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Critically discuss the concept of 'identity' using one sociological perspective on the relationship between the individual abd s - Essay Example

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Critically discuss the concept of ‘identity’ using one sociological perspective on the relationship between the individual and society. Human life is very complex and it is often difficult to understand how and why individuals develop their own personal identity alongside all the other individuals in society…
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Critically discuss the concept of identity using one sociological perspective on the relationship between the individual abd s
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Download file to see previous pages Structuralists concentrate on the groups and organizations that exist, and examine the way that people fit into certain fixed and required roles in society, while symbolic interactionists are more concerned with the individual’s own free will, and the choices that are made by each person when they take part in all the actions of everyday life. These are the main poles of thought, but there are many intermediary positions, including structural functionalists and conflict theorists. This paper first briefly examines the concept of identity using the structural and functionalist and conflict approaches. It then discusses the symbolic interactionist perspective in greater details and explores how a person shapes his or her identity through contact with other people, giving meaning to his or her own identity through the exercise of choice. One of the most fundamental issues in both sociology and psychology has been the “nature/nurture” debate. When a child is born it has a physical appearance that relates to the genes it has inherited from its parents, but it appears to have very little understanding of its own behaviour, self and identity. This only develops over time. The question that scientists have tried to work out is how much of that identity is hereditary, and how much is acquired through interaction with the environment, including objects and other people, notably parents at first, and then peers and school later. Clearly both inherited and learned factors play a role, but this still does not explain exactly how a child acquires the identity that it assumes as an adult. Early sociological theories tended towards the structural functionalist approach, for example the work of Foucault stressed the constraining nature of all the social organizations that exist. His study on the evolution of prisons through the ages (Foucault, 1995) illustrated how the expectations that were made of individuals when they were disciplined, affected their identity. The act of confining someone in a small space, and curtailing his or her liberty to move around, as well as imposing a rigid timetable, and certain meek and submissive behaviors, has a physical impact upon a person’s body, as well as on the mind. This concerted exercise of power changes the identity of the individual, often for the worse, since it imposes an alien role upon that person. Imprisonment does not just judge the crimes, but it also judges the individual. (Smart, 1992, p. 75) Later scholars have applied these insights to feminism (Butler, 1993) and homosexuality (McWhorter, 1999), showing how the power of heterosexual males has been used to marginalize identities which are not similar to their own. The usefulness of this analysis is that it pinpoints the issue of power as one which affects identity, both of those in positions of power and those in positions of relative weakness. It also draws attention to the way that a person’s physical body is closely connected with his or her identity and can be manipulated by society to produce predictable outcomes that suit the needs of organizations. Sociologists following the ideas of Karl Marx consider a much wider class-based hierarchy which again imposes external structures upon an individual. The roles which a person is free to take are allocated according to the class system, which implies that a person is not free to create his ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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