The Queen’s 70th Jubilee – It feels like the last gasp for Modernity….

I can’t think of any individuals who represent Britishness, continuity and stability better than THE QUEEEN – she’s just always been there throughout my entire life, and through all my Dad’s adult life too.

And, unlike younger members of the royal family, The Queen it seems has never put a foot wrong – she’s just done her queen thing for 70 years – attended thousands of national events, given her speech at Christmas, opened Parliament nearly every year (until recently) – she is very possibly THE ONLY continuous symbol that’s just ‘carried on’ for that length of time.

When she was coronated in 1953 (that date’s from memory I think it’s right), Functionalism was in its heyday, at least American Functionalism exemplified by the work of Talcott Parsons – and and events such as the Jubilee and the way the majority of people come together around The Queen seem to be good examples of a shared collective conscience.

And even the way the Royal Estate seems to be managing the succession – giving Charles more of a central role and making him more visible (he opened Parliament this year) seems very ordered, very MODERN – orderly change within a centralised authority – there really is something very modern about the whole institution of royalty.

And it seems to me that there’s a general feeling that the 70th Jubilee is something good – there’s almost a sense of relief that there’s something positive to celebrate post-covid and amidst the Cost of Living Crisis – I doubt there will be many overt protests this year.

However I also get the feeling there’s a kind of ‘disbelief in relief’ at having The Jubilee to celebrate – it’s obvious the Royal family has faded in ‘glory’, it’s obvious that this will probably be The Queen’s last significant jubilee, there’s almost a tinge of sadness about the whole affair.

It’s as if we’re witnessing a celebration of a bye gone era – it’s like a flashback to Modernity when things were more certain – kind of similar to when you go to an 80s party – you dress up and make believe for an evening – and so here does the Nation for the Jubilee Weekend.

Because in truth the Royal Family is more post-modern than ever – with Meghan and Harry having ‘divorced themselves’ from the institution, and with their very own paedophile-prince (Andrew) showing that they don’t all have the same norms and values.

And once The Queen is gone we are left with Charles and Camilla – it’s just not the same rally-round is it? Much more chalk and cheese!

And when the Jubilee weekend is over, it’s back to postmodern/ late modern reality for us all – the grind, the uncertainty, the increasing cost of living, the fear of the next Pandemic.

This Jubilee celebration is just a pit stop to the past, pleasant to play modernity dress up for a weekend, but that’s all it is.

Related Posts

From Modernity to Post Modernity

Marxism Applied to Topics in A-level Sociology

The easiest way for students to prepare for the Theory and Methods parts of the A-Level Sociology Paper 1 and Paper 3 exams is to revise how Marxism applies to the different topic areas usually taught as part of the specification – typically the Family, Education, Religion and Crime and Deviance.

For an overview of these two papers please see my ‘exams advice page’.

This post is a summary of how Marxism applies to these topic areas.

Research Methods Implications

  • Scientific Marxism – The purpose of research is to find out more about the laws of Capitalism to see when revolution is ripe
  • Requires a Cross National Macro-Approach to social research focusing on economics and how the economy affects society
  • Humanistic Marxism – Research can be more varied, focusing on highlighting social injustices in order to make people more critical of Capitalism (Not value free!)

Marxism applied to the family

  • Capitalism, Private Property and The Family
  • The family as a safe haven

More at the Marxist Perspective on the Family.

Marxism and Education

  • The ideological state apparatus
  • Reproduction/ Legitimation of class inequality
  • Correspondence Principle
  • Cultural Capital

More at the Marxist Perspective on Education.

Dependency Theory

  • Colonialism and Slavery
  • The Modern World System
  • Unfair trade rules
  • TNC exploitation

More at Dependency Theory .

Marxism applied to Crime and Deviance

  • Private Property and Crime
  • The costs of Corporate Crime
  • Selective Law Enforcement
  • Criminogenic Capitalism (‘Dog Eat Dog“ Society)

For more see The Marxist Perspective on Crime and Deviance.

Marxism – more advanced theory

Using what Marxists say about the above topic areas is just one way to approach a theory question on Marxism, another way is to use the work of specific Marxists such as Althusser and Gramsci, and of course Marx himself. These ideas are outlined in this revision post: Marxism A-level Sociology Revision Notes.

For more links to Marxist theory please see my Theory and Methods page for A2 Sociology.

Representing Gender Diversity – The New Netflix Norm…?

Small confession…. I’ve had way too many Netflix binge sessions over the last year, and one thing I’ve noticed is that most of the Netflix shows have a wider range of representations of gender than I’m used to seeing on the BBC.

In fact practically every series features pretty major characters who are gay, bisexual or (more recently) transgender and as a general rule these sexuality-identities are incidental to the plots – that is to say that for the most part characters are just gay (for example) and that’s that, rather than their ‘gayness’ being part of the plot itself.

In other words Netflix seems to be doing a great of job of normalising gender diversity.

I imagine most students are familiar with Netflix and this should offer some accessible evidence to update the topic of the representation of gender in the media.

A few examples…

The Hundred

FINALLY, A T.V. series which features a bisexual woman as the MAIN CHARACTER – she starts off with a boyfriend, he dies, and then she seems to develop a preference for always women as the series progresses – but no big deal, that’s just how it is!

The 3%

Most characters are heterosexual but the ‘Utopia’ in the series is founded by a ‘founding trio’ who are in a three-way relationship, and later on in the series it turns out one of the main characters is a Lesbian, but actually very reticent about sex (not that interested in emotional closeness for various reasons) and there is also one transgender character, B list rather than A-list though.

Ozark

One of the best pieces of T.V. I have ever seen – featuring a bad gay FBI agent and a closet gay Hillbilly – they are not the most savoury of characters, but then again neither are most of the characters in this series which also features possibly the most dysfunctional yet functioning ‘cereal packet nuclear family’ ever.

Star Trek Discovery

The only show I’ve ever seen which features a non-binary character – the show does make a bit of a thing out of this as at one point they explain their sexuality to someone else (not identifying with any gender in particular.

Incidentally the main character ‘ is a woman, but with a traditionally male name – Michael – NEVER questioned which I kind of like. Almost like a subtle challenge to one of the most obvious gender markers.

There are MORE examples…

I kept this to just FOUR examples, but there are many many more – drop your suggestions in the comments.

Or it might be more useful/ difficult to drop new shows which DON’T have a gender diversity theme going on – it seems to be the new norm on Netflix..

For more posts on related topics please see my page on Media Studies

The Mass Shooter Database…

Mass shootings per year in America are increasing, and some recent research from the Violence Project aims to help us understand why this is.

For students of A-level Sociology this is a useful case study relevant to both research methods and crime and deviance.

The project has interviewed hundreds of people convicted of mass shootings and their family members to better understand their life histories (nice link to secondary qualitative data here!) and then fed this information into a database in oder to quantify it and to see what the main characteristics of mass shooters are.

Interestingly the data shows that there is a broad difference between people who do mass shootings in restaurants, bars and retail establishments compared to people who shoot up workplaces, religious institutions or schools and colleges. In the former, the victims tended to be strangers to the shooters, in the later type the shooters were much more likely to have known their victims.

The main characteristics of mass shooters in America….

  • Out of 172 cases only four were women, two of these acted with a man.
  • 50% are white, 50% from other ethnic backgrounds
  • 65% of shooters had a criminal record, 63% had a history of violence
  • The most common ‘motivation’ was a history of psychosis (30% of shooters) where the shooter was loosing their grip on reality.
  • Half the shooters acquired their guns legally.

You can explore the database for yourself at the link below.

These seem to be a very ‘postmodern’ set of findings…

The researchers note that the data reveals that there is ‘no one type of shooter’ – mass shooters in America come from a diverse array of backgrounds and have diverse motives for what they are doing.

Although personally i can see one clear trend from the data which is the huge bias towards to males – as is the case with many other crimes!

And another is the recent shift to grocery store shootings – the first of these wasn’t until 2018, and since then there have been ‘copycat’ cases following it – Shooters tend to take lessons from other shooters who have done the same before!

Controlling Gun Crime…

The project suggests two main solutions to bring down the number of mass shootings…..

  1. Monitoring people with high risk characteristics and restricting gun sales to these people (nice link to Actuarialism here within crime and deviance).
  2. Stopping giving attention to mass shooters – which should help stop the copycat spreading of such hideous acts!

Sources

Functionalism applied to different topic areas in A-level Sociology….

One of the easiest ways to revise for the Paper 3 theory and methods paper (the theory and methods section) is to rely on what different theories say about the topic areas within Sociology, such as the family, education and crime and deviance.

This post is a summary with links of what Functionalists say about the man topic areas…

Functionalism: Main Ideas

(D= Durkheim, P = Parsons)…

  • (D) Society exists externally to the individual as a series of social facts – there is a social structure which exists independently from individuals. This social structure shapes the individual.
  • (D) Individuals need to be constrained.
    (D) Anomie is the fundamental problem of advanced industrial societies. Figuring out how to achieve solidarity based on change and difference is the big question of our times.
  • (P) We should analyse society as a system – look at each bit by looking at the contribution it makes to the whole
  • (P) Socialisation is important – individuals need to be regulated for the benefit of everyone. The integration and regulation of individuals is a good thing.
  • (P) Advanced Industrial society is better than primitive society – one of the main reasons social order is so important is so we don’t go backwards – (ties into the idea of progress

From Functionalist Theory and Methods.

Functionalism: Research Methods Implications

  • See Positivism
  • Macro-Level Research
  • Social Facts
  • Objectivity
  • Official Statistics
  • Correlations
  • Generaliseablity
  • Science

How they understand family life       

  • The four universal functions of the family
  • Functional fit theory
  • Primary socialisation
  • Stabilisation of adult personalities
  • Gender roles

From Functionalism and the Family.

How they understand education       

  • Secondary socialisation
  • Social Solidarity
  • Skills for working
  • Meritocracy
  • Role Allocation

From the Functionalist Perspective on Education.

How they understand crime and deviance   

  • The Inevitability of crime (society of saints)
  • Three positive Functions of Crime (integration, regulation and social changed)
  • Bonds of attachment theory (the more detached an individual, the more likely they are to turn to crime)
  • Subcultural Theory (when whole groups become detached, crime is more likely)

Mainly from the Functionalist Perspective on Crime and Deviance.

Key Studies and Examples you can use to illustrate Functionalism…           

  • Durkheim’s 1897 study of suicide, and the fact that contemporary official statistics today show the same patterns
  • The EU Referendum and the ‘Immigration Crisis’ (illustrate how we haven’t managed to figure out a way of achieving solidarity based on difference, rather than solidarity based on similarity)
  • The Case study of Musharef in Educating Yorkshire shows one school being functional in a similar way to Parson’s view of education
  • The way the Police and the media respond to high profile very serious crimes seems to reinforce social integration and
  • social regulation at a societal level – for example the social responses to September 11th and other terrorist attacks and to the London Riots.

Overall evaluations of Functionalism

  • Merton’s dysfunctionality critique
  • Deterministic
  • Rose Tinted
  • Teleological
  • Ethnocentric/ ideological

Covid-19 and Disadvantage Gaps in England 2022

A recent report published by the Education Policy Institute examined the trend in the education disadvantage gap in England over the last decade.

It found that the gap for ‘disadvantaged’ pupils (pupils who had been eligible for Free School Meals for one out of the last six years) had decreased over the last decade – meaning there is less of a gap (more equality) between the results of disadvantaged and all other pupils…

However, for ‘persistently disadvantaged’ pupils (who had been on FSMs for 80% of their school careers) there had been no closing of the achievement gap.

This means that government policies which have aimed to reduce inequality of educational achievement over the last decade (such as the Pupil Premium) have had mixed success… they seem to have helped those pupils who have been in ‘not too bad’ deprivation, but none nothing for those in persistent poverty.

The impact of Teacher Predicted Grades on educational inequalities…..

The report also notes that teacher predicted grades did not confer advantage of wealthier pupils overall at GCSE level – it seems that teachers were ‘fair’ in their awarding grades based on the social class backgrounds of their pupils.

HOWEVER, at A-level – A-level students were awarded on average a grade higher than previous years (when students actually sat exams) while BTEC grades did not increase from the previous year.

This means that at the 16-19 more affluent students got a relative advantage because they are more likely to do A-levels.

Sources and Relevance to A-level Sociology

This is a useful update for the education policies topic and social class and educational achievement topics.

For links to posts on education please see my Education and A-level sociology page!

You can read the full report here: Covid-19 and Disadvantage Gaps in England 2022.

Sociological Perspectives on the War in Ukraine…

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is having profound negative implications for not only Ukrainians but also the populations of every European country, and Russia itself.

This post explores some of the sociological concepts we might use to better understand the war and its consequences….

Students need to be able to apply contemporary events to their answers in their exams where ever possible, and this event is the most recent and ‘highest consequence’ event since the Pandemic, so it’s worth thinking about how you can make it relevant.

Global Development

This conflict is immediately relevant to the War and Conflict topic. It reminds us that conflicts do not only happen in the developing world and it’s also a grim reminder of the extreme social and economic consequences of war.

The war has disrupted the majority of Ukraine’s businesses meaning it’s economic output is well down, including its wheat production – which has implications for the cost of basic food stuffs in other countries as wheat is one of Ukraine’s major exports.

Also the damage done to infrastructure in Ukraine is going to mean billions of pounds of rebuilding after the war is over, hopefully sooner rather than later!

Crime and Deviance

Under United Nations conventions Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is illegal – one country isn’t supposed to invade another member country of the UN without the agreement of all the other nations, and Russia doesn’t have this consent in this case.

From a ‘human rights perspective’ this invasion is also a disaster – Russia is shelling civilian areas and killing children, and allegedly forcibly deporting prisoners of war back to Russia.

However the international community has been powerless to prevent this invasion, showing us that those Nation States with huge military power still have the capacity to do what they want.

European nations are generally in consensus about the immorality and illegality of the war, but that’s nominal (in name only) – but they aren’t prepared to go to war with Russia preferring ‘softer’ sanctions such as stopping buying Russian oil, but so far that is having limited affect.

The Family

The issue migration is relevant here. Consider the contrast between how the UK welcomed wealthy Russian Oligarchs since the collapse of the Soviet Union, without really asking any questions about how they accumulated their wealth or what links they may have had to an increasingly repressive regime under Putin. In sociological terms these are the ‘global elite’ – countries tend to try to attract these types of immigrant by offering favourable tax policies and turning a blind eye to any shady business and political connections they may have.

Contrast this to the difficulties so many Ukrainian refugees have faced trying to get into Britain despite the fact that there are people who have signed up to let them live in their houses. The Home Office seems to be deliberately delaying the issuing of visas – this is typical, countries tend not to welcome the poor and needy.

Other relevant posts

You might also like to read this post on the relationship between the war and globalisation.

The Covid Catch Up Premium – Woefully Inadequate…?

The UK government’s main policy to help students catch up on missed schooling during the Pandemic has been to provide extra funding to schools on a per pupil basis.

The extra funding amounts to around £600 million, which sounds like a lot, but this is only equivalent to £80 per pupil, but with more being allocated for students with special educational needs.

If you are studying for this years A-level sociology exams you should consider and critically evaluate this policy, not only as it should have affected your own life, but also because you should be able to use this in the PAPER 1 exam as ‘education policies’ is the topic selected in the pre-release advanced information – something about Policies WILL come up, most likely an essay, and so you SHOULD be able to use material on covid catch-up policies.

To give you an idea of just how little money this is once it gets to schools check out this policy response document from one school.

So that’s £68 000 for 966 pupils.

Let’s assume that this school is going to focus on the 35% disadvantaged pupils….

So that would be £68 000 for 350 pupils (approximately), each of whom would have missed around 20 weeks of schooling over the last two years.

So what can that $68K buy for the school….

Let’s assume like for like and that they’re going to fund 6 months worth of catch up, then that £68K would buy….

  • About 3 qualified teachers (pay their salaries for 6 months) – with classes of 35 and 5 lessons of an hour a day (to make the maths easier) that could mean an extra 2.5 hours of lesson per pupil per week.
  • With smaller classes of 15-20 that’s 1 hour and 15 minutes a week.
  • Or about 3400 hours of one on one tuition (at £20 an hour) – a total 10 hours each per pupil over 6 months.
  • Or they could pay for around 6 Full time support workers, but the benefits of those are more difficult to quantify.

NB all of the above assumes ONLY the 35% of disadvantaged students getting extra help at the same rate, it doesn’t factor in SEN pupils and assumes 65% of students get nothing.

So TLDR – this catch up funding means 10 hours of extra tuition for disadvantaged pupils for 6 months in smallish classes of around 15 pupils.

So ask yourself – is 10 hours enough to catch up on 20 weeks of missed schooling?

Is it fair that 65% of pupils get nothing? (In my hypothetical model)

Oh and one final thing, if you feel as if you’ve got no extra support to catch up following lessons lost due to Covid, this might explain why!

Relevance to A-level Sociology

This is directly relevant to the Education topic, and should be useful in this year’s 2022 exam!

The ‘Adultification’ of Black Children in Schools

Black children are still three times as likely than white children to be excluded from school according to a recent report by the Commission for Young Lives.

One of the main reasons for this is what the report calls the ‘adulfication’ of black children – where teachers (and other authority figures such as the police) tend to see black children as being older and less innocent than children from other ethnic minority backgrounds. This enables those in power to justify treating black children more harshly.

This recent research is relevant to the sociology of education, and especially the continued relevance of labelling theory in explaining differential exclusion rates.

Different exclusion rates

Exclusion rates saw an overall increase in the decade up to 2019, before the socially chosen reaction to the Pandemic (i.e. Lockdown which included school closures) made comparisons of such trends more difficult.

Immediately prior to the Pandemic, some types of student were much more likely to be excluded than others.

Depressingly not that much seems to have changed since the 1990!

Why are some children more likely to be excluded than others?

There are different reasons depending on each case, but one thing the report highlights is the ‘adultification’ of black children.

This is where authority figures such as teachers tend to see black children, both boys and girls, as more grown up and less innocent than white children. Thus they think they are more responsible for their actions and this can justify the harsher punishments they receive for deviant behaviour, such as being excluded.

The report also includes a story from a mother of a boy with Autism which documents his journey of being labelled with ‘behavioural difficulties’ in school, to being temporarily and then permanently excluded.

The boy moved to a Pupil Referral Unit, then back to mainstream education, but his mother and the school kind of lost track of him during the Pandemic somehow, he got involved with ‘the wrong friends’, possibly gang and drug connected, and ended up murdering someone before he turned 16.

in this case the mother claimed that the school system let her son down through inadequate provision for his special educational needs.

The consequences of being excluded

While it’s not a path set in stone the report notes that 60% of young people getting court orders and 60% of those in prison have been excluded from school.

But this doesn’t necessarily mean one causes the other, there are multiple factors at work in such pathways!

Sources:

Commission for Young Lives (2022) All Together Now: Inclusion not exclusion: supporting all young people to succeed in school.

Social Action Theory: Revision Notes for A-Level Sociology

The Advance Information for the 2022 Sociology A-levels specifies that students WILL be assessed on the area of consensus, conflict, structural and/ or action theories.

The easiest way to revise these topics at A2 level is to briefly cover the key ideas of each theory AND ALSO revise how each of these theories applies to the topic areas you have studied – usually families, education, crime and deviance and research methods, and then to evaluate.

This post is a summary revision post of the key ideas of social action theory. Before reviewing it you might like to look at these posts:

Social Action Theory Main Ideas

  • We need Verstehen to understand human action, because the same actions can mean different things to different people. Statistical methods and observation alone are not enough to understand human action (Weber)
  • We need to understand action in terms of shared meanings within a group (Mead) and how the members of that group see themselves (their identity) and how the individuals and the group understand society.
  • We need to understand whether an individual is just putting on an act (manipulating props and just managing an impression)
  • We need to understand whether a person has been labelled by agents of social control, whether they have been stigmatised by society.

Research Methods Implications

  • Getting to people’s own motives for action requires in-depth qualitative methods
  • In order to understand shared meanings we need at the very least to use unstructured interviews.
  • In order to assess whether the extent to which people are ‘acting out’ identities we need to use Participant Observation, which in many cases will not be possible.

How Social Action Theorists understand family life

The Personal Life Perspective argues that we need to start by abandoning standard definitions of the family and focus instead on what ‘family’ means to them – when we do this, we find that many people see a whole load of unusual relationships as being more significant to their intimate lives (pets and dead relatives for example) than their actual ‘family members’. This critics the Functionalist idea that families are necessary parts of society – families are much more fluid than ever before, and friends can perform many of the functions as formal family members.

How they understand achievement in education

  • (Following Mead) – In depth research of anti-school subcultures has revealed a wide variety of meanings and identities which different students bring to the school…which conflict with the school’s value system. For example, Paul Willis’ study found that the lads saw school work as irrelevant to their future lives, while Tony Sewel argues that being a ‘swot’ may compromise young black boys’ ideas about masculinity. We thus cannot truly understand underachievement without understanding these boys’ identities and why school doesn’t fit in with their identities.
  • Labelling theory however explains underachievement in terms of middle class white teachers labelling students not like them as problem students, which creates a self-fulfilling prophecy.
  • Goffman’s dramaturgical theory is useful – ‘good’ students may just be better at putting on an act – better at ‘impression manageme

How Social Action Theorists understand Crime and Deviance

  • Following Mead – Research on gangs has shown that being in a gang doesn’t necessarily mean ‘being bad” – gang membership is typically casual and fluid, it does not mean that much at all to many members, and is about protection for many, rather than criminality. There are several different types of gang, several different meanings. This criticise structural subcultural theories of deviance.
  • Following Becker’s labelling theory – The Police act in terms of stereotypes when it comes to stop and search, as do the courts, this goes some way to explaining why there are more EM’s in jail.
  • Following Goffman’s dramaturgical theory – elites may be just as criminal as non-elites, they are just better at acting in ways which mean they avoid attention from the police.

Key Studies

  • The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism
  • The ‘action’ bit of Paul Willis’ study of the lads.
  • John Heale’s One blood – gangs as self-defence, gangs as fluid;
  • Gok Wan – People dressing up
  • Facebook;
  • Howard Becker – The Ideal Pupil
  • RJ SFP
  • David Gilborn – Teachers labelling African Caribbean boys

Social Action Theory: Evaluations

  • It doesn’t pay sufficient attention to how social structures constrain action – for example, material deprivation can have a real, objective impact on your ability to well at school, thus failure is not just all about labelling.
  • It tends to ignore power-distribution in society – it can’t explain patterns in class, gender, ethnicity.
  • If people are so active, then why do so many people choose to be so normal?
  • Labelling theory can also be criticised for being deterministic
  • The small-scale methods associated with this theory can equally be criticised for lacking reliability and representativeness

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