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Structural Change

Nothing stays the same. Over time, structures change. As they do, opportunities open up for people long deprived, and those who have always had privileges are forced to surrender some. For example, since World War II, there has been a steady change in the relationship between men and women. As women have entered the paid labor force, expectations have changed about what women’s roles are, and their power, privileges, and prestige have all become more equal to those of men. Widespread use of birth control, the women’s movement, longer lifespans, and the increasing independence of children have all contributed to this changing gender structure.

Marx’s View of Social Stratification

Marx believed that economic class was central to society because all other systems of inequality were dependent on it.

Marx also argued that the powerful determine the ideas that prevailed in the society. They were in the best position to each what they considered the truth, and the ideas they taught would be in their own interests—for example, competition is a law of nature, poverty is inevitable, protection of private property is more important than protection of workers’ rights or people’s lives.

Marx saw that those who have the power also have the privileges in the society. They have longer lives, better health care; higher educational opportunities, more leisure time, comfort, and security.

Chapter 6: Culture

Culture is the second pattern of social organization. Like social structure (the other pattern), it is developed in interaction over time; it determines much of what the individual does; and it allows for continuity, stability, and predictability among people.

Culture Is a Shared Perspective on the World

From a sociological viewpoint, culture does not mean violins, poetry, or art.

The sociological definition of culture is:

A perspective on the world that people come to share as they interact.

It is what people come to agree on, their consensus, their shared reality, their common ideas.

Within the United States, each community, each formal organization, each group and dyad has its own culture (or what some social scientists call a subculture because it is a culture within another culture).

Whereas structure emphasizes differences (people relate to each other in terms of their different positions), culture emphasizes similarities (how they agree).

Culture is made up of what people come to share in their heads—their ideas about what is true, right, and important. Such ideas are guides to what we do,

Copyright © 2005 Mount Vernon Nazarene University Adult and Graduate Studies

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