Chapter I | Social Structure | Sociology


I Social Dimensions of Education
Sociologists see education as one of the major institutions that constitutes society. While theories guide research and policy formulation in the sociology of education, they also provide logical explanations tor why things happen the way they do. These theories help sociologists understand educational systems. This chapter presents an introduction to the social science theories of education-consensus and conflict, structural functionalist and interaction theories as related to education.

Consensus and Conflict Theory
In order for us to understand why sociological theories could be classified into 'consensus' and 'conflict' perspectives let us examine the definitions of consensus .and conflict. Dahrendorf (1959, 1968) as cited by Ritzer(2000) is the major exponent of the position that society has two faces (conflict and consensus) and that sociological theory therefore should be divided into two parts, conflict theory and consensus theory.

Consensus is a general or widespread agreement among all members of a particular society.


and view social change as occurring in a slow and orderly fashion. It is a theory or collection of theories which places emphasis on conflict in human society (Jary and Jary. Such conflict need not be violent. competition between religious groups for members. Consensus is a concept of society . Consensus theory emphasizes on social order. Consensus theories see shared norms and values as fundamental to society.CHAPTER : INTRODUCTION TO THE SOCIAL DIMENSIONS OF EDUCATION Conflict is a clash between ideas. 2000). particularly those that serve their own interests. Conflict theory grew out of the work of Karl Marx and focuses on the struggle of social classes to maintain dominance and power in social systems. according to Horton and Hunt (1984) focuses on the heterogeneous nature of society and the differential distribution of political and social power.this can be a covert or overt conflict. Conflict theorists ask how schools contribute to the unequal distribution of people into jobs in society so that more powerful members of society maintain the best positions and the less powerful groups (often women. racial and ethnic groups) often minority groups. and economic and social position of the dominant group in society (Ballantine and Spade. it can take the form of labor negotiations. Groups which have vested interest and power work for rules and laws. 2004). focus on social order based on tacit agreements. principles and people. Consensus theorists examine value integration in society.n which the absence of conflict if seen as the equilibrium state of society based on a general or widespread agreement among all members of a particular society. which are prerequisites for each other. Conflict theory focuses on the struggle of social classes to maintain dominance and power in social systems. The conf. or people .ict theory. party politics. Conflict is a disagreement or clash between opposing ideas. power. In contrast. are allocated to lower ranks in society. and conflict theorists examine conflicts of interest anj the coercion that holds society together in the face of these stresses. principles. stability and social regulation. we cannot have conflict unless there is some prior consensus. conflict theories emphasize the dominance of some social groups by others. The conflict perspective assumes that social behavior is best understood in terms of conflict or tensions between competing groups. to be passed to the exclusion of others. A struggle between social classes and class conflicts between the powerful and less powerful groups occur. . Dahrendorf recognizes that society can not exis* without both conflict and consensus. The larger issue for conflict theorists is the role that education plays in maintaining the prestige. 2000:105). Thus. see social order as based on manipulation and control by dominant groups. and view social change as occurring rapidly and in a disorderly fashion as subordinate groups overthrow dominant groups (Ritzer. or disputes over the budget.

Conflict theorists emphasize social change and redistribution of resources. in which social order and stability/social regulation form the base of emphasis. is a sociological perspective or collection of theories. values.the family. The conflict theorists are interested in how society's institutions .may help to maintain the privileges of some groups and keep others in a Subservient position. Javier et a/.. consensus theory is concerned with the maintenance or continuation of social order in society. on the other hand. rules and regulations as widely accepted or collectively by the society-or within a particular society itself.CHAPTER : INTRODUCTION TO THE SOCIAL DIMENSIONS OF EDUCATION Social structures produce patterns of The conflict model is concerned with the stresses and conflicts that emerge in society because of competition over scarce resources. government. Consensus theory. 2003). It emerged out of the sociology of social order and social stability/social regulation. Conflict theory emerged out of the sociology of conflict. Or we can say that conflict theory deals with the incompatible aspects of society. The consensus and conflict sociological theories are reflected in ihe works of certain dominant social theorists such as Karl Marx. Louis Althusser & Ralph Dahrendorf and Herbert Mead & Herbert Blumer. Emile Durkheim. 2002) The discourse of conflict theory is on the emergence of conflict and what causes conflict within ? particular human society. inequality in the distribution of scarce resources Conflict Reorganisation and Change Figure 1. and the media . in relation to accepted norms. Their emphasis on social change and redistribution of resources makes conflict theorists more "radical" and "activist" than furctfonplicts (Schaefer. The Conflict Model (Source: Sociology and Anthropology. religion. crisis and social change. education. . and Max Weber and other prominent social theorists such as Talcott Parsons & Robert Merton. In other words. It focuses on the inequalities that are built into social structures rather than on those that emerge because of personal characteristics.

Whatever are the characteristics of a society. Social system must be structured so that they operate compatibly with other systems. is defined and mediated in terms of a system of culturally structured and shared symbols. If conflict becomes sufficiently disruptive. The system mus* meet a sighiricant proportion of the needs of its actors. 6. the class requires a faculty member to teach a subject and the students to learn it. those characteristics developed because they met the needs of that society in its particular situation. Functional Requisites of a Social System 1. 5. Key principles of the functionalist theory • interdepe ndency • functions of social structure and culture • consensus and cooperation • equilibrium .CHAPTER : INTRODUCTION TO THE SOCIAL DIMENSIONS OF EDUCATION tendency to the "optimization of gratification" and whose relation to their situations. The system must elicit adequate participation from its members. The key principles of the functionalist perspective (Farley. Societies exist under a wide range of environmental situations. Thus. however. Finally. Parsons was not simply a structuralist but also a functionalist. what works for one society cannot be expected to work for another. it must be controlled. For example. In addition to a concern with the status-role. Parsons was primarily interested in its structural components. including each other. Interdependency. someone had to build a dam or provide fuel to the power plant. and values. J. 4. . To survive. In any society.Talcott Parsons The functionalist perspective is primarily concerned with why a society assumes a particular form. he was interested in such large-scale components of social systems as collectivities. This means that every part of society is dependent to some extent on other parts of society. and in order for that electricity to be provided. Some societies have highly advanced technologies and they also differ in terms of their interactions with other societies. the functionalist perspective makes one basic argument. In his analysis of the social system. 3. a social system requires a language in order to survVe. It must have at least a minimum of coiitrol over potentially disruptive behavior. 2. the social system must have the requisite from other systems. This perspective assumes that any society takes its particular form because that form works well for the society given its particular situation. Someone has to provide electricity to light the room. so that what happens at one place in society has important effects elsewhere. 1990) include the following: 1. norms. One of the most important principles of functionalist theory is that society is made up of interdependent parts.

5. When such conditions occur. language. once that adaptation has been made. A final principle of functionalist theories situation is that of equilibrium. Culture refers to a set of beliefs. Social structure refers to the organization of society. New technology. Societies tend toward consensus in order when it has to achieve cooperation. a change in climate. This view holds that. Closely related to interdependency is the idea that each part of the social system exists because it serves some function. and the form people will devote more and more effort to fighting that is best one another rather than getting anything done. and its distribution of resources. the society has attained a new state of balance or equilibrium with its environment. Social structures provide preset patterns which evolve to meet human ^iPj needs Stability. For tic of a example. its social positions. Equilibrium. we all believe in the principles of democracy society and freedom. The Structural-Functional Model (Source: Sociological Theory. and !t will remain in that condition until it is forced to change by some new condition. Functionalists believe that achieved inability to cooperate w'll paralyze the society. values. order.CHAPTER : INTRODUCTION TO THE SOCIAL DIMENSIONS OF EDUCATION 2.Maintenance of society Figure 3. Another key principle in Equilibriu functionalist theory is that societies have a tendency m toward consensus. once a society has achieved the form that is best adapted to its situation. that is to have certain basic values characteris that nearly everyone in the society agrees upon. social change will take place: society will changc just enough to adapt to the new situation. George Ritzer. or contact with an outside society are all conditions to which a society might have to adapt. Consensus and cooperation. adapted its 4. and knowledge held in common by members of a society. and it will not change again until some new situation requires further adaptation. it has reached a state of balance or equilibrium. This principle is applied by functionalists to both social structure and culture. 2000) . including its institutions. and harmony . rules. However. Functions of Social Structure and Culture.

Parsons designed the AGIL scheme to be used at all levels in this theoretical system. It must also manage the relationship among the other three functional imperatives (A. groups in society with similar interests and positions in the status hierarchy. thus perpetuating their family status culture (Sadovnik et al. Education systems may train individuals in specialties to fill needed positions or prepare "cultivated individuals. maintain. 2.G. Max Weber argues that schools teach and maintain particular "status cultures. However. Latency (pattern maintenance): A system must furnish. in at least some senses. has receded into the recent history of sociological theory. Structural functionalism. thus perpetuating that status culture. 4. Adaptation: A system must cope with external situational exigencies. The works of Marx in his early years was interpreted by some social theorists as emphasizing the role of human beings in social conflict. It must adapt to its environment and adapt environment to its needs. Located in neighborhoods. 1995) and. dist'nguishing between inborn "charisma" and training in school. 3. embodied in his famous AGIL scheme. Goal attainment: A system must define and achieve its primary goals. A system must regulate the interrelationship of its component parts. Individuals who had access to this type of education in eariv China were from the educated elite. was for many years the dominant sociological theory." that is.CHAPTER : INTRODUCTION TO THE SOCIAL DIMENSIONS OF EDUCATION Status cultures refer to groups in society with similar interests and positions in the status hierarchy. The personality system performs the goal-attainment function by defining system goals and mobilizing resources to attain . They explained change as emerging from the crisis between human beings and their society. 1994). Weber outlines types of education found in societies at different time periods. and renew both the motivation of individuals and the cultural patterns that create and sustain the motivation. especially in the work of Talcott Parsons.L). Robert Merton. These functional imperatives that are necessary for all systems are: 1. schools are often rather homogeneous in their student bodies and teach to that constituency." those who stand above others because of their superior knowledge and reasoning abilities. in the last three decades it has declined dramatically in importance (Chriss. Parsons' structural functionalism has four functional imperatives for all "action" systems. Integration-. They argued that Marx's theory was a theory characterized by class conflicts or the conflict between the bourgeoisie (rich owners) and the proletariat (poor workers). rational method of education. and their students and followers. Structural Functionalism Structural functionalism states that society is made up of various institutions that work together in cooperation. and the modern. The behavioral organism is the action system that handles the adaptation function by adjusting to and transforming the external world.

2000). Action System Personality System . The social system copes with the integration function by controlling its component parts.CHAPTER : INTRODUCTION TO THE SOCIAL DIMENSIONS OF EDUCATION them. Finally. the cultural system performs the latency function by providing actors with the norms and values that motivate them for action (Ritzer. Cultural System Social System . Parson's four action systems are shown in Figure 2.

The system may be static or involved in an ordered process of change. The nature of one part of the system has an impact on the form that the other parts can take. In the assumptions that Parson made regarding his action systems we encounter the problem of order which was his overwhelming concern and that has become a major source of criticism of his work. actors who are motivated in terms of a Social system begins at the micro level with interaction between the ego and alter ego. which operates in his view with the following sets of assumptions: 1. and control of tendencies to change the system from within. The heart of Parsons' work is found in his four action systems. He described a social system as something which consists of a plurality of individual actors interacting with each other in a situation which has at least a physical or environmental aspect. Systems have the property of order and interdependence of parts. 3.CHAPTER : INTRODUCTION TO THE SOCIAL DIMENSIONS OF EDUCATION Figure 2: Structure of the General Action System (Source: Sociological Theory. Systems maintain boundaries with their environments. George Ritzer. Systems tend toward self-maintenance involving the maintenance of the relationships of parts to the whole. 5. Systems tend toward self-maintaining order. control of environmental variations. 2000). . 4. 6. Parsons found his answer to the problem of order in structural functionalism. 2. or equilibrium. Allocation and integration are two fundamental processes necessary for a given state of equilibrium of a system. These assumptions led Parsons to make the analysis of the ordered structure of society his first priority. defined as the most elementary form of the social system. defined as the most elementary form of the social system. Parsons' conception of the social system begins at the micro level with interaction between ego and alter ego. 7.

to regard to equality achieve their orderly relationship and to maintain social of opportunity for order and social stability. education Modern functionalist theories of education have becomes the key their origin in the work of Talcott Parsons.. functionalism stresses the processes that maintain social order by stressing consensus and agreement. functionalists argue that without a common bond function in the to unite groups. Functionalists view • churches society as a kind of machine. • families Functionalist sociologists begin with a picture of •i neighbors society that stresses tne interdependence of the social • associations system. The component parts of a social structure are The component families. 2002). Although function alists understand that change is inevitable. schools. that differs considerably from all previous societies. This maintenance of society is all citizens. As cited by institution in a Ballantine and Spade (2004). these researchers often examine how well parts • schools are integrated with each other. neighbors. hence the name structural functio-nalism (Javier et al. modern. society is made up of different institutions or especially with organizations that work together in cooperation . ies. forms an although they acknowledge that conflict between group important exists. Parsons believes that meritocratic education is a vital part of a modern society. This theoretical perspective is the legacy of Durkheim and Spencer. It claims that society. a society selection process.. associations. 1994). Structural functionalism puts emphasis on social democratic order and social stability not on conflict. 1 hus functiondevelopment alists examine the social processes necessary to the and establishment and maintenance of social order maintenance of (Ballantine and Spade. schooling performs an important . and the like. countries. norms. extracted from the internal rules. the scientist's task is to identify the various parts (structures) and determine how they work (function).underscore the evolutionary nature of change. From this perspective. they Schooling per. a sociologist with this perspective tries to identify the structures of society and how they function.Ballantine & function in the development and maintenance of a Spade. Functionalists maintain structure that social structures exist in society for the functions they have to carry out (Panopio et al. Most important.regulations of these various ordered institutions. where one part articulates • banks with another to produce the dynamic energy required to • countries make society work. churches. Further. In the analysis of living organism. It has its roots in natural science and the analogy between a society and an organization. Thus. society will disintegrate. parts of a social banks. values and in modern societ. 20C4 .CHAPTER : INTRODUCTION TO THE SOCIAL DIMENSIONS OF EDUCATION The structural functional model addresses the question of social organization and how it is maintained. In the study of society. 2004).

In a political democracy.CHAPTER : INTRODUCTION TO THE SOCIAL DIMENSIONS OF EDUCATION modern. schools provide citizens with the knowledge and dispositions to participate actively in civic life . in modern societies education becomes the key institution in a meritocratic selection process. In addition to its role in a meritocratic society. Thus. especially with regard to equality of opportunity for all citizens. education plays a significant function in the maintenance of the modern democratic and technocratic society. democratic society.

For example. Thus. Although schools teach specific work skills. the processes by which students arc labeled "gifted" or "learning disabled" are. What do students and teachers actually do in school? Interactionist theories attempt to make the "commonplace strange" by turning on their heads everyday taken-for-granted behaviors and interactions between students and students and between students and teachers. . known as symbolic interactionism. schools provide students with the skills and dispositions to work in such a society. they also teach students how to learn so they may adapt to new work roles and requirements (http://allfreeesays. on the existence of language behavior (http://itsa. It is exactly what most people do not question that is most problematic to the inieractionist. The distinctive attributes of human behavior grow from people's participation in varying types of social structure which depend in turn. Interactionist Theories In general. The basic idea is a result of interaction between individuals mediated by symbols" in particular. important to analyze because such processes carry with them many implicit assumptions about learning and children (Ballantine and Spade. edu/~eliotf?W. Mead and Cooley examined the ways in which the individual is related to society through ongoing social interactions.CHAPTER I: INTRODUCTION TO THE SOCIAL DIMENSIONS OF EDUCATION Q In ever increasingly technical society. interactionist theories about the relation of school and society are critiques and extensions of the functionalist and conflict perspectives. This school of thought.terpretable snapshot of what schools are like on an everyday level. the social self is an active product of human agency rather than a deterministic product of social structure.html). of course. views the self as socially constructed in relation to social forces and structures and the product of ongoing negotiations of meanings." Interaction is the process in Symbolic interactionism views the self as socially constructed in relation to social forces and social structures. While this level of analysis helps us to understand education in the "big picture". from an interactionist point of view. interested not simply in socialization but also in interaction in general. • Symbolic Interactionism Interactionist theory has its origin in the social psychology of early twentieth century sociologists George Herbert Mead and Charles Horton Cooiey.ucsf.iy I am alsoaSymbolic. which is of "vital importance in its own right. 2004). Symbolic interactionists are. The critique arises from the observation that functionalist and conflict theories are very abstract and emphasize structure and process at a societal (macro-sociological) level of analysis. com/student/ConsensusConflict/Perspectives/html). language. macro-sociological theories hardly provide us with an ir.

The second symbolic interaction does require mental processes (Ritzer. capacity for thought is shaped by social interaction. and situations). Meanings and symbols allow people to carry on distinctively human action and 4 interaction. • Non-Symbolic Interactionism The differentiation made by Blumer (following Mead) between two basic forms of social interaction is relevant here. of their ability to interact witn themselves. refine our ability to think. . the sounds (or words). As such. The first is that people act toward the things they encounter on the basis of what those things mean to them. In social interaction. . • non3. The 2. (Things. In most interaction. and body postures we use in dealing with interaction others acquire symbolic meanings that are shared by people who belong which does to the same culture. It expresses both parties' shared understanding that a interaction social interaction is beginning. which allows them to examine possible courses of action. refer Basic forms of not just to objects. nonsymbolic interaction . but also to people. actors must take others into consideration and decide if and how to fit their activities to others. 1. However. Second. are endowed w:th a capacity for thought. facial expressions. and then choose one. is a symbolic gesture of greeting thinking among Filipinos.CHAPTER : INTRODUCTION TO THE SOCIAL DIMENSIONS OF EDUCATION which the ability to think is both developed and expressed. for instance. Third. People are able to modify or alter meanings and symbols that they use in action and interaction on the basis of their interpretation of the situation. not all interaction involves thinking. symbolic gestures. Beyond that. A handshake. In other cultures. in part. Social 2. Mead's approach to symbolic interaction rested on three basic premises. thinking shapes the interaction process. assess their relative advantages and disadvantages.does not involve thinking. The first. we learn what things are by observing how other people Interaction respond to them.Mead's conversation of gestures . in this context. as a result of ongoing interaction. All types of interaction. activities. that is through social interaction. PRINCIPLES OF SYMBOLIC INTERACTIONS Human beings unlike lower animals. not just interaction during socialization. The intertwined patterns of action and interaction make up groups and societies. 2000). The meaning of a symbolic gesture extends beyond not involve the act itself. people learn the meanings and the symbols that allow them to exercise their distinctively human canity for thought. People are able to make these modifications and alterations because. such which require mental processes 1. it conveys more than just a mutual grasping of • symbolic fingers and palms.

The importance of thinking to symbolic interactionists is reflected in their views on objects. 1990) Summary Education is one of the major Institutions that constitute society. Emile Durkheim. and a home gardener" (Blumer as Looking-glass cited by Ritzer. we come to develop a self-image on the basis of the messages we get from others. Conflict theory deals with the emergence of conflict within a particular human society while consensus is a concept of society in which the absence of conflict is seen as the equilibrium state of society based on a general or widespread agreement among all members of a particular society. The latter leads to the relativistic view that different objects have different meanings for different individuals: "A tree will be a different object to a botanist. you will probably come to decide that you are clumsy. willingness to interact is expressed or symbolized in a bow (Calhoun et al. In Cooley's terms. Blunter differentiates among three types of objects: physical objects." In other words. and abstract objects. social objects. as we understand them. it asserts that society is made up of different institutions or organizations that work together in cooperation to achieve orderly relationship and to maintain social order and social stability. such as a chair or a tree. SelfAnother important concept that has long been usedWe see by symbolic interactionist is the looking-glass self. 2000). Thisourselves as concept was developed by the early symbolicothers ste us. Symbolic interactionists are interested not simply in socialization but in interactions between students and students and between students and teachers. There are various social science theories that relate to education consensus. ." you will come to think of your self as an intelligent person. The consensus and conflict theories are reflected in the works of certain dominant social theorists such as Karl Marx. such as a student or a mother. interactionist theorist Charles Horton Cooley. a lumberman. you will likely think of yourself as attractive. Objects are seen simply as things "out there" in the real world: what is of greatest significance is the way that they are defined by actors. If your teachers and fellow students give you the message that you are "smart. Max Weber and other social theorists.CHAPTER : INTRODUCTION TO THE SOCIAL DIMENSIONS OF EDUCATION as Japan. structural functionalist and interaction theones. conflict. Conversely. All types of interactions refine our ability to think. If others tel! you thai you are attractive. if people repeatedly laugh at you and tease you about being clumsy.1994). you use other people as a mirror into which you look to see what you are like (Farley. a poet. Structural functicnalism is concerned with the functions of schooling in the maintenance of social order.. such as an idea or a moral principle. The basic-Charles Cooley notion of the looking-glass self can be summed up as "We see ourselves as others see us.


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