First writing assignment:

Write a narrative summary of your notes describing what you experienced. Then, explain how each of the three sociological perspectives (structural-functionalism, symbolic interactionism, and social conflict) would analyze what you say. Your description of your observation should represent about 50% of your paper and your analysis another 50%, divided evenly between the three perspectives. At the end of your paper, discuss which perspective you think is the best suited to analyze your observation and why you think so.

Short definitions:

Structural functionalism = stability, survival, efficiency, predictability >> society

Conflict = contradictions in society such as we are all equal but society is stratified (not equal) >> stress on members

Symbolic interaction = meanings… how do we create meanings so that we can interact


Simple observation:  I see a homeless man sitting by the side of the road and someone stops and yells get a job.

Paradigm (theoretical approaches) Interpretations:

Functionalism: Economics is an important part of the society and provides jobs. Part of our non-material (values, ideas, ideology) culture rests on the idea of hard work. This man is failing his responsibility to the society.

Conflict: Although we state we are an equal society, not everyone has the same life chances (Weber). Some events may have given this man less opportunity or some structures of society deny him opportunity. We should correct the contradictions and find a way to help this member of the society. However, others may argue that he has plenty of opportunity and is not trying (probably a functionalist).

Symbolic Interaction: What symbols and meanings are in play? Why do I think one man is homeless? Dress? Demeanor?  What symbols and meanings is the “yelling man” using? What does this tell me about myself and society? SI is about how we interpret our world. Culture (material and non-material) and socialization as well as social control are important contributors when we think, react, and behave.

Your observation paper should contain this type of analysis but to a greater degree.

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