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Title: social structures

  • Social Divisions

Those substantial differences between people
that run throughout our society. Social division
has at least two categories each of which has
distinctive material and cultural features
social divisions are not natural Social
Divisions, Payne, G. 2nd edition, 2006, page 4
Social Stratification - CLASS
  • In threes - Can you think of structural
    inequalities to do with
  • Class
  • Gender
  • Race and Ethnicity
  • Age
  • Disability
  • Sexual orientation
  • any others?

Making Sense of Society
  • In order to help us understand society and the
    impact of social structures, it is necessary to
    work within a sociological framework.
  • What do you understand by the term Sociology?
  • Can you write a definition of sociology?

Aims for this week Living with modernity, the
restructuring of Britain
  • What does Modernity mean?
  • How is the presence of modernity reflected in
    social structures.

Auguste Comte
  • 1798 1857 French
  • Recognised as having invented the term
  • 'law of three phases society has gone through
    three phases
  • Theological (Divine),
  • Metaphysical (human rights not divine, but bigger
    than and beyond mankind), pre-French Revolution
  • Scientific (which he called Positivist mankind
    can find solutions a new social understanding
    based on science, post French Revolution) 

Emile Durkheim
  • 1858 - 1917 French
  • one of the first people to explain the existence
    and quality of different parts of a society by
    reference to what function they served in keeping
    the society healthy and balanced, a position that
    would come to be known as structural
  • Durkheim also stated that society was more than
    the sum of its parts social facts termed to
    describe phenomena which have an existence of
    themselves and are not bound to the actions of
    individuals for example, a societys adaptation
    to a particular climate. Boundaries can break
    down- the interim time before new boundaries are
    created is called anomie- period of chaos,
  • Wrote The Division of Labour, examining how
    social order was maintained in different types of
    societies coined the distinction between
    traditional and modern societies.

Karl Marx
  • 1818 1883 German
  • All social inequalities can be explained in terms
    of class
  • Studied Capitalism, the production of economic
  • He argued for a systemic understanding of
    socio-economic change
  • Viewed classes as being in conflict. Upper class
    exploits lower classes- conflict theory
  • Influenced by Hegel, Rousseau, Thomas Payne
    (consensus forms around thesis, from this an
    antithesis occurs, eventually a synthesis)- Just
    as capitalism had replaced feudalism, so
    socialist would replace capitalism
  • He envisaged a stateless, classless, equal
    society which he called Communism
  • Social Conflict Paradigm continued by C. Wright
    Mills- Gap between rich and Poor growing.

Max Weber
  • 1864 1920 German
  • Argued that all social action was meanful fror
  • Profound influence on our understanding of
    society, organisations etc
  • Three elements to class Power, prestige, status
  • Concerned with the rationalisation, and
    disenchantment caused by Capitalism and the
    rise of modernity Bureaucracy
  • Thought Marx was too focused on materialism,
  • Wrote The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of
    Capitalism the impact of Capitalism on the
    human spirit, religion etc.

Comes in a variety of shapes and sizes
Sociological Theory
High-Level Theories
Focus on trying to explain how and why society is
Mid-Range Theories
Focus on trying to explain some general aspect of
social behaviour
Low-Level Theories
Focus on trying to explain a specific aspect of
social behaviour.
Why do girls achieve higher educational
qualifications than boys?
Why do I always fall asleep in Psychology lessons?
  • Functionalist explanation of why girls achieve-
    Education is only salient means for them to
    achieve mobility.
  • Interactionist explanation of why working class
    kids do not do as well- teachers labelling of
    working class children produces low expectations.
  • Marxist explanation- curriculum reflects the
    values of the ruling class, alienating children.
    They lack the cultural capital to do well

Social Structures
  • Can be understood as organised mechanisms that
    exert control over individuals.
  • Can take the form of social institutions and
    patterns of behaviour
  • Address and often emphasise social divisions

Key Social Structures Within Modernity
The State
Can you think of others
Modernity versus Post- Modernity
  • Modernity
  • A term coined to encapsulate the distinctiveness
    and dynamism of the social processes unleashed
    during the 18th and 19th centuries, which marked
    a distinct break from traditional ways of life.
    Introductory Sociology, Bilton et al (2002)
    Macmillan, p545

Post- Modernity Characterised by a pastiche of
cultural styles and elements but implies a deep
scepticism about order and progress. Instead
diversity and fragmentation are celebrated.
Introductory Sociology, Bilton et al (2002)
Macmillan, p.546
What does this mean for social structures?
  • Marx modernity is capitalism and he felt that
    the ideal of true democracy is one of the great
    lies of capitalism.
  • Key words Alienation, class conflict, false
  • Weber modernity as rationalization,
    bureaucratization, and the "Iron Cage."
  • Durkheim saw modernity as moral order, anomie
    and the decline of social solidarity..

  • Modernity has failed to provide the solution to
    the problems of life.
  • "Progress" is not an onward and upward march
  • Science (positivism) does not have all the
  • Social Institutions are changing at a rapid rate
    Family, Religion, Education, etc.
  • Everyday life expressions of these themes
  • Hi-Tech lifestyles
  • Preoccupied with consumer goods and media images
  • The Mass
  • International, "demise of the nation-state"
  • Irrationality of rationality
  • McDonaldization- Ritzer

Modernity/ Post modernity
What does this mean for social structures?

Necessity (natural and social laws) Contingency or chance
Universality (across time and space ) Locality and the particular (can only know own experience)
Certainty and predictability Uncertainty and provisionality
Truth and reality Critique of tradition-bound analysis
Transparency or understandability Undecidability
Order of nature and structures Ambivalence of human design
Fordist modernity economies of scale hierarchy Homogeneity, detail division of labour, public housing, monopoly capital Purpose, design, mastery, determinacy, production capital, universalism, state power, trade unions, state welfarism, metropolis, ethics, blue collar, centralization , narrative, mass production, class politics, technical-scientific rationality, utopia, concentration, specialized work cFunction, Representation, signified industry, protestant work ethic, mechanical reproduction, becoming, epistemology, regulation, urban renewal, relative space, state interventionism, industrialization, internationalism, permanence, Time flexible postmodernity economies of scope, diversity, social division of labour, decentering, desire, homelessness, entrepreneurialism, indeterminacy, localism, individualism, neo-conservatism Immateriality, reproduction, pastiche, eclecticism white collar, commercialism, charismatic politics, rhetoric, decentralization, deconstruction, local contracts, small-batch production, spectacle, flexible worker, symbolic capital, temporary contract, electronic reproduction, deregulation, urban revitalization, place, laissez-faire, deindustrialization, geopolitics Ephemerality
Social Structures in Post- War Britain
  • The Beveridge report written in 1942 prompted the
    eventual creation of what we now know as the
    welfare state.
  • Beveridge argued that there was a need to rid
    society of the five giants

Beveridge Report 1942
Each giant was countered by The 1944 Butler Act
which reformed schooling, the commitment to full
employment in the same year. The Family Allowance
Act of 1945. The 1946 National Insurance Act The
1948 National Health Act, aimed at achieving that
very objective, and established for the first
time a national minimum.
The National Health Service (NHS) Act instituted
a universal state health service. The Act
provided free diagnosis and treatment of
illnesses at home or in hospital, including
dental and ophthalmic treatment.
Opinions at the time
  • 'It's the goods! All the yearnings, hopes, dreams
    and theories of socialists for the past half
    century have been crystallised into a practical
    economic formula. Equity for the "lowest common
    denominator" I was staggered by its
    comprehension'. (Insurance clerk, male, 39,
  • 'It gave me a feeling there was something to work
    for and fight for after all and that our efforts
    might be rewarded by some real social
    improvement, giving means to the phrase "winning
    the peace". (Royal Artillery, male, 29)
  • 'I am aware of a new feeling of confidence in
    myself as a member of a democratic society when I
    see those social reforms which I have considered
    necessary for such long time actually taking
    shape'. (Accountant, male, 40, Prestwick)
  • But there were negative comments too
  • 'My friends seem to think it's a clever piece of
    eyewash to retain the capitalist system by
    getting the people on its side'. (Student, male,
    22, Enfield)
  • "A lot of blah" is the most frequent remark from
    the women in the factory. "Don't believe a word
    of it we're 'eard these promises before".
    (Stores Keeper, female, 57, Winchcombe)
  • 'I think it is direct encouragement to the lower
    type of humanity to breed like rabbits'
    (Temporary civil servant, female, 38)

Post-WW2 Development of British Welfare State
  • Adopting the slogan 'Prevention is better than
    cure', this Ministry of Health poster attempts to
    persuade people to adopt a healthier lifestyle.
    It was hoped that by improving the general health
    of the nation, the cost of running the NHS would
    eventually be reduced.

Black Report
Registrar Generals Classificationof Social Class
Higher managerial, administrative,
professional. Accountant, bank manager, dentist,
doctor, solicitor.
Lower managerial, administrative,
professional. Farmer, librarian, sales manager,
Non-manual Clerical and minor supervisory. Clerk,
police officer, shop assistant
Skilled manual Clerical and minor
supervisory. Electrician, mechanic, plumber.
Semi-skilled manual. Assembly line worker,
builder, lorry driver.
Unskilled. Cleaner, labourer.
The Black Report (1980)Findings
Key causes of inequalities in health were
Low income
Sub standard housing
Poor education
Poor environment
The Black Report (1980)
Problem was
They wanted to reduce public expenditure
Regarded the Report as old-fashioned,
socialist explanations of ill-health
Took the individualist approach people should
eat, drink and smoke less
Government disagreed
Argued that individual behaviour within
social classes shaped health
The Acheson Report (1998)
  • This was an independent study into health
  • It was commissioned by the new Labour government
    in 1997, under the chairmanship of a former Chief
    Medical Officer for England and Wales, Sir Donald
  • Remit to investigate health inequalities in the

The Acheson Report (1998)Findings
  • Poor men are 68 more likely to die in middle age
    than richer men.
  • Poor women are 55 more likely to die young.
  • Health inequalities start before birth
  • A key factor in low weight babies is the mothers
    birth weight and her pre-pregnant weight.

Social class I
Risk increases
Coronary heart disease
Lung cancer
Accidents suicides
Respiratory diseases
Social class V
The Acheson Report (1998)Findings
  • Children from poor families weighed on average
    1.30gms less than those from wealthy families
  • Infant mortality rates
  • 7/1000 lower social classes
  • 5/1000 upper social classes
  • Long term illness
  • 17 of profession men aged 45-64
  • 48 of lower class men aged 45-64
  • Income levels
  • 2.2 million children live on income levels 50
    below the national average
  • Health campaigns
  • Higher uptake of screening amongst upper social
    classes widened health gap

  • The McDonalization Thesis Social Life as a Fast
    food Restaurant

Although this perspective may appear to be rather
unusual when applied to society, the claims made
by George Ritzer (2002) certainly provide food
for thought.
McDonaldization The process by which the
principles of the fast food restaurant are coming
to dominate more and more sectors of American
society as well as the rest of the world.
Ritzer, G. (ed) McDonaldization, The Reader, Pine
Forge Press, 2002, p.7
Control through non- human technology
Can we find parallels between Ritzer and the
Welfare state today?
  • Sociologists are interested in the impact and
    role of medicine and the medical profession in
    society.  The general health of the population
    has clearly improved (eg during the 20th century,
    life expectancy almost doubled), but is this due
    to medicine and doctors?
  • Studies show that medical care and medical
    discoveries have often had relatively little
    influence on health compared with social factors.
  • McKeowns historical evidence suggests that
    medical care had relatively little effect on
    death rates before the 20th century.  Most deaths
    were from infectious diseases (TB, cholera,
    measles, etc), and the biggest improvements in
    health were brought about by public health
    measures such as improved sanitation, clean
    drinking water, and better housing, diet and a
    higher standard of living.
  • Illich goes further, arguing that modern
    high-tech curative medicine and the medical
    profession are a danger to our physical, mental
    and spiritual health.  He uses the term
    iatrongenic illness those caused by medical
    intervention to describe this danger, such as
    the side effects of drugs, errors by doctors,
    etc.  There has been a medicalisation of life
    and we have lost control over own bodies, lives,
    suffering and death and become dependent on the
    medical profession, the new priesthood.

Functionalist account of health inequalities
  • Functionalists would look at social inequalities
    in health care from the perspective that regards
    the health care systems feasibility to cope with
    society and all of the requirements society
    places upon health care systems to prevent
    illness, and generate well-being
  • The functionalist is curious about the relation
    between the health care (HC) system itself and
    the rest of society.

Symbolic interactionism
  • is concerned with examining the interaction
    between the different role players in the health
    and illness drama. The focus is on how illness
    and the subjective experience of being sick are
    constructed through the doctorpatient exchange.
    The argument here is that illness is a social
    accomplishment among actors rather than just a
    matter of physiological malfunction.

Marxist theory
  • is concerned with the relationship between health
    and illness and capitalist social organisation.
    The main focus is on how the definition and
    treatment of health and illness are influenced by
    the nature of economic activity in a capitalist

Feminist theory
  • explores the gendered nature of the definition of
    illness and treatment of patients. Its main
    concern is the way in which medical treatment
    involves male control over womens bodies and

  • Foucauldian theory concentrates on the dominant
    medical discourse, which has constructed
    definitions of normality (health) and deviance
    (sickness). This discourse provides subjects in
    modern societies with the vocabulary through
    which their medical needs and remedies are
    defined. The source and beneficiary of this
    discourse is the medical profession. Foucauldian
    theorists also argue that medical discourse plays
    an important role in the management of individual
    bodies (what Foucault called anatomopolitics)
    and bodies en masse (bio-politics), Medicine is
    not just about medicine as it is conventionally
    understood, but also about wider structures of
    power and control.

Parsonian Functionalism
  • The model of the sick role
  • The model of the sick role, which Talcott Parsons
    designed in the 1950s, was the first theoretical
    concept that explicitly concerned medical
  • In contrast to the biomedical model, which
    pictures illness as a mechanical malfunction or a
    microbiological invasion, Parsons described the
    sick role as a temporary, medically sanctioned
    form of deviant behaviour.
  • The functionalist perspective was used by Parsons
    to explain the social role of sickness by
    examining the use of the sick role mechanism. In
    order to be excused their usual duties and to be
    considered not to be responsible for their
    condition, the sick person is expected to seek
    professional advice and to adhere to treatments
    in order to get well. Medical practitioners are
    empowered to sanction their temporary absence
    from the workforce and family duties as well as
    to absolve them of blame.

  • Parsons being sick has potentially
    disruptive effects on society.  Sickness is a
    form of deviance that needs to be controlled. 
    Otherwise, the behaviour associated with it, such
    as dependency, apathy and incapacity, could
    become widespread and threaten the smooth
    functioning of society. 
  • It is therefore important to restrict access to
    the sick role to those who are genuinely sick. 
    This is the function of the doctor, whose
    authority is maintained by his or her objective
    scientific knowledge and high status.
  • The sick role involves both rights and
    obligations the right to be exempted from normal
    role obligations (such as work) and to be looked
    after, and the obligation to want to get better,
    to seek help and to obey doctors orders.
  • Access to the sick role has to be legitimised by
    the medical profession.   
  • His explanation fits short-term, curable
    illnesses better than long-term, chronic illnesses

  • Feminists see society as patriarchal and doctors
    as perpetuating this.  Medicine has a social
    control function, ensuring that women are kept in
    a subordinate role, for example by controlling
    womens fertility (eg through the medicalisation
    of pregnancy and childbirth, and control over
    access to abortion and contraception).  Doyal
    describes how doctors often stereotype women as
    emotional, neurotic, less objective and more
    excitable than men.  Even when there is clear
    evidence that a womans problem is physical,
    doctors often see it as having a psychological

  • For Marxists, medicine and the medical profession
    perform important functions for capitalism, but
    not for society as a whole.  Doctors act as
    agents of social control, ensuring that an
    alienated workforce cannot escape to the sick
    role but remains at work to produce profits. 
    They reproduce the workforce by patching up
    sick workers.  Ideologically, they mask the
    exploitation of capitalist society, making it
    appear more caring.  Medicine and health care
    also enormous sources of profit for giant
    multinational drugs companies.

Mental Illness - Positivist Approach
Accepts medical definitions- mental illness is an
objective thing or disease.  This approach
examines the distribution of mental illness among
different groups in society and seeks to discover
its causes. E.g. Hollingshead and Redlich
show that members of class V were over six times
more likely than members of class 1 suffer from
mental illness.  This approach traces mental
illness to the way society is organised and the
position of the individual in the social
  • Feminists argue that the higher rates of
    mental illness among women are caused by their
    position in the social structure, e.g. stress
    factors associated with their domestic roles. 
    Similarly, racial discrimination and disadvantage
    faced by ethnic minorities create stress and may
    result in higher rates of mental illness.

Mental Illness- Interactionists
Interactionists are interested in how doctors and
patients negotiate a diagnosis (ie a sickness
label).  Byrne and Long found that there is a
conflict between doctors and patients views of
the ideal consultation (not surprisingly, doctors
prefer short, doctor-centred consultations). Docto
rs generally have more power in these
interactions An example might be illness and
  • Interactionists are interested in how individuals
    come to acquire illness labels, and the effects
    these labels have on them and those around them. 
    They are interested in how doctor-patient
    interactions create such labels.

The Third Way
  • New Deal gives opportunities to work which
    people have a responsibility to take up, and they
    will suffer penalties if they do not. The main
    conditions are connected with work obligations,
    but there are also suggestions that tenancies in
    council housing should be conditional on behaviour

Next Week Formative Assessment
  • Can you work in twos for next week and please
    think about whether or not you agree with the
    idea of the Welfare state. You should consider
    its aims in relation to what is achieves.
  • Think about the provision of welfare through
    health care from functionalist, interactionist,
    feminist, marxist perspectives.
  • One person in the pair will argue for the
    existence of the welfare state, one person will
    argue against.
  • Think about labelling
  • The sick role
  • Structural inequalities
  • Disabling society
  • Classes, gender, ethnic groups, ages
  • The welfare state of Beveridge compared to
    todays welfare state (Thatcherism to New Labour
    to the Coalition).
  • Consider the responsibility of the individual for
    their own health (should our taxes pay for those
    who are reckless with their own health).
  • Each person will speak for roughly 5 minutes

Food for thought
  • The government can decide if people break their
    side of the contract, but
  • the only option open to people who believe that
    the government has not kept its side of the deal
    is to vote against it in the next general
  • For example, Blackman and Palmer (1999 119)
    point out the governments limited
    responsibilities in job creation and varying
    local unemployment rates mean that unemployed
    people have very different chances of finding
  • Despite governments vital role in addressing
    the big issues that affect our health like
    housing, jobs and education, individuals
    responsibility for their own health appears to
    involve carrying out the rather patronizing ten
    tips for better health from the Chief Medical
    Officer (DH, 1999). Finally, critics such as Will
    Hutton point out that most of the obligations are
    shouldered by the bottom of society (in Lister,
    1999 see also Marquand, 1998), but this tough
    approach seems not to apply to the powerful and
    assorted cronies and fat cat executives.
  • Geoff Mulgan, of the Blairs Office was
    comfortable with the language of dependency and
    parasitism, including parasites who abuse their
    own health when health care is socialised, safe
    in the knowledge that others will pick up the
    bill and the form of parasitism in which people
    take advantage of the community to do the work
    needed to pass on their own genes (in Levitas,
    1998 155).

Welfare Review
  • The social settlement of the Beveridge welfare
    state was based on particular assumptions
    regarding the ideological triangle of nation,
    family and work. We saw that it was imposed
    during a period where there was plenty of work.
  • The Beveridgean citizen was the fully employed
    (and insured) married, white, able-bodied, male
    worker, with other categories of people
    including women, ethnic minorities, disabled
    people, children and elderly peopleexperiencing
    highly conditional forms of welfare outside the
    normal universalism.
  • New Labours discourse of a modern British
    people was found in their Welfare Green Paper
    which introduced the idea of disability and
    discrimination and hinted at the idea of a
    disabling society. This was not resolved

Next session
  • Key Institutions The State
  • We will be looking at
  • what the state is
  • How it operates as a social structure
  • How it responds to social development
  • The role of sociologists in shaping social policy