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Functionalism and Conflict Theory to Examine Social Media as a Sociological Phenomenon


The test requires short essay (850 word) answers to any 2 of the 4 following options. The questions are designed to allow you to demonstrate the breadth of your sociological knowledge and your ability to apply that knowledge in a clear, concise and grammatical fashion. 

Option 1

"Poor people are poor because they live above their means; rich people are rich because they live below their means." Discuss using (a) evidence to either support or refute this claim and (b) a sociological theory (eg Giddens' structuration theory) to help explain your argument. 

Option 2

How might the work of Emile Durkheim help us to understand suicide in Australian society? 

Option 3

Discuss some of the changes and trends in family life in Australia over the last 50 years with reference to at least one sociological theory to help understand this phenomenon. 

Option 4

 Functionalism, conflict theory and structural interactionism are sociological theories that are used to examine sociological phenomenon. Use one of these theories to examine social media as a sociological phenomenon.

Things to consider

Using a relevant sociological theory to help analyse and explain what and/or why this social phenomenon is occurring Including a reference to a relevant social institution eg education system, the family, the legal system, the economic system, and the influencing effect this institution may have on these social phenomena. Using a recent real world example to help illustrate your argument and demonstrate your applied understanding of the issue you are discussing.

Things to pay attention to

Remember that you only need to answer 2 of the questions. You must not use the same material in both essays (with the exception of the textbook). Failure to return the test will result in a mark of 0 being awarded. Your essay must be well researched (i.e. you should consult a minimum of 4 academic sources one of which may be the textbook). Write your essay logically, coherently and in formal academic language. Pay particular attention to spelling and grammar. You can use the Forum to raise any ideas you like and to discuss ways in which you might approach the essay. However, the essay you submit must be your own work. Please contact the subject coordinator and familiarise yourself with the University's plagiarism guidelines if you are uncertain of anything in this regard. You can use some of the subject materials as references to support your essay, but remember that one of the purposes of an essay is for you to read widely and show your ability to select material judiciously. You should go beyond the textbook (but, at the same time, don't ignore the textbook), and gather material from resources on Interact, Google Scholar or the University Library in your search for references. DO NOT USE WIKIPEDIA AS A REFERENCE. Remember that the subject coordinator is available to discuss essay ideas and the University's Learning Skills Advisers (ALLaN) are available to help with writing technique. Remember, too, that the ALLaN advisors are running online essay writing workshops during the third week of session. If you attend the workshops and work carefully through the essay writing module content you will be very well prepared for the assignments.


This assessment task will assess the following learning outcome/s: • be able to demonstrate an understanding of basic concepts used by sociologists. • be able to demonstrate an understanding of the major schools of thought in sociology. • be able to demonstrate a critical understanding of how society and social institutions operate. • be able to demonstrate an ability to evaluate contemporary issues and problems from a sociological perspective.


Functionalism and Conflict Theory

2. How might the work of Emile Durkheim help us to understand suicide in Australian society?  

Durkheim’s theory

Emile Durkheim has developed the functionalist theory of sociology which focus on the macro level of social structure. Therefore, functionalism the theory of Durkheim is interpreters each component of the society in terms of their contribution and stability to the society. According to Durkheim perspective, society can be considered as an organism and among the organism, various components are playing their necessary role. However, the components are able to work individually and in case of crisis all together work hard to compensate for the deficiency. The theory emphasizes the order present the society, aiming at social stability and shared public values (Condorelli, 2016).  According to the theory perspective, disorganization in society can lead to social change as the component of the society was adjusting them to achieve the stability. In case of dysfunctional activity of the one part of the society adversely affect the other active parts of the society and create social problems and changes. Therefore, Durkheim examined how suicide rates can vary according to the religions and in gender variations. He analyzed that the low rate of suicidal attempt in Catholics compared to Protestants and theorized the incident that strong social control and unity was responsible for the lower rate. According to Durkheim, social factors are also played an important role along with the emotional factors in case of suicide (Khan, Naz & Khan, 2017). Therefore, he identified that social integration is an important factor in this respect. Thus, cessation of social integration can increase the rate of suicide. Hence, Durkheim has developed a theoretical typology which explained the effects of social factors in the development of suicide. 

Anomic suicide: It can be considered as an extreme response by an individual experiencing anomie or a sense of disconnection from their societies. Therefore, anomie can develop due to a social, political, and economical disturbance which can change the social patterns and lifestyle of individuals (Crossman, 2018). In such scenarios, individuals can feel disconnected and confused and attempt suicide.

Altruistic suicide:  It can be caused by social forces. In this process, individuals can kill themselves for the benefit of the society or a particular section of the society. It can be assumed that strong social expectation or achievement of a collective goal can influence to commit suicide(Crossman, 2018).  

Egoistic suicide: In this case, completely detached individuals from the society or family can attempt egoistic suicide. He analyzed that elderly persons suffering from loneliness are susceptible to commit egoistic suicide.    

Fatalistic suicide: It can result under extreme social regulation, repressive condition, and due to self-rejection. In such scenarios, an individual can select suicide to discontinue their pathetic social life. 

Suicide rate in Australia     

At present in Australia suicide is the leading cause of death between the ages of 15-44 years. In 2017 more than 3000 Australian died by suicide (Blackdoginstitute, 2018).  According to a statistical representation, in 2017 approximately 75 % male was committing suicide and the female percentage was 25% (Blackdoginstitute, 2018). In addition, it has been recognized that in suicide rate was increased approximately twice in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people compared to non-Indigenous Australians in 2017 (Blackdoginstitute, 2018). 

Therefore, it can be assumed that the relative stability in the suicide rate of Australia over few decades indicating the incident of enormous social, economical, and demographical changes in Australia. In addition, the cohesive social framework of Australia can provide social security, cultural supports, equality, and easy lifestyle as a result the rate of suicide seems to be decreased. Thus, social changes have no disruptive effects on society. It can be stated that the present social condition of Australia is much better compared to European countries over the past few years. In the 1890s due to economic depression and associated problems of land, the incident of severe droughts, and bank collapse was increasing the rate of suicide in Australia. According to G.H. Knibbs, economical and social conditions are important aspects of the society which can elevate the rate of suicide(Hassan, 1992). As per the analytical observation of Durkheim, any dramatic alteration in social regulations can result in anomie. Therefore, the crisis of prosperity was responsible in the late ninety’s to increase the rate of suicide in Australia. In this respect, it can be assumed that fluctuation in the suicide rate in Australia can directly be associated with the changes in social conditions which positively motivate the degree of social integration. The high rate of male suicide rate in Australia since the 1900s is indicating the interferences of few social factors like World Wars and the Great Depression of the 1930s.During this time span, the Australian male was facing unemployment and economical constraint which increased the rate of suicide. The traditional role of the male in family structure adversely affects the whole scenarios(Hassan, 1992). Therefore, the formula created by Durkheim about the effects of economic cycle on male suicide rates was supported by the Burvilr in 1970.  According to Sainsbury nature of community life is an important aspect of suicidal attempt. 

At the present, the metropolis lifestyle of the Australians is responsible for their loneliness and isolated lifestyles. In addition, social and cultural isolation is increasing the tendency of social taboo by divorce or criminal act. The overall scenarios are increasing the rate of suicide. It has been related that social solidarity is also increasing the rate of suicide in communities.  In addition, social status, networks, and relationships can enhance the rate of suicide in Aboriginal communities (Hassan, 1992). According to Platt, the economy is an important component which can accelerate the suicidal activity in a specific community (Khan, Naz & Khan, 2017). Therefore, it can be assumed that the economic constraints and insufficiency in Aboriginal communities are accountable for increasing the rate of suicide. However, the decreasing rate of suicide in Australia suggested that society is positive changing towards the improvement and gradually it will be eliminated to some extent.                                

4. Functionalism, conflict theory, and structural interactionism are sociological theories that are used to examine the sociological phenomenon. Use one of these theories to examine social media as a sociological phenomenon. 

Conflict theory of Karl Marx

Conflict theory was originated by Karl Marx. The theory focused on the causes and consequences of the class conflict between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. According to Karl Marx, the rise of capitalism in Europe had an adverse effect on the social, economic, and political situation of the continent. Therefore, the capitalist system was basically oppressed the majority of lower income group and liberated the power of high-income minority group. This created class conflict due to uneven distribution of resources and facilities. In these scenarios, unequal social conditions were accepted and maintained by the minority group with help of their prosperity and power (Chegg, 2018). Max theory aimed to eliminate social inequality in terms of social, economic, and political point of views. These social inequalities can worsen the socio-economic condition of the nation. Therefore, creating a new system like socialism can promote social stability and peace. 

Conflictive perspective on social media

According to conflict theorists, social media can control by corporations to satisfy their own agenda and business. Therefore, the manipulation of social media can be achieved to satisfy the own goals and interest. Thus, the social media can be considered a channel for social compulsion. Therefore, post an advertisement on social media can be influenced by certain social classes and thoughts. It has been recognized that social media has the power to change the public concern, dominate the beliefs, and change the society to some extent. As per the conflict theorists, modern social media are prime instruments of social controls for shaping our thoughts, beliefs, and format of the society (SociologyGroup, 2017). The conflict perspective focuses on the creation and production of inequalities. Therefore, it discusses the social processes which trend to disrupt the smooth functioning of the society. In this respect, one major focus is the access to social media and technologies in the society. The conflict theory reflects the fact that social media promotes the norms of the upper middle class of the society compared to poor working class.     

Control of social media

According to conflict theory, powerful individuals and institution have the power of influence to control the production, release, and consumption of media. According to Shoemaker and Voss, the in charge of media decides what the public should watch and know. It has been observed that in hegemonic media the culturally diverse society can be dominated by the manipulation of specific gender, class, or race. The evaluation of new media weakens the power of the manipulation in the distribution of information. At present the social media like facebook, twitter, YouTube allow every individual to share relevant information in a form of self-policing. Furthermore, the conflict theorists are suggested that money can purchase social media exposure against the competitors and increase their visual appearances (lumenlearning, 2018). Through this attempt, anyone can utilize the social media for their benefits.  According to conflict theorist gatekeeping is the method through which the elite class of the society can control the social media in terms of information and publishing. After checking the whole information if they find it is supportive of their class then published it for the general public otherwise it can be eradicated. Social media can shape society through the process of control by the elite section of the society.    

Therefore, attempts are taken to eliminate the risk of manipulation of social media. According to many social scientists, suggested the idea of surveillance.  According to Michel Foucault, the surveillance system can monitor every move on social media (lumenlearning, 2018). Therefore, this surveillance was considered as a form of constant monitoring process through which the observation posts are decentralized. At present, the observers can tract through the cell phones and facial recognition software.  

Feminist Perspective of social media 

According to a feminist perspective, popular media utilizes women for their campaigning and advertising purpose. In addition, women are portrayed in a specific manner to recognize them as attractive substances.  In most cases, thin, white beautiful young women are selected for the campaigning in social media. According to a feminist perspective, this specific image is creating and reinforcing the concept of stereotypes. According to many conflict theorists, social media can create and promote gender stereotypes and biases. In this respect, a report published by the U.S. Department of commerce in 2011 indicating that gender stereotype is responsible for creating biases among men and women (lumenlearning, 2018). As a result, men are considered as superior in technological knowledge compared to women. However, the present scenario is different from the past concept. New social media structure considered equalize the status of men and women in the field of technologies and public discourse. Therefore, it can able to abolish the concept of gender stereotype and gap in access to technology and social media. In addition, through the social media feminist can exchange their ideas and thoughts. Therefore, a way of social improvement can be achieved in the future.  

 Hence, social media is an important part of the modern society which shapes the personality and community aspects (Opentextbc, 2018). Conversely, the scenario has been changed gradually. At present, the social media is trying to free from manipulation and project the exact scenario of the society without any discrimination. Thus, it would eliminate the chances of social inequalities and social stereotype.  

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