20 Dec 2011

Essay Topic: My Socially Constructed Self

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.

References List

(ICMR) ICFAI Center for Management Research, 2003. Introduction ot Organizational Behaviour [Book]. ICFAI Center for Management Research (ICMR):  – Hyderabad.

Anderson Donn R. Character Education: Who is Responsible, – 2000. [Journal] // Journal of Instructional Psychology (Vol: 27, No: 3). . – pp. 139-142.

Baum J. Contrada & A. , 2011.  The handbook of stress science: biology, psychology, and health [Book]. – Springer Pub: NY . p. 24.

Bégin Diane Sarah Organizational Culture Counts, January 10, 2006. [Article] // Practice Knowledge Center. pp. 1-4.

Cherry Kendra Social Learning Theory – An Overview of Bandura’s Social Learning Theory- 2010. – [Online] // About.com.  December 16, 2010. – http://psychology.about.com/od/developmentalpsychology/a/sociallearning.htm.

Eliot Anthony Concepts of the Self, 2001. [Book]. Cambirdge: UK.

Elizabeth Donald C. Reitzes & Mutran J. Self-Concept as the Organization of Roles, Importance, Centrality and Balance- 2005. [Journal] // The Sociological Quarterly. pp. 647-667.

Frederiksen Lee W. Handbook of Organizational Behavioural Management, 1982. [Book]. Interscience – Wiley: New York .

Mullins Laurie J. Management & Organizational Behavior, 2005. [Book].  McGraw Hill: New Jersey.

Parsons Talcott Suggestions for a Sociological Approach to the Theory of Organizations- June 1956.I [Journal] // Administrative Science Quarterly (Vol: 1, No. 1). pp. 63-85.

Parsons Talcott The Social System , 1991. [Book].  Routledge: London.

Parsons Talcott The Structure of Social Action; A Study in Social Theory with Special Reference to a Group of Recent European Writers, 2010. [Book]. General Books LLC: Tennesse.

Quick Debra L. Nelson and James Campbell Organizational Behavior: Science, The Real World, and You (7th Ed) , 2011. [Book]. – Boston, South-Western College Pub: Massachusetts, United States.

R.J. Alston R. Harley, & K. Lenhof Hirschi’s Social Conflict Theory: A sociological Perspective, 1995. [Journal]. – [s.l.] : Journal of Rehabilitation – 4 : Vol. 67.

Tumin Melvin M. Some Principles of Stratification: A Critical Analysis- 1953. [Journal] // American Sociological ReviewVol. 18, No. 4.  pp. pp. 387-394.

23 Jun 2010

Sample Essay: Philosophers

If there is one certain aspect to this world, it would be that we all have our own opinions, even if we are not willing to admit to them. Philosophers form their opinions based on rationalisation and logic and for this reason, their opinions are often used in the law, politics and even in education. Some of the philosophers who have influenced the way we think in modern times, lived and thought, thousands of years ago, while others are more contemporary. Of these philosophers we examine the ways in which Plato, More, Machiavelli, Locke, Marx, Plunkitt and Bernays would answer the following questions: What is the problem with society? What is the solution to the problem? Who should rule? Of the above questions, the most pertinent is almost always who should rule.

Plato remains one of the most famous philosophers of all time and he believed that the core of societal cohesion lay in the family. The family unit was paramount to the proper survival of society as a whole. In today’s world he certainly would have been close to the truth given the breakdown of family units. For Thomas More, the book Utopia probably describes his philosophy in the most efficient way. We no longer connect with nature and that where punishment is concerned, the punishment is not related to the crime. For instance, if theft is punished with execution, then the perpetrator might as well kill the witnesses or even the victim – the punishment will be the same. In modern times, much debate surrounds the three strikes law, where incarceration does not seem parallel to the crime committed. Machiavelli did not share More’s opinion. Machiavelli believed that the only way to reach a goal (politically that is), is to eliminate the opposition. The problem thus would be that we try to live side by side and tolerate one another rather than simply ‘doing away’ with what we do not like. In another fashion though, he would encourage the idea that pretence is far from successful within a society. It is quite pointless pretending that we like one another, thus harbouring unseen grudges and leading to eventual conflict. John Locke believed the problem to be a lack of equality. There is definitely little argument to the contrary, but whether the solution to this is possible or not, remains to be seen. Karl Marx on the other hand had similar (though not the same) ideas as More. He had idealistic views of the perfect society, something that sparked the introduction of communism to a modern world. Although he cannot be called the father of the umbrella term ‘communism’, he did believe that capitalism was largely the problem in modern society. George Washington Plunkitt believed in an honest day’s work and while he did not conform to Marxist policy entirely, he supported the under-dog. He became popular because of this and largely believed that much of society’s problem lay in the inability to do an honest day’s work. Edward Bernays had a thoroughly modern yet controversial consumerist perception of society. Furthermore, he undertook to examine women’s problems in modern society. His method had a duel perspective: first of all, he showed the world how easily they could be manipulated and secondly, showed the world that this was necessary. The problem thus is that we are too easily influenced and yet not influenced enough. Certainly, if we were all to behave in a proper manner, it would have to be through the process of public relations rather than conflict.

How do we solve these problems in the philosopher’s eyes? For Plato, the solution lies in the family. The family unit needs to be solidified. This is a functionalist approach, grading society as a set of institutions that need to perform duties in order for society to function. The family unit is the smallest of these institutions, so if the family is not complete or is dysfunctional, then the greater institution will also be at risk of collapse. The paternal function in this case is thoroughly necessary since the father is the cohesive, disciplinary faculty within the family. Many women today are single mother’s attempting to perform the duty of both parents. In terms of Thomas More, punishment has to be parallel to the crime. The same punishment cannot be extolled on all crimes. This means that ‘just deserts’ must be meted on the offender and that the punishment must be suitable for the crime. Certainly, it makes little sense that individuals should be able to unleash punishment on others, as ‘just deserts’ is often mistakenly taken to mean. This means that a father cannot be able to punish his daughter’s rapist, but that the rapist must obtain the same punishment that was given to his victim. The problem of ethics always arises. There is also no single definition for capital crime, given that in some countries, the punishment for rape is almost worse than for murder. Machiavelli’s solution is perhaps the least complicated, but also the least ethical. With the current racial and ethnic tension displayed in most countries, it is not possible to simply eliminate those who cause trouble. However, even if segregation is not an ethical approach, it certainly does lend itself to a more peaceful existence. Hitler’s approach to the Machiavellian perception was perhaps the most drastic and also the most inflammatory, but in the end, if Hitler had succeeded in eliminating Jews and Gypsies, the Machiavellian approach would have worked. Despite this, there is no proof that this solution works in the long term. In the short term, everyone is happy but eventually begin to fight amongst one another – a feature of humanity. John Locke would see the solution as simple: the creation of equality. Although modern society has attempted this, the success has been limited. Another feature of humanity is greed and to Karl Marx, of no one owns anything, no one wants anything. This is a solution towards the conflict of capital and commodity, but cannot work in reality. Plunkitt might conclude that the solution is to make sure that everyone is reasonably employed and completes a day’s honest work. Yet the production of employment has fallen short of the needs of the people over recent years. Furthermore, the interest in criminal activities offers the individual a far easier and more exciting manner of earning a living. Finally, public relations may be a solution for Bernays and learning to manipulate ones surroundings solves the problem of tolerating those around one. A good orator would solve the potential problems that society has, because a good orator is able to sway the public.

Who should rule? Indeed, a troubling question because no one society is ever happy with their rulers. Democracy is the foundation of modern society, with a public elected president ruling a country. Yet for Plato there has to be a representative of each faculty of society. For instance, if the components of a society include black, white, Jew, Muslim, Christian and atheist, then a member of each group should be able to have a say in how the country is run. Thomas More, in Utopia suggested the feudal society, with the highest level of ruler being at the top. In many cases still today, this occurs and is not necessarily failure or success. In one aspect, Machiavelli and More share similar ideals, for Machiavelli, there can be only one ruler at a time. In his case, there should not be contestation to the ‘throne’, because the ruler has taken his position by force. In the modern world there are few examples of this rule, although Africa has the most recent attempts at this. Locke seeks equality, which would mean that rule must be democratic and each participant be given equal opportunity. In this sense, he is closer to Plato’s theory than any other philosopher. Marx encourages the rule of the people and the functioning of society as having a common goal. For Plunkitt, the honest man must rule and this would most often be the under-dog. This means that in theory, the ruler would encourage honesty and transparency as a whole over society. Bernays is a controversial context, because in his world, the media would rule. Certainly, this appears to be true. The media does seem to shape the way we think and feel. Other than that, Bernays would advocate a manipulator as the ruling party, simply because those who follow him are loyal to what he says to them.

In conclusion, there are clear problems with all theories, but this does not mean that they are incorrect. In fact, each philosopher had definite grounds upon which their theories are based. However, society is not prescriptive. In other words, it cannot conform to a single model of thought. This remains a political problem and a universal one at that.

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