.

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Women under-represented in the media and represented in particular ways; has been changing in the last 20 years. In the past women were projected in traditional roles as housewives and mothers. However increasingly they have been projected in roles which are assertive and power based. Examples would be programmes such as Prime Suspect and An Unsuitable Job For A Woman. Also in the Bond movies M is now played by Judi Dench. Ethnic minorities’ projection by the media can become stereotypical. Particularly true as far as the tabloid press is concerned on issues such as inner city rioting, immigration and terrorism. Representation on television is more complex. In general ethnic minorities are underrepresented, particularly Asians. Moreover the way they are represented is important. Whereas whites and their life patterns are projected as the norm, blacks are represented as a group whose lifestyle follows certain patterns but, by definition, is not the norm.

Studies and an evaluation of their strengths and weaknesses  Postmodernist studies have tried to explain the impact of the mass media in the modern world as explained above, largely through the concept of hyperreality. We can understand this by exploring the concept of hyperreality mentioned above. This blurring of reality and imagery and the complex range not only of messages but also interpretation of such messages emphasises the importance of the media in modern society, and therefore within the socialisation process. For example Turkle’s study mentioned above argues for the culture of simulation whereby the audience identify more with the simulated world of television rather than with the real world. Baudrillard argues from this point of view in The Ecstasy of Communication (1988). Turkle also supports this view in Life on the Screen: Identity in the Age of the Internet (1996): - Certainly postmodernist studies are strong in recognising the complex nature of the modern mass media and its impact both on a national and global basis. This is a result not only of the technology of the 21st century which makes both reporting and access global, but also the increasing dominance of fewer and fewer news agencies, all of whom are based in the West which project such a Western perception of the world. Therefore it has a major impact on the socialisation process in shaping people’s perceptions of themselves and the world in which they live. - Such an analysis is seen as particularly strong when applied to the way in which news is broadcast globally, recognising the dominance of a Western, AngloAmerican perception of the world. Critics, such as Webster in his study What Information Society? (1999), argue that there has been no discernable profound change in society because of the impact of technology. Therefore it has had little if any impact on the socialisation process. - However postmodernists have been criticised for overstating the impact of the mass media on the socialisation process in societies. Critics argue therefore that audiences may not necessarily be affected by such a complex range of sources. Feminist studies are critical of the media in the socialisation process because it projects women in a sexist and stereotypical way.

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As we have seen studies such as McRobbie’s Jackie (1982) and Dutton’s The Media (1986) argue from this position: - Concentrates on the role of women within the ownership and control of the mass media. Croteau and Hoynes in Media Society: Industry, Images and Audiences (2000): - Argue that the running and control of the media are still controlled by men. Such feminist studies have explained the impact of the media in portraying women in such a sexist and stereotypical fashion. Particularly important because not only does it show how women are misrepresented but also how this issue was simply ignored in the past. Allows women to reject traditional socialisation patterns, rejecting false consciousness and allows women to develop consciousness. However, such studies have been criticised for not having a unified approach – eg. liberal feminists argue that the media can be reformed from within, whereas radical feminists argue that what is needed are alternative media structures run for and by women. They would also be criticised by pluralists for overstating the impact of the media on consumers and the socialisation process. These studies are also criticised for assuming that all mass culture is inevitably patriarchal and that there are deep-seated psychoanalytic processes within the male mind which constantly and inevitably lead to culture and the mass media being constructed through the ‘male gaze’. A number of studies have been highly critical of the way ethnicity and ethnic minorities have been presented within the mass media. Policing the Crisis (1979), Hall et al.: - highly critical of the media’s coverage of crimes, which are projected as ‘black’ crimes – eg. Mugging. Hartmann and Husband, Racism and the Mass Media (1974): - In studying the British press from 1963 to 1970 they concluded that newspapers persistently projected ethnic minorities in a negative fashion. - Ethnic minorities were seen as a threat to white society and white culture. - Such studies are seen as strong in highlighting what was a neglected aspect of the media. - Although Hartmann and Husband concluded that such reporting had a limited effect they did conclude that an effect did take place. - However, reports such as Hartmann and Husband’s are criticised for underestimating the impact of such racist stereotyping. - They were also criticised for using a small unrepresentative sample of school children.

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Marxist feminists are also critical because the report failed to link racism in the wider class-based structure of society and how that impacts on the socialisation process. As a consequence they did not analyse the media as a tool of the ruling class elite within which ethnic minorities along with other perceived minorities such as women are perceived.

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Student Activity: Socialisation and the mass media
Using the directed readings and handouts provided by your tutor, work in groups to answer the following questions. 1) Briefly define socialisation in a general sociological context. 2) Explain the impact of globalisation within the mass media as an agent of socialisation. You may refer to Marxist theories. Similarly to what extent does the postmodernist perspective adequately explain the mass media as an agent of socialisation? Refer to studies where necessary. Using studies to exemplify your answer, critically analyse the mass media and: a) Gender.

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Ethnic minorities.

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Aspect: Bias, influence and attitude formation
Features  Bias, influence and attitude formation can mean a number of things as far as the media are concerned. Bias can be political where, for example, a newspaper supports a political party, particularly at election time and so the influence and attitude formation would be political. In theory, broadcast media, namely television, should be impartial and balanced by law in the UK. Newspapers have far greater freedom to be biased. However, in reality, there have been numerous instances where the broadcast media have been seen as biased and partisan, not least when it comes to reporting industrial disputes. Much research evidence shows that trade union representatives are more likely to face hostile questioning from broadcast journalists than business managers are. However, what is impartiality or indeed what is bias? They are relative concepts. Any statement, news bulletin or article will be a relative statement. If we take news programmes on television that by law should be impartial, who decides what is reported and what is left out, the order of items and what constitutes the headlines, the wording of the reports, etc.? As a consequence complete impartiality is impossible to achieve. What can be achieved is the concept of due impartiality. This is a position of impartiality within what is broadly accepted by society and that reflects such acceptability. For example, terrorist violence is generally seen as unacceptable. Therefore, violence such as IRA attacks in the past and Al Qaeda bombings in London and other cities is condemned and reported as terrorist action rather than action by freedom fighters. In other words, how we view such actions – whether terrorism or freedom fighting – is relative to our political, religious, ideological, etc., standpoint and, as people in the UK may generally view such actions as terrorism, we accept the due impartiality of the media in reporting them as unacceptable. If we apply the concept of due impartiality to political bias we find that in the past both the BBC and ITN have been criticised from both the right and left for their news reporting. Such criticism, it could be argued, shows that due impartiality does exist in that all reporting is relative. However, Marxist sociologists and other conflict theorists argue that the media is simply a tool of the ruling class. As such it is inherently biased and its objective is to influence and form attitudes that both reflect and support the norms and values of the ruling class.

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Studies and an evaluation of their strengths and weaknesses
 As we have already seen there have been a number of studies carried out on political bias. The Glasgow University Media Group analyse news coverage from a neoMarxist perspective. In their reports Bad News (1976), More Bad News (1980) Really Bad News (1982) and Message Received (1999), they concluded that the news projected a right wing perspective of both domestic and international issues, which reinforced the norms and values of a capitalist ruling class. John Pilger drew similar conclusions in his study The Brave New Media (1993) and his collection of media reports, Tell Me No Lies (2004). The Glasgow University Media Group applied their approach to the media reporting of industrial disputes such as the dustcart strike (1975) in Glasgow and the miners’ strike (1984-1985). In the case of the latter, they gave different sets of voters the equipment needed to construct their own news report on the strike. The report which most closely mirrored that of the actual reporting was carried out by right wing Conservative voters. The conclusion was drawn that the actual reporting was right wing. Other examples which highlight both the importance and sensitivity of bias, influence and attitude formation would be the relationship between the media and successive governments. For example, the reporting of wars is a particularly sensitive issue. The reporting of the Falklands War (1982) was very heavily censored by the Conservative government. In more recent times, there was a major issue of the war in Iraq, the death of David Kelly, one of the chief specialists on nuclear weapons, the Hutton Inquiry that followed and the subsequent negative fallout for the BBC, whose reporting was severely criticised by the government. Some postmodernists have argued that reporting of warfare and, indeed, everything, is so blurred in terms of what is impartial and real that they argue that wars can no longer be seen as having reality in a normal sense. This was a view expressed by Baudrillard. He argues that wars, along with other events portrayed by the media have lost any sense of reality, in the sense that how they are projected bears little or no reality to what actually takes place. Baudrillard calls this era simulacra. Such a view where actual reality no longer exists within the media is reflected in his study The Gulf War Did Not Take Place (1995). The above studies are strong in challenging some of the myths associated with impartiality in areas of the media that are supposed to be impartial. Therefore, they question the whole concept of due impartiality. In the case of postmodernism, it questions what, in effect, passes for real. Both Marxist and postmodernist studies question the notion that there is real choice within the media as is suggested by pluralists.

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However, these studies can be questioned in the same way that they question the media. In other words, they criticise the media for being biased, but they themselves conclude that everything is relative and so, by definition, is their own starting point. For example Baudrillard is criticised for failing to define power, yet he argues that power has disappeared within the context of simulacra. He also concedes that there are victors and losers in war which is a recognition of the existence and distribution of power within the context of the outcome of a conflict. As far as the Glasgow University Media Group is concerned, they are criticised for taking a Marxist standpoint. As a consequence, what they perceive as biased may well be defined as impartial by others. They are also criticised for overstating the influence of the media in helping to formulate the audience’s attitude. Critics, such as pluralists, argue that the audience is too well educated and intelligent to be necessarily influenced by the media. Viewers may well be aware that there is bias and so are in a position to make up their own minds.

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Aspect: Bias, influence and attitude formation
     Bias, influence and attitude formation can mean a number of things as far as the media is concerned. Bias can be political – eg. a newspaper supporting a political party, or being biased towards or against groups such as women and/or ethnic minorities. By law in the UK television should be impartial and balanced; newspapers have far greater freedom to exercise bias. However, impartiality and bias are relative concepts. Complete impartiality is impossible to achieve; what can be achieved is the concept of due impartiality – a position of impartiality within what is broadly accepted by society and that reflects that acceptability. However, Marxist sociologists and other conflict theorists argue that the media is simply a tool of the ruling class – as such it is inherently biased and its objective is to influence and form attitudes that reflect and support the norms and values of the ruling class.

Studies and an evaluation of their strengths and weaknesses  Glasgow University Media Group, Bad News (1976), More Bad News (1980) Really Bad News (1982) and Message Received (1999): - Neo-Marxist (hegemonic) theory. - Concluded that the news projected a right wing view of both domestic and international issues that reinforced the norms and values of a capitalist ruling class. - Applied this to the media reporting of industrial disputes such as the dustcart strike in Glasgow and the miners’ strike. - In the case of the latter their research concluded that the reporting was closely linked to the views of the then Conservative government. - Criticised for taking a left-wing or Marxist standpoint. - Criticised for overstating the influence of the media on the audience. - Critics argue that the audience is too well educated and intelligent to be necessarily influenced by the media. Other examples that highlight both the importance and sensitivity of bias, influence and attitude formation would be the relationship between the media and successive governments.

Scottish Further Education Unit

197

Sociology: Understanding Human Society 2 (Higher)

Some postmodernists have argued that reporting of warfare and indeed everything is so blurred in terms of what is impartial and real that they argued that wars can no longer be seen as having reality in a normal sense. This was a view expressed by Baudrillard. He argues that wars, along with other events portrayed by the media, have lost any sense of reality in the sense that how they are projected bears little or no reality to what actually takes place. Baudrillard calls this era simulacra. Such a view where actual reality no longer exists within the media is reflected in his study The Gulf War Did Not Take Place (1995). Baudrillard, The Gulf War Did Not Take Place (1995): - Challenges some of the myths associated with impartiality in areas of the media that are supposed to be impartial; questions the concept of due impartiality and what is, in effect, real.

Scottish Further Education Unit

198

Sociology: Understanding Human Society 2 (Higher)

Student Activity: Bias, influence and attitude formation in the mass media
Using the handouts and directed reading provided by your tutor, answer the following question. In no more than 500 words, analyse the extent to which the media is biased in its presentation of news.

Scottish Further Education Unit

199

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