Many introductory students will be exposed to sociology in only one course. They should leave that course with a new and meaningful way of understanding themselves, other people, their society, and other societies. The most fundamental goal of this book, then, is to help the student develop a sociological perspective.
This goal is emphasized explicitly in the first chapter and implicitly throughout In Conflict and Order: Understanding Society, Tenth Edition. The sociological perspective focuses on the social sources of behavior. It requires shedding existing myths and ideologies by questioning all social arrangements. One of the most persistent questions of the sociologist is, Who benefits from the existing customs and social order, and who does not? Because social groups are created by people, they are not sacred. Is there a better way?
Although there will be disagreement on the answers to these questions, the answers are less important, sociologically than is the willingness to call into question existing social arrangements that many people consider sacred. This is the beginning of the sociological perspective. But being critical is not enough. The sociologist must have a coherent way to make sense of the social world, and this leads us to the second goal of In Conflict and Order: the elaboration of a consistent framework from which to understand and interpret social life.
In Conflict and Orders, Tenth Edition is guided by the assumption that there is an inherent duality in all societies. The realistic analytics of any one society must include both the integrating and stabilizing forces, on one hand, and the forces that are conducive to mail integration and change, on the other. Society in the United States is characterized by harmony and intricacies of social structure, the mechanisms of social change, and the sources of social problems that are to be understood fully.
This objective of achieving a balance between the order and the conflict perspectives is not fully realized in this book, however. Although both perspectives are incorporated into each chapter, the scales are tipped toward the conflict perspective. This imbalance is the conscious product of how the authors, as sociologists and teachers, view the structure and mechanisms of society. In addition to presenting what we believe is realistic analytics of society. In addition to presenting what we believe is realistic analytics of society, this imbalance counters the prevailing view of the order perspective, with its implicit sanctification of the status quo.
Such a stance is untenable to us, given the spate of social problems that persist in the U.S Society. The emphasis on the conflict approach, on the other hand, question existing, social arrangements, viewing them as sources of social problems, a position with which we agree. Implicit in such a position is the goal of restructuring society along more humane lines.
That we stress the conflict approach over the order model does not suggest that In Conflict and Order is a polemic. On the contrary, the social structure is also examined from a sympathetic view. The existing arrangements do provide for the stability and maintenance of the system. But the point is that, by including a relatively large dose of the conflict perspective, the discussion is a realistic appraisal of the system rather than a look through rose-colored glasses.
This duality theme is evident primarily at the societal level in this book. But even though the societal level is the focus of our inquiry, the small group and individual levels are not ignored. The principles that apply to societies are also appropriate for the small social organizations to which we belong, such as families, workgroups, athletic teams, religious organizations, and clubs. Just as important, the sociological perspective shows how the individual is affected by groups of all sizes.
Moreover, it shows how the individual’s identity is shaped by social forces and how in many important ways the individual’s thoughts and actions are determined by group memberships. The linkage of the individual to social groups is shown throughout In Conflict and Order. The relationship of the individual to the larger society is illustrated in special panels that examine societal changes and forces impinging on individuals and the choices available to us as we attempt to cope with these societal trends.
Organization of the Book
The book is divided into five parts. Part One (Chapters 1 through 3) introduces the reader to the sociological perspective, the fundamental concepts of the discipline, and the duality of social life. These chapters set the stage for an analysis of the structure (organization) and process (change) of U.S society. The emphasis is on the characteristics of societies in general and of the United States in particular.
Part Two (Chapters 4 through 7) describes the way in which human beings are shaped by society. The topics include the values that direct our choices, the social bases of social identity and personality, the mechanisms that control individual and group behavior, and the violation of social expectations deviance. Throughout these chapters, we examine both the forces that work to make all of us living in the United States similar and those that make us different.
Part Three (Chapters 8 through 12) focuses on social change and social inequality. This section begins with a chapter showing how three major social forces (globalization, the new immigration, and the aging of the population) affect human behavior and social life. Among other things, these structural changes affect human stratification by class and race. These are the topics of the remaining chapters in this section. We examine how societies rank people in hierarchies. We also examine the mechanisms that ensure that some people have a greater share of wealth, power, and prestige than do others, and the positive and negative consequences of such an arrangement. Other chapters focus on the specific hierarchies of stratification class, race, and gender.
Part Four (Chapters 13 to 17) discusses another characteristic of all societies, the presence of social institutions. Every society historically has developed a fairly consistent way of meeting its survival needs and the needs of its members. The organizations of society into families, for example, ensures the regular input of new members, provides for the stable care and protection of the young and regulates sexual activity. In addition to discussions of the family, chapters in Part Four are devoted to education, the economy, the polity, and religion. The understanding of institutions is vital to the understanding of society because these social arrangements are part of its structure, resist change, and have a profound impact on the public and private lives of people.
Part Five (Chapters 18) examines social changes that occur from the bottom up. The goal of these chapters is to combat the strong structural determinism bias of the earlier chapters by focusing on how human beings, individually and collectively, change social structures.
Themes of the book
As in previous editions, In Conflict and Order incorporates four themes: diversity, the struggle by the powerless to achieve social justice, the changing economy, and globalization. First, although there are separate chapters on race, class, and gender, these fundamental sources of differences are infused throughout the book and in the photographs. This emphasis is important to an understanding of the diversity in a tendency toward structural determinism is countered by Chapter 18 and various examples of human agency throughout the book: the powerless organizing to achieve power and positive social changes (for example, civil rights, gay rights, rights for people with disabilities, and gender equity in sports). Third, the sources and consequences of the structural transformation of the economy are examined. This is a pivotal shift in the U.S economy with significant implications for individuals, communities, society, and the global economy. And, fourth, the focus is often shifted away from the United States to other societies through descriptions, panels, and tables. This global perspective is important for at least two reasons: to illustrate the universality, of sociological concepts and to help us understand how the world is becoming ever more interdependent.
These four themes diversity, the struggle by the powerless to achieve social justice, the changing economy, and globalization are important concepts to consider sociologically. We see that social problems are structural in origin and that the pace of social change is accelerating, yet society’s institutions are slow to change and meet the challenges. The problems of U.S society are of great magnitude, and solutions must be found. But understanding must precede action and that is one goal of In Conflict and Order.
The analysis of U.S society is a challenging task. It is frustrating because of the heterogeneity of the population and the complexity of the forces impinging on U.S social life. It is also frustrating because the diversity within the United States leads to many inconsistencies and paradoxes. Furthermore, it is difficult, if not impossible, for people in the United States to be objective and consistently rational about their society. Nevertheless, the sociological study of U.S society is fascinating and rewarding. It becomes absorbing as people gain insights into their own actions and into the behavior of other people. Understanding the intricate complex of forces leading to a particular type of social structure or social problem can be liberating and can lead to collective efforts to bring about social change. This book attempts to give the reader just such a sociological perspective. Finally, we are unabashedly proud of being a sociologist. Our hope is that you will capture our enthusiasm for exploring and understanding the intricacies and mysteries of social life.
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Preface In Conflict and Order
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