Archive for the ‘Sociology in Education.’ Category

Industrialism, Industrialization

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2012

Both words denote the transition in methods of production which has been responsible for the vastly increased wealth-creating capacity of modern societies compared with traditional systems. It should be noted that, although industrialization is generally thought of as something affecting the manufacturing of goods, it is reasonable and indeed necessary to apply the term industrial to modern methods of raising productivity in agriculture and other industrial sectors, and in administrative contexts. It is important to add that industrialism is not the same thing as capitalism, for although capitalism was the first and principal agent of industrialization, it is not the only one. Capitalism pre-dated industrialization and arguably varies more in fundamental form over time and from society to society.

There has been a reasonable degree of agreement about typical features of industrialism but less about which ones are essential. Typical characteristics, all of which are discussed elsewhere in this dictionary, include a division of labour; cultural rationalization; a factory system and mechanization; the universal application of scientific methods to problem-solving; time discipline and deferred gratification; bureaucracy and administration by rules; and a socially and geographically mobile labour-force.

However, any such list of features is bound to raise the question whether a particular item is the result of industrialism as such, or should be attributed either to the coexistence of capitalism or the fact that capitalist societies were the first to industrialize. Much the same might be said of several other features of modernity which are variously attributed to capitalism or industrialization, including the indefinite expansion of markets, the growth of the money economy and the calculating outlook behind scientific rationalism, and the industrial spirit itself.

Read more @ GORDON MARSHALL. “industrialism.” A Dictionary of Sociology. 1998. Retrieved March 18, 2010 from


Friday, December 9th, 2011

Functionalism is the oldest, and still the dominant, theoretical perspective in sociology and many other social sciences. This perspective is built upon twin emphases: application of the scientific method to the objective social world and use of an analogy between the individual organism and society.

The emphasis on scientific method leads to the assertion that one can study the social world in the same ways as one studies the physical world. Thus, Functionalists see the social world as “objectively real,” as observable with such techniques as social surveys and interviews. Furthermore, their positivistic view of social science assumes that study of the social world can be value-free, in that the investigator’s values will not necessarily interfere with the disinterested search for social laws governing the behavior of social systems. Many of these ideas go back to Emile Durkheim (1858-1917), the great French sociologist whose writings form the basis for functionalist theory (see Durkheim 1915, 1964); Durkheim was himself one of the first sociologists to make use of scientific and statistical techniques in sociological research (1951).

The second emphasis, on the organic unity of society, leads functionalists to speculate about needs which must be met for a social system to exist, as well as the ways in which social institutions satisfy those needs. A functionalist might argue, for instance, that every society will have a religion, because religious institutions have certain functions which contribute to the survival of the social system as a whole, just as the organs of the body have functions which are necessary for the body’s survival.

This analogy between society and an organism focuses attention on the homeostatic nature of social systems: social systems work to maintain equilibrium and to return to it after external shocks disturb the balance among social institutions. Such social equilibrium is achieved, most importantly, through the socialization of members of the society into the basic values and norms of that society, so that consensus is reached. Where socialization is insufficient for some reason to create conformity to culturally appropriate roles and socially supported norms, various social control mechanisms exist to restore conformity or to segregate the nonconforming individuals from the rest of society. These social control mechanisms range from sanctions imposed informally–sneering and gossip, for example–to the activities of certain formal organizations, like schools, prisons, and mental institutions.

You might notice some similarities between the language used by functionalists and the jargon of “systems theorists” in computer science or biology. Society is viewed as a system of interrelated parts, a change in any part affecting all the others. Within the boundaries of the system, feedback loops and exchanges among the parts ordinarily lead to homeostasis. Most changes are the result of natural growth or of evolution, but other changes occur when outside forces impinge upon the system. A thorough-going functionalist, such as Talcott Parsons, the best-known American sociologist of the 1950s and 60s, conceptualizes society as a collection of systems within systems: the personality system within the small-group system within the community system within society (Parsons 1951). Parsons (1971) even viewed the whole world as a system of societies.

Functionalist analyses often focus on the individual, usually with the intent to show how individual behavior is molded by broader social forces. Functionalists tend to talk about individual actors as decision-makers, although some critics have suggested that functionalist theorists are, in effect, treating individuals either as puppets, whose decisions are a predictable result of their location in the social structure and of the norms and expectations they have internalized, or sometimes as virtual prisoners of the explicit social control techniques society imposes. In any case, functionalists have tended to be less concerned with the ways in which individuals can control their own destiny than with the ways in which the limits imposed by society make individual behavior scientifically predictable.

Robert Merton, another prominent functionalist, has proposed a number of important distinctions to avoid potential weaknesses and clarify ambiguities in the basic perspective (see Merton 1968). First, he distinguishes between manifest and latent functions: respectively, those which are recognized and intended by actors in the social system and hence may represent motives for their actions, and those which are unrecognized and, thus, unintended by the actors. Second, he distinguishes between consequences which are positively functional for a society, those which are dysfunctional for the society, and those which are neither. Third, he distinguishes between levels of society, that is, the specific social units for which regularized patterns of behavior are functional or dysfunctional. Finally, he concedes that the particular social structures which satisfy functional needs of society are not indispensable, but that structural alternatives may exist which can also satisfy the same functional needs.

Functionalist theories have very often been criticized as teleological, that is, reversing the usual order of cause and effect by explaining things in terms of what happens afterward, not what went before. A strict functionalist might explain certain religious practices, for instance, as being functional by contributing to a society’s survival; however, such religious traditions will usually have been firmly established long before the question is finally settled of whether the society as a whole will actually survive. Bowing to this kind of criticism of the basic logic of functionalist theory, most current sociologists have stopped using any explicitly functionalistic explanations of social phenomena, and the extreme version of functionalism expounded by Talcott Parsons has gone out of fashion. Nevertheless, many sociologists continue to expect that by careful, objective scrutiny of social phenomena they will eventually be able to discover the general laws of social behavior, and this hope still serves as the motivation for a great deal of sociological thinking and research.

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Sociology of knowledge.

Friday, December 9th, 2011

The sociology of knowledge is not a clear subdivision of sociology. Its concern is the relationship of knowledge to a social base—although what is meant by knowledge and social base is likely to vary from author to author. All the major sociological theorists have something to say about this topic, but as an integral part of their theory, not as a separate area of study, Émile Durkheim for example, in his sociology of religion, suggested that the basic mental categories by means of which we order the world are rooted in the way we organize society. Max Weber, in his sociology of religion, gave considerable weight to material conditions influencing the formation of religious beliefs.

The clearest tradition in the sociology of knowledge is Marxism—where discussion is tied specifically to the theory of ideology. The social origins of knowledge are seen as related to the possibility of grasping truth. It is sometimes argued that the content of knowledge depends upon social or economic position: the bourgeoisie will come to look at the world in one way (say in terms of individual competition and survival of the fittest), the proletariat in another (the point of view of co-operative enterprise and mutual support). These different viewpoints come directly from the experience of each class in the productive process. A more sophisticated tradition, building upon the work of Hegel and associated with György Lukács and the Frankfurt School (see CRITICAL THEORY), argues that it is the form of knowledge rather than its content that is important. Thus, for Lukács in History and Class Consciousness (1923), the thought appropriate to the bourgeois period is marked by formal logic. It is analytic in form, breaking down its subject-matter into component parts, and centres around a number of so-called antinomies—categories such as subject and object which cannot be brought together into a coherent whole. Marxist thought, on the other hand, is claimed to be synthetic, totalizing, and dialectical. Each form represents the experience of a different social class. For both approaches the proletarian forms of thought are closest to the truth.

Read more @ GORDON MARSHALL. “knowledge, sociology of.” A Dictionary of Sociology. 1998. Retrieved March 19, 2010 from

Sociology of education

Thursday, December 8th, 2011

Sociology of Education is a philosophical as well as a sociological concept, denoting ideologies, curricula, and pedagogical techniques of the inculcation and management of knowledge and the social reproduction of personalities and cultures. In practice, the sociology of education is mostly concerned with schooling, and especially the mass schooling systems of modern industrial societies, including the expansion of higher, further, adult, and continuing education. School organization and pedagogy has drawn upon at least four competing educational philosophies: élitist or Platonic; open or encyclopaedic; vocational; and civic (as exemplified by American pragmatist education for democracy and the polytechnic school systems of Marxist state socialism). Sociologists argue that the power structure and needs of individual societies determine which of these is emphasized.

Systematic sociology of education can be traced to Émile Durkheim’s pioneering studies of moral education as a basis for organic solidarity and Max Weber’s analysis of the Chinese literati as an apparatus of political control. But the first major expansion of the subject after the Second World War was associated with technological functionalism in America, egalitarian reform of opportunity in Europe, and human-capital theory in economics. These all asserted a causal linkage between amounts of schooling and the economic advancement of both individuals and societies. They also implied that, with industrialization, the need for technologically educated labour progressively undermines class and other ascriptive systems of stratification, and that educational credentialism promotes social mobility. However, statistical and field research in numerous societies uncovered a persistent link between social class origins and achievement, and suggested that only limited social mobility occurred through schooling. As a result, intense controversy developed over the determinants of the educability of groups disadvantaged by class and ethnic background. Sociological studies pointed to a wide range of material, cultural, and cognitive factors likely to depress intellectual development. Other work showed how patterns of schooling reflected, rather than challenged, class stratification and racial and sexual discrimination.

That school learning is an unmitigated good was even more profoundly challenged with the general collapse of functionalism from the late 1960s onwards. Neo-Marxists argued that school education simply produced a docile labour-force essential to late-capitalist class relations. Advocates of deschooling argued that, for the world’s poor, schools merely created institutional dependence on professional educators. In particular, the deschoolers drew on a growing research literature revealing numerous counter-productive effects of human-capital-inspired development programmes for the Third World. An analogous challenge, combining research and ideology, was mounted against human-capital compensatory programmes for the urban poor of the industrialized West. Phenomenological and interactionist  perspectives emphasized several important dimensions of knowledge management through schooling: in school classroom interaction; by the professionalizing of the teaching process; through the bureaucratization of school organization; and, at the cultural level, where the links between the sociology of education and the sociology of knowledge are more immediately visible.

The extent to which education can in principle operate as a means of social engineering—for example in pursuit of greater equality in society—is contested in the work of the American sociologist Christopher Jencks. This investigates the determinants of economic success; that is, the relative effects of family background, cognitive skills, length and type of schooling, race, and personality on subsequent occupational status and earnings. In two acclaimed though controversial (co-authored) texts, Jencks and his colleagues argued that people from similar family backgrounds and with similar test scores were scattered across almost as wide a range of occupational destinations and incomes as those with disparate origins and social characteristics, thus suggesting that attempts to equalize outcomes through education were likely to prove ineffective. Direct intervention in the market processes distributing incomes was necessary for successful social engineering (see Inequality: A Reassessment of the Effects of Family and Schooling in America, 1972, and Who Gets Ahead? Determinants of Economic Success in America, 1979)

Read more @ GORDON MARSHALL. “education, sociology of.” A Dictionary of Sociology. 1998. Retrieved March 18, 2010 from

Smith, Adam (1723 – 90)

Thursday, December 8th, 2011

An eminent Scottish philosopher and social theorist, Professor of Logic then Moral Philosophy at the University of Glasgow, whose influential publications include The Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759), An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (1776), and Essays on Philosophical Subjects (1795).

Smith is best known as an economist—although even The Wealth of Nations is much more than simply a treatise on economic affairs. A total philosophy of society, rather than a narrowly economic perspective on social action, is suggested by passages such as the following: ‘Commerce and manufactures gradually introduced order and good government, and with them, the liberty and security of individuals, among the inhabitants of the country, who had lived before almost in a continual state of war with their neighbours, and of servile dependency upon their superiors.’

Smith’s exposition of the division of labour (which precedes his analysis of prices, resources, and distribution) is concerned to show that it is by dividing the labour process into increasingly specialized roles that industry advances and nations become rich. The first three chapters of The Wealth of Nations locate the origins of the division of labour in the propensity peculiar to human nature ‘to barter, to truck and to exchange’; explain how this is limited by the extent of markets; and observe its effects in massively increased production, as in the celebrated example of the manufacture of pins, such that ten people prepared to break this process down into its constituent eighteen parts will produce 48,000 pins in a day, whereas each working on their own could hope only to make a fraction of this total. In Smith’s view, the division of labour increased production by increasing the dexterity of the worker, who was able to concentrate on fewer processes; by saving time, in making the concentration of the worker task-specific; and by encouraging the invention of labour-saving devices.

However, Smith was not blind to the deleterious effects of the division of labour, and accepted that, where individuals were confined to performing only one or two limited and repetitive operations, this could render them ‘as stupid and ignorant as it is possible for a human character to become’. He advocated the expansion of education as a means by which governments could combat the atomization and alienation implicit in the advanced division of labour. Unlike later classical economists, he also envisages the state taking an active and wide-ranging part in the organization of social affairs, going beyond the mere provision of justice, defence, and public works. There is, therefore, an ambivalence in his writings that has tended to be overlooked by free-market economists (but see E. G. West , ‘Adam Smith’s Two Views of the Division of Labour’, Economics, 1964)

Read more @ GORDON MARSHALL. “Smith, Adam.” A Dictionary of Sociology. 1998. Retrieved March 18, 2010 from

Human-capital theory

Wednesday, December 7th, 2011

This is a modern extension of Adam Smith’s explanation of wage differentials by the so-called net (dis)advantages between different employments. The costs of learning the job are a very important component of net advantage and have led economists such as Gary S. Becker and Jacob Mincer to claim that, other things being equal, personal incomes vary according to the amount of investment in human capital; that is, the education and training undertaken by individuals or groups of workers. A further expectation is that widespread investment in human capital creates in the labour-force the skill-base indispensable for economic growth. The survival of the human-capital reservoir was said, for example, to explain the rapid reconstruction achieved by the defeated powers of the Second World War.

Human capital arises out of any activity able to raise individual worker productivity. In practice full-time education is, too readily, taken as the principal example. For workers, investment in human capital involves both direct costs, and costs in foregone earnings. Workers making the investment decisions compare the attractiveness of alternative future income and consumption streams, some of which offer enhanced future income, in exchange for higher present training costs and deferred consumption. Returns on societal investment in human capital may in principle be calculated in an analogous way.

Even in economics, critics of human-capital theory point to the difficulty of measuring key concepts, including future income and the central idea of human capital itself. Not all investments in education guarantee an advance in productivity as judged by employers or the market. In particular, there is the problem of measuring both worker productivity and the future income attached to career openings, except in near-tautological fashion by reference to actual earnings differences which the theory purports to explain. Empirical studies have suggested that, though some of the observed variation in earnings is likely to be due to skills learned, the proportion of unexplained variance is still high, and must be an attribute of the imperfect structure and functioning of the labour-market, rather than of the productivities of the individuals constituting the labour supply.

Human-capital theory has attracted much criticism from sociologists of education and training. In the Marxist renaissance of the 1960s, it was attacked for legitimating so-called bourgeois individualism, especially in the United States where the theory originated and flourished. It was also accused of blaming individuals for the defects of the system, making pseudo-capitalists out of workers, and fudging the real conflict of interest between the two. However, even discounting these essentially political criticisms, human-capital theory can be regarded as a species of rational-exchange theory and open to a standard critique, by sociologists, of individualist explanations of economic phenomena.

Read more @ GORDON MARSHALL. “Human-capital theory.” A Dictionary of Sociology. 1998. Retrieved March 18, 2010 from

Weber, Max (1864–1920)

Tuesday, December 6th, 2011

Max Weber (1864 – 1920), together with Émile Durkheim, is generally regarded as the founder of modern sociology as a distinct social science. Of the two, his work is the more complex and ambitious, still providing a rich source for interpretation and inspiration. His life, too, possesses a certain fascination. A mental breakdown in 1897 was followed by four years of intellectual inactivity. His wife Marianne was an early feminist, and the Webers were the heart of the most impressive intellectual circle in early twentieth-century Germany, centred on regular Sunday seminars at their Heidelberg home. Max Weber’s contribution to sociology was immense. He offered a philosophical basis for the social sciences; a general conceptual framework for sociology; and a range of learned studies covering all of the great world religions, ancient societies, economic history, the sociology of law and of music, and many other areas.

Read more @ GORDON MARSHALL. “Weber, Max.A Dictionary of Sociology. 1998. 18 Mar. 2010 <>.

Durkheim, Émile (1858–1917)

Tuesday, December 6th, 2011

The most famous French sociologist, long acknowledged as the founding figure of functionalism, but more recently hailed by leading authorities on structuralism, sociolinguistics, and post-modernism, all of whom have found in Durkheim’s writings ideas and sentiments which are easy to incorporate.

Born of Jewish parents (his father was a rabbi), Durkheim was educated at the École Normale Supérieure, where he studied philosophy. After teaching this subject in provincial lycées for five years he obtained a post as a lecturer in social science and education at the University of Bordeaux in 1887. Ten years later he helped found L’Année sociologique, soon to become the most prestigious sociological journal in France, and a focus for an influential Durkheimian school of thought. Durkheim published regularly in the journal until his relatively early death at the age of 59 from a stroke.

Despite a brilliant career as a teacher and researcher, and the publication of a series of controversial monographs which sketched out the methods and subject-matter of the new science of sociology, it was a full fifteen years before Durkheim was eventually called to a Chair in Paris. Some have suggested that, in this, he was a victim of the anti-semitism of French intellectual life. However, it is also true that his single-minded championing of sociology as the most important social science gained him many enemies in the educational establishment, and his career is littered with bitter controversies involving those who rejected his vision of sociology.

Most of his major monographs were translated into English after his death and are, remarkably, still in print even in translation. The impelling logic of The Division of Labour in Society (1893), his controversial doctoral thesis defended after his stint in lycée teaching, was swiftly followed by The Rules of Sociological Method (1895). Durkheim here stressed that sociology as a science would be characterized by observation (rather than abstract theory), the study of social (rather than psychological) facts, and provide both functional and causal explanations. His principles were applied in the complex and multi-dimensional argument of Suicide (1897), in which he seeks to demonstrate that this apparently most personal of acts is ultimately determined by society, and that the suicide-rate is therefore a ‘social fact’. He deploys an aetiological explanation in which the effects (suicides) are evidence of the underlying social currents. His lifelong interest in morality and moral authority (evident, for example, in the depiction of mechanical and organic solidarity in his doctoral thesis) culminated almost inevitably in writings on religion. The conclusion that ‘collective’ individuals worship society, stated most forcefully in The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life (1912), is an apt epitaph for his work. Other major texts on socialism, morality, and education were published posthumously.

Read more @ GORDON MARSHALL. “Durkheim, Émile.” A Dictionary of Sociology. 1998. Retrieved March 18, 2010 from

What Is Sociology

Friday, November 25th, 2011

Sociology is the systematic study of human social life, groups and societies. Sociology is a member of Social Sciences which includes Anthropology, Economics, Human Geography and Political Science.

The purpose of sociological study is to gain knowledge and understanding the changes that took place in human societies in the past decades and on what is happening in our current modern world such as in the area of globalism, urbanism, religious changes and world politics that is continually shaping the face of our modern social world.

Sociologist try to understand this by studying our culture, socialization, life cycle, conformity, deviance, gender, sexuality, power, class structure, ethnicity, race, politics, government, kinship, marriage, family, war, military, education, communication, media, religion, work, social change, urbanism, revolutions, social movements, population, health, aging and much more.

There are many ways theoretical approaches sociologist uses in trying to answer sociological questions. Among the popular approaches includes functionalism, structuralism, symbolic interactionism and Marxism. Important figures in sociological studies include Aguste Comte, Emile Durkheim, Karl Marx and Max Weber. Their sociological perspectives and ideology holds an important place in modern sociology study.

Sociologist investigate the social life by asking distinct questions and try to find answer to it by formulating systematic research. The questions used may be factual, comparative, developmental or theoretical.

Sociological research involves the use of reliable approach for analyzing a particular social phenomena. For example, the sociologist use proper

  1. research strategy which involves the planning of the research,

  2. research methodology which involves the logics and principles of research,

  3. research method which is concerned with how the research is carried out i.e. survey, participant observation etc.

The sociologist also understand the difference between intended and unintended results of human actions. This means, sociologist detach themselves away from their own preconceived notion about social life and study it objectively which brings out reasonably acceptable conclusions from studies conducted.

Modern Sociologist consider Sociology as a scientific field because it uses systematic methods of investigations and evaluation of theories in the light of evidence and logical arguments just like modern scientific research. However, sociology cannot be compared directly with natural science due to the difference of studying the natural world and human behavior.

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Formal and informal education

Saturday, July 30th, 2011

You need to distinguish between formal and informal education.

Formal education Informal education
What students are taught from the syllabus. Consists of the norms and values acquired from the school environment, such as doing what you are told and acceptance of a hierarchy. Sociologists often call informal education the “hidden curriculum”

You must state and explain the role and purpose of schools. There are two main theoretical explanations to consider;

    • Functionalists argue that schools socialise children into the norms and values of wider society. This enables children to play a useful role within society when they leave school.
    • Marxists believe that schools merely reinforce class distinctions, which enables the bourgeoisie to exploit the proletariat in a capitalist society. Schools encourage children of the proletariat to accept a passive role within society, taking instructions from (mostly middle-class) teachers.

Whatever your view on education, it is clear that schools are one of the most important agents of secondary socialisation. Peer groups and teachers have a major impact upon the socialisation of schoolchildren. In the case of the former, such groups exert “peer pressure” which influence students to conform to various norms and values. These values often take the form of a subculture within a school. For example, one of the reasons why boys under-perform at school is due to “lad culture” – where it is considered cool to act in a boisterous manner. Boys can sometimes form a subculture which turns the wider norms and values of school on their head.

You also need to know something about the impact of labelling. Teachers often label students in terms of either good or bad, which can result in a “self-fulfilling prophecy”. This occurs in two ways;

  • Students labelled as ‘good’ often perform well at school. They tend to respond well to the high expectations of teachers
  • Students labelled as ‘bad’ may think they have little hope of being seen in a good way. As such, they rebel against the culture of the school and behave in a rude and disruptive manner.

There are various factors that might influence labels, such as ethnicity and social class. For example the sociologist Albert Cohen identified “status frustration” amongst working-class boys. This occurs when boys wish to gain the approval of their friends, rather than the approval of their teachers.

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