Applying material from Item C and your knowledge, evaluate the view that conflict approaches are more useful than consensus approaches to our understanding of society (20)

How to get full marks for a 20 mark theory essay in A-level sociology

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Below is an example of an abbreviated (by me) marked response to the 20 mark theory essay which came up in the 2017 A-level sociology paper.

The specific question under investigation in this case is: ‘Applying material from Item C and your knowledge, evaluate the view that conflict approaches are more useful than consensus approaches to our understanding of society’ (20).

For general advice about how to answer the whole of paper three please see this post on ‘the 2017 crime and deviance with theory and methods’ paper.

The example is taken from the 2017 Education with Theory and Methods Paper (paper and mark schemes available from the AQA website).

The Question with Item 

AQA Sociology 20 mark essay mark Scheme

The Mark Scheme (top band only)

AQA Sociology 20 mark essay mark Scheme 2

Student Response:

Sociology is divided between conflict and consensus approaches. The former believe there is harmony in society because of shared values (Functionalists), the later believe society is not harmonious but based on a division between a dominant and subordinate group (Marxists/ Feminists)

Some sociologists argue conflict approaches are more useful than consensus approaches for understanding society – Marxists view society as a conflict between the Bourgeosie (ruling class) and proletariat. They argue there is no harmony because the former exploit the later to create profit and keep their businesses running. The proletariat feel frustrated and alienated because they don’t control the means of production and technological advancement means many are losing their jobs and being made redundant. This all serves the interests of the ruling class who look for new, innovative ways to increase their profits. Marxists argue that certain aspects of society which appear functional are simply a false consciousness – making it appear the Bourgeoisie care about their workers but in reality they don’t for example health and safety laws exist so the proletariat are fit to keep working. However, Marxism only looks at the economic contribution of society and argues that all other institutions are influenced by the economy. Yet many would disagree, arguing that the purpose of the family or religion is to provide comfort, not profit for the Bourgeoisie.

Moreover, labelling theory also argue that conflict approaches act as a better understanding to society than consensus approaches. As an action theory, it argues that if we believe that an event is real, then it will have real consequences. Therefor they look at labelling in society and how there is link between conflict and power (item C) – an individual is given a label in society which influences their behaviour. Becker found that if a student is labelled as deviant then they are more likely to underachieve in school because they accepted that label as a self-fulfilling prophecy. When labels are given from those in higher authority, then they become a master status and become a dominant feature of the individual, which can lead to a deviant career. This also happens with certain crimes – e.g. those with the drug label are more likely to have the crime and the label enforced. However, LT is criticized for not taking into account wider structural features of society such as how capitalism influences people’s behaviour.

However consensus theories are critical (repeats question)… they argue societies are based on shared values and value consensus which allows institutions to harmoniously work together (item C). Parsons argues that this is because of functional prerequisites. Firstly there is economic adaptation to society to meet the economic needs of members, there is goal attainment where society create goals and allocates resources to these goals – the role of government. Then there is integration so the different institutions can meet share goals – the media, education, religion. Finally there is latency where the family socialises individuals into shared norms that society needs: instrumental and expressive role. Thus society hasn’t collapsed because it has a shared value system.

However, functionalism is criticised by postmodernists because it has an absolutist view of society as being functional for all. It neglects the fact that society is fragmented and diverse and the rise of different social movements like black lives matter or Feminism contradict the view that individuals form cohesive communities.

In conclusion it seems Functionalism as a consensus theory has relatively good ideas… for example that social change in society is a result of increasing complexity of society and to ensure that society doesn’t move into a state of anomie so equilibrium occur, different bits of society adapting to compensate.

However conflict theory seems more useful in understanding our society where there is complexity and no longer individuals who follow the same norms and values but rather join different groups which enhance their individual personal beliefs.

Examiner Commentary:

Well, at least one student’s been paying attention for the last couple of years!

Mark: 20/20

Source:

A-level
SOCIOLOGY
Feedback on the Examinations
Student responses and commentaries: Paper 1 7192/3 Crime and Deviance with Theory and Methods
Published: Autumn 2017

NB – this document is NOT available on the AQA website, but any teacher should have access to it via eaqa. I’m sharing it here in order to make the exam standards more accessible, and to support the AQA in their equality and meritocratic agendas, because there will be some poor students somewhere whose teachers aren’t organised enough to access this material for them. 

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Analyse two ways in which deviant subcultures may respond to the difficulties of achieving mainstream goals (10)

How to get full marks for a 10 mark ‘item’ question in sociology A-level.

Below is an example of an abbreviated (by me) marked response to a 10 mark ‘analyse with the item question’ which achieved a top band-mark, 10/10 in fact!

For general hints and tips on how to answer all questions across paper three please click here.

The example is taken from the 2017 Education with Theory and Methods Paper (paper and mark schemes available from the AQA website).

The Question with Item 

crime deviance 10 mark question.png

The Mark Scheme (top band only)

sociology-crime-deviance-10-mark-question-mark-scheme.png

Student Response:

One way deviant subcultures may respond to the difficulties of achieving mainstream goals is by offering alternative ways of attaining success. Cohen found that working class boys often felt a strain to achieve in the middle class education system. This is because the education system did not offer them equal chance of attaining mainstream goals (item A) because it not have the same norms as them and the boys experienced a culture clash. As a result the boys responded by creating a subculture which revolved around an alternative status hierarchy, valuing hostility and spite, rewarding behavior mainstream society condemned. They wanted the same goals as the middle class: status and success but their inability to attain so led them to achieving status from their peers through truanting and vandalism. This means that deviant subcultures look for different ways to attain mainstream goals when the opportunities to do so are taken from them. However, Cohen is criticized for assuming that the working class boys all had the same shared goals: not all of them considered themselves a failure.

Cloward and Ohlin argue that not all deviant subcultures respond to the difficulties of achieving mainstream goals in the same way. They argue that the neighbourhood a person lives in creates different types of subculture in response to attaining goals. Unstable neighebourhoods (item A) can reproduce criminal subcultures, creating an apprenticeship for crime and allowing people to socialise with adult criminals, meaning that children turn to utilitarian crime such as theft to achieve consumerist goals. On the other hand, deprived neighborhoods create conflict subcultures where high rates of unemployment and social disintigration mean people turn towards non utilitarian crime due to frustration. This means people turn to crime out of frustration, not to gain status. However, this is deterministic, as not all people from deprived neighourhoods turn to crime.

 

Examiner Commentary:

Mark: 10/10

crime deviance 10 mark question comments

 

KT’s commentary:

  • This is overkill, easily 10/10!
  • Apparently 4 students died instantly of boredom on seeing the question because of reference to yet more sociology from before their parents were born. 

 

Source:

A-level
SOCIOLOGY
Feedback on the Examinations
Student responses and commentaries: Paper 1 7192/3 Crime and Deviance with Theory and Methods
Published: Autumn 2017

NB – this document is NOT available on the AQA website, but any teacher should have access to it via eaqa. I’m sharing it here in order to make the exam standards more accessible, and to support the AQA in their equality and meritocratic agendas, because there will be some poor students somewhere whose teachers aren’t organised enough to access this material for them. 

Applying material from Item A, analyse two effects of increased parental choice on pupils’ experience of education.

How to get full marks for a 10 mark ‘item’ question in sociology A-level.

Below is an example of an abbreviated (by me) marked response to a 10 mark ‘analyse with the item question’ which achieved a top band-mark, or 9/10.

The example is taken from the 2017 Education with Theory and Methods Paper (paper and mark schemes available from the AQA website) and the specific question is as follows:

The Question with Item 

A-level-sociology-10-mark-question-parental-choice

The Mark Scheme (top band only)

A-level-sociology-10-mark-scheme-top-band

Student Response:

Item A states that ‘there is now a wider range of school factors’ which leads to the introduction of academies and free schools. This increases parental choice as parents can choose to send their children to this wider range of schools. This wider range schools has improved pupils’ experience of education because it means that pupils have a more personalised learning experience – e.g. personalised timetables that can include extra revision for example. The New Right argues that academies have  improved education because they have raised standards through competition, but Marxists argue this has mainly benefited the middle classes because they have the cultural capital to take advantage of the education system.

Additionally, the item states that ‘league tables on school performance are also publicly available’. This has increased parental choice because parents can use them and OFSTED to help make a decision about where to send their child. The New Right argue this changes pupils’ experience of education because schools have to raise standards to attract consumer parents. However, Marxists say this only benefits the middle classes as they have the economic capital which leads to cultural capital, they make a choice effectively. In contrast Gerwertz found that working class parents were disconnected choosers – they sent their child to local school, which means working class children have a negative experience of education because they end up going to the failing schools at the bottom of the league tables.

Examiner Commentary:

Mark: 9/10

Both paragraphs are conceptually detailed with analysis, evaluation and located in a theoretical context.

Thorough knowledge and understanding, evaluation and analysis, application needs to be more developed in paragraph one for maximum marks.

KT’s commentary:

Personally I thought the two paragraphs were a bit repetitive, but there you go.

If you like this sort of thing (after seeking psychiatric help), you might also like to check out this 5/10 mark response to the same question.

Source:

A-level
SOCIOLOGY
Feedback on the Examinations
Student responses and commentaries: Paper 1 7192/1 Education with Theory and Methods
Published: Autumn 2017

NB – this document is NOT available on the AQA website, but any teacher should have access to it via eaqa. I’m sharing it here in order to make the exam standards more accessible, and to support the AQA in their equality and meritocratic agendas, because there will be some poor students somewhere whose teachers aren’t organised enough to access this material for them.