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Sociology for social work

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Published: Mon, 5 Dec 2016

Sociology offers some important social theories, which provide explanations and critiques of human behaviour, social actions and interactions as well as the institutions and the structures of society. The fact that social work is concerned with social change and problem solving is precisely why sociology is important to social work. Nowadays social workers are expected to write their reports in a coherent way, justifying it using theory and research. In this essay I am going to contrast two different sociological theories to the case study of Mrs. B. This will give me the chance to better understand the usefulness of the sociological theories to the Social work profession. For the purpose of this essay I have selected to apply Functionalism theory (macro) and Symbolic Interactionism (micro) approach the Labelling theory. In the first section of this essay I will discuss the Functionalist theory, its application to the case, the limits of this theory when looking at the case of Ms B and contrasting it to the other theory I will go on to the second part of this essay where I will be applying the Lebelling theory from the Symbolic Interactionism approach I will then go on and do the …….

Functionalism views society made up from numerous interconnected parts which together form a system. The basic part of this breakdown is the society, and its variety of parts can be understood in terms of their collective relationship. In the initial stages of this theory Functionalism drew comparisons between society and the human body. Mainly this comparison existed since they viewed society operating in theoretically the same way as the organisms in the human body.

Therefore, for one to understand the function of an organ, such as the heart or lungs, it is essential to understand its relationship with the other organs in the human body and especially its contribution towards the maintaining of the organism. Thus, they argued that for one to understand the function of society, an examination and analysis is required in order to determine its relationship with the other parts of society, and most importantly, its contribution to the maintenance of society.

For example, in Mrs B case a functionalist analysis to her situation would consider the behaviour of Mrs B as deviant, because it is preventing her from participating in society. She is seen as unable to fulfil her role as a mother and her social interactions are affected. Supposing that she has permit to work it would be unable to find or maintain a job due to her deviant behaviour. Functionalists would consider this as a “faulty socialisation”. Further more functionalism would view this situation as costing to society therefore not contributing to the maintenance of the society functioning.

According to Emile Durkheim (1895), the founder of Functionalism, crime and deviance are normal and necessary. Since they are found in all societies functionalists argue that it is a form of social change, as through deviance the society would learn about the accepted behaviour. However, too much crime can bring on a state of “Anomie” Anomie, which is a state of normlessness in society. This arises when cultural goals and structural means of achieving those goals is unbalanced. The anomie state would result in conflicting the agreement of the functioning of society. Durkheim described the state of anomie as (Giddens) ‘a feeling of aimlessness or despair…traditional moral controls and standards are largely broken down…this leaves many individuals in society feeling lack of meaning in their daily lives’. (2007, P14)

Durkheim (1895) suggested that the theory of Merton gives an idea of the individuals who have high expectations and are unable to fulfill them through structural means then ‘strain occurs’. Robert Merton’s (1938) ‘Strain theory’ modified the Durkheim’s ‘Anomie’ to refer to the strain put on individuals when accepted norms conflict with reality. Linking these to the case of Mrs B, her asspiration to enter paid employment does not coincide with her immigration status. Therefore this disparity between desires and fulfilment will be felt in deviant motivation. Therefore this could be the point where Mrs B feels the strain and as a result deviates from the societis norms.

Agnew (1992) in Levinson (2002) shows how the strain theory can lead to other deviant adoptions. Agnew criticises the earlier strain theory and ‘generalises the concept to include all negative relations with others, rather than just the negative relations that are the result of striving from uneatable, but culturally mandated goals’. (2002, P:1579).

“ It is not so much the unique quality no any single event but the cumulation of several stressful events within a relatively short time span that is consequential” (P:62-63) as cited in Levinson (2002).

Mrs B has

Agnew placed great importance to the feeling of ‘anger’ as he argued that ‘anger is the key emotion because it increases the individual’s level of felt injury, creates a desire for retaliation/revenge, energizes the individual for action, and lowers inhibitions, in part because individuals believe that others will feel their aggression is justified’ (P:60) as cited in Levinson (2002)


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