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BSOC-113: Sociological Thinkers -II

BSOC-113: Sociological Thinkers -II

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Assignment Code: BSOC-113/ASST /TMA / July 2022-Jan 2023

Course Code: BSOC-113

Assignment Name: Sociological Thinkers-II

Year: 2022-2023

Verification Status: Verified by Professor

Assignment A


Answer the following in about 500 words each.


1. Write a note on Radcliffe-Brown’s understanding of structure

Ans) Alfred Reginald Radcliffe-Brown was a key figure in the development of the structural functionalist perspective in British social anthropology. He was born in England and received his education at Cambridge, where he studied anthropology as a post-graduate student. Durkheim, as well as Comte and Frazer's theories, influenced his work. From 1906 to 2008, he conducted fieldwork among the Andaman Islanders, as well as in Australia from 1910 to 2012.


He considered culture to be an abstract concept with little analytical value, preferring to focus on social structure. Many of Durkheim’s ideas, such as the concept of social facts and a Durkheimian functionalist model of society, were adopted by him. The Andaman Islanders, Method in Social Anthropology, and Structure and Function in Primitive Society are some  of his best-known works.


The term "structure" refers to a grouping of parts or components that are linked together in some way. The structure of a house, for example, refers to the arrangement of walls, roofs, rooms, stairs, passages, and so on, as well as an arrangement of bricks, stone, timber, and so on. Individual human beings considered as actors in social life, that is, as persons, are the ultimate components in social structure. Europe's citizens are organised into nations, which is a structural feature of the continent's social life. Ina village, people may be organised into families or households, which is yet another structural feature.


As a result, when we look for structural features of social life, we look for the existence of social groups of all kinds, as well as their internal structure. However, there is a division of people into social classes and categories within those groups, in addition to the grouping of people into groups. The arrangement of people in dyadic, or person-to-person, relationships, such as those between master and servant or, in primitive societies, between mother's brother and sister's son, is one of the most important structural features. As a result, a social structure can be seen in interactions between groups, such as when one country goes to war with another, or in interactions between individuals.


The distinction between social structure and social organisation was made by Radcliffe-Brown. Structure, he claims, refers to  the arrangement of people, while organisation refers to the arrangement of activities. When a gardener o  peasant assigns different tasks to different seasons of the year, he is said to organise his own work. The arrangement of activities of two or more people that are adjusted to produce a unified combined activity is known as social organisation. When it comes to the organization of work in a factory, for example, the manager, foremen, and workers all have specific tasks to complete as part of the overall activity. An organised group is one in which the members participate in a common activity in which each member has a specific role to play. However, such groups, like the football team, must have some degree of permanence.


the study of social religion, according to Radcliffe-Brown, is an important aspect of social structure. Humans are guided by the religious norms and values to which they belong. Each clan in a tribe is its own totemic group, with its own sacred totem-centres in its own territory, myths about the origins of the territory's topographical features, and rites. Each clan has its own totemic solidarity and continuity that sets it apart from the others. Furthermore, for the initiation of boys, there are totemic ceremonies and religious rites in which a number of clans unite and cooperate. The religious structure of society is provided by clans and their gatherings


2. Discuss the dramaturgical approach of Erving Goffman

Ans) Dramaturgy is a sociological perspective commonly used in micro-sociological accounts of social interaction in everyday life.  The term was first adapted into sociology from the theatre by Erving Goffman, who developed most of the related terminology and ideas in his 1956 book, The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life.


Kenneth Burke, whom Goffman would later acknowledge as an influence, had earlier presented his notions of dramatism in 1945, which in turn derives from Shakespeare. The fundamental difference between Burke's and Goffman's view, however, is that Burke believed that life was in fact theatre, whereas Goffman viewed theatre as a metaphor. If we imagine ourselves as directors observing what goes on in the theatre of everyday life, we are doing what Goffman called dramaturgical analysis, the study of social interaction in terms of theatrical performance.


In dramaturgical sociology, it is argued that the elements of human interactions are dependent upon time, place, and audience. In other words, to Goffman, the self is a sense of who one is, a dramatic effect emerging from the immediate scene being presented. Goffman forms a theatrical metaphor in defining the method in which one human being presents itself to another based on cultural values, norms, and beliefs. Performances can have disruptions, but most are successful. The goal of this presentation of self is acceptance from the audience through carefully conducted performance. If the actor succeeds, the audience will view the actor as he or she wants to be viewed.


A dramaturgical action is a social action that is designed to be seen by others and to improve one's public self-image. In addition to Goffman, this concept has been used by Jürgen Habermas and Harold Garfinkel, among others.


The theatre metaphor can be seen in the origins of the word person, which comes from the Latin persona, meaning 'a mask worn by actors'. We behave differently in front of different people. We pick out clothing that is consistent with the image we wish to project. We enlist the help of friends, caterers, and decorators to help us successfully “stage” a dinner for a friend, a birthday party for a relative, or a gala for a fundraiser. If we need to adjust our clothing or wish to say something unflattering about one of our guests, we are careful to do so out of sight from others.


The presentation of us to others is known as dramaturgy.  Dramaturgical perspective is one of several sociological paradigms separated from other sociological theories or theoretical frameworks because, rather than examining the cause of human behaviour, it analyses the context. This is, however, debatable within sociology.


In Frame Analysis, Goffman writes, "What is important is the sense he provides them through his dealing with them of what sort of person he is behind the role he is in."  The dramaturgical perspective can be seen as an anchor to this perspective, wherein the individual's identity is performed through role and consensus between the actor and the audience. Because of this dependence on consensus to define social situations, the perspective argues that there is no concrete meaning to any interaction that could not be redefined. Dramaturgy emphasizes expressiveness as the main component of interactions; it is thus termed as the "fully two-sided view of human interaction."


Within dramaturgy analysis, teams are groups of individuals who cooperate with each other in order to share the 'party line'. Team members must share information as mistakes reflect on everyone. Team members also have inside knowledge and are not fooled by one another's performances.


Assignment B


Answer the following questions in about 250 words each.


3. How does Levi-Strauss view human culture?

Ans) Levi-Strauss saw culture as nothing more than a tool for trading; a system of meaning transmission that bound society together. All myths, folktales, stories, even ritualistic behaviours and religious beliefs that make up the fundamental fabric of what we recognise as culture served as means of meaning transmission.


Relational structure and psychology, the makeup of the human mind, were Levi-counterarguments. Strauss's His view is that cultural artefacts reflect and serve as tools for the upkeep of society, which to him is nothing more than a means of exchanging systems. The incest taboo, which changed biological mating into marriage in human cultures, was the cause of the transition from nature to culture, according to Levi-Strauss, who sought to understand the origins of culture.


Marriage, or the circulation of women to strengthen the tie of exchange across groups, is, in Levi-Strauss' view, the most fundamental type of exchange. But how do people form social groups? Due to the universal law of incest, which forbids some social groups from having access to their own women and forces them to seek to other groups for women, the most basic type of commerce occurs in the simplest civilizations, when alliance relationships are created. Levi-Strauss rejects the psychological and natural theories of incest ban and views it as a cultural tactic that enables society. cultural customs, values, and other elements.


He expands on this point by claiming that the principal oppositions theory may be used to explain even the most atypical beliefs and practises in the most atypical of civilizations. In his famous essay, "The Bear and the Barber," he demonstrates how totemism among Australian Aborigines, who are a primitive, unevolved society of hunters and food gatherers, can be explained by the caste system of the complex civilization of Hindus of India, who live in an agricultural and urban economy. However, if one looks at the two systems' fundamental logic of operation, they can be compared in terms of their fundamental structure.


4. What do Berger and Luckman mean by externalisation?

Ans) Social construction is a theory that belongs to the symbolic interactionist perspective. Peter Burger and Thomas Luckman presented the idea of social construction in the 1960s. They argued that social realities are constructed and maintained in social interaction. That is, we do not find or discover knowledge or reality so much as we construct it. For example, we invent concepts, schemes, models, etc. to make sense of our experiences and we keep refining them as we gain more experience.


According to social construction, even so-called objective facts need interpretation. And we do not construct our interpretations in isolation. Interpretations are rather guided by our common understanding, practices, language, socio-historical context, and the conceptual framework through which we describe and explain our world. Once these interpretations are accepted by the majority, they get constructed and become social realities. Thus, the actors’ definition of the situation and how they recognize, produce, and reproduce social action intersubjectively is central to how they make sense of their world.


Burger and Luckman in 1966 argue that social construction works in three stages, externalization, objectification, and internalization.



Externalization is the process by which the meaning is carried and communicated to the outside world.  To understand how racism is socially constructed, let’s try to understand the process of externalization first. Some people started feeling superior based on the color of the skin, facial features, and hair texture.


These feelings of superiority started to gain momentum in some cultures and societies where the individuals created and maintained this practice of superiority through their language and behaviors. Superiority based on the color of the skin and outward features became a reality when individuals agreed that these differences based on the color of the skin, facial features, and hair texture made people who possess these features superior. Thus, superiority based on outward physical features became a social fact.


5. Explain the concept of ‘habitus’

Ans) In sociology, habitus consists of socially ingrained habits, skills, and dispositions. It is the way that individuals perceive the social world around them and react to it. These dispositions are usually shared by people with similar backgrounds such as social class, religion, nationality, ethnicity, education and profession and opportunities. Thus, the habitus represents the way group culture and personal history shape the body and the mind; as a result, it shapes the present social actions of an individual.


French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu suggested that the habitus consists of both the hexis the tendency to hold and use one's body in a certain way, such as posture and accent and more abstract mental habits, schemes of perception, classification, appreciation, feeling, as well as action. These schemes are not mere habits, it is suggested that they allow individuals to find new solutions without calculated deliberation, based on their gut feelings and intuitions, which he believed were collective and socially shaped.


These attitudes, mannerisms, tastes, moral intuitions and habits have influence on the individual's life chances, so the habitus not only is structured by an individual's objective past position in the social structure but also structures the individual's future life path. Bourdieu argued that the reproduction of the social structure results from the habitus of individuals.


The notion of habitus is extremely influential with four lakh Google Scholar publications using it, yet it also evoked criticism for its alleged determinism, as Bourdieu compared social actors to automata while relying on Leibniz's theory of Monads.

Assignment C


Write a note on the following in about 100 words each.


6. Binary opposites

Ans) A binary opposition is a pair of related terms or concepts that are opposite in meaning. Binary opposition is the system of language and/or thought by which two theoretical opposites are strictly defined and set off against one another. It is the contrast between two mutually exclusive terms, such as on and off, up and down, left and right. Binary opposition is an important concept of structuralism, which sees such distinctions as fundamental to all language and thought. In structuralism, a binary opposition is seen as a fundamental organizer of human philosophy, culture, and language. Binary opposition originated in Saussurean structuralist theory. According to Ferdinand de Saussure, the binary opposition is the means by which the units of language have value or meaning; each unit is defined in reciprocal determination with another term, as in binary code.


7. Bio-politics

Ans) Biopolitics refers to the political relations between the administration or regulation of the life of species and a locality's populations, where politics and law evaluate life based on perceived constants and traits. French philosopher Michel Foucault, who wrote about and gave lectures dedicated to his theory of biopolitics, wrote that it is "to ensure, sustain, and multiply life, to put this life in order."


Previous notions of the concept can be traced back to the Middle Ages in John of Salisbury's work Polycrates, in which the term body politic was coined and used. The term biopolitics was first used by Rudolf Kjellén, a political scientist who also coined the term geopolitics, in his 1905 two-volume work The Great Powers. Kjellén used the term in the context of his aim to study "the civil war between social groups" from a biological perspective, and thus named his putative discipline "biopolitics". In Kjellén's organicist view, the state was a quasi-biological organism, a "super-individual creature". The Nazis also subsequently used the term in the context of their racial policy, with Hans Reiter using it in a 1934 speech to refer to their concept of nation and state based on racial supremacy.


8. Genralised others

Ans) The generalized other is a concept introduced by George Herbert Mead into the social sciences and used especially in the field of symbolic interactionism. It is the general notion that a person has of the common expectations that others may have about actions and thoughts within a particular society, and thus serves to clarify their relation to the other as a representative member of a shared social system.  Any time that an actor tries to imagine what is expected of them, they are taking on the perspective of the generalized other.


Mead's concept of the generalised other has been linked to Adam Smith's notion of the impartial spectator itself rooted in the earlier thinking of Addison and Epictectus. Adam Smith wrote: "We Conceive ourselves as acting in the presence of a person quite candid and equitable, of one meerly a man in general, an impartial Spectator who considers our conduct with the same indifference with which we regard that of other people".


9. Need disposition

Ans) A disposition is a quality of character, a habit, a preparation, a state of readiness, or a tendency to act in a specified way. The terms dispositional belief and occurrent belief refer, in the former case, to a belief that is held in the mind but not currently being considered, and in the latter case, to a belief that is currently being considered by the mind. In Bourdieu's theory of fields, dispositions are the natural tendencies of each individual to take on a specific position in any field.


There is no strict determinism through one's dispositions. The habitus is the choice of positions according to one's dispositions. However, in retrospect, a space of possible can always be observed. A disposition is not a process or event in some duration in time, but rather the state, preparation, or tendency of a structure "in waiting". In the field of possibilities, its actual triggering has a statistical value.

10. New Left

Ans) The New Left was a broad political movement mainly in the 1960s and 1970s consisting of activists in the Western world who campaigned for a broad range of social issues such as civil and political rights, environmentalism, feminism, gay rights, gender roles and drug policy reforms. Some see the New Left as an oppositional reaction to earlier Marxist and labour union movements for social justice that focused on dialectical materialism and social class, while others who used the term see the movement as a continuation and revitalization of traditional leftist goals.


Some who self-identified as "New Left “rejected involvement with the labour movement and Marxism's historical theory of class struggle, although others gravitated to their own takes on established forms of Marxism and Marxism–Leninism, such as the New Communist movement in the United States or the K-Gruppen in the German-speaking world. In the United States, the movement was associated with the anti-war college-campus protest movements, including the Free Speech Movement.

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