How I would’ve answered the AQA A level sociology of education exam, June 2018

A few hints and tips on how I would have answered yesterday’s exam.

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Answers to the AQA’s A-level sociology education with theory and methods exam, June 2018… Just a few thoughts to put students out of their misery. (Ideas my own, not endorsed by the AQA).

Click here for a link to general advice for how to answer questions on paper 1: Education with theory and methods.

I won’t produce the exact questions below, just the gist…

Q01 – how marketization policies may affect social class differences in achievement (4 marks)

Difficulty – very easy

I would have gone with two aspects of marketization policy and then linked these to material and cultural factors which explain class differences

  • E.G. more parental choice – linked to skilled choosers
  • Formula funding – polarisation of schools – cream skimming/ selection by mortgage (bit of a mission but it would distinguish between the previous point!)

And then ideally explain how they differentially effect at least two ethnic groups. 

Q02 – Three reasons for gender differences in educational achievement(6 marks)

Same topic as last year’s 6 marker…difficulty level very easy.

I would have gone for something like….

  • Socialisation differences
  • subcultures
  • Teacher labelling

I would have discussed gender differences (between girls and boys) and then the different effects on educational achievements, clearly comparing males and females.

Then talk it through with ideally three example of different subjects, discussing both boys and girls.

Q03 – Analyse two ways in which education serves the needs of capitalism

Difficulty –  fairly easy

NB – there was a lot in the item you could have discussed. The ‘hooks’ were really as follows:

  • Capitalism being based on a wealthy minority owning the means of production
  • Capitalism requiring people working in low-paid menial jobs
  • Capitalism requiring workers to not rebel.

It follows that you want to develop using the following

Point one – Capitalism requiring people working in low-paid menial jobs – develop using correspondence principle, further develop with something about Private Schools and the elite class to contrast.

Point two – Capitalism requiring workers to not rebel – develop using ‘legitimation of class inequality, evaluate with Paul Willis.

Q04 Evaluate explanations of social class differences in educational achievement (30)

Difficulty – easy

Personally, I think you should have just ‘tweaked’ this essay plan accordingly, and made more of the links between out of school and in-school factors!

Q05 – the strengths and limitations of participant observation to investigate pupil exclusions

Difficulty – easy for a methods in context question!

As usual, get the method correct first – deal with the practical, ethical and theoretical problems of BOTH covert and overt. And as you go through, try to link to researching in school and the topic.

NB the item mentions poorer pupils and Gypsy Roma pupils, so plenty of specifics to pick up on with gaining access especially.

I will knock up a more thought out answer at some point soon, nice question this!

06 – Two problems with using Functionalism to understand society

Difficulty – easy

I actually covered this in this post – slightly different format, but enough material here for you to develop into a full mark answer to this question.

A-Level Sociology Revision Bundle

Education Revision Bundle CoverIf you like this sort of thing, then you might like my sociology of education revision notes bundle – which contains the following:

  1. 34 pages of revision notes
  2. mind maps in pdf and png format – 9 in total, covering various topics within the sociology of education
  3. short answer exam practice questions and exemplar answers
  4. how to write sociology essays, including 7 specific templates and model answers on the sociology of education
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How to get an A* in A-level Sociology (Crime and Deviance)

Drawing on marked exemplars from the AQA exam board this post unpicks what you need to do to get and A* in the the AQA’s Crime and Deviance with Theory and Methods Paper (Sociology – 7192/3)

This post draws on marked examples from the AQA exam board’s A-level sociology papers 7192/3: Crime and Deviance with demonstrate what you need to do to get an A* grade in sociology A-level.

NB – The later links below will only become operational later this week! (Everything by Weds!)

According to the AQA’s 2017 A-level grade boundaries you need an average of 60 raw marks out of a total of 80 get an A* in paper 1. This means you can ‘drop’ 20 marks and still get into the A* category.

A grade sociology

However, let’s play it safe and say that the easiest way to ‘guarantee’ your A* is to max out the short answer (4-6) mark questions, and then sneak into the top mark bands for every other question. If you did that you’d end up with a total score of 67/80, made up of the marks as below

  • Q01 – 4/4 marks
  • Q02 – 6/6 marks
  • Q03 – 8/10 marks
  • Q04 – 25/30 marks
  • Q05 – 17/20 marks
  • Q06 – 8/10 marks

= Total marks of 68/70, which is still COMFORTABLY into the A* category!

The remainder of this post explains how to get full marks in the first two short answer ‘outline and explain’ (4 and 6 mark) questions and then examines the ‘top band’s of the mark schemes for the other 10 mark and essay questions, drawing on specific examples from a the AQA’s specimen papers and some model marked scripts from last year’s 2017 A-level sociology examination series.

For more details on how these exams are assessed, please see the AQA’s we site.

Strategies to get an A* in A Level sociology (focusing on paper 7192/3)

Questions 01 and 02: the four and six mark questions 

Q03: Applying material from item A ‘Analyse Something’

This is my summary of the the AQA’s guidance on the two types of 10 mark question (the second type is question 06 below).

To summarise the key points from the top band of the mark scheme for this type of question, you need:

  • Good knowledge and understanding of relevant material
  • Two reasons/ ways/ effects (whatever the action word is)
  • Two developed applications from the item
  • analysis and/ or evaluation of these effects.

So far, so abstract: the question below is a full mark answer taken from the AQA’s 2017 A-level paper 7192/3.

Question 04: the big, 30 mark, pure education essay question

This question will ask you to evaluate something using an item.

To get into the top mark band, you basically need to demonstrate excellent knowledge and understanding, analysis and evaluation, AND use the item, and conclude!

Below is a link to a response taken from the AQA’s 2015 specimen material which achieved 25/30 – so just into the top band!

Q05: The Methods in Context Question

This question can ask you about any method, or any theory (perspective) or any combination of both! Below is an example of a full mark response to the 2017 paper:

Q06: Outline and Explain Two…(10)

This final question will ask you to outline and explain two reasons, arguments, ways, criticisms etc…. there is no item, and unlike the other 10 mark question, there are no marks for evaluation!

Below are links to two marked exemplars, both of which achieved 10/10.

Remember that this exact question could appear on either paper 1, or paper 3!

Theory and Methods A Level Sociology Revision Bundle 

If you like this sort of thing, then you might like my Theory and Methods Revision Bundle – specifically designed to get students through the theory and methods sections of  A level sociology papers 1 and 3.

Contents include:

  • 74 pages of revision notes
  • 15 mind maps on various topics within theory and methods
  • Five theory and methods essays
  • ‘How to write methods in context essays’.

Crime and Deviance Revision Notes for Sale 

If you like this sort of thing, then you might like my Crime and Deviance Revision Notes  – 31 pages of revision notes covering the following topics:

  1. Consensus based theories part 1 – Functionalism; Social control’ theory; Strain theory
  2. Consensus based theories part 2 – Sub cultural theories
  3. The Traditional Marxist and Neo-Marxist perspective on crime
  4. Labeling Theory
  5. Left- Realist and Right-Realist Criminology (including situational, environmental and community crime prevention)
  6. Post-Modernism, Late-Modernism and Crime (Social change and crime)
  7. Sociological Perspectives on  controlling crime – the role of the community and policing in preventing crime
  8. Sociological Perspectives on Surveillance
  9. Sociological Perspectives on Punishment
  10. Social Class and Crime
  11. Ethnicity and Crime
  12. Gender and crime  (including Girl gangs and Rape and domestic violence)
  13. Victimology – Why are some people more likely to be criminals than others
  14. Global crime, State crime and Environmental crime (Green crime)
  15. The Media and Crime, including moral panics

Sources 

  • The AQA’s 2015 A level specimen paper and commentaries.
  • A-level SOCIOLOGY: Feedback on the Examinations Student responses and commentaries: Paper 1 7192/1 Education with Theory and Methods. Published: Autumn 2017
  • 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

How to get an A* in A-level Sociology

Drawing on marked exemplars from the AQA exam board this post unpicks what you need to do to get and A*

This post draws on marked examples from the AQA exam board’s A-level sociology papers 7192/1: Education with Theory and Methods to demonstrate what you need to do to get an A* grade in sociology A-level.

NB – The later links below will only become operational later this week! (Everything by Friday!)

According to the AQA’s 2017 A-level grade boundaries you need an average of 60 raw marks out of a total of 80 get an A* in paper 1. This means you can ‘drop’ 20 marks and still get into the A* category.

A grade sociology

However, let’s play it safe and say that the easiest way to ‘guarantee’ your A* is to max out the short answer (4-6) mark questions, and then sneak into the top mark bands for every other question. If you did that you’d end up with a total score of 67/80, made up of the marks as below

  • Q01 – 4/4 marks
  • Q02 – 6/6 marks
  • Q03 – 8/10 marks
  • Q04 – 25/30 marks
  • Q05 – 16/20 marks (because top-banding is HIGHLY unlikely
  • Q06 – 8/10 marks

= Total marks of 67/70, which is still COMFORTABLY into the A* category!

The remainder of this post explains how to get full marks in the first two short answer ‘outline and explain’ (4 and 6 mark) questions and then examines the ‘top band’s of the mark schemes for the other 10 mark and essay questions, drawing on specific examples from a the AQA’s specimen papers and some model marked scripts from last year’s 2017 A-level sociology examination series.

For more details on how these exams are assessed, please see the AQA’s we site.

Strategies to get an A* in A Level sociology (focusing on paper 7192/2)

Questions 01 and 02: the four and six mark questions 

I’ve covered this in this post: how to answer 4 and 6 mark questions in A-level sociology. This post outlines the ‘1+1’ technique to answering these questions as well as containing a few examples

You might also like the following post:

A 4/6 mark answer from June 2017Outline three ways in which factors within school may affect gender differences in subject choice (06) – link takes you to a 4/6 marked response, but includes the mark scheme which shows you how you could have got 6//6.

Q03: Applying material from item A ‘Analyse Something’

This is my summary of the the AQA’s guidance on the two types of 10 mark question (the second type is question 06 below).

To summarise the key points from the top band of the mark scheme for this type of question, you need:

  • Good knowledge and understanding of relevant material
  • Two reasons/ ways/ effects (whatever the action word is)
  • Two developed applications from the item
  • analysis and/ or evaluation of these effects.

So far, so abstract: this link will take you to a full mark answer modified from the AQA’s 2017 A-level education paper.

You might also like this post, which outlines a 5/10 marked response, with good indicators of how to do it, and how not to do it!

Question 04: the big, 30 mark, pure education essay question

This question will ask you to evaluate something using an item.

To get into the top mark band, you basically need to demonstrate excellent knowledge and understand, analysis and evaluation, AND use the item, and conclude!

Click here for example of a 28/30 mark answer from the June 2017 Paper…. the question is on ‘the role of education in transmitting values’.

Q05: The Methods in Context Question

This is the question which asks you to evaluate the usefulness of using any method to research any topic within education.

The AQA marks these questions in band, let’s forget about bands 1 and 2, your’re way better than that:

  • Band 3 = good knowledge of methods
  • Band 4 = method applied to researching education in general
  • Band 5 = method applied to researching the topic in particular.

This is an example of a 20/20 methods in context answer, marked by the AQA (taken from an AS exemplar paper, but the format of question is the same for the A-level). The specific question is ‘Applying material from [the item], and your own knowledge, evaluate the strengths and limitations of using structured interviews to investigate the influence of the family on pupils’ education (20).

Q06: Outline and Explain Two…(10)

This final question will ask you to outline and explain two reasons, arguments, ways, criticisms etc…. there is no item, and unlike the other 10 mark question, there are no marks for evaluation!

Click here for an example of a full mark, 10/10 answer to to the question: ‘outline and explain two arguments against the view that sociology is a science (10). This is taken from the AQA’s 2015 Specimen material.

Remember that this exact question could appear on either paper 1, or paper 3!

Education Revision Bundle! 

Education Revision Bundle CoverIf you like this sort of thing, then you might like my sociology of education revision notes bundle – which contains the following:

  1. 34 pages of revision notes
  2. mind maps in pdf and png format – 9 in total, covering various topics within the sociology of education
  3. short answer exam practice questions and exemplar answers
  4. how to write sociology essays, including 7 specific templates and model answers on the sociology of education

Theory and Methods A Level Sociology Revision Bundle 

If you like this sort of thing, then you might like my Theory and Methods Revision Bundle – specifically designed to get students through the theory and methods sections of  A level sociology papers 1 and 3.

Contents include:

  • 74 pages of revision notes
  • 15 mind maps on various topics within theory and methods
  • Five theory and methods essays
  • ‘How to write methods in context essays’.

Sources 

  • The AQA’s 2015 A level specimen paper and commentaries.
  • A-level SOCIOLOGY: Feedback on the Examinations Student responses and commentaries: Paper 1 7192/1 Education with Theory and Methods. Published: Autumn 2017

AQA A-Level Sociology Exam Hints and Tips – Video on how to answer the 6 questions on the education with theory and methods paper (7191/2)

A video covering exam technique for the six types of question on the AQA’s A-level sociology Education with Theory and Methods Paper:

Further similar blogs offering advice on the Education with Theory and Methods can be found here:

Essay Plans/ Revision Resources

Education Revision Bundle CoverIf you like this sort of thing, then you might like my sociology of education revision notes bundle – which contains the following:

  1. The PowerPoint which I used to make the vodcast above.
  2. 34 pages of revision notes
  3. mind maps in pdf and png format – 9 in total, covering various topics within the sociology of education
  4. short answer exam practice questions and exemplar answers
  5. how to write sociology essays, including 7 specific templates and model answers on the sociology of education

 

Disclaimer:

Above is my own interpretation of the AQA’s mark schemes, please check on their web site for their advice in their own words. –

‘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!

Modernization Theory

The classic text of Modernization Theory

By the end of the Second World War many of the countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America had failed to develop and remained poor, despite exposure to capitalism. There was concern amongst the leaders of the western developed countries, especially the United States, that communism might spread into many of these countries, potentially harming American business interests abroad and diminishing U.S. Power.

In this context, in the late 1940s, modernisation theory was developed, which aimed to provide a specifically non-communist solution to poverty in the developing world – Its aim was to spread a specifically industrialised, capitalist model of development through the promotion of Western, democratic values.

Modernisation theory thought the ‘third world’ should develop like the ‘first world’

 

There are two main aspects of modernisation theory – (1) its explanation of why poor countries are underdeveloped, and (2) its proposed solution to underdevelopment.

Modernisation theory explained the underdevelopment of countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America primarily in terms of cultural ‘barriers’ to development’, basically arguing that developing countries were underdeveloped because their traditional values held them back; other modernisation theorists focused more on economic barriers to development.

In order to develop, less developed countries basically needed to adopt a similar path to development to the West. They needed to adopt Western cultural values and industrialise in order to promote economic growth. In order to do this they would need help from Western governments and companies, in the form of aid and investment.

Modernisation theory favoured a capitalist- industrial model of development – they believed that capitalism (the free market) encouraged efficient production through industrialisation, the process of moving towards factory based production.

Industrial –refers to production taking place in factories rather than in the home or small workshops. This is large scale production. (Think car plants and conveyer belts).

Capitalism – a system where private money is invested in industry in order to make a profit and goods are produced are for sale in the market place rather than for private consumption.

Modernisation theory thought industrialisation could drive development in poorer countries

 

There are alternative systems of production to Capitalism – subsistence systems are where local communities produce what they need and goods produced for sale are kept to a minimum; and Communism, where a central authority decides what should be produced rather than consumer demand and desire for profit. (Need drives production in Communism, individual wants or desires (‘demand’)  in Capitalism)

Modernisation Theory: What Prevents Development?

According to Modernisation Theorists, obstacles to development are internal to poorer countries. In other words, undeveloped countries are undeveloped because they have the wrong cultural and social systems and the wrong values and practices that prevent development from taking place.

The Caste System in India is a good example of an ascribed status system based on traditional values

Talcott Parsons (1964) was especially critical of the traditional values of underdeveloped countries – he believed that they were too attached to traditional customs, rituals, practices and institutions, which Parsons argued were the ‘enemy of progress’. He was especially critical of the extended kinship and tribal systems found in many traditional societies, which he believed hindered the geographical and social mobility that were essential if a country were to develop (as outlined in his Functional Fit theory).

Parsons argued that traditional values in Africa, Asia and Latin America acted as barriers to development which included –

  • Particularism – Where people are allocated into roles based on their affective or familial relationship to those already in positions power. For example, where a politician or head of a company gives their brother or someone from their village or ethnic group a job simply because they are close to them, rather than employing someone based on their individual talent.
  • Collectivism – This is where the individual is expected to put the group (the family or the village) before self-interest – this might mean that children are expected to leave school at a younger age in order to care for elderly parents or grandparents rather than staying in school and furthering their education.
  • Patriarchy – Patriarchal structures are much more entrenched in less developed countries, and so women are much less likely to gain positions of political or economic power, and remain in traditional, housewife roles. This means that half of the population is blocked from contributing to the political and economic development of the country.
  • Ascribed Status and Fatalism – Ascribed status is where your position in society is ascribed (or determined) at birth based on your caste, ethnic group or gender. Examples include the cast system in India, many slave systems, and this is also an aspect of extreme patriarchal societies. This can result in Fatalism – the feeling that there is nothing you can do to change your situation.

In contrast, Parsons believed that Western cultural values which promoted competition and economic growth: such values included the following:

  • Individualism – The opposite of collectivism This is where individuals put themselves first rather than the family or the village/ clan. This frees individuals up to leave families/ villages and use their talents to better themselves ( get an education/ set up businesses)
Individualism should promote competition and drive economic growth

 

  • Universalism – This involves applying the same standards to everyone, and judging everyone according to the same standards This is the opposite of particularism, where people are judged differently based on their relationship to the person doing the judging.
  • Achieved Status and Meritocracy – Achieved status is where you achieve your success based on your own individual efforts. This is profoundly related to the ideal of meritocracy. If we live in a truly meritocratic society, then this means then the most talented and hardworking should rise to the top-jobs, and these should be the best people to ‘run the country’ and drive economic and social development.
Modern education systems embody universalism and meritocracy

Parsons believed that people in undeveloped countries needed to develop an ‘entrepreneurial spirit’ if economic growth was to be achieved, and this could only happen if less developed countries became more receptive to Western values, which promoted economic growth.

Rostow’s five stage model of development

Modernisation Theorists believed traditional societies needed Western assistance to develop. There were numerous debates about the most effective ways to help countries develop, but there was general consensus on the view that aid was a good thing and if Developing countries were injected with money and western expertise it would help to erode ‘backward’ cultural barriers and kick starts their economies.

The most well-known version of modernization theory is Walt Rostow’s 5 stages of economic growth. Rostow (1971) suggested that following initial investment, countries would then set off on an evolutionary process in which they would progress up 5 stages of a development ladder. This process should take 60 years. The idea is that with help from West, developing countries could develop a lot faster than we did.

Stage 1 – Traditional societies whose economies are dominated by subsistence farming. Such societies have little wealth to invest and have limited access to modern industry and technology. Rostow argued that at this stage there are cultural barriers to development (see sheet 6)

Stage 2 – The preconditions for take off – the stage in which western aid packages brings western values, practises and expertise into the society. This can take the form of:

  • Science and technology – to improve agriculture

  • Infrastructure – improving roads and cities communications

  • Industry – western companies establishing factories

These provide the conditions for investment, attracting more companies into the country.

Stage 3 – Take off stage –The society experiences economic growth as new modern practices become the norm. Profits are reinvested in infrastructure etc. and a new entrepreneurial class emerges and urbanised that is willing to invest further and take risks. The country now moves beyond subsistence economy and starts exporting goods to other countries

This generates more wealth which then trickles down to the population as a whole who are then able to become consumers of new products produced by new industries there and from abroad.

Stage 4 – The drive to maturity.

More economic growth and investment in education, media and birth control. The population start to realise new opportunities opening up and strive to make the most of their lives.

Stage 5 – The age of high mass consumption. This is where economic growth and production are at Western levels.

Variations on Rostow’s 5 stage model

Different theorists stress the importance of different types of assistance or interventions that could jolt countries out their traditional ways and bring about change.

  • Hoselitz – education is most important as it should speed up the introduction of Western values such as universalism, individualism, competition and achievement measured by examinations. This was seen as a way of breaking the link between family and children.

  • Inkeles – media – Important to diffuse ideas non traditional such as family planning and democracy

  • Hoselitz – urbanisation. The theory here is that if populations are packed more closely together new ideas are more likely to spread than amongst diffuse rural population

Strengths of Modernisation Theory/ Examples of it (sort of) Working

ONE – Indonesia – partly followed Modernisation theory in the 1960’s by encouraging western companies to invest and by accepting loans from the World Bank. But, their President Suharto (Dictator) also maintained a brutal regime which a CIA report refers to as “one of the worst mass murders of the 20th century,” comparable to those of Hitler, Stalin, and Mao. However, the World Bank praised Suharto’s economic transformation as “a dynamic economic success” and called Indonesia “the model pupil of the global economy,” while Bill Clinton referred to Suharto as “our kind of guy.”

Two further examples of where western expertise has helped solved specific problems in a number of developing countries are the green revolution and the eradication of smallpox, but neither of these lead to ‘the high age of mass consumption’ as Rostow predicted

TWO – The Green Revolution: In the 1960s, Western Biotechnology helped treble food yields in Mexico and India.

THREE – The Eradication of Smallpox… In the early 1950s 50 million cases of smallpox occurred in the world each year, by the early 1970s smallpox had been eradicated because of vaccine donations by the USA and RUSSIA

Criticisms of Modernisation Theory 

Firstly, there are no examples of countries that have followed a Modernisation Theory approach to development. No countries have followed Rostow’s “5 stages of growth” in their entirety. Remember, “Modernisation Theory” is a very old theory which was partly created with the intention of justifying the position of western capitalist countries, many of whom were colonial powers at the time, and discrediting Communism. This is why it is such a weak theory.

Secondly, Modernization Theory assumes that western civilisation is technically and morally superior to traditional societies. Implies that traditional values in the developing world have little value compared to those of the West. Many developed countries have huge inequalities and the greater the level of inequality the greater the degree of other problems: High crime rates, suicide rates, poor health problems such as cancer and drug abuse.

Is the collectivist culture of Anuta really inferior to the individualised culture in the West?

Thirdly, Dependency Theorists argue that development is not really about helping the developing world at all. It is really about changing societies just enough so they are easier to exploit, making western companies and countries richer, opening them up to exploit cheap natural resources and cheap labour.

Fourth, Neo-Liberalism is critical of the extent to which Modernisation theory stresses the importance of foreign aid, but corruption (Kleptocracy) often prevents aid from getting to where it is supposed to be going. Much aid is siphoned off by corrupt elites and government officials rather than getting to the projects it was earmarked for. This means that aid creates more inequality and enables elites to maintain powe

Fifth, Post-Development thinkers argue that the model is flawed for assuming that countries need the help of outside forces. The central role is on experts and money coming in from the outside, parachuted in, and this downgrades the role of local knowledge and initiatives. This approach can be seen as demeaning and dehumanising for local populations. Galeano (1992) argues that minds become colonised with the idea that they are dependent on outside forces. They train you to be paralysed and then sell you crutches. There are alternative models of development that have raised living standards: Such as Communist Cuba and The Theocracies of the Middle East

Sixthly, industrialisation may do more harm than good for many people – It may cause Social damage – Some development projects such as dams have led to local populations being removed forcibly from their home lands with little or no compensation being paid.

In the clip below, Vandana Shiva presents a useful alternative perspective on the Green Revolution, pointing out that many traditional villages were flooded and destroyed in the process:

Finally, there are ecological limits to growth. Many industrial modernisation projects such as mining and forestry have led to the destruction of environment.

Post-Script: Neo-Modernisation Theory?

Despite its failings Modernisation theory has been one of most influential theories in terms of impact on global affairs. The spirit of Modernisation theory resulted in the establishment of the United Nations, The World Bank and the IMF, global financial institutions through which developed countries continue to channel aid money to less developed countries to this day, although there is of course debate over whether aid is an effective means to development.

Would we have the Millennium Development Goals without Modernisation Theory?

Furthermore, the ‘spirit of Modernisation theory may actually still be alive today, in the form of Jeffry Sachs. Sachs (2005) is one of the most influential development economists in the world, and he has been termed a ‘neo-modernisation theorist’.

Sachs, like Rostow, sees development as a ladder with its rungs representing progress towards economic and social well-being. Sachs argues that there are a billion people in the world who are too malnourished, diseased or young to lift a foot onto the ladder because they often lack certain types of capital which the west takes for granted – such as good health, education, knowledge and skills, or any kind of savings.

Sachs argues that these billion people are effectively trapped in a cycle of deprivation and require targeted aid injections from the west in order to develop. In the year 2000 Sachs even went as far as calculating how much money would be required to end poverty – it worked out at 0.7% of GNP of the 30 or so most developed countries over the next few decades.

Related Posts/ Sources:

Steve Basset has produced an excellent series of vodcasts introducing Modernization Theory and other theories of development:

I’d also recommend this this useful article on Walt Rostow from The Guardian as some further reading.

What is Alienation?

Working definition: the separation or estrangement of human beings from some essential aspect of their nature or from society, often resulting in feelings of powerlessness or helplessness.

Today, the concept of alienation has become part of ordinary language, much used in the media. We may be told, for example, that who groups are becoming alienated from society, or that young people are alienated from mainstream values. With such usage of the concept we get the impression of the feeling of separation of one group from society, but the concept has traditionally been used in sociology, mainly by Karl Marx, to express a much more profound sense of estrangement than most contemporary usage (IMO).

Origins of the concept

Sociological usage of the term stems from Marx’s concept of alienation which he used to develop the effects of capitalism on the experience work in particular and society more generally.

Marx developed his theory of alienation from Feuerbach’s philosophical critique of Christianity – Feuerbach argued that the concept of an all powerful God as a spiritual being to whom people must submit in order to reach salvation was a human construction, the projection of human power relations onto spiritual being. Christianity effectively disguised the fact that it was really human power relations which kept the social order going, rather than some higher spiritual reality, thus alienating from the ‘truth’ of power was really maintained.

Marx applied the concept of alienation to work in industrial capitalist societies, arguing that emancipation for workers lay in their wrestling control away from the small, dominating ruling class.

Later, Marxist inspired industrial sociologists used the concept to explore working relations under particular management systems in factories.

Marx’s historical materialist approach began with the way people organise their affairs together to produce goods and survive. For Marx, to be alienated is to be in an objective condition which as real consequences, and to change it we need to actually change the way society is organised rather than changing our perception of it.

Work in the past may well have been more physically demanding, but Marx argued that it was also less alienating because workers (craftsmen for example) had more control over their working conditions, work was more skilled and it was more satisfying, because workers could ‘see themselves in their work’.

However, in 19th century industrial factories, workers effectively had no control over what they were doing, their work was unskilled and they were effectively a ‘cog in a machine’, which generated high levels of alienation – or feelings of powerlessness, helplessness, and of not being in control.

It doesn’t take too much of a leap to apply this analysis to late-modern working conditions – in fast food outlets such as McDonald’s or call centers, for example.

Marx’s theory suggests capitalist production creates alienation in four main areas:

  1. Workers are alienated from their own labour power – they have to work as and when required and to perform the tasks set by their employers.
  2. They are alienated from the products of their labour – which are successfully claimed by capitalists to be sold as products on the marketplace for profit, while workers only receive a fraction of this profit as wages
  3. Workers are alienated from each other – they are encouraged to compete with each other for jobs.
  4. They are alienated from their own species being – according to Marx, satisfying work is an essential part of being human, and capitalism makes work a misery, so work under capitalism thus alienates man from himself. It is no longer a joy, it is simply a means to earn wages to survive.

Marx’s well known (but much misunderstood) solution to the ills of alienation was communism – a way of organizing society in which workers would have much more control over their working conditions, and thus would experience much less alienation.

Critical points 

Marx’s concept of alienation was very abstract and linked to his general theory of society, with its revolutionary conclusions, and as such, not especially easy to apply to social research.

However, in the 20th century some sociologists stripped the concept from its theoretical origins in order to make the concept more useful for empirical research.

One example is Robert Blauner’s ‘Alienation and Freedom (1964) in which he compared the alienating effects of working conditions in four industries – focusing on the experience of the four key aspects of alienation: powerlessness, meaninglessness, isolation and self-estrangement.

Blauner developed ways of measuring these different types of alienation incorporating the subjective perceptions of the workers themselves, arguing that routine factory workers suffered the highest levels of alienation. However, he found that when production lines became automated, workers felt less alienated as they had more control over their working conditions.

Blauner’s work ran counter to existing theory that technological innovation and deskilling would lead to ever greater levels of alienation. It also suggested alienation could be reduced without destroying capitalism.

Continuing Relevance

While the collapse of Communism suggests that Marx’s general theory of alienation is no longer relevant, many firms today seem to have taken on board some aspects of the theory – for example, it is well establish that increasing worker representation and participation reduces worker ‘alienation’, as outlined in the Taylor Review of Modern Working Practices. Another example of how firms combat alienation is the various media and tech companies which design work spaces to be ‘homely and comfortable’.

Other sociologists have attempted to apply the concept of alienation to criminology (Smith and Bohm, 2008) and even the study of health and illness (Yuill 2005).

Source

Giddens and Sutton (2017) Essential Concepts in Sociology

 

 

 

A Summary of Zygmunt Bauman’s ‘The Individualised Society’, Part Two – The Way We Think

Part Two – The Way We Think

Chapter Seven – Critique – Privatised and Disarmed

More than anything else so far this chapter represents a good summary of some of Bauman’s major ideas.

What is wrong with our society is that it has stopped questioning itself? We are reflexive but it is a limited reflexivity which focuses on our own personal circumstances, our own strategies for navigating through life, but this reflexivity does not extend to looking at the conditions which determine or limit the kinds of strategies available to us.

There is criticism of society, but its nature has changed because the way ‘citizens’ engage with society is different – we now treat it like a caravan park rather than a shared residence – we expect most other people to keep their distance, and we expect minor changes to be made for our convenience. We no longer approach society like a house (or somewhere where we feel at home) in which we all share a lot in common and need to muck along together in order to get by. The later offers the chance for genuine autonomy and self-constitution, the former does not.

The causes of this change are deep rooted, to do with the transformation of public space, and the way in which society works and how it is perpetuated – summarised in the shift from a heavy/ system society to a liquid/ network society.

The heavy modern society was one of Fordism and Panopticons and with the threat of Big Brother – and critique was aimed at liberating the individual from totalitarianism. This is no longer the case. We are still modern in the sense that creative destruction lies at the heart of our society, but two things have changed – firstly, the disappearance of the idea of there being an end point, and secondly the disappearance of the notion of the just society – that we can legislate our way through change – now adapting to changes has been privatised – it is up to the individual to find a way using his own resources.

Commentary – So Bauman is saying now that society is based on constant and rapid change  we are forced to continually adapt – we are told this is freedom, but it is not because we are compelled to choose, we have to make choices, and we are not free to not make choices (at least if we want to integrate into society in the normal ways rather than retreating from it, which, as Bauman mentions elsewhere, is a mere reaction to globally mobile capital rather than genuine autonomy). Moreover, we no longer have control over our society, because our globalised society is shaped from above by the extraterritorial forces of Capital, and so we narrow our agency to small-things – such as building our CV or constructing our identity. In both of these spheres we settle for being consumers – we use the products provided by the market to differentiate ourselves, and we integrate (at the level of society) with other people as consumers based on these limited, apolitical, non-autonomous, individualised biographies. And bleakly, at the end of the day, limiting our reflexivity to identity construction via consumption perpetuates our powerlessness in relation to the globalised political economy.

All second modernity means is that experts dump their contradictions at the feet of individuals and leave them to make the choice – to seek biographical solutions to systemic contradictions – the problem is there are very few solutions that are adequate, especially when you do not have the resources.

We live in the age of small change, not big government, and in the age of TINA – but individuals are individuals by decree, not de facto, and they lack the resources for genuine self constitution (which would require them to have some kind of control over their political economy).

The privatisation of critique means constant self-critique – but because none of the strategies on offer are up to the task we also end up with scapegoats – various groups to blame our troubles on – what we need to do instead is to get back to Politics – and to translate private troubles into public issues and seek collective solutions to these.

This is difficult when the public realm has been colonised by private affairs – and the task of critical theory is now to reclaim this space, to repoliticise private concerns and public issues.  The task of politics today is to reconnect the abyss beetween the individual de jure and the individual de facto.

Further comment

(I’m mashing this up with bits from elsewhere) Whatever we do as individualised individuals is never enough (for most of us at least) to guarantee us some kind of security and/or get everything we want (Capitalism in fact depends on this) – but we do not blame the system for this, we blame ourselves, because we have internalised to such an extent the message of individualism – mainly through TINA (this looks like a dig at Giddens’ 3rd Way) but also because the public realm has become colonised by private affairs – basically the media does not talk about politics, and if it does so, it does so through the lens of indivdualisation.

As a result rather than criticising society, we have constant self critique – rather than social critique – and if we fail we end up blaming ourselves, or others for their failure. However, we also have scapegoats emerging – most obviously the Underclass.

The solution is to reclaim Politics at the level of the Agora.

Questions/ tasks students could consider

Locate some examples of TV shows and websites which focus on privatised critique (hint- BB3 an C4 are good places to start!)

Locate some social-scapegoats and analyse the media discourse surrounding themselves

Locate some groups which are atempting to reclaim Politics. 

Chapter Eight – Progress – The Same and Different

Having a grip on progress means having a grip on the present – it has little to do with the future. The problem is that today (following Bourdieu) we have little grip on the present. These are the reasons…

  1. Not knowing who is going to steer us through postmodern times – the old power bases are gone – the Fordist Factory is uprooted, the political domain powerless, we are in the age of free-floating capital. It is as if we are all on a plane, but the pilots have left the cockpit.
  2. The absence of a vision of the good society – Economic Liberalism and Marxism are both dead, this is probably a good thing given the tendency for metanarratives to end in genocides.

Progress today is ongoing – constant improvement without an end – and it is privatised – it is up to us to lift ourselves up and get out of those elements of social life which we do not like.

However, because we live in a world of universal flexibility, Unsicherheit is everywhere, and thus very few people have a grip on (the ability to control) their present – and this means the goal of long term progress is hard to establish for most.

Instead, short termism seems to be the norm – coping, adapting, surviving is what most people do!

Life becomes episodic as a result.

Commentary

This is a classic statement of progress in relation to modernity and post modernity – Once again we could point to the Green Movement as a counter-example of this, but for most people I think the notion of ‘progress’ has become individualised and short-term.

Here Bauman goes a bit further than previously – not only does Unischerheit individualise, it also changes the way we perceive the future and time in the present. Life has become short term and episodic. This is an idea which Bauman develops in future books – suggesting that many of us no longer operate in ‘linear time’ but rather in ‘pointilist time’ – life has become a series of unrelated episodes not really joined together by a coherent narrative – following, as I understand it, Erikson’s Tyranny of the Moment.

The state of flux we fined ourselves in is so fluctuating that this even changes our relationship to time – we are left in pointlist time, and so find it difficult to even construct an individualised biography – because doing so requires some purchase on the present, which we don’t have.

If this is correct then we may in the future come to redefine ‘success’ ‘utopia’ ‘the good life’ or even ‘normality’ as the ability to construct a coherent (individualised) narrative of the self – even if that self is thoroughly depoliticised. In fact, through the CV building activities I’ve witnessed where I work, this could already be happening. In the realm of the social, Facebook may be a good example of this. 

Questions

What would count as resistance to this system? Possibly groups like Adbusters that seem happy with Pointlilism but just aim to perpetually subvert, but then again are they self-constituting?  Maybe the Permaculture Movement?

Chapter Nine – Uses of Poverty

We live a world of growing inter and intrasocietal inequality, this is the gravest problem we face. Much has been said about this, but little has been done to arrest it. This chapter questions the frame in which we address the problem and explores some possible solutions.

When we discuss poverty we only discuss the economic dimensions – we do not discuss the following….

‘the prescence of the large army of the poor and the widely publicised egregiousness of their condition… offsets the otherwise repelling and revolting effects of the consumer’s life lived in the shadow of perpetual uncertainty. The more destiute and dehumanised the poor of the world and the poor in the next street are shown and seen to be, they better they play that role in the drama which they did not script and did not audition for….The poor today are the collective other of the frightened consumers, the modern day hell which induces the average person to carry on working-consuming. What one learns is that the fate of certainty in poverty is worse than daily dealing with the uncertainties of working life, while focussing on their depravity rather than their deprivation enables anger to be chanelled to them (like burning effigies).’

The problem is that there are fewer and fewer jobs – there is a crisis of unemployment – capitalism does not need that many people to be in work, it is that simple!

This is a serious problme because beyond providing income, work, or livelihood, employment is the activity on which genuine, progressive self-assertion rests, and in the era of flexibilsation, this is lost – This is our probllem, without stable work we have a mass existential crisis.

Our crisis is caused by the political economy of uncertainty – global capital moves around dismantling order – to which neoliberal nation states capituaulate by competing in a race to the bottom, through the processeses of dregulation and further privatisation. Today capital maintains power not by legislation but by destabilising – by leaving behind privatised individuals who lack the capacity to organise effectively. Crippling uncertainty is the latest tool of globally mobile capital.

What we need is for politics to catch up with the power of capital. We need to challenge capital (especially finance capital) based on a concept of the common good.

Can nation states rise to the challenge? Basically no, their problem is that they are inward looking, doomed to be local. Following Alain Gesh – what we need is a New Internationalism, and to date there are few agencies doing this – Mostly the large NGOs but then the solidarity they garner is sporadic.

Commentary

By now it is becoming clear that for Bauman the biggest challenge facing humanity is that of how to regulate international Capitalism – again, drawing on what he has said elsewhere –

Tasks – Find out some of the worst examples of harms done by ‘Capital Flight’ – This shouldn’t be too difficult! Research into some of the proposed solution (beyond the Robin Hood Tax!)

Chapter Ten – Education: Under, For and In Spite of Modernity…

What is functional in education today is not the knowledge we learn, not learning to learning, but learning to unlearn the habits we have learned. In the postmodern world, with no fixed frame of references, forgetting is the key skill.

Universities do not fit the postmdodern era –

They offer a model of learning in which there is a clear body of knowledge to be learned, passed down by authorities, which does not fit a world in which there are knowledges and no clear authorities, but huge cultural relativities.

Knowledge has now become radically democratised – in the age of the internet – and episodised – rather than it being linear.

In the age of flexibilised working, quick training and re-training courses fit better.

A university education does not make economic sense.

The kind of long-term linear, structured learning they offer only makes sense within the time of eternity or the time of progress – modernity put paid to the former, postmodernity to the later.

The intellectual authority of the unviersity, and of academics has been undermined by the mass media – Intellectual authority use to be measured by the number of people who would come to listen to a person, then the number of books sold, but now it is the amount of air time someone gets – and here Dallas has more importance than Philosophy. In the era of the media public attention is scarce and notoriety the main currency – maximium impact then immediately forgetting is the name of the game – the kind of long search for truth you find in universities will not hold the public’s attention – so academic knowledge will not make it into the public domain.

Finally, the claim that scientific and technological knowledge is superior is open to question following Foucault and Beck.

So what do universities do – they can either subject themselves to market forces – and compete – letting the market judge what is socially useful knowledge – or they can withdraw into ivory towers – both change fundamentally the role of the university – (note the later is not autonomy, it is irrelevance.)

The future of the university lies in mutlivocality – the task of pilosophers of education is how to plan for this when there is no one central authority and how to incorporate open-ended knowledges into the process.

No Comment, other than to say I am wondering how long teaching has a profession?

Chapter Eleven – Identity in the globalising world.

In the mid 1990s the issue of identity became immensley popular in the social sciences – this chapter explores why.

(142) ‘Anxiety and audacity, fear and courage, despair and hope  are born together. But the proportion in which they are mixed depends on the resources in one’s possession. Owners of foolproof vessels and skilled navigators view the sea as the site of exciting adventure, those condemned to unsound and hazardous dinghies would rather hide behind breakwaters and think of sailing with trepidation. Fears and joys emanating from the instability of things are distrbuted highly unequally.

The idea of identity as an unfinished project and that individuality is a product of society is by now a trivial truth but what needs to be stated more often is that our society also depends on how the process of individuation is framed and responded to.

The notion that we have to become what we are has been around for a long time, the renewed focus on this is because of the radical disembeddedness of postmodern life – the places we might embed ourselves into are shifting – If we are running, the finishing line keeps moving, the lanes change and the track itself shifts.

The task of identity now is not that of a pilgrim – knowing where he is going, and figuring out the best way to get there but of a vagbond, not knowing where to go…. The task of identity is to make a choice and then defend the frame you construct from being erroded, which it might well be.

Eriksen said that the identity crisis of adolesents end when one feels one has a grip on oneself – when one has developed a sense of sameness and continuity. This view has aged – today we live in era when a constant identity crisis is the norm – in a world where things shift – having a continuous identity means to shut off options, it restricts one’s freedom too much – and so people prefer light identities – fluid connections which involve non-binding commitments – so that they may move on quickly. The postmodern subject has to be flexible, so when you reach your goal, you are not yourself!

The power of global capital has escaped inditutional politics, and in response people have retreated into the narrow, local concerns of life politics rather than Politics — These are self-perpetuating – and it is in this context that the growing interest in life-politics needs to be scrutinised.

P150 – Cristopher Lasch — Quoteable — In the age of precarity where we have no grip over global capital we retreat into that which does not matter – but people kid themselves – thus we get into therapies, the wisdom of the east, jogging… These are things which do not matter, and away from things that do matter but about which nothing can be done.

In all of the above ways, we retreat from what really matters (which is figuring out how to control global capital, and how to get on in an increasingly diverse world).

Today we use the word community to refer to fleeting connections, but it is not real community we are forging… and in doing so we also put up boundaries, and we create pegs on which to hang our fears.

The process of identitification as it stands lubricates the wheels of globalisation – The fact that we retreat from Politics allows Capital even more freedom.

Commentary

This is basically something I have thought for a long time – Cultural studies is simply irrelvant as are many studies on identity, indeed the whole focus on postmodern identities – absolutely pointless – espeically when not grounded in the constext of political economy.

Nice little summary this – Globally mobile Capital makes us retreat from Politics and into the realm of identity construction and the formation of communities based on weak ties (which are not weak communities on which Sociology focuses – but focussing on these and ‘telling their stories’ can tell us nothing.

I guess what’s interesting about the end bit is that Bauman’s suggesting that Sociology should be focussing more on the alternatives – how we control globally mobile Capital – it should have a Political agenda rather than focussing on what is immediately obvious (which is just identity-fluff). Useful for teaching value freedom this!

Chapter Twelve  – Faith and Instant Gratification

Starts with Seneca –  In his dialogue ‘On Happy Life – he notes that the problem facing those who seek the pleasures of instant gratification is that the pleasures fade quickly – thus there is no lasting happiness in such a strategy. He also noted that the kind of people who seek such pleasures care not for the past, present or future.

What in Seneca’s time was limited to a few people is today the case at the social level – The past offers us no guidance in the present, which is out of our control and the future seems full of hazards – hence more of us escape into the short-lived pleasures of instant-gratification.

It is unclear whether a long-term investment will be useful to us in the future – assets all to easily may become hinderances, and so times are hard for faith/trust/ commitment.

I’m not actually sure Bauman means when he says ‘assets’ – this doesn’t seem to apply to property, for example? Perhaps he means investments in ‘consumer commodities’, or in education?

The primary reason for this is the flexibilised nature of work – soon market demand will be met by 1/3rd of the population – unemployment and thus precariousness is structural.

Also, in the realms of consumption, we have learnt to see products as things we buy for short-term use, not long-lived.

In such a situation it makes sense to seek only temporary commitments with others, no investment in lasting relationships, because we know not what the future will bring. We tend to see relationships as things to be consumed, rather than produced (dating sites a such a great example of this!). Relationships are more likely to last until further notice – when they stop providing gratification, rather than being worked through.

Uncertainty and episodic lives tend to go hand in hand – it is unclear which is cause and which is effect.

An important aspect of faith is to invest in something which lasts longer than an individual human life – This used to be the family, but the typical family today may be made and unmade several times in the course of one’s life.

There is little else that we can look to to provide lasting values to commit to… And until we do something about the looming threat of insecurity this is unlikely to be the case.

Comment

I wonder if some people now regard their social media profiles as symbols of their immortality? Where you gather together photos and comments with you at the centre,  rendering the need to make a more serious investment in anything even less necessary!

How I would’ve answered A level sociology paper 3: crime and deviance with theory and methods, June 2017

Crime and deviance with theory and methods is the third and final exam paper (7192/3) in the AQA A level sociology specification – below are a few thoughts on how I would’ve answered the paper from the June 2017 exam…

Sociology paper 3: Crime and Deviance with Theory and Methods, 2017 

Q01 – Two reasons for ethnic differences in offending

I’m a bit concerned that the plural on differences means you need to talk about two different ethnic groups… so to be on the safe side. (Of course it’s not obvious that you need to do this from the question, and maybe you don’t, but remember the AQA’s burning hatred of teenagers… I wouldn’t put it past them!

To be on the safe side…

  • African-Caribbeans more likely to end up in jail due to more serious nature offences (knife/ gun convictions) compared to whites
  • Asians over represented due to Islamophobia – more labelling by media/ public/ police = higher conviction rate.

Both of those need to be better articulated, but they are two completely different reasons!

The hub post for ethnicity and crime is here – official statistics on ethnicity and crime

Q02 – Outline three functions of crime

BOOM!

Or so you probably thought… it’s simply a matter of explaining Durkheim’s three functions of crime:

  • Integration
  • Regulation
  • Social chance

BUT – Have you really nailed the difference between integration (belonging/ connections) and regulation (clarity of rules/ prevention of anomie)?

Q03 – Analyse two ways in which deviant subcultures may respond to the difficulties of achieving mainstream goals

The item directs you to underachievement at school and deprived or unstable neighbourhoods. You could draw on the material from subcultural theory – so I’d go with…

  • Albert Cohen’s status frustration and the standard rebellious subcultures.
  • Then you could draw on Cloward and Ohlin’s subcultural types (there’s that burning hatred of teenagers again, this is turgid old stuff that could be relevant) – criminal or retreatist subcultures
  • To link into the above point you could draw on Merton’s responses to strain and just relate these to subcultures.

Q04 – Evaluate sociological contributions to crime prevention strategies

The item directs you to both right and left realism and then surveillance… so it’s simply a matter of

Obviously topped and tailed with an intro and conclusion

Q05 – Outline two advantages of choosing overt observation compared to covert observation

I covered this at the bottom of this post of participant observation, but you’d need to expand on all the points!

I’d probably go for point 1 validity and point 2 on ethics to make sure the two points are very different.

One thing you NEED to do for this is to compare the two -overt and covert!

Q06 – Evaluate the view that conflict approaches are more useful than consensus approaches in our understanding of society

Straightforward – the item directs you to consensus and Marxism and labelling theory (also Weber’s social action theory, but I’d leave that aside and just settle for 16 or 17 out of 20) and talks about power.

So simply –

Point 1 – Functionalism and evaluate using contemporary evidence

Point 2 – Marxism and evaluate using contemporary evidence

Point 3 – Social action theory and evaluate using contemporary evidence

Overall evaluation – use PM to criticise both, and conclude that conflict theories are absolutely more relevant!

Overall I thought this was a reasonable paper! Classic, even.

Experiments in Sociology – Revision Notes

Definitions, key features and the theoretical, practical and ethical strengths and limitations of laboratory and field experiments applied to sociology (and psychology). Also covers key terms related to experiments

Experiments – The Basics: Definitions/ Key Features

  • Experiments aim to measure the effect which one or more independent variables have on a dependent variable.
  • The aim is to isolate and measure as precisely as possible the exact effect independent variables have on dependent variables.
  • Experiments typically aim to test a ‘hypothesis’ – a prediction about how one variable will effect another.
  • There are two main types* of experimental method: The Laboratory experiment, the field experiment and the comparative method.
    • Laboratory Experiments take place in an artificial, controlled environment such as a laboratory.
    • Field Experiments – take place in a real world context such as a school or a hospital.

Advantages of Laboratory Experiments

  • Theoretical – The controlled conditions of laboratory experiments allow researchers to isolate variables: you can precisely measure the exact effect of one thing on another.
  • Theoretical – You can establish cause and effect relationships.
  • Theoretical – You can collect ‘objective’ knowledge – about how facts ‘out there’ affect individuals.
  • Theoretical – Good Reliability because it is easy to replicate the exact same conditions.
  • Theoretical – Good Reliability because of the high level of detachment between the researcher and the respondent.
  • Practical – Easy to attract funding because of the prestige of science.
  • Practical – Take place in one setting so researchers can conduct research like any other day-job – no need to chase respondents.
  • Ethical – Most laboratory experiments seek to gain informed consent, often a requirement to get funding.
  • Ethical – Legality – lab experiments rarely ask participants to do anything illegal.
  • Ethical – Findings benefit society – both Milgram and Zimbardo would claim the shocking findings of their research outweigh the harms done to respondents.

Disadvantages of Laboratory Experiments

  • Theoretical – They are reductionist: human behaviour cannot be explained through simple cause and effect relationships (people are not ‘puppets’).
  • Theoretical – Laboratory experiments lack external validity – the artificial environment is so far removed from real-life that the results tell us very little about how respondents would actually act in real life.
  • Theoretical – The Hawthorne Effect may further reduce validity – respondents may act differently just because they know they are part of an experiment.
  • Theoretical – They are small scale and thus unrepresentative.
  • Practical – It is impractical to observe large scale social processes in a laboratory – you cannot get whole towns, let alone countries of people into the small scale setting of a laboratory.
  • Practical – Time – Small samples mean you will need to conduct consecutive experiments on small groups if you want large samples, which will take time
  • Ethical – Deception and lack of informed consent – it is often necessary to deceive subjects as to the true nature of the experiment so that they do not act differently. Links to the Hawthorne Effect.
  • Ethical – Some specific experiments have resulted in harm to respondents – in the Milgram experiment for example.
  • Ethical – Interpretivists may be uncomfortable with the unequal relationships between researcher and respondent – the researcher takes on the role of the expert, who decides what is worth knowing in advance of the experiment.

Advantages of Field Experiments over Laboratory Experiments

  • Theoretical – They generally have better validity than lab experiments because they take place in real life settings
  • Theoretical – Better external validity – because they take place in normally occurring, real-world social settings.
  • Practical – Larger scale settings – you can do field experiments in schools or workplaces, so you can observe large scale social processes, which isn’t possible with laboratory experiments.
  • Practical – a researcher can ‘set up’ a field experiment and let it run for a year, and then come back later.

The relative disadvantages of Field Experiments

  • Theoretical – It is not possible to control variables as closely as with laboratory experiments – because it’s impossible to observe respondents 100% of the time.
  • Theoretical – Reliability is weaker – because it’s more difficult to replicate the exact context of the research again.
  • Theoretical – The Hawthorne Effect (or Experimental Effect) may reduce the validity of results.
  • Practical Problems – access is likely to be more of a problem with lab experiments. Schools and workplaces might be reluctant to allow researchers in.
  • Ethical Problems – As with lab experiments – it is often possible to not inform people that an experiment is taking place in order for them to act naturally, so the issues of deception and lack of informed consent apply here too, as does the issue of harm.

Experiments – Key Terms Summary

Hypothesis – a theory or explanation made on the basis of limited evidence as a starting point for further investigation. A hypothesis will typically take the form of a testable statement about the effect which one or more independent variables will have on the dependent variable.

Dependent Variable – this is the object of the study in the experiment, the variable which will (possibly) be effected by the independent variables.

Independent variables – The variables which are varied in an experiment – the factors which the experimenter changes in order to measure the effect they have on the dependent variable.

Extraneous variables – Variables which are not of interest to the researcher but which may interfere with the results of an experiment

Experimental group – The group under study in the investigation.

Control group – The group which is similar to the study group who are held constant. Following the experiment the experimental group can be compared to the control group to measure the extent of the impact (if any) of the independent variables.

You should also know about natural experiments/ the comparative method –involves comparing two or more societies or groups which are similar in some respects but varied in others, and looking for correlations.  

Related Posts:

These are the more in-depth posts…

Experiments in sociology – an introduction

Laboratory experiments in sociology

Field experiments in sociology