Western Sydney University
School of Social Sciences and Psychology
102179 Theories of the Social
Unit Code: 102179
Unit Name: Theories of the Social
Credit Points: 10
Unit Level: 7
Assumed Knowledge: Undergraduate degree in the Social Sciences or equivalent.
1 About Theories of the Social
1.1 An Introduction to this Unit
This unit examines the notions that humans are intrinsically social beings who are at once products of and producers of their own circumstances. By providing an overview and critical engagement with a wide array of social theories, the unit explores key aspects of human society including structure and agency; knowledge and power relations; culture and identity; class, economy and consumption; self, society and the public sphere; social change and social justice. Students consider the social, political and discursive processes through which theories are made and applied, and how theories may both limit and create possibilities for research and practice. Throughout the unit students will be encouraged to use critical social theory to not only expose and analyse social systems but also to engage in reflection about how theoretical perspectives can inform practices of change.
Assessment Item 3. Essay 2000 words 40%
The assignment requires the completion of an essay based on the outline (and taking account of feedback) you
prepared for Assignment 2. The standard essay format is to be followed:
– Body - arguments and discussion
– Reference list
If your essay is substantially different to the Assignment 2 outline and you have not discussed this with your lecturer it will not be accepted. The essay is an opportunity to focus on one or a combination of topics topics from the unit content and demonstrate your depth of reading, understanding and engagement with theory. You can use the essay as a basis for initial reading and analysis for a future thesis topic. Or an opportunity to explore in greater depth an area of theory you have been familiar with. Alternatively, an opportunity to explore an area of theory you have had no familiarity with prior to this unit. The important thing is that the essay is focused on theory. For your own benefit you can make the essay useful for either in thinking about a thesis topic; and/or your professional interests and commitments
Feminism refers to the social, economic and political equality of the sexes. Scharff (2016) commented that feminism is practised worldwide and characterized by different institutions committed to the activity, considering the rights and interest of the women. The present essay would view the feminist so as a conflict theory that views gender concerning its power at the face-to-face level and reflexivity within the social structure. The feminist theory was solemnised in 1960 by Charlotte Perkins Gilman to point out the gender differences between the men and the women (Goodman 2015). The present essay would elaborate on the perspective of feminism as conflict theory and identify its role in creating gender equality in society and family. Feminist knowledge has disconcerted the individual society dichotomy. Feminism seems to challenge the concept of unitary and the universal theme along with the resistance of the objectives to subjective. The concept of feminism has risen from the idea of gender identity which is again the result of psychology’s construction of concept.
Throughout history, the women are seen to be kept cramped in the domestic setting while the men are allowed to enjoy domestic life. In medieval Europe, the women were deprived of the ownership right, from studying or having any public life. The women had to keep them covered, cover their heads and were considered to be the property of the husband for which they (women) can be sold. In some parts of Europe and the United States women were denied the right to vote in the early twentieth century. Thus, women all around the world were circumscribed in all possible ways (Fox 2015). Herein, began the demand for the liberation of the women. However, the process was slow as these protests encountered barriers and mass obstruction. Feminism voices during the renaissance period were never combined to form a severe movement. The movement began when the women worked for the new reformist rhetoric regarding the equality and liberty for both the sexes.
Einspahr (2010) commented that patriarchy has always been used as a tool for the domination of women by hampering their liberty and freedom. The radical feminist has pointed out male are the primary agents of the nomination for the women. Supremacy and power exerted by the men are quite old; this led to the oppression of the women. Men have always utilised their power to confine the women physically, sexually and psychologically. Thus, female liberation can be attained by destroying patriarchy. Thus, Okin (2016) commented that feminist perceive society from women. As per the feminist sociology, society should offer an equal position of women. As per the concept of feminism, society is based on the conflict between men and women. Patriarchy allows society to run as per the interest of the men. Einspahr (2010) mentioned that feminism theory had undergone a significant shift towards complex theorizing identity of the women or the gendered subject formation for explaining the oppression of the women as is evident in the feminist re-conceptualization of liberty. Feminism in the society is also associated with the focus on the subjectivity, identity and the agency of the women. The author has identified that considering freedom as the individual gendered subject has limited the different number of essential senses. Thus, it is useful for the feminist for considering freedom and domination as the fundamental concept that focuses not on the individual and their identities but on the position of the individuals. It is crucial for the feminist to consider patriarchy as a structure of domination to have a better understanding of the society and overcoming the issues of grounding feminist theory in s single ‘category of women'.
Ratele (2006) commented that the permeability between family and work give rise to work-family conflict. The traditional gender roles create unequal participation of the men and women are connected with the enhanced work-family conflict between the men and the women. The women are defined to undertake the role of home-maker even though they work outside to earn money. The gender identity defines the gender roles and creates conflict within the family. Judith Butler has identified the relationship between the subjectivity and identity and mentioned that gender should be viewed as the attributes of human being that alters with time. The binary view of the gender often restricts identity and the role of the women in society and within family (Çınar 2010). Women should not be lumped together with similar share and interest as it restricts their ability and identity. Cojocaru (2012) mentioned feminism has allowed the liberation of the women and help them identify their unique identities. The women seem to contribute much towards the education and developing children, and this provides images and the experiences in thinking about the mass of people, overcoming conflicts and balancing the wishes of the different people (Cojocaru 2012).
Families are considered to be the arena of sharing and caring but they also involve power relations. Families are places for sharing love and also for being exploited. Families are the places that allow the budding of gender inequalities as the society dictates the role of the men and women (Beaujot, Liu & Ravanera 2017). Often the women are deprived of their rights and needs and they are influenced to sacrifice for the other members. The conflict model helps in better understanding home roles as compared to work roles. Understanding the gender roles is crucial for identifying the work-home interface. They seem to be shared beliefs which are applicable to the individuals considering the socially identified sex that stands as the criteria for labour division in different societies. Thus, feminism has become turned out to be a source of awareness for not only in gender relation but in different forms unequal power relation and making welfare identification.. Grabe (2012) commented on the importance of feminist psychology for identifying the difference in gender relation and understand society. Feminism has turned out to be a conflict theory as it considers that the different social and religious beliefs are instruments that are set up by the men for oppressing the women based on their beliefs and practices. There are different theories of feminism like the liberal feminist theory, radical feminist theory and Marxist feminist theory that consider that families are run on the principles developed by the society and societies are ‘male-stream’ and not mainstream (Cerrato & Cifre 2018).
Phillips (2002) argued that feminism is a western influence that changes the social life. The human rights based on the west are often considered to be the result of the colonial domination on the people who are capable of determining their rights and justice. However, the feminist has subdued these arguments and mentioned if the women rights are western then also they can be used as the theoretical foundation for condemning the unfair social realities and advancement of the women rights. Grabe & Else-Quest (2012) commented that feminism theory needs to be based on change and mode of resistance. Feminist is considered to be a conflict theory as it views the society from the perspective of the women and the reason for doing this is that it aids in extending help to the oppressing women. However, by doing that they are disregarding the need of the males in the society. Hirsch & Keller (2015) fully protested against this idea of feminism as it is about the liberation and providing equal position to the women in family arena as well as in society and preventing their exploitations. The liberal perspective of feminism takes accounts human and the civil rights and freedom of the individuals. The liberal feminist believe that the human begins irrespective of the fender should have equal rights and responsibilities within the society. Thus, there should be no gender roles within the families and there should be equal share of the tasks and the activities.
Nuruzzaman (2006) commented that human society is considered to be patriarchal and is made up of the structured institutions which are included in the power relationships. The feminist theory stands for the fact that society stands for delivering benefit to a certain groups of people like males and heterosexual. The society provides more power and opportunities to the males. The males are the head of the families and the women are expected to sacrifice for them. The patriarchal culture develops identifies based on the gender and it decides what an individual could perform and how an individual should behave and act in the society and family. Radical feminism theory also protests the patriarchal roots of the inequality that differentiates the men and the women in the society. The radical feminists points out the domination of the women by the men. Patriarchy divides the right of the society and result in the oppression of the women and privileging the women. They seem to protest against the rules of patriarchy and liberation of the women.
The feminist perspective has a close connection with a conflict perspective. Conflict theory takes account of the unequal distribution of the power and resources; feminism focuses on power concerning gender. The conflict theory of feminism considers the dispute between the men and the women and the inequality that has resulted from it. Schneider (2016) has identified the contribution of Marry Joe in rejecting gender stereotype and attaining gender equality. Feminist legal thinking needs to be rooted as well as agile. This can be better explained with feminist conflict theory as it considers the factors that led to the suppression of the women and views society as the ‘malestream’ and not mainstream which is useful for the gender equality. As per the findings of the conflict theory, society works so that every member and group can enhance their benefits, thereby contributing to the social changes. The feminist has utilized conflict theory for developing an understanding of the position of women in society. According to them, women are oppressed so that women can gain benefit from power and status (Bell & O'Rourke 2007).
As per the foundation of the conflict theory, the men can be entrusted with giving power to the women for building equality. Conflict theory acts as lenses for analysing society. The conflict theory highlights the social problems that are developed by the dominant group for oppressing minor ones and thereby advocate the need for maintaining a balance between the genders. Andersonn (2015) commented that gender mainstreaming strategy is useful for attaining gender equality within the society, thereby avoiding gender conflict. The feminist discourse theory helps in identifying gender mainstreaming as the gender equality policy. Conflict theory, thus, helps in identifying the fundamental differences that lie in the society and developing policies by the feminist for attaining gender equality, mainstreaming challenges the issues of attaining the goals. Following the conflict theory, it is useful to bring changes in the power structure that can help in bringing balance between the genders.
Conflict feminism theory highlighted the idea that feminism can act as a conflict theory. This possess similarity with Marxism as Marxism deals with the social and political conflicts feminism deals with conflict between the men and women and the inequality that has resulted from it. Bell & O'Rourke (2007) commented that true feminism stands for equality but it raises conflict regarding the conventional roles of the men and women. It aims to get a balance in power and provides the women with recognitions and gives them scope to select from varied opportunities. True feminism provides true equality to both the genders without any sort of restriction and limitations. This engages in conflict as both the sexes need to contribute equally towards the family and undertake both the financial and other responsibilities. Feminism is viewed as the tool of reducing the opportunities for men and oppressing them at the cost of liberating. However, this belief is wrong and seems to arise from orthodox people of patriarchal society (Bell & O'Rourke 2007). Feminism is about viewing the society from the perspective of ability and capability rather than biological category of sex.
The present essay highlights the feminism as the conflict theory. Gender inequality emerges from the family as the men and the women are seemed to have defined roles and responsibilities. The women are pressurised to household chores, take care of children and sacrifice for their family members. The men are provided with varied privileges. The feminism theory seems to protest against the patriarchal society and their rules acting as a conflict theory. Feminist theories explore the tools that help to identify the ways in which patriarchy directs the life in families and society. It thus raises conflict in the ways in which the women should be treated in the family as well as society.