Understanding the dynamics that operate within society is a key step for sociologists, more so when it comes to predicting behavior. It is therefore quite important to have a deep understanding of theoretical frameworks that guide critical looks into the workings of society. Particularly, an adequate understanding of the three sociological paradigms and theoretical concepts that fall within them is necessary. This is more so when attempting to gain a deeper and accurate understanding of factors that not only influence interactions within society, but also influence the social order within society and the perceptions that individuals have of themselves, as well as of their positions within society.
The first theoretical concept that is of interest and falls within the functionalist paradigm, is the concept of socialization. Socialization as a theory has essentially been defined as the factor that organizes society, hence is responsible for stability; falling within the functionalist paradigm. The functionalist paradigm focuses on mechanisms that serve to maintain social stability. It argues that social structure is chiefly responsible for the maintenance of social stability and equilibrium amongst the components of society. Socialization as a concept falls within this paradigm because it is primarily concerned with the preparation of individuals to ensure that there is conformity, as well as uniformity, aspects that are important when it comes to ensuring that stability exists within society. Socialization is basically meant to teach individuals, not only how to be social, but also how to utilize, as well as interpret language symbols and interact with others in a manner that does not cause discord or instability.
Mead’s assertion that the individual is initially born without the self, but gains it through the process of development by social experience and social activity, serves to highlight the importance of socialization. In order to ensure that the process of gaining the self identity does not take place in a manner that runs contrary to societal expectations, or in a manner that leads to a discordant society, socialization usually occurs in a preset, structured and acceptable manner. Key to the process of socialization is usually the family unit, which essentially form the primary group, community and society (Lemert, 2009).
The structure nature of socialization further serves to reaffirm the claim that socialization falls within the functionalist paradigm. Essentially socialization serves to instill order within society by orientating individuals to the norms that must be conformed to, ensuring order is maintained. Once socialized properly, an individual essentially has a defined framework of behavior, meant to assist in dealing with different situation. This structured way of doing things, as well as reacting to situations affects various facets of life within the community further ensuring stability. True to Durkheim’s claims, socialization ensures that there is social regulation of potentially detrimental individual appetites. In general, socialization provides structure and a common sense of direction within a social environment that involves gender, social class and racial influences amongst others. Durkheim even goes as far as to claim that man is only himself because he lives within a society, implying that socialization actually brings structure into man’s life, hence the assertion that it falls within the functionalist paradigm.
The second theoretical concept that is of interest, is the concept of sexuality and the queer theory. It build’s on Focault’s assertions regarding the existence of sexuality as an invention of both historical and institutional inventions. This concept it is plausible to argue, falls within the conflict paradigm. This is more so because it is essentially an explanation of the current aversion towards homosexuality, as well as to an extent, the exploration of sexism and the relationship between conforming to societal norms and the expression of power. This focus on sexual politics is of particularly great interest to feminists, who all along argue against the neutrality or even objectivity of existing ruling knowledges and concepts that significantly influence gender relations and power. This view regarding the silence of society as well as sociologists on sexuality, despite claims and theories by prominent sociologists such as Weber, Durkheim and Max reaffirming the role of social interaction in the development of different forms of behaviors, highlight the possibility that sexuality comes about as a result of something other social interaction. This second significant element in the development of sexuality is described by Seidman, who poses that due to the heterosexist bias, women are not only discriminated against, but it leads to a society that discriminates against homosexuals, due to the privileged position of heterosexual men, not just in terms of their sexual social position, but also in terms of their gender. This bias therefore serves to redistribute power and creates a sense of inequality and discrimination, particularly when it comes to the homosexual group, which is regarded as queer and not conforming to the assumed norm of heterosexuality. The concept explored therefore, attempts to focus on the existence and development of homosexuality, as well as reasons why homosexuality is regarded as it is regarded. The theorists argue that the conflict as well as differing opinions people have of homosexuality serve to further fuel the conflict and existing bias against homosexuality, a bias that according to Siedman, might come about undeliberately. The bias has however served to create a second group of individuals who actually believe. Siedman seemingly argues that the constant problems faced by homosexuality as the abnormal, come about due to society’s silence on the matter, as well as society’s bias towards heterosexuality.
Though the two theoretical concepts belong to two different paradigms, they share certain similarities as well as differences. Both theories seem to suggest and provide a sense of predeterminism, as they both argue that individuals are usually simply fitting into already preset roles or set behavior (Dillon, 2009). At the same time however, proponents of the queer theory might argue that it provides an important if not unique opportunity to practice non conformity to societal expectations, more so expectations regarding sexuality. Whereas one mainly explains the conformity and uniformity that exists in heterosexual individuals, one explores how the conflict of sexuality came about, highlighting the significance of there not being any guiding literature mentioning sexuality. Heterosexuality has therefore served as a perfect example of how at times it takes more than just simple social interaction to develop behavior.
Dillon, M. (2009). Introduction to Sociological Theory: Theorists, Concepts, and their Applicability to the Twenty-First Century. Wiley-Blackwell.
Lemert, C. (2009). Social Theory: The Multicultural and Classic Readings. Westview ress.