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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 2023-Jan 2024

Course Code: BSOC-113

Assignment Name: Sociological Thinkers-II

Year: 2023-2024

Verification Status: Verified by Professor

Assignment - A

Answer the following in about 500 words each.

Q1) Write a note on Parsons’ understanding of social system.

Ans) One of the most well-known sociologists in the United States, Talcott Parsons, created a thorough knowledge of the social system by using structural functionalism as his theoretical framework. His body of work, in particular the structure that he provided in "The Social System" (1951), offers insights into the intricate interaction that exists between the components that make up civilizations.


Parsons adopted a structural-functional approach, emphasizing the interconnectedness and interdependence of various social institutions. He viewed society as an intricate system with interrelated parts that work together to maintain stability and order. According to Parsons, social order arises from shared values, norms, and institutions that guide individuals' behaviour.

AGIL Scheme:

Parsons is responsible for a number of significant contributions, one of the most notable of which is the AGIL framework. This framework is a representation of the key functions that social systems need to do in order to survive and adapt.

a) Adaptation (A):The system is required to interact with its surroundings and to adjust to changes in the external environment. Acquiring resources, addressing issues, and guaranteeing the continuation of the system are all activities that fall under this category.

b) Goal Attainment (G): For the system to be able to define and achieve goals, it requires procedures. As part of this process, collective goals are defined, and tactics are developed to achieve those goals effectively.

c) Integration (I): In his presentation, Parsons highlighted how vital it was to preserve the system's internal coherence and stability. The process of integration entails coordinating the many components in order to avoid conflicts and guarantee that the entire will operate without any problems.

d) Latency (L): When we talk about the system's ability to preserve patterns of shared values and norms over time, we are referring to this capacity. The concepts of socialisation, social control, and cultural preservation are all included in latency.

Pattern Variables:

Parsons introduced the concept of pattern variables to explain the choices individuals and societies make in achieving their goals. These variables encompass contrasting value orientations, such as:

a) Affectivity vs. Affective Neutrality: The balance between emotional expression and emotional restraint in social interactions.

b) Self-orientation vs. Collectivity-orientation: The degree of emphasis on individual goals versus collective well-being.

c) Universalism vs. Particularism: Whether rules and standards are applied universally or vary based on specific contexts or relationships.

d) Specificity vs. Diffuseness: The extent to which individuals specialize in specific roles or engage in a broad range of activities.


While Parsons' structural functionalism made significant contributions, it faced criticism:

a) Overemphasis on Stability: Critics argue that Parsons' model places too much emphasis on social stability and order, neglecting conflict and social change.

b) Universalism: The assumption of universal values and functions has been criticized for overlooking cultural diversity and alternative social arrangements.

c) Limited Attention to Power Dynamics: Parsons' focus on consensus and integration downplays power dynamics and inequalities inherent in social systems.

d) Complexity: Some critics argue that Parsons' theories are overly complex and abstract, making them challenging to apply in practical sociological research.

Q2) Discuss the role of language in the development of the self.

Ans) One of the most complicated and multi-faceted aspects of the human experience is the function that language plays in the formation of the individual personality. Individual identity, self-awareness, and social connections are all significantly influenced by language, which is a symbolic system of communication. Language plays a fundamental part in its formation. Beginning in early childhood and continuing through the many stages of life, the interaction between language and the self is readily apparent.

Early Language Acquisition and Self-Formation:

a) Symbolic Representation: Language provides a symbolic system through which individuals represent their thoughts, emotions, and experiences. Early language acquisition allows children to name objects, express desires, and form the building blocks of self-awareness.

b) Narrative Construction: An individual's ability to develop narratives about oneself is facilitated by language. When children incorporate their own personal experiences into stories that make sense, they are able to create a sense of identity, which in turn contributes to the formation of autobiographical memory.

Cognitive Development and Self-Reflection:

a) Inner Speech: As cognitive abilities develop, individuals engage in inner speech—internal dialogues and thoughts in language. This self-talk allows for reflection, problem-solving, and the development of a private mental space where the self can be explored.

b) Metacognition: Language facilitates metacognition, the ability to think about one's own thinking. Through linguistic expressions, individuals can analyse and evaluate their thoughts, beliefs, and decision-making processes.

Social Identity and Language:

a) Socialization: Language is a tool of socialization, transmitting cultural norms, values, and social roles. Through language, individuals internalize societal expectations and norms, shaping their social identity.

b) Identity Labels: Language provides identity labels that individuals use to define themselves and others. The linguistic categorization of attributes, such as gender, ethnicity, and roles, contributes to the construction of identity.

Expressing Emotions and Subjectivity:

a) Emotional Expression: Individuals are able to articulate and communicate their feelings through the use of language. Individuals are able to communicate emotional experiences such as joy, grief, fear, and other subjective feelings through verbal communication, which helps to cultivate a sense of emotional self-awareness.

b) Perspective-Taking: The ability to use language for perspective-taking allows individuals to understand others' points of view, promoting empathy and a more nuanced understanding of the self in relation to others.

Identity Negotiation in Social Interaction:

a) Presentation of Self: The use of language is quite important when presenting oneself to other people. Individuals actively develop and project their identities with regard to social encounters, whether they do it through vocal communication or written representation.

b) Identity Negotiation: Individuals are able to negotiate their identities in a variety of social circumstances through the use of language. It is possible for individuals to modify their language use in accordance with the social roles that they possess, so displaying linguistic flexibility in the expression of identity.

Identity in Online Spaces:

Communication in the Digital Age: In this day and age of digital communication, language is an essential component in the process of presenting oneself virtually. Within the realm of virtual environments, individuals develop and communicate aspects of their identities through the utilisation of written language, emojis, and other digital tools.

Assignment - B

Answer the following questions in about 250 words each.

Q3) Critically evaluate Frankfurt School’s views on consumer culture?

Ans) Critique of Frankfurt School's Consumer Culture Views:

Culture Industry Critique:

Adorno and Horkheimer's Perspective: The Frankfurt School, especially Adorno and Horkheimer, criticised the "cultural industry." Standardized and commodified cultural products, including mass media and entertainment, served capitalism, they claimed.

Standardization and Alienation:

a) Homogenization of Culture: The Frankfurt School argued that consumer culture led to the standardization and homogenization of cultural products. This standardization, they contended, resulted in a loss of authentic, individual expression.

b) Alienation and Conformity: Consumer culture, according to the Frankfurt School, contributed to social alienation and conformity. The mass production of cultural goods, from music to films, created a passive and conformist audience.

Instrumental Rationality and Enlightenment:

a) Instrumental Reasoning: In particular, Adorno opposed instrumental rationality, which uses reason for efficiency and control. This instrumental logic commodified art, he claimed.

b) Enlightenment’s Dark Side: The Frankfurt School believed that rationality and efficiency in culture and consumption stifled creativity and expression.

Commodification of Art:

a) Loss of Autonomy: Adorno opposed the monetization of art and culture, believing that real art should not be sold. He viewed economic interests diminishing art's autonomy.

b) Consumerism and Inauthenticity: Consumer culture, according to the Frankfurt School, engendered an inauthentic culture where artistic expression was subordinated to profit-driven motives.

Contemporary Relevance:

a) Relevance in Contemporary Debates: The Frankfurt School’s critique remains influential in contemporary discussions on consumer culture, mass media, and the impact of capitalism on cultural production.

b) Debates on Cultural Hegemony: The Frankfurt School's concept of cultural hegemony remains essential to disputes over how cultural products spread dominant ideology.

Q4) According to Marcuse ‘modern consumer society is form of social control’. Explain?

Ans) The Frankfurt School's Herbert Marcuse focused on how modern consumer society controls society. Marcuse used critical theory to show how consumption controls society.

Repressive Tolerance:

a) Concept of Repressive Tolerance: Marcuse called this "repressive tolerance"—when supposedly free cultures suppress dissent.

b) Illusion of Freedom: Marcuse believed that superficial choices and possibilities hide fundamental inequity and oppression in modern consumer society.

One-Dimensional Society:

a) Homogenization of Thought: Marcuse's "one-dimensional society" indicates that ideology absorbs and neutralises critical thought and dissent. Consumer society homogenises cognition and inhibits discourse, according to this theory.

b) Limits to Critical Consciousness: The abundance of consumer goods and entertainment distracts individuals from engaging in critical reflections on the underlying social and economic structures.

Commodification of Dissent:

a) Consumerism as Pacification: Marcuse said consumer society pacifies dissent by commodifying revolt and critique. Co-opting activism and opposition turn transformational ideas into product.

b) Co-optation of Counterculture: Elements of counterculture, once seen as subversive, can be commodified and integrated into the mainstream, diluting their radical potential.

Technological Rationality:

a) Instrumentalization of Technology: Marcuse criticised consumer culture for using technology to strengthen power structures rather than liberate people. The rationality of technology benefits the powerful.

b) Technological Rationality as Control: Instead of enhancing human freedom, technological rationality, within a consumer society, becomes a tool for surveillance, manipulation, and control.

Consumerism and False Needs:

a) Creation of False Needs: Marcuse claimed that consumer society creates false needs for items that do not fulfil people. Consumption keeps people compliant.

b) Critical Consciousness Suppressed: By focusing on material commodities, critical consciousness is stifled, and people stop questioning society.

Q5) What did Foucault mean by governmentality? Explain.

Ans) Michel Foucault coined "governmentality" to study how societies are constituted, ruled, and regulated. Governmentality encompasses modern power and authority beyond state governance.

Aspects of Foucault's Governmentality:

Decentralized Forms of Power:

a) Shift from Sovereignty to Governmentality: Foucault observed a shift from sovereign power, characterized by centralized authority, to governmentality, which involves a decentralized and diffuse network of power relations.

b) Influence on Multiple Levels: Governmentality operates not only at the level of the state but permeates various institutions, practices, and discourses in society.

Biopolitics and Population Management:

a) Focus on Population as Object of Governance: Biopolitics, which manages populations rather than individuals, was noted by Foucault. Population-level surveillance and control are used.

b) Regulation of Life Processes: Governmentality involves interventions into the life processes of populations, including health, reproduction, and welfare, as mechanisms for social control.

Technologies of the Self:

a) Individuals as Active Participants: Foucault stressed that people actively control themselves as well as be governed by others. Self-technology involves self-regulation and norm internalisation.

b) Normalization and Disciplinary Practices: Discipline and normalisation lead to socially acceptable self-regulation.

Neo-liberal Governance:

a) Role of Market Mechanisms: Foucault examined neoliberal governmentality, where market dynamics drive behaviour and decision-making.

b) Emphasis on Economic Rationality: Neoliberal governmentality promotes economic rationalism, efficiency, competitiveness, and personal accountability.

Dispositive and Power/Knowledge Nexus:

a) Dispositive (Apparatus): Foucault defined "dispositive" as a network of institutions, practises, and discourses that shape power in an area.

b) Power/Knowledge Nexus: Understanding the relationship between power and knowledge, governmentality is linked to knowledge generation and distribution.

Assignment C

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

Q6) Impression management.

Ans) The term "impression management" comes from the field of sociology and describes the process that people go through, whether it be conscious or subconscious, in order to influence or mould the perceptions that other people have of them. Individuals present themselves in a manner that is purposeful in order to generate particular perceptions, frequently conforming to the expectations of the context or the conventions of society. Self-presentation, selective disclosure, and non-verbal clues are types of techniques that can be utilised. This notion was first presented by Erving Goffman, a prominent player in the field of symbolic interactionism. It highlights how people perform social roles to maintain a positive image. Managing one's impression affects social ties, personal relationships, and social identity in many circumstances.

Q7) Social Capital.

Ans) Individuals within a community or society have the potential to gain access to resources, support, and opportunities through the networks, relationships, and social connections that are referred to as social capital. Trust, reciprocity, and ideals that are held in common by individuals and communities are at the heart of this concept. Social capital can be both bonding (inside a particular group) and bridging (between distinct groups) (connecting different groups). It is of critical importance in the growth of communities, the achievement of economic success, and the general well-being of individuals. A comprehensive investigation into the notion was carried out by Robert Putnam, a sociologist, who focused on the influence that it has on the operation of democratic societies and citizenship. The presence of robust social capital is a factor that helps to social cohesiveness and joint efforts.

Q8) Significant others.

Ans) "Significant others" is a term used in sociology, particularly associated with symbolic interactionism, to refer to individuals who significantly influence a person's self-concept and behaviour. These individuals, such as family members, close friends, or mentors, play a crucial role in shaping an individual's identity and values. The concept emphasizes the importance of social interactions and relationships in the development of one's sense of self. Coined by George Herbert Mead, the idea suggests that the reactions and expectations of significant others contribute to the formation of an individual's "looking glass self," where self-perception is influenced by how others view them.

Q9) Commodity fetishism.

Ans) Commodity fetishism, a concept introduced by Karl Marx, refers to the social phenomenon where commodities (goods or products) are imbued with mystical or magical qualities, masking the social relations and labour processes underlying their production. In capitalist societies, commodities are often fetishized, and their exchange value appears detached from the human labour invested. Marx argued that this fetishism obscures the exploitative nature of capitalism, attributing value to commodities as if they possess inherent worth. The social relations between individuals are thereby mystified, and the focus shifts to the commodities themselves, reinforcing the illusion of a natural and unquestionable economic order.

Q10) Popular culture.

Ans) Everyday aspects of life that are able to garner widespread appeal and recognition within a society are included in the notion of popular culture. There are a variety of kinds of expression that are popular among a large number of people, such as fashion, music, sports, and entertainment. The masses are able to participate in popular culture, as contrast to high culture, which is typically linked with academic pursuits or the elite. In addition to shaping and being shaped by societal standards, it reflects the tastes, preferences, and trends of a diverse public. The phenomena known as popular culture is one that is always changing and developing over the course of some period of time. It is of critical importance in the process of forming collective identities and in the process of fostering the development of shared experiences among members of a specific group.

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