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The growing role of sociology in the modern world increases together with globalization and the cultural diversity changes. It is obvious that both scientists and policy makers need comprehensive tools to build strategies of addressing the most important and problematic issues in the modern social life of people worldwide.
For this reason, sociology has a lot of instruments which help addressing the most vital subject matters. Kirby et al. (2000) believes that the choices made by individuals during the course of their lives widely affect the development of culture and society in general. The issues studied by sociology are explored within the scope of social thinking and various theoretical approaches, such as structural functionalism, feminism, etc.
In order to develop an understanding of the most critical issues of sociology, it is proposed to apply various perspectives on the same issue. This essay examines the following issues: manifest and latent functions, culture, status, socialization agents, sacred, and profane. All these social matters are explained in detail, and their role in modern society is examined throughout the essay.
One of the basic terms of sociology and the matters explored by all social studies is culture. The term has a lot of definitions, but probably the most profound was provided by Newman (2008) who views culture as ‘the most pervasive element of society […], which consists of the language, values, beliefs, rules, behaviors, and physical artifacts of a society’. This means that culture defines those social values that are typical of a society and have a meaning for all the participants of the particular social group. Schaefer (2012) also suggests that culture defines the socialization principles; therefore, socialization agents are based on culture as the key element of sociological research.
At the same time, the article written by Adler presents a different perspective on both culture and socialization agents. In the opinion of the author, spirituality which is more and more popular in the diverse cultures like the United States is a result of the community image of an independent person who has a variety of socialization agents. In this case, culture is viewed from a different perspective: it encourages the people from a tight community relationship to perform individual actions.
Instead of showing the typical behaviors which people are to execute and pointing on the socialization agents that have to be trusted as the sources of these behaviors, culture demonstrates the need for everyone to execute independence of thoughts and actions in the modern society.
At the same time, the tendency towards development in seen in culture. Being a process that is highly transformational, ‘culture is a people’s way of life that is passed on from generation to generation’. It means that according to the Adler’s view of culture, it is likely to look for social consensus in the lifestyle of people and their patterns of morality. Shepard (2005) also suggests that culture is tied to the functionalism perspective due to its relation to social integration and stability of behaviors.
In this case, socialization agents play a functional role in culture and its development within the modern society. Those people that affect the lifestyle and primary culture of an individual are the agents of socialization and the gurus of motivation for a person. The typical feature of the modern society as stressed by Adler (2005) is that socialization agents are getting more impersonal (mass media, celebrities, etc.) and provide lower involvement levels than family members and social institutions as in the past decades.
Another important pattern of sociology is manifest and latent functions. These functions define the differences that our mind brings together with conscious and unconscious ideals of events and perceptions towards them. Manifest functions help track the belief system of a person and the choices that people make in accordance to their mindsets. Latent functions help see the changes in attitudes and perceptions towards the lifestyle habits and patterns of behavior.
Adler (2005) demonstrates the changes with manifest and latent functions also affected dimensions of profane and sacred within the modern society: sacred does not mean community approval anymore. Moreover, profane has been digested by social obligations. The author demonstrates that the number of people attending churches is rapidly decreasing. At the same time, it also means that the attitude towards social status has been changing in the society.
Status has been one of the defining principles of social development for an individual within the society for a very long time. Kirby (2000) notes that ‘status marks differences in the social sphere of prestige or honor’. The defining principles of status have been set in communities, or status groups. However, in the modern world where individual patterns of behavior are most commonly perceived as normal, status has become personal and very individualistic: what high status means for some people, it does not mean for others.
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And this leads to the assumptions about the role of spirituality in the modern world. As religion moves from being sacred to profane and as individuals seek for spiritual experiences beyond their religious views and social norms, people’s lifestyle becomes more personal and loses its linkage to the recognized and socially approved patterns of behavior. On the contrary, sociology of the modern world will change its views and perspectives from traditional perspectives like functionalism and feminism to personal and individualistic theories which will be providing an insight into person’s feelings and culture that is determined by the mass media agents of socialization and the globalized lifestyle which changes the principles and ideas about life in general.