Social and Cultural Theory Study Essay

Pages: 10 (3203 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: ≈ 10  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Sociology

The phrase 'looking-glass self' was used by Cooley to present the idea that "what we think of ourselves depends on what we think others think of us" ("Charles Horton Cooley,").

The human beings are living in groups, both large and small. The concern shown by the members of the groups towards each other differentiates the primary and secondary groups. Thus, a primary group is one in which the members share personal relationships that are permanent and long-term and family being the most important one. This group of prime importance plays a significant role in the life of an individual. Members of this group spend a lot of time with each other, display real concern for each other's welfare and understand each other really well. It links a person to the larger society that is composed of different secondary groups such as educational institutions or working places. Secondary groups are those which offer impersonal relationships that are temporary and short-term ("Charles Horton Cooley,").

Thus, the primary group is one from where an individual starts socializing with others. It shapes, nurtures and moulds a child's mind-set, conduct, values, and social identity. This makes it obvious that the looking-glass self materializes from within the primary group as children learn the ways of living and surviving from his closest relations. In short, primary groups have a remarkable effect on the personality and character of its members and creates a looking-glass self that is crystal-clear for a member to look into ("Charles Horton Cooley,").

Robert Ezra Park

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According to the Dictionary of Sociology (Subberwal, 2009) "a social process refers to the kind of relationship that exists between interacting persons and groups." Robert Ezra Park presented four major social processes that are Competition, Conflict, Accommodation and Assimilation.

Essay on Social and Cultural Theory Study Assignment

Competition is an essential type of struggle that takes place when supplies are less and demand is high. It is a social process that is mainly found in modern complex societies. Conflict is also a type of interaction and struggle that can be related to the competition. Whereby competition is unconscious and unplanned, conflict is personal, conscious, deliberate and irregular. It is important to consider that conflict occurs when competition is personalized. Accommodation is the adjustment of aggressive and belligerent individuals or groups present in a society. It asks for the mutual working of the conflicted individual or groups despite the number of differences among them. On the other hand, assimilation can be defined as the course of action in which the cultural life of various groups interpenetrates (Subberwal, 2009).

At present, these social processes fit really well into the social evolution of society and industrialization. Not only are these processes continuing today but can be observed in the various European and Asian societies. In United States, for instance, people from all over the world migrate and settle. Society in USA is a modern complex society where various groups of different origins and cultures live together, compete, conflict, accommodate and assimilate. Thus, for a continued survival, it is necessary for these social processes to take place. No group can exist alone without the assistance of another group. Similarly, no individual can survive without the help of another individual. It is exceedingly important to socialize in today's world.

Vilfredo Pareto

Vilfredo Pareto has discussed actions and has divided them into two types; logical and non-logical. According to him, logical actions are those actions which make sense both subjectively and objectively. On the other hand, non-logical actions are those that do not reflect wisdom, knowledge, understanding or insight.

When we talk about decision-making, there are always conditions to make a choice between alternatives. Leaders or people in power make decisions and justify their actions according to their logics. All those in power have different preferences and take decisions following their approaches that always vary. When logic is used to make decisions, emotions are to be excluded. People are always good at giving justifications for their actions and defending themselves. Leaders, while making decisions, always take time to think. Once they make the decision, they always stand by it in all circumstances. Their determination is the result of the logical mind they use not allowing their decisions to be affected by the emotions. In making logical decisions, they also look at all the angles of the situation. They always see the pros and cons of the decision they are likely to make. Also, once they decide something, such people do not feel any reluctance in letting others know about it. They know how to make people see the sense and logic behind a certain decision taken by them.

Thus, a person who does not make emotional decisions always uses logic during the cognitive process of decision-making. Almost every human being uses his/her emotions while making decisions. However, those who ponder over the pros and cons of a decision, always make a good, reasonable and logical choice.

Pitirim A. Sorokin

Social stratification is the unequal distribution of power, status and wealth on the basis of which social groups or strata in a society are ranked one over the other. In short Social stratification is the term used to refer to social inequalities in a society (Subberwal, 2009).

Sorokin, the famous Russian-American sociologist, enjoys a very significant place as far as the study of social stratification and mobility is concerned. He presented his understanding of the modern society and social stratification in a very clear and logical way. According to him, social stratification is "the differentiation of a given population into hierarchically superposed classes." He considered this stratification as an everlasting characteristic of any organized social group. Economy is a criterion for stratification whereby poor and wealthy groups in the society are differentiated. Sorokin also suggested that political stratification is also present in the societies or groups through which social ranks are hierarchically structured keeping in consideration the authority and power. He also defined occupational stratification by which groups and people are classified into various occupational categories consisting of groups who give orders and others who receive orders (Coser, 1977).

Sorokin's theory suggests that it is the dissimilarity in the intensiveness and overview of social mobility which distinguishes a group or a society from others. Social stratification in a society can affect all the classes present in it from upper to middle and to lower classes. Each class in the society has different quota of wealth, power and status. This differentiation which is known as social stratification catalyzes the process of social mobility.

Recent Trends in American Sociological Theory

An individual is the most important part of a society. However, it is also equally important for an individual to understand his/her place in the society. In order to do understand one's role and position in the concerned society, three theories i.e. exchange theory, labeling theory and symbolic interactionist theory could prove to be really helpful.

Exchange theory is founded on the belief that people always try to find and keep those relationships that provide them highest benefits with least costs. An individual can understand the working of close relationships in the society through the exchange theory. Exchange theory suggests that only those relationships work out and prove successful which allow the individual to exchange enviable rewards. Labeling theory, on the other hand, is associated with deviance. It describes and discusses the effect of social response to deviance on the character of an individual. Thus, this theory can help a person to look at himself and decide about his role in the society. Labeling theory also focuses on the resources and opportunities that are available to an individual and how he perceives them. Symbolic interactionism theory refers to the idea that people themselves give meaning to their actions and deeds. Thus, an individual can understand the actions of others by interpreting the meanings in their actions. However, he should also keep it in mind that meanings can be different according to the context of the action. Symbolic interactionism is related with the looking glass self theory that could help an individual to understand his self and thus, understand his/her surroundings (Subberwal, 2009).

In short, an individual has a very basic role to play in the society. However, it is exceedingly important for every man and woman to realize his/her role in the society and work towards being a fruitful and honest citizen in the society.


Chow, R. (2002). The Protestant Ethnic and the Spirit of Capitalism. New York: Columbia University Press. Retrieved January 27, 2012, from Questia database:

Cooley, Charles Horton. (2009). In The Columbia Encyclopedia (6th ed.). New York: Columbia University Press. Retrieved January 28, 2012, from Questia database:

Coser. (1977). Herbert Spencer: Social types: Militant and Industrial Societies. Retrieved January 26, 2012 from

Coser. (1977). Social Stratification and Social Mobility. Retrieved January 29, 2012 from

Krey, P. (2002, June 19).… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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