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Is Religion a Source of Consensus or Conflict?

Functionalism is the only perspective which has traditionally argued that religion is a source of value consensus, all other perspectives disagree with this in one way or another, but not all believe that religion is necessarily a cause of overt conflict in the world.

Functionalism

  • Functionalists generally argue that religion promotes value consensus in a society.
  • Durkheim argued that in traditional societies, religious symbols such as the totem represented society, and thus when people worshipped religion, they were really worshipping society.
  • Parsons and Malinowski both believed religious rituals helped people deal with life-crises, such as death, thus helping keep societies together during times of change.
  • Parsons further believed that religions form the moral basis of law in society, for example the 10 commandments in Christian societies.
  • Bellah argues that civil religions bind people together in contemporary societies.

Marxism

  • Marx believed that religion prevents revolution (or violent conflict) by pacifying people, through acting as the ‘opium of the masses’ and making think inequality is Gods will and that suffering in this life is a virtue. The message is to put up with suffering now and seek your reward in heaven.
  • However, in Marxist theory, the masses will eventually see through the mask of oppression and rise up bringing about a revolution and a communist society free of religion.

Neo-Marxism

  • Religion can be a source of conflict because it is autonomous from the economic base.
  • For example, religious leaders in Latin America took the side of peasant against the elite. However, attempts at social reform were ultimately repressed.

Feminism

  • Simone de Beauvoir argued that Religion oppresses women in the same way that Marx argued it oppressed people in general.
  • However, Feminism in general points out how traditional religion oppresses women and brings women into conflict with religion, especially right-wing versions of it.
  • Feminine forms of spirituality generally emphasis peacefulness, and so don’t really act as a source of conflict.

Secularisation theory

  • You can use this to argue that religion has lost its capacity to do anything, positive or negative in society.
  • It seems especially unlikely that postmodern forms of religion, such as the New Age Movement are going to be sources of conflict.

Huntington – the clash of civilisations

  • Religion has become more important as a source of identity in a postmodern global world where other sources of identity have faded.
  • As societies come into closer contact because of globalisation, they rub up against each other and people become more aware of their differences, and thus religion becomes a source of conflict.
  • Karen Armstrong criticises this, suggesting that politics and economics matter more than religion as sources of conflict in the world today.
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‘Station’ based lessons for A level sociology

Station based lessons are those in which the teacher sets up a number of different (and differentiated) tasks on different tables in the class room and students spend a set time at each table, moving from task to task.

I find these are most useful at the very beginning of the Winter and Easter terms, after students have done sufficient sociology to enable them to work through said tasks largely on their own, with the teacher acting only as a facilitator…

This is precisely what I’ll be doing with my Upper sixth groups when I face the horror and terror of going back to school on Thursday…. Station lessons make things a little easier…

Here’s one to try out, based on recapping consensus theories of crime and deviance, links to the resources are below.

Overview plan:

  • students spend about 30-40 minutes working through the 5 stations, 5-7 minutes on each of five separate stations.
  • students spend about 20-30 minutes ‘writing up’ the answers in the attached booklets.

Resources 

  • Consensus Theories of Crime Recap Lessons.
  • White board for task
  • A3 photocopies of pages 2-4 above for stations 2, 3, and 5.
  • Card sorts for task 4 (I don’t have these to hand, but you simply need cards with concepts, and pictures and perspectives – this is more of a general recap rather than a consensus theory of crime recap),

Station 1: White Board Station (AO1 – Knowledge)

  •  Explain your one of the consensus theories of crime in picture form – you may use three words also.

Station 2: AO1 Concepts Station (A01 – Knowledge)

  • Research and write in the definitions for two-three of the concepts
  • If you finish, add in an example or piece of supporting evidence which illustrates the concept

Station 3: Data Response Station (AO2 – Application)

  • Read the item, then for one theory write in how that theory would explain the case study in the item. 

Station 4: Card Game Station (AO3 – Analysis)

  • Game 1: Shuffle the concepts and theories cards – pick two (or three!) at random, suggest a link between them.
  • Game 2: Rank the ‘case studies cards’ – rank them in order of how well they support your assigned theory. 

Station 5: Evaluation Station (AO3 – Evaluation)

  • Add in as many evaluation points as possible for one theory
  • If you finish, then add in counter-evaluation to the previous evaluations of theories

Further comments

There’s not a lot else to say really… this was just a New Year’s post for all the sociology teachers out there, happy new year!

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Sociological Perspectives on Crime and Deviance

A brief overview of some sociological perspectives on crime and deviance – from Functionalism through to Right Realism. 

Theory

Summary

Functionalism

Argue that societies need a limited amount of crime, because crime is inevitable (society of saints argument) and that crime performs three positive functions: regulation, integration and change. Also see Durkheim’s work on suicide.

Social Control Theory

The cause of deviance is the breakdown or weakening of informal agencies of social control such as the family and community. Criminal activity occurs when the individual’s attachment to society is weakened. According to Hirschi there are four types of social bond

Merton’s Strain Theory

Crime and deviance occur in times of anomie when there is a ‘strain’ between society’s socially approved ‘success goals’ and the opportunities available to achieve these goals. Crime occurs when individuals still want to achieve the success goals of society but abandon the socially approved means of obtaining those goals.

Subcultural Theory

Explains deviance in terms of the subculture of certain social groups. Deviance is the result of individuals suffering ‘status frustration’ and conforming to the values and norms of a subculture which rewards them for being deviant. Focuses on crimes of the working class.

Traditional Marxism

Explain crime in terms of Capitalism and the class structure – The Ruling classes make the law to benefit them, the law protects private property. Ruling and Middle class crime is more harmful than working class crime but ruling classes are less likely to get caught and punished for crime. Selective law enforcement performs ideological functions. WCs commit crime due to the ‘dog eat dog’ values of capitalist system – selfishness, materialism.

Interactionism

Focus on how crime is socially constructed, on how certain acts become defined as criminal or deviant, and how certain people are more likely to be defined as deviant than others. Labelling Theory and Moral Panic Theory are key ideas within Interactionism.

Neo-Marxism

Fuses Traditional Marxist and Interactionism. Crime is an outgrowth of capitalism, but moral panics over the relatively minor crimes of marginalised groups make the public side with the ruling class against the marginalised, maintaining social order. Believe that criminology should focus on highlighting the injustices of the Capitalist System in order to change society.

Left Realism

Concerned with working class crime, believe that we should work with the system in order to improve the lives of the victims of crime, who are mainly working class. Marginalisation, relative deprivation and subcultures are the main causes of crime and we should aim to tackle crime on multiple fronts – more community (less militaristic) policing and tackling poverty and marginalisation within communities are solutions.

Right Realism

Right Realism is more concerned with practical solutions to crime. Relatively simple theories such as rational choice and Broken Windows theory explain crime and Zero Tolerance Policing and Situational Crime Prevention are the solutions