Chapter 1 Social Structure, Stratification and Social Processes in Society
Discuss the different tasks that demand cooperation with reference to agricultural or industrial operations.
Cooperation is an associative social process. It involves individuals or groups working together to achieve their individual or collective goals. Cooperation is universal and continuous process. It involves sympathy, empathy and capacity to unite people. It fulfils member’s physical and psycho social needs.
In simple societies where no surplus was produced, there was cooperation between individuals and groups, although in the capitalistic societies cooperation do exist but many a time it is enforced, e.g. the factory workers do cooperate in their everyday work but a certain conflict of interests would define their relationship.
The idea of cooperation rests on certain assumptions about human’s behaviours. According to Durkheim, the role of division of labour-which implies cooperation—is precisely to fulfil certain needs of society.
In agricultural societies people are dependent on each other. The members work together to achieve shared goals. In villages a group of people i.e. ironsmith provides tools, equipment of agriculture. Another groups may be working as shopkeeper and . provides seeds, fertilisers and pesticides. A group of people work in the field to sow seeds, at harvesting time cut the crops and do other activities. The farmer alone can’t attain the goals.
Similarly in the field of industrial operations, there is specialisations. The workers as well as management may be enforced among each other to attain the shared goals.
Is cooperation always voluntary or is it enforced? If enforced, is it sanctions or is the strength of norms that ensure cooperation? Discuss with examples.
The relationship between cooperation, competition and conflict is often complex and not easily separable.
In order to understand how cooperation may entail conflict, and the difference between ‘enforced’ and ‘voluntary cooperation’ we can take example of women’s rights properly. Daughters, knowing their rights on the property mostly would not claim full or anv share of natal property, because they were afraid this would sour relations with
their brothers. So this cooperation of daughters with the natal family members is not voluntary, it is basically enforced. Daughters have no option, if they want to maintain harmonious relationship with natal family members.
Basically voluntary or enforced cooperations depend on the circumstances. To attain the shared goals e.g. prosperity of family, all the members work and earn money or in villages all the members work in the field voluntarily to bring prosperity to the family.
Cooperation can be seen as universal feature of all societies, explained as inevitable interaction among humans living in a society and pursuing their ends.
According to conflict perspective in societies, divided by caste, or class some groups are disadvantaged and discriminated against. The dominant groups sustain this unequal order by a series of cultural norms and other methods involving force or even violence.
The functionalist perspective explains cooperation in terms of society as a whole. Functionalists mainly see the norms or sanctions as “system requirement” of the society – certain functional prerequisite.
Sociological studies have shown how norms, sanctions and patterns of socialisation ensure particular social order which is functional requisite for the existence of society.
Can you find illustrative examples of conflict drawn from Indian society? Discuss the causes that led to conflict in each instance.
Conflict includes all those processes in which individual acts against the wishes of others to achieve his purpose. It is a conscious process to attain one’s gains.
Conflict is a dissociative social process in which either an individual or a group perceives that others have opposing interests and both try to contract each other. Conflicts between groups give impetus to a series of social and cognitive processes. These processes harden the stand of each side leading to in-group polarisation. This may result in coalition formation of like minded parties thereby increasing the apprehensions of both parties. These are related to caste, class, religion, region, language just to name a few of them.
Explanation of such conflicts can be at the structural, group and individual levels.
In Indian society, structural conditions include high rates of poverty, economic and social stratification, inequality, limited political and social opportunities etc.
At the individual level, beliefs, biased attitudes and personality are important determinants.
In India in recent days conflicts on land issue, identity issues, communal issues, class issues and language issues are becoming very common.
Write an essay based on examples to show how conflicts get resolved.
Conflicts are inevitable in any society. It is a dissociative social process. Since the focus is on system sustenances, competition and conflict is looked at with the understanding that in most cases they tend to get resolved without too much distress.
Conflicts can be resolved if we know about their causes. A number of social processes operate to resolve conflicts like accommodation, assimilation and enforced cooperation. The conflicts can be resolved through certain strategies also. Few of them are as follows:
- Negotiations: Conflicts can be resolved through negotiations and third party interventions.
- Warring groups can resolve conflicts by trying to fluid mutually acceptable solutions. This requires understanding and trust.
- Negotiation refers to reciprocal communications so as to reach to an agreement in situations in which there is a conflict.
- Sometimes it is difficult to dissipate conflict through negotiations; at that time mediation and arbitrations by a third party is needed.
- Mediators help both parties to focus their discussions on the relevant issues and reach a voluntary agreement.
- In arbitration, the third party has the authority to give a decision after hearing both the parties.
Imagine a society where there is no competition. Is it possible? If not, why not?
No, we cannot imagine a society where there is no competition. People interact among themselves in different contexts. Behaviours in most social situations are characterised by either cooperation or competition. When groups work together to achieve the shared goals, we refer to it as cooperation. When members try to maximise their own benefits and work for the realisation of self interest, competition is likely to result. But all social interactions include cooperation and competition.
Competitive goals are set in such a way that each individual can get his/her goal only if others do not attain their goals. Many a time the groups and individuals are placed differently and unequally within the system of production relations.
But we must remember that competitions which is a dissociative social process is integral part of the social structure. Therefore we cannot imagine a society without competition. It is integral and inevitable part of any society in the world. There may be less competitive society or highly competitive society but a society without competition can’t exist.
Talk to your parents and elders, grandparents and their contemporaries and discuss whether modem society is really more competitive or conflict ridden than it used to be before. And if you think it is, how would you explain this sociologically?
Very Short Answer Type Questions
What do you mean by social structure?
- Structure refers to some sort of ordered arrangement of parts or components.
- The term ‘social structure’ refers to any recurring pattern of social behaviour or the ordered relationship between the different elements of a social system.
- Main elements of social structure are status, role, norms and values.
What do you understand by social processes?
The repetitive forms of social interaction are called social processes.
It is the continuous change in a situation which happens in a particular way because of the activities of its inherent forces.
What do you understand by social stratification? Why is it essential?
The term ‘stratification’ refers to studies of structured social inequality between groups of people, which arise as the unintended consequence of social processes and relationships.
Explain the concept of caste stratification.
Caste is an institution of considerable internal complexity. Caste stratification is a type of rigid hierarchical social division of society in permanent groups or categories.
This division is based on the relationships of superiority and subordination.
Explain the concept of class stratification.
A social class is any position of the community marked off from the rest of social status. These classes are arranged on the basis of economic conditions but social classes are more than economic groups. They show a common pattern of behaviour and develop in group bias. It may be defined as broad category of people who share similar economic conditions.
Explain the concept of gender stratification.
Gender stratification refers to socially unequal division into femininity and masculinity. It is not only related to the difference between males and females and to individual identity and personality but also at symbolic level, to cultural ideals and stereotypes of masculinity and femininity at the structural level, to the sexual division of labour in institutions and organisations.
What do you mean by Ethnicity?
The term ‘Ethnicity’ refers to the individuals who consider themselves to share common characteristics that differentiate them from the other collectivities in a society and from which they develop their distinctive cultural behaviour, form an ethnic group.
One race hates the other race due to the sense of superiority. It is not inborn.
What is Accommodation?
Accommodation is a form of social process in which two or more persons or groups interact in order to prevent, reduce or eliminate conflict.
It is a process whereby the subordinate groups simply conform to the expectations of the dominant group.
What is Assimilation?
Assimilation implies that the subordinate groups actually come to accept and internalise the values and culture of the dominant group.
It is a social process through which, persons or groups accept the behaviour of others.
Short Answer Type Questions
Explain the concept of status.
The term ‘status’ has two meanings in sociology:
- It refers to the position a person occupies in the social structure, such as a teacher or doctor. This status (position) may be ascribed or achieved.
- Status refers to a form of social stratification in which social positions are ranked and organised by legal, political and cultural criteria into status groups.
What are Norms? Explain its importance.
Norms are shared expectations of behaviour. It connotes what is considered culturally desirable and appropriate.
Norms are similar to rules or regulations in prescriptive, although they lack the formal status of rules.
The sociological concept of norm is closely related to that of ‘role’, which is commonly defined as a set of norms attached to social position.
Distinguish between mechanical and organic solidarity.
- According to Durkheim, traditional cultures with a low division of labour are characterised by mechanical solidarity.
- Most of the members of the society are involved in similar occupations. They are bound together by common experience and shared beliefs.
- According to Durkheim, societies characterised and held together by people’s economic interdependence and a recognition of the importance of others contributions are called organic solidarity.
- Its division of labour becomes more complex, people become more and more dependent on each other.
- Relationships of economic reciprocity and mutual dependency come to replace shared beliefs in creating social consensus.
How voluntary cooperation is different from enforced cooperation?
Cooperation may be voluntary, may be enforced. It depends on the situation.
In agricultural operations different members of the group perform different activities. They grow different crops. Some focus on fishing or growing vegetables and some perform supportive activities. For example, preparing tools and equipment. They all cooperate each other to get good harvest. This is voluntary cooperation, which is intrinsic in nature.
But the factory workers do cooperate with the owners in performing their tasks because total production depends on their mutual relations but it is actually system requirement. This cooperation is a prerequisite for job sustenance. Behind the cooperation there are many norms. So this is enforced cooperation which is extrinsic. The feeling of fulfilment and creativity of a weaver or potter or ironsmith is voluntary cooperation.
In contrast, a worker involved in a factory whose sole task may be to pull lever or press a button throughout the day. Cooperation in such a situation would be enforced.
How Durkheim and Marx differ on the issue of cooperation?
For Durkheim, solidarity, the moral force of society is fundamental for understanding of cooperation and thereby functioning of society.
The role of division of labour which implies cooperation is precisely to fulfil certain needs of society. It is simply system requirement. For Marx, cooperation is not voluntary in a society where class exists. He argues, “The social power i.e. multiplied productive force (surplus) arises through the cooperation of different individuals as it is caused by the division of labour. Cooperation is not voluntary but naturally. In this enforced cooperation, workers lose control over how to organise their own work and they lose control over the fruits of their labour.”
What is competition? How is it different from cooperation?
Cooperation is a dissociative social process in which it sets up its own values in opposition to the mainstream.
Competition is a social process in which many people struggle to achieve something which has hunted availability.
Competition is for getting scarce resources, may be money, jobs, prestige, position, power or love.
Competition is a universal social process but it varies from culture to culture.
Concept of competition involves attainment of goal without using force or terror. Cooperation represents all relations among persons or groups which work together towards a shared common goal.
Cooperation is an associative social process. It may be conscious or unconscious. It involves an element of sympathy, sacrifice and feeling of togetherness.
What is Laissezfaire liberalism?
A political and economic approach based on the general principle of non-interference in the economy by government and freedom for markets and property owners, is called Laissez faire liberalism.
Laissez faire liberalism is an approach to economics that asserts the importance of the free, competitive market of the individual suppliers and individual purchasers to the efficient production, distribution and allocation of goods and services and emphasises on the need to keep state regulation to a maximum.
What do you mean by division of labour?
The specialisation of work tasks by means of which different occupations are combined within a production system. With the development of industrialisation the division of labour becomes more complex than any prior type of production system. In the modem world, the division of labour is international in scope. On the basis of division of labour, the concept of organic solidarity functions with the form of social cohesion. The interdependence of members of society is the result of such kind of solidarity.
What is dominant ideology?
Dominant ideology refers to shared ideas or beliefs which serve to justify the interests of dominant groups. Such ideologies are found in the societies in which are systematic. The concept of ideology connects closely with that of power, since ideological system serves to legitimise the differential power which groups hold.
What is alienation in terms of Marx?
Marx used the term alienation to refer to the loss of control on the part of workers over the products of their labour.
In general term, it describes the estrangement of individuals from one another or from a specific situation or process.
Do you think that conflicts are always manifestations through overt clashes? Explain with suitable examples.
Conflict is often not overtly expressed. Many a time conflict appears as a discord or overt clash only when it is openly expressed e.g. the existence of a peasant movement is an overt expression of a deep rooted conflict over land resources. But it is not always true. This can be explained through a few examples.
Traditionally the family and household were often seen as harmonious units where cooperation was the dominant process and altruism (doing some thing good for other without having any vested interest) the driving principle of human behaviour. ‘Maternal altruism’ in the northern Indian plain is likely to be biased towards sons and can be seen as women’s response to patriarchal risk.
Mostly we observe that women’s subversion of male decision-making power tends to be covert e.g. doing small business or money landing.
Another example of covert conflict and overt cooperation is related to property rights where a woman demanding her rights is named as greedy. Woman mostly shows cooperation by not demanding her right but inside the conflict occurs and causes bitterness.
Differentiate between functionalist perspective and conflict perspective in terms of social processes.
Karl Marx is usually associated with conflict perspective and Emile Durkheim is usually identified with a functionalist perspective.
Conflict theories emphasised the importance of interests over norms and values and the ways in which the pursuit of interests generated various types of conflicts as normal aspect of social life, rather than abnormal or dysfunctional (interfering) occurences e.g. class conflicts in industrial society.
According to conflict perspective, societies divided by caste or class or patriarchy, some groups are disadvantaged and discriminated against. The dominant groups sustain the unequal order by a series of cultural norms and often force or even violence.
In functional perspective, society is seen as an organic whole, each of its constituent parts working to maintain the others just as the parts of the body coordinate.
This idea is basic to the conception of organic solidarity which emphasises on people’s economic interdependence and recognition of the importance of other’s contributions. Functionalist perspective is mainly concerned with the system requirements of society-certain functional imperatives, functional requisites and prerequisites. These refer to the fulfilment of conditions which are necessary for the existence of a system.