Evaluate the View that Crime and Deviance are Inevitable and Beneficial for Individuals and Society as a Whole

This question was the 30 mark essay question on the June 2022 Crime and Deviance A-Level Sociology exam paper.

I have to say TOP MARKS for a fantastic question, lots in here to unpack.

The question came with an item that candidates had to apply which explicitly referenced Functionalists thinking crime was inevitable because not everyone could fit into the norms and values of society, and also that crime was beneficial.

The item also referenced that Conflict Theorists were critical of this view because crime is ‘constructed’ in such as way that it benefits certain individuals.

Quick Question decode….

The question breaks down into two chunks of two…

  1. Evaluate the view that crime is inevitable (and evaluate the theory behind this)
  2. Evaluate the view that crime is beneficial – i. for society and ii. for individuals.

The easiest way to structure this is probably to start off discussing and evaluating the Functionalist view – on inevitability and then whether it’s beneficial and use mainly conflict (Marxist/ Feminist/ Interactionist) views to evaluate Functionalism.

This question also screams out ‘talk about different types of crime and contrast them’.

And I’d also spend some time talking about PostModernism/ Cultural Theories of Crime – but again using these to critique Functionalism and Conflict Theories too.

I’d recommend NOT just doing a paragraph list answer – DONT’ start with Functionalism then do Marxism then do Feminism – that will probably limit you to a mid mark band, C grade – for Bs and As I’m thinking the examiners are going to want an answer that really focuses on using material to critique Functionalism!

However, having said that – it’s kind of hard to avoid discussing Durkheim’s theory – all of it first – it’s how you critique the different aspects of it that will help you avoid a ‘listing the theories’ answer’.

Below is a rough guide to how I’d answer this question….

Evaluate the view that Crime is Inevitable and beneficial for Society and Individuals…

Here you can outline Durkheim’s theory of the ‘Society of Saints’ – in which he theorised that even in a near perfect society very small acts would become deviant and end up being criminalised because ‘society needs crime’, and in fact that crime is beneficial.

Durkheim in fact argued that crime performed three positive functions – social regulation (people are reminded of the boundaries when criminals are punished), social integration – people bond together more closely against criminals and then it also allows social change to take place (without deviance there can be no change!).

Durkheim’s idea that crime is ‘inevitable’ seems to make sense as it is difficult to conceive of a society in which there is no crime, let alone no deviance. It also allows for the fact that some individuals are always going to break the rules, and so are not entirely controlled by society.

However this is quite a week theory – it doesn’t say very much – Durkheim didn’t really talk about what kind of acts he was talking about – if bad manners are ‘always going to be inevitable’ then Functionalism as a theory kind of holds together, but if more serious crimes are inevitable in ALL societies – such as murders, treason, revolutions, that undermines the whole of Functionalist consensus theory because if all societies eventually end in conflict, then consensus is only ever a temporary state and societies don’t evolve in the way Durkheim thought.

It’s a very difficult theory to assess this – in terms of minor acts of deviance YES they are always going to be around it seems, but in a way who cares because these don’t harm people or upset the balance of society, but in terms of the more serious crimes – mass organised crimes, terrorism aimed at social change – mass shootings in America by lone individuals – are these the inevitable?

It is impossible to measure at a global and 100 year historical level with any degree of accuracy but as a general rule there do seem to be LESS violent, serious and destabilising crimes in wealthier European Countries, suggesting where we have wealth and inclusion and democracy and human rights, more serious crimes that are going to blow society apart are less likely, but in poorer countries, in Africa for example, which has the highest amount of civil wars for the last half a century, violent crime seems more likely.

But then the most violent States on Earth are the very richest – the USA, Russia, China, all commit human rights abuses but generally against people in remote territories and against people deemed to be ‘enemies of the state’ – so maybe crime is inevitable when we have huge power differentials in the world….?

This brings to mind Marxism – this essentially argues that ‘crime’ in the form of revolution is inevitable as oppression causes increasing exploitation which eventually leads to violent revolution (which by definition are criminal against the existing State) – however this doesn’t really seem to fit the historical record any better than Functionalism, real communist revolutions are far and few between, much more war is about desperation or colonial conquest.

Marxists also argue that things like low level street crime are the outcome of poverty and oppression caused by the inequalities and injustices of Capitalism – this seems to make more sense as a theory of the inevitability of crime than Durkheim’s as there is a correlation between these types of crime and poverty.

In contrast Durkhiems’ theory can’t be tested because he was never specific enough, thus it’s probably better to dismiss the idea as it can’t be proven.

There are also problems with Durkheim’s theory of crime being beneficial is that it comes from the logic ‘that if something in society exists then it must have a function’ – Durkheim was kind of tunnel visioned here and he couldn’t accept the view that some things were just plain dysfunctional and had no social benefit at all.

It is difficult to argue, for example, that domestic abuse has a useful social function – as it is hidden and never seen, and obviously one can’t argue it benefits the victims.

In order for a crime to be deemed beneficial – to perform one of Durkheim’s social functions it needs to be visible….. In this case one might be able to argue that domestic abuse does enhance social integration as people may come together to kick out local abusers from their neighbourhoods – HOWEVER – it’s not a very positive basis for ‘unity’ and not that healthy where people are just united against something else – also there’s no real need for this type of integration is there? I mean doesn’t sport and music and many other things do the same without the crime and harm?

Also with social regulation – maybe crimes being punished remind people of the boundaries – but Marxists have pointed out that some crimes are much more likely to get punished than others – such as working class drug dealers bet punished, not the middle class users who take them.

And thus the Marxist take on crime benefiting some individuals more than others maybe fits better with social reality – we have selective law enforcement and punishment – the working classes are kept in their place while elites are more likely to get away with doing corporate and white collar crime without being noticed.

And when we look at some white collar crimes it’s hard to argue they benefit society – such as the fraud that led to the collapse of Enron – which led to massive losses for ordinary investors and job losses for workers – very few people in fact benefitted from that other than a small amount of criminals who skimmed profit before the crash.

The item references crime being constructed in such a way that it benefits certain individuals more than others – this is an interactionist point of view – it means that what is criminal is determined by the law which in turn is determined by people.

We can see this most clearly in the way certain drugs are made criminal – for example with cannabis gradually being decriminalised in some states in America – when it used to be criminal law officers could prosecute people for growing and selling it, now in those states were it is decriminalised people can’t be prosecuted – this shows up the varying nature of how some States deem this act to be harmful, others beneficial.

But what’s maybe more important is how some kind of violent acts are not labelled as criminal – for example state violence in war, presumably because whichever territory is being ‘liberated’ is going to benefit from that particular wave of state violence, while ANY violence by ordinary people on the streets is deemed to be NOT beneficial in any way.

In Conclusion

Personally I’d dismiss the idea that crime is inevitable as it’s too broad a statement to be meaningful.

As to the Functionalist idea that crime is beneficial for society – this is too generalised to be true, but it certainly seems to be the case that crime does indeed benefit some people more than others – maybe for that reason it is inevitable, after all, but it’s impossible to say with any certainty WHAT types of criminal and deviant act are inevitable.

Good question, cheers!

Final Thoughts

This isn’t a definitive answer, I just thought I’d have some fun with it!

Sources

The Functionalist view of Crime

The Marxist View of crime

The Labelling Theory of Crime

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

Dear England…. Football and the Collective Consciousness

Gareth Southgate used the sociological term ‘collective consciousness’ in his pre-Euro tournament letter to the nation, referring to the fact that he reminds the England team that they are creating collective memories and representing the entire nation every time they play a match.

And now that England have reached the final, whether or not ‘we’ win I think it’s true in a sociological sense – the England football team and the experience of the Euros this year has created a collective consciousness in England.

This is an excellent example to illustrate the continued relevance of one of the key concepts of Functionalism, suggesting that even some of these old sociological perspectives can still be applied today!

To quote from the letter:

‘There’s something I tell our players before every England game, and the reason that I repeat it is because I really believe it with all my heart.

I tell them that when you go out there, in this shirt, you have the opportunity to produce moments that people will remember forever.

You are a part of an experience that lasts in the collective consciousness of our country. 

That letter (NB it’s a great letter, well worth a read!) really oozes a sense of ‘positive nationalism’ – that goes well beyond Football – and it’s very personal – Gareth goes back to his fondest memories of football, and talks about how ‘conduct’ on an off the pitch is important, encourages the fans to be respectful, gives some advice on social media and paying no attention to the hate that can be on it – mentions his grandad and national service, it’s way beyond Football, it links football into our daily lives from a very human perspective.

It’s not just the letter – it’s the history of Gareth Southgate missing his penalty at the Euros in 1996 and this being something of a ‘redemption moment’, and the final’s at Wembly, both Boris Johnson and the Queen have sent messages of support and of course, there’s this song….

Bridging the generations.

I mean I don’t really follow football myself but even I’m getting emotional, feeling that weird feeling of getting behind the team even though I don’t really care for the game very much.

Maybe there is something behind this concept that’s still relevant today?!?

What are the functions of the family today?

How have the functions of the family changed? Are the functions of the family in decline?

Functionalist sociologist Talcott Parsons developed the ‘Functional Fit Theory of the family, in which he argued that the extended family used to perform several functions in pre-industrial society, but as society industrialized and the smaller, nuclear family became the norm, the number of functions performed by the family declined.

This post examines the extent to which the functions of the family have changed and asks whether family functions have declined over the last 200 years. It can be used to evaluate the Functionalist perspective on the family.

This post has been written primarily for students studying the families and households topic for A-level sociology.

The functions of the family in pre-industrial society

  • Unit of production
  • Caring for the young, old sick and poor
  • Primary socialisation and control of children
  • Education of children
  • The stabilisation of adult personalities (I assume Parsons thought this was just as essential pre-industrialisation!)

The Functions of the family in industrial society

According to Parsons there are now just two ‘irreducible functions’ performed by the nuclear family :

  • primary socialisation – teaching children basic norms and values
  • the ‘stabilisation of adult personalities’ – providing psychological security for men and women in a stable relationship.

The changing functions of the family

Talcott Parsons was writing in 1950s, so it’s quite possible that even the two functions he identified are no longer performed by the family today (of course some people argue that the family didn’t even perform the functions he claimed they did back in the 1950s!)

To what extent have the functions of the family changed over time, and to what extent have they declined?

The family as a unit of production

Before industrialization and the growth of factory based consumption the family was also a unit of production – the family produced most of the goods it consumed itself, mainly food and clothes.

Today, the family household no longer produces its own goods for consumption. Instead, adults go out to work, earn wages and use those wages to buy food and clothes from the market.

More-over, the increase in technologically advanced products means it would be impossible today for the family-unit to produce itself many of the goods it requires to survive in modern society – so many goods require a complex division of labour with many different specialist job roles.

Caring for the young, old sick and poor

The family used to be the only institution which could care for dependents, however today we have a range of different services which have taken over these functions, most obviously the NHS.

Social welfare services can also intervene and remove children from parents if they believe abuse has been taking place.

Education of children

Before the Education Act of 1870 children were not required to go to school, so what education many of them received had to take place within the family.

There were exceptions to this, as those from wealthier families could send their children to school.

Occupational roles also tended to be ascribed – children learned their trades from their parents, with the skills for particular trades typically being passed down from father to son.

Today, the vast majority of children go to school from the age of 4-18, with the parents taking on a secondary role in their education.

Occupations are no longer passed down from parent to child either – most children rely on the education system to give them the specific vocational skills they will need for specific jobs – occupational status today is achieved, rather than ascribed.

Primary socialisation and control of children

This was the first of Parsons’ ‘irreducible functions of the family’ – that children learn the basic norms and values of society. However, today the state can play more of a role in this where certain parents are concerned.

Sure Start is a good example of the government getting more involved in parenting and Police and social services will intervene to attempt to regulate the behaviour of young offenders.

It’s also likely that parents have less control over children today, compared to the 1950s, because of the impact of the media. It is simply harder for parents to monitor and regulate hyperreality!

The stabilisation of adult personalities

Parsons argued that nuclear families provided stability and pyscholgical security for men and women.

It is difficult to argue this today, given the low rate of marriage and high rates of relationship breakdowns and divorce.

Public Opinion on Labour’s Policies – Far from Value Consensus?

Some recent opinion polls really seem to suggest that the British population have very different political views, suggesting there really is no such thing as value consensus around key issues, as key Functionalist thinkers suggested many decades ago.

According to The Week (30 November 2019) the following rather large differences in opinion have emerged from political polling…

45% of Britons are in favour of Labour’s policy to nationalise the gas and electric companies, 29% are oppossed

56% support nationalising the rail network, but 22% oppose

54% of Britons support putting employees in a third of corporate board seats, while 21 are opposed.

However, according to a recent YouGov poll, there does seem to be value consensus around the idea of providing free broadband for all, at least the vast majority of people support it (just not the means to provide it for free!)

A broad value consensus?

The stats above are all from a recent YouGov poll, you can find out more details here.

Functionalism in Pictures

A selection of images to represent some of the main Functionalist concepts for A level sociology. Concepts covered include the organic analogy, socialisation, integration, regulation, anomie and more!

Pictures are a powerful tool for simplifying key concepts in A-level sociology. In this post I select what I think are some of the most relevant pictures which represent some of the key concepts relevant to the Functionalist perspective on society.

The Organic Analogy/ society as a system

Institutions in society work together, like  organs in a body

Social Structure

Society’s Structure is made up of institutions

Social Facts

Durkheim theorized that social facts were ways of thinking, feeling and acting which were external to the individual and which constrained the individual.

Value Consensus

Society is based on shared values

Social Evolution

Societies gradually become more complex over time.

Mechanical and Organic Solidarity

Functional Fit Theory

The nuclear family emerged to ‘fit’ industrial society

Socialisation

Individuals learn the norms and values of society, within institutions

Stabilisation of Adult Personalities

Traditional gender roles within the nuclear family provide necessary emotional and psychological support for individuals.

Meritocracy

Individuals are rewarded on the basis of effort + ability. Both meritocracy and role allocation are key ideas in the Functionalist perspective on education.

Role Allocation

Where the exam system ‘sifts’ people into appropriate jobs based on their level of achievement

Social Integration

The more connections people have to others and institutions within society, the more integrated they are.

Social Regulation

Social regulation is the extent to which there are clear norms and value (‘rules’) which guide people in life.

Anomie

Anomie is a state of normlessness, brought on by rapid social change or breakdown. Lack of social integration or regulation can both lead to anomie

Functionalism in pictures final thoughts

This isn’t meant to be an exhaustive list of concepts, or definitive definitions, the idea of this post is to ‘simplify to the extreme’. For more in depth posts on Functionalism, please follow the links on my Theory and Methods page!

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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.

Evaluate the view that religious beliefs and organisations are barriers to social change (20)

The above question appears on the AQA’s 2016 Paper 2 Specimen Paper.

The Question and the Item (as on the paper)

Read Item B and answer the question that follows.

Item B

Many sociologists argue that religious beliefs and organisations act as conservative forces and barriers to social change. For example, religious doctrines such as the Hindu belief in reincarnation or Christian teachings on the family have given religious justification to existing social structures.


Similarly, it is argued that religious organisations such as churches are often extremely wealthy and closely linked to elite groups and power structures.

Applying material from Item B and your knowledge, evaluate the view that religious beliefs and organisations are barriers to social change (20)

Suggested essay plan

Decode

  • The question asks for beliefs and organization, so deal with both.
  • Remember you should look at this in global perspective (it’s on the spec).
  • Remember to use the item. NB all of the material in item is covered in the plan below, all you would need to do in an essay is reference it!
  • Stay mainly focused on the arguments in the first section below.

Arguments and evidence for the view that religion is a barrier to social change

Functionalism

Parsons argued religions maintains social order: it promotes value consensus as many legal systems are based on religious morals.

It also maintains stability in times of social change (when individuals die), and helps people make sense of changes within society, thus helping prevent anomie/ chaos and potentially more disruptive change.

Marxism

 Religion prevents change through ideological control and false consciousness. It teaches that inequality and injustice are God’s will and thus there is no point trying to change it.

 Religion also prevents change by being the ‘opium of the masses’. It makes a virtue out of suffering, making people think they will be rewarded in the afterlife and that if they just put up with their misery now, they’ll get reward later,.

Feminism

 Simone de Beauvoir – religion is used by men to justify their position of power, and to compensate women for their second-class status. It oppresses women in the same way Marx said it oppresses the proletariat.

The Church (typically a conservative force)

The church tends to be closely tied to existing political and economic power structures: the Church of England is closely tied to the state for example: the Queen is closely related and Bishops sit in the Lords. Also most members and attendees are middle class. It thus tends to resist radical social change.

World Accommodating and World Affirming NBMs

World Accommodating NRMs can help prevent change by helping members cope with their suffering in the day to day.

World Affirming Movements (such as TM) reinforce dominant values such as individualism and entrepeneurialism.

Arguments and evidence against the view that religion is a barrier to social change

Liberation Theology

Some Catholic priests in Latin America in the 70s took up the cause of landless peasants and criticized the inequalities in the region.

However, they were largely unsuccessful!

Max Weber

 The protestant ethic gave rise to the spirit of Capitalism (Calvinism and Entrepreneurialism etc.)

Feminism

El Saadawi – It’s Patriarchy, not Islam that has oppressed women… but it is possible for women to fight back against it (as she herself does)

Carol P Christ – believes there are diverse ways to ‘knowing the Goddess’ and criticizes dualistic thinking and the idea that any religion can have  a monopoly on truth

Some World Rejecting NRMs

E.G. The Nation of Islam have aimed to bring about radical social change

The New Age Movement

Encourages individualism and pick and mixing of different religions, so encourages diversity and hybrid religions to emerge.

Secularization

Means religion has less power in society, and thus is less able to act as a barrier to social change.

Thoughts on a conclusion

Make sure you distinguish between beliefs and organisations and types of social change

Signposting

Beliefs in Society is one of the options taught as part of A-level sociology, usually in the second year of study.

For further advice on exam questions you might like my page on Essays, exams and short answer questions.

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Structural Differentiation and Religion

According to Talcott Parsons, the disengagement of the church from social life might not necessarily mean that the church is any less important at a social level.

Parsons argues that societies evolve through a process of ‘structural differentiation’ – as societies become more complex, a greater variety of more specialized institutions evolved.

Parsons accepts that religious institutions play less of a role in politics and in the socialization of children than they did in the past, but these functions are taken over by newly evolved institutions – such as representative government and education.

Traditional institutions such as the church evolve to limit themselves to performing a smaller number of functions than previously, but these functions are still vital to the maintenance of the system as a whole.

In modern societies, religious institutions perform three important functions:

  • They form the basis of morality and the legal system – for example, the 10 commandments form much of the basis of the legal system in modern Britain.
  • They help people deal with social changes such as the death of individuals – through providing rituals that help them cope with transition. This helps maintain social order.
  • They help people deal with social contradictions – such as lazy people being rich… according to Christian doctrine, they will go to hell.

For more on Parson’s functionalist perspective on the role of religion in society – please see this post

Links to other parts of the course….

NB – Parsons argues that all institutions undergo a process of structural differentiation. His view on how religion changes with social modernization is similar to his view on how the family changes – as outlined in his ‘Functional Fit Theory‘ of the family.

This theory of structural differentiation is part of his general functionalist theory of social change as evolution.

Religion and Social Change

Functionalists and Marxists argue religion prevents change, Max Weber and others disagree!

Does religion cause social change, or prevent it?

Functionalists and Traditional Marxists have generally argued that religion prevents social change. Neo-Marxists and the Social Action theorist Max Weber have argued that religion can be a force for social change.

There are wide variety of opinions with Feminist thought as to the relationship between religion and social change. Some Feminists tend to side with the view that religion prevents social change. Other Feminists recognise the potential for religion to bring about social change.

This post considers some of the arguments and evidence against the view that religion prevents social change.

Arguments and evidence for the view that religion prevents social change

Functionalist thinkers Malinowski and Parsons both argued that religion prevents social change by helping individuals and society cope with disruptive events that might threaten the existing social order. Most obviously, religion provides a series of ceremonies which help individuals and societies cope with the death of individual members.

Marx believed that religion helped to preserve the existing class structure. According to Marx religious beliefs serve to justify the existing, unequal social order and prevent social change by making a virtue out of poverty and suffering. Religion also teaches people that it is pointless striving for a revolution to bring about social change in this life. Rather, it is better to focus on ‘being a good Christian’ (for example) and then you will receive your just rewards in heaven.

Neo-Marxist Otto Maduro argued that historically the Catholic Church in Latin America tended to prevent social change. It did so by supporting existing economic and political elites, thus justifying the unequal social order. However, he also recongised that religion had the potential to be a force for social change (see below)

Arguments and evidence for the view that religion causes social change 

Max Weber’s ‘Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism’ is one of the best loved accounts of how religion can bring about social change. Weber pointed out that Capitalism developed first in England and Holland, taking off in the early 17th century (early 1600s). Just previous to Capitalism taking off, Protestantism was the main religion in these two countries, unlike most other countries in Europe at that time which were Catholic. To cut a very long winded theory short, Max Weber argued that the social norms instilled by Protestantism laid the foundations for modern capitalism.

Neo-Marxist Otto Maduro pointed to the example of Liberation Theology in Latin America to demonstrate that religion can act as a force for social change. He further suggested that this is especially the case where the marginalized have no other outlet for their grievances than religious institutions.

Reverend Martin Luther King and the broader Baptist Church in the Southern United States played a major role in the Civil Rights movement in 1960s America. This movement effectively helped to end racial segregation in America and secure more equal political rights for non-whites.

Martin Luther King was very much inspired by Gandhi’s religiously inspired practice of Non Violent Direct Action. This involved the use of peaceful protest and resisting of violence in order to bring about social change.

The Arab Spring which swept across the Middle East and North Africa between 2010-2014 offers a more contemporary example of the role of religion in social change. Islamic groups were very active in using social media to highlight the political injustices in countries such as Tunisia and Egypt.

This post is a work in progress, further details to be added in due course…!

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http://ipost.christianpost.com/post/10-powerful-quotes-from-rev-dr-martin-luther-king-jr-on-faith

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This post has primarily been written for students of A-level sociology, studying the beliefs in society module, usually taught in the second year.

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