20 Dec 2011
The emerging direction of modern social theory is possibly nowhere more apparent than in the interest it lavishes upon the nature of the self, identity of the self and individual prejudice (Eliot, 2001). In his most well-know work named The Structure of Social Action (Parsons, 2010); he described the ‘voluntaristic theory of action’. According to this theory, any kind of social action entails decision-making by individuals that pays attention upon completion of the objective and is guarded by thoughts and situations (Parsons, 2010). A player can either be an individual or a group.
Instrumental Actual Self: “How does an individual carryout himself/herself to influence other people for obtaining either positive or negative response”? This is an influential actual self as the character traits of an individual normally serve as instruments which eventually would direct the response from other people. An individual can be understood well through the actions and through the interaction with the society (Elizabeth, 2005). “The physical characteristics of a person are purely hereditary, but the psychological characteristics of a person are partly hereditary and partly conditioned by the environment. According to psychologists, personality is a dynamic concept that describes growth and development of a person’s psyche (Frederiksen, 1982) ((ICMR), 2003).” Personal characteristics or personality in short will help to garner attention from others and also helps in self introspection with the help of the feedback obtained from others.
Expectant Actual Self: The question derived from this component of self construction is, “What characteristics do one have that would enable him/her to have an expectation of positive experiences with others”? The feedback provides numerous useful insights on personal or individual expectation particularly after an explicit conduct, act, or behavior. It is basically an assessment tool that would enable an individual to constantly evaluate and monitor the social progress in life (Anderson, 2000). For instance, an individual’s participation in activities like sports would enable the individual in evaluating various behavioral characteristics like shyness, outwardness, competitiveness, selflessness, and ability to work under pressure. Through expectant actual self, individuals can get to know better about their attitudes, competencies, and preferences thus making well-versed and suitable decision about a number of issues in life (Baum, 2011).
Similarly, the environment that an individual is exposed to also plays a very significant role in shaping individual personality. “Environmental factors include the culture of the society in which an individual is brought up, the norms set by the parents, teachers and other social groups with which the individual interacts, and other situations and experiences he undergoes in his life ((ICMR), 2003).”
Monitored Actual Self: This component of self triggers the characters that an individual portrays related to the individual goals that are aimed to be attained in life. It has a co-relationship with the actual self monitoring (Baum, 2011). Through this lens, individuals receive information regarding the steps that are to be taken for pursuing goals and ambition in life.
In The Social System (Parsons, 1991), Talcott Parson measures pattern variables as being extremely broad in the potential orientations an individual can encompass in a given circumstance. These pattern variables form the core qualities of social interactions which eventually replicate a definite set of options for an individual’s point of reference and patterns of communications. The following are the five basic pattern variables as defined by Parsons:
(1) Self vs. Collective Interest, (2) Universalism vs. Particularism, (3) Achievement vs. Ascription, (4) Specificity vs. Diffuseness, & (5) Affectivity vs. Affective Neutrality (Parsons, 1991).
Moreover, the pattern variables listed above, according to Parson, can be clustered on the basis of their significance to the individual’s assessment orientation or motivational course in a particular social system. He suggested the universalism-particularism and achievement-ascription pattern variables are strongly associated to value orientation when compared to the other variables that he defined. On the contrary, specificity-diffuseness and affectivity-affective neutrality are very strongly associated to individual’s motivational orientation.
The pattern variable self-collective is rooted within the value and motivational orientation patterns and can, consequently, be looked upon as an impartial or a holistic pattern variable. The blend of the pattern variables and the assessment of potential interrelationships amid variables can present the foundation for a widespread assessment of any form of social interaction (Parsons, June 1956).
Social stratification gains relevance at this point. Social Stratification, in view of structural-functionalism, can be defined as “The differential ranking of human individuals who compose a given social system and their treatment as superior and inferior relative to one another in certain socially significant respects (Parsons, 1991).” A few sociological theorists state that society is a stable and orderly system which has interrelated elements which eventually serve a specific function. According to Anthropologist Bronislaw Malinowski, culture helps the people of the society to satisfy their biological needs and integrative needs like religion and art. As already mentioned above, societies in which people share a common language and core value system are more likely to live in accord and agreement (Cherry, 2010).
The functional essential of integration is of particular concern with reference to law as it involves the common adjustments, the interrelations, of the aforementioned subsystems as specific concerns to their offerings to the resourceful operation of the overall society (Tumin, 1953). Integration seeks to preserve stability and to evade instability and, in the worst-case scenario, collapse. Societal community and its functional essential of inner integration are perceived as the one that the legal system most candidly serves in a society (Parsons, 1991). Morality is based on delineated consequences to a few definite choices whereby some may be categorized as immoral, evil, and unlawful. According to the social conflict theory, compliance is attained when individuals connect to the society through the various elements (R.J. Alston, 1995). However, it is very important to note that, any kind of social action involves decision-making by the members of the society which in turn pays attention upon achievement of an objective and is defended by opinions and circumstances (Parsons, 2010).
Experience: Experience is another predominant element that plays a larger role in determining the course of an individual’s life and also as a family. For instance ambition of an individual is not something that is decided instantaneously but rather it is a long in-built issue that was conceived after watching psychologists at work. An inherent component of the past experiences of individual is the result that would be obtained after psychologist counselors helped restore broken families, drug addicts and helped those whose fate hate had been sealed as hopeless and impossible to rehabilitate. Through personal experience, individuals tend to build their own self-esteem along with good values and appreciate others thus enabling me the individual to fit in perfectly in the wider society (Quick, 2011).
Among the various other elements that play vital roles in shaping up and individual, Culture has an equally important role. Culture, according to sociologists, forms the central ingredient of human behavior. In all societies, people try to either control their environment, live in agreement with it or are acquiescent to whatever happens in their environment (Mullins, 2005). Their culture and beliefs may strengthen their compliance in respect to their environment. All these cultural elements can, certainly change with time, as people are exposed to a variety of ways of dealing with their environment (Bégin, 2006). Culture steers the mind and influences the ways people observe issues, act politically, prioritize decisions, manage their lives and essentially on ways they think about a particular issue. It is not appropriate to separate self-awareness and cultural awareness. Individuals need to go beyond the meaning of culture itself in order to have a better awareness of how culture influences our personal lives. Culture can be thought of as an evolutionary process that has been established, accepted, and internalized over a period of time, by a majority of members of the society.
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