Societies are integrated systems comprised of specialized parts that serve functions • Manifest, or intended • Latent, or unintended • Society is like an organism • Dysfunctional parts will gradually cease to exist • Theoretical Weaknesses • does not address power differential, inequality, or social change. Maintaining equilibrium Symbolic Interactionism: Micro-level • Seeks to understand society by examining day-to-day interactions of people • Particular focus on language, gestures, and symbols and assigning meaning to situations • Key theorists: Mead, Blumer, Goffman • Assumptions of symbolic interactionism • Reality is a social construction • What one believes to be real is one’s own reality, and actions and reactions are based on that reality
• The meaning that one attributes to a situation is largely based on past experiences • Change happens when one improves on a script (that is, when experience shows us new meanings) • Theoretical Weaknesses • has to be taken to the macro-level to see the connections of larger institutions. Symbols: are anything that carries a particular meaning recognized by those who share a culture Sympathy: Tabula Rasa: Aristotle (4 th century B.C.) Beyond a very few basic instincts, our experiences shape us entirely. Thus, No one is inherently superior to anyone else, and Nurture is more powerful than nature John Locke “Essay Concerning Human Understanding” People start with a receptive mind Learn simple ideas and then combine them into more complex ones Locke was an English philosopher and empiricist during the Enlightenment period (17 th century) This is the concept of “tabula rasa”. Blank slate The birth of the human mind is a “blank slate” without data or rules for processing data That data is added and rules for processing are formed solely by one’s sensory experiences the mind of the individual is born blank emphasizes the freedom of individuals to author their own soul Individuals are free to define the content of their character but basic identity as a member of the human species cannot be altered Much different from Thomas Hobbes’ viewpoint Humans are endowed with inherent mental content The tabula rasa concept became popular in social sciences during the twentieth century. Early ideas of eugenics posited that human intelligence correlated strongly with social class, but these ideas were rejected, and the idea that genes (or simply "blood") determined a person's character became regarded as racist. Now, similar ideas of gender emerging. The most radical interpretation: We are born with no characteristics – all is learned. A less radical interpretation: We are born with some “bent”, but most is learned. Talcott Parsons: Parsons, a sociologist, agrees with Freud, not Cooley and Mead.