Term Paper: Sociology Theories How Do Berger

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Sociology Theories

How do Berger, et al., address the question "How is social reality possible?"

The best way to address the issue of social reality ("human order" according to authors Berger/Luckmann in the Social Construction of Reality) is to attempt it on two levels. On one level there is the concept of "world openness" - i.e., the natural world outside of humankind boundaries - which has an impact on human activities but is trumped by what humans do in their societal dynamics. The second level is of course is a kind of "world closedness" because it closes out the natural world and creates an artificial world for humans.

Because mankind is inherently unstable, there has to be some kind of a social order, the authors state; indeed, a social reality (or order) is an "anthropological necessity" to avoid planetary chaos. And humans arrive at that reality through their habits (or as the authors point out, "habitualized actions"), good, bad or otherwise. The habitualization process then evolves into institutions, which provide the social glue to hold society together, and to provide a measure of control. And institutions themselves are the products of history.

As to the question of how institutions in fact provide that necessary measure or degree of control - and keep social order from spinning off into social chaos, a dark reality that has indeed been experienced at various times throughout human history - the authors say that institutions have a "coercive power" over the individual which cannot be denied or defied. The institution was there before the child was born into the society, and that individual knows the institution will be there when he or she is gone, hence it is an "objective reality." It just is. Whether he or she understands the institution or not, likes it or not, interacts with it or not, that institution has power over the individual; that institution is social reality objectified.

Each succeeding generation will put its mark on the institution, and have an impact to some degree, but the social world ("social reality" if you will) revolves around the objectivity of institutions, and it goes on as generations arrive and disappear.

QUESTION TWO: How are societies maintained according to the views of structural functionalists? In general by reading Robert K. Merton's essay, societies are maintained through institutions, which create and apply regulations, laws, proper modes of behavior. In specifics, societies are maintained through the interaction of "manifest functions" and "latent functions." The manifest functions of a society refers, Merton explains, to those "...objective consequences for a specified unit (person, subgroup, social or cultural system) which contribute to its adjustment or adaptation..." And they were indeed intended as consequences to assist in the adjustment or adapting to the social institution (or in broader terms, to the maintenance of the society) at issue.

The latent functions are the unintended consequences - and unrecognized consequences - that result from actions of the same order. Examples are important here as Merton's writing tends towards the esoteric; the manifest functions can be separated out from the latent functions though examination of controversial issues like Navajo witchcraft, Hopi rain-making ceremonies, various personality dynamics, national security, propaganda as a way to control society, and more. For example, when the society looks at the Hopi ceremony from a manifest point-of-view - there should be rain if effort has been put forward to bring the rain - but no rain is produced, the manifest function looks at the Hopi Indians as engaged in silly superstitions. But from the latent function, the "unrecognized" consequences of the ceremony, there may be some positive energy that came out of the ceremony because it may bring the Hopi group closer together as a spiritual unit. Hence, through latent function observations, the answer to the question number TWO is clear: the Hopi maintain their society through acts such as chanting in unison and participating in ceremonies that are exciting and exude commonality. Rain or no rain, this is what they do, and their culture is strengthened through ceremonies the bond them. As Merton writes, "Findings concerning latent functions… [END OF PREVIEW]

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