Compare and Contrast Two Sociological Theories Essay

Published: 2020-04-22 15:26:25
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1) Compare and contrast any two sociological theories. Be sure to identify major theorist associated with the theories. Which is the better explanation? Why? Survival of the Fittest/Social Darwinism & Altruism

Herbert Spencer used the phrase Survival of the Fittest after reading Charles Darwins On the Origin of Species. Mr. Darwins biological theory called, natural selection, was what he considered the preservation of favored races in the struggle of life. The phrase is to mean that only the fittest organism will prevail. Any organism which succeeds in reproducing itself is considered to be fit and has and will contribute to the survival of its own species. The term is applied to Darwins theory of evolution by natural selection which can be used to understand the social endurance of a nation or country.

This theory was espoused by Prince Peter Kropotkin, Altruism, but was coined by Auguste Comte. This is also called (William Donald) Hamiltons Genetics Theory of social behavior. Altruism is any behavior of an animal that may be disadvantageous for the individual but benefits others of its species. In relation to humans it is the selfless concern for the well being of others. These are virtues in many cultures and religions that are practiced by humans. It is distinguished by loyalty and the motivation to help others, or wanting to do so, without the intention of receiving a reward. Pure Altruism is giving without regard to reward or the benefits of recognition and need. It may also refer to ethical doctrine that individuals are morally obliged to benefit others. When speaking about the study of social evolution, altruism refers to the behavior of an individual that increases the fitness of another individual while decreasing the fitness of the actor.

Survival of the fittest is of course a sociobiological topic dealing with the ways that the best of each class will succeed all others. Whereas altruism is the behavior of an organism, submitting itself to penalties in order to save the rest. The difference between the two subjects lies in the intentions of the organism. While one is trying to survive at any cost, to succeed through life, the other is looking out for the success of the rest of the species. Although, if the organism in some way can determine that by mating with the best out of the others, it is doing the best for all others, then in some way these topics are related. The organism can determine that while it is the best for them to successfully mate with another particular organism, it can also benefit the species as a whole.

The better explanation of the two of these, in my opinion, would have to be altruism. This is more easily understood for someone with a religious background. Anyone who has ties to a Christian heritage has been indoctrinated that it is better to help others than to be selfish and look out only for yourself. Also, even in the case that someone does not have a religious background; children from an early age are taught to help others. For example, if both you and your friend are skipping and you both fall down you are taught to not only get up yourself, but to also help the other person. This seems to be altruism at its best.

2) Describe any one psychological theory. Include associated theorists, basic premises, and criticisms.


Behaviorism is a theory that is based on learning upon the idea that all behaviors are acquired through conditioning. Conditioning as defined on, is a process of behavior modification by which a subject comes to associate a desired behavior with a previously unrelated stimulus. There are two types of conditioning associated with behaviorism. The first is classical conditioning, it is used in obviously behavior training and modification. There is a naturally occurring stimulus is paired with a response. The previously neutral stimulus is paired with the naturally occurring stimulus. After some time the previously neutral stimulus comes to evoke the wanted response without the naturally occurring stimulus. These two are then known as the conditioned stimulus and the conditioned response. The second is operant conditioning which is referred to as an instrumental conditioning. This is a method of learning that occurs through rewards and punishments for particular behaviors. Through this reward and punishment system an association is made between a behavior and a consequence for that behavior.

The premise of behaviorism is that in radical behaviorism the study of behavior should be a natural science, like physics or chemistry. It has no more regard to hypothetical inner status of organism as reasons behind their behavior. Introspection cannot give us accurate information and mental events in the brain cannot be studied. The criticims argue that behaviorism is a one dimensional approach and that behavioral theories do not account for free will and internal influences such as moods, thoughts, and feelings. They also criticize that behaviorism does not account for other types of learning, especially that which occurs without the use of reinforcements or punishments. The most notable criticism is that people and animals are able to adapt their behavior when new information is introduced, even if a previous behavior pattern has been established through reinforcements. The major thinkers and theorists behind behaviorism are Ivan Pavlov, B.F. Skinner, Edward Thorndike, John B. Watson, and Clark Hull; all of which have played a key role in shaping what behaviorism is known as today.

3) Differentiate liberal, socialist, and radical feminist theory by their explanations and solutions for gender inequality.

Liberal, Socialist, and Radical Feminism

Liberal feminism is characterized by an individualistic emphasis on equality. According to this philosophy, society itself does not need a major overhaul, but rather laws need to be changed and opportunities have to be opened up to allow women to become equals in society. To a liberal feminist, evidence of progress is seen largely by the numbers of women in positions previous occupied by men, especially powerful positions. In the United States and much of the Western world, liberal feminism is the most mainstream form of feminism. They focus on enhancing womens opportunities to fully engage in political and economic forces. They support daycares, education, and womens shelters, seeing them as equalizing structures that create possibilities for womens success in the world. Their slogan might be: Dismantle the patriarchy by making women equal within it. Equality is achieved through sameness with men. Socialist feminism (sometimes known as Marxist feminism) is different than liberal feminism in that it emphasizes that true equality will not be achieved without major overhauls within society particularly economic overhauls.

Socialist feminists argue that there are fundamental inequalities built in to a capitalist society because power and capital are distributed unevenly. Thus, its not enough for women to individually work to rise to powerful positions in society; rather, power needs to be redistributed throughout society. Liberal feminists focus on individual empowerment, while socialist feminists focus on collective change and empowerment. The solutions are argued that liberation can be achieved by working to end the economic and cultural sources of womens oppression. Capitalism must come to an end. The economic security of the husband in a household is held over his wife, and this must end. Capitalism must come out of the home and there must be socialist principles put in place.

Radical feminism is similar to socialist feminism in that it emphasizes the need for dramatic social change in order to achieve genuine equality for women (and sometimes these two philosophies are grouped together). Radical feminists believe that society is extremely patriarchal, and until patriarchy is transformed on all levels, the system will remain unjust. A minority of radical feminists are separatist feminists, who believe that men and women need to maintain separate institutions and relationships. They belief that sexism is the central idea of the patriarchal society. All social institutions reflect that sexism means there must be a stop to the domination and oppression in the patriarchal family.

Although there is no way to remove the man from the family or other institutions they believe that you must attack sexism in another way. Women must create separate places, those that are specific to women. The radical feminists work at a lower level; locally and in their community to develop non-profit and profit organizations for women. Places where women will serve other women. Their activities are more individualized and the defining characteristics of a society of oppression are what unifies the elements of radical feminism. 3) Identify two (2) primary agents of socialization and describe the roles each one plays in communicating behavioral expectations.


The family is the earliest and without question the most influential agent in socialization. It influences the child from birth, when the child is most helpless and dependant, and doesnt let go for a whole lifetime. Socialization can be said to go from cradle to grave. The foundations for civilized behavior that are learned through the family unit are language abilities. The child learns how to communicate both verbally, emotionally and physically. Body control is learned, such as toilet training. Also, emotional control; do not hit, kiss someone when you love them. There are also fundamentals in rules of public conduct such as, dont throw your food or being polite and saying excuse me. The most fundamental seems to be the moral values that are a part of the behavioral construction that is inherited through the family, such as lying is a sin.

The access to the emotional bond that connects the parent and child is an extremely strong and effective socialization mechanism. Lifetime impacts affect the persons self-esteem, emotional health, identity and personality. The origin point of gender roles (masculine and feminine behavior; fundamental division of the social world into men and women) on how to act like a lady, or be tough like a man. There are learned behaviors of origin point of ethocentricism and racism, learning racial and ethnic prejudices. The amazing power of the family as an agent of socialization comes from a combination of two factors. The first is that the family has almost exclusive control of the person during the first years of life and preeminent control during the childhood and adolescent years.

The preeminent control is the cultural norms and the law that recognizes the parents right to determine what is best for their children as trumping the rights of almost any institution. The second is the parent-child emotional bond that motivates the child to be socialized and the parents to do the difficult and messy job of socialization. Being socialized is difficult and painful. What is better than the uninhibited, self-centered, and dependant life of the child? Socialization uses that dependency of the human child and the emotional bond to motivate children to put up with the difficult demands of socialization and open themselves up to the lessons being taught by their parents. Socialization also uses the love bond to motivate adults to take on and persist in the difficult job of socializing children.

Apart from the family a large amount of the childs socialization, comes from the media. Somewhere around the age of two or three, children in our society first encounter the media as an agent of socialization in the form of TV. Socialization comes through from childrens shows, cartoons, and most especially, commercials. Socialization comes through the characters, images, words, and narrative story lines. Some media specifically acts to be an agent of socialization, like Sesame Street, but most only strive to be entertainment. Media influence continues and strengthens in adolescence based on a merger of teen subculture, pop culture (music & movies), and corporate marketing.

Messages and values carried by the media are powerful and seductive. Many of those messages and values challenge or directly contradict what parents teach their children. Sports, increasingly a branch of marketing, become especially influential for teenage boys. The internet (web pages, e-mail, chat rooms) have emerged as another media source important to teens, again especially boys. The power of the media declines in adult years but still remains strong. Pop culture continues strong but loses its subculture support. Sports and the internet continue as agents of socialization, especially for males. News (both TV and print) emerge as new agent of socialization in the adult years.

4) Briefly describe the Bruce/Brenda/David Reimer story. Discuss the implications of the case from a biological and a social construction perspective. Which perspective do you agree with? Why?

Reimer Story

On August 22, 1965 in Winnipeg, Canada a mother, Janet Reimer gave birth to twin boys. Bruce and Brian. During a routine circumcision at seven months of age there was an n accident. The electrical equipment had malfunctioned and had burnt the baby boy, Bruces, penis off. Plastic surgery at this time was not advanced enough to help Bruce. Dr. John Money was a doctor from New Zealand who had expertise in gender and sex change surgery, and psychology. Janet, Bruces mother, wrote to Dr. Money. During a consultation Dr. Money believed that he could help her by turning her little boy into a baby girl. Although they believed that the doctor was going to help them, they were only the answer to his need to prove the theory that conditioning could turn a boy into a girl. On July, 3 1967 he was castrated, and no longer had testicle. The plastic surgeon also made him a functioning vulva. The mother was urged to use nurture over nature. She changed Bruces name to Brenda. Dr. Money gave Janet strict orders and instructions not to allow Brenda to ever find out that she was born a boy.

Brenda grew up to be a very pretty girl, her mom consistently influenced by her mother with feminine socialization techniques. In 1972, Brenda was seven years old. Doctor money let the world know that his theory was supported by his findings. He had announced his success in turning a naturally born boy into a functional girl. That a boy given the proper up bringing the child can grow up to be just like any other woman. Although the parents of Brenda came to notice that she was acting in masculine ways. They had no idea that Dr. Money had published his findings. Others believed that he was only publishing the positive effects, just to support his theory. Brenda was not happy as a girl. She didnt like being a girl, dressing like a girl, she better enjoyed acting like a boy. By the time that Brenda was going through puberty she was developing broad shoulders, and a masculine neck. By this time Dr. Money was urging the parents to allow them to create a vagina. But Bruce rebelled, claiming if they decided to go through with the surgery he would commit suicide. Then Bruces father told him everything.

After this time Bruce went on to call himself David, living his life as a man. He is able to enjoy a normal sex life, but unfortunately is unable to bear children. Looking at this case in a biological perspective it supported the arguments of those who feel that prenatal and early-infantile hormones have a strong influence on brain differentiation, gender identity and possibly other sex dimorphic behavior. For some people, the inability to predict gender identity in this case confirmed skepticism about the doctors abilities to do so in general, or about the wisdom of using genital reconstructive surgery to commit an infant with an intersex condition. In a social perspective, the learning of sexual orientation seems to be something that is not taught. These are passed to you through the DNA that you are born with.

No amount of socialization as the opposite sex can teach you to become someone or something that you are not. There is some choice in where you want to be in society and determining that origin is a part of becoming the sex that you are. I believe that there are key points in both arguments, you choose who you become; a heterosexual, homosexual, or transgender person. I do believe there may be an influence from our DNA also. Many studies have shown that particular traits that are passed down from our parents can be heightened when passed through genetics. If your parents had even the slightest feelings of being a gender opposite than the one they are may be passed down to you. In Bruce/Brenda/Davids case this may have been what heightened him to believe that he was not supposed to be a woman.

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