Sociology- Marxism Essay
‘Social Order exists because people are afraid to disobey the rules of society. ’ Explain and assess this claim.  Social order is the rules and regulations that are in place to steer human behaviour. It is the tool that prevents continuous conflict, violence and instability. A society that has succeeded in creating social order is one in which each member of society has the ability to live, to a degree, a stable life. There are two ways in which the States enforce social order: informal and formal social control.
Informal control is the process of socialization from a young age. It is based on learning what is acceptable and what isn’t from those around you. Functionalists say that informal social order is produced through the form of a value consensus that is shared in society. Value consensus refers to the idea of society having a moral agreement. In order to reinforce socialization there are mechanisms in place that are based on rewards and punishments. On a basic level rewards are praise, encouragement and acceptance while punishments are ridicule, rejection and gossip.
On a slightly deeper level, for those who are religious, there is the promise of heaven as a reward and on the opposing side there are threats of punishment in the afterlife. However there has been a huge decline in the influence of religion in modern industrial societies since the end of the nineteenth century. Mass media has increased and so been used to create social order. Media discourage people from behaving ‘abnormally’ by presenting these behaviours as unacceptable. Schools are also used to create order as students are taught the core values of society and punished when they fail to meet the rules and regulations.
Formal controls are the public and legal forms used to control society’s members. Forms of control that are used to do this are the police, the courts and the prisons as well as the armed forces. There are certain behaviours that are thought of as dangerous by those in power and so become illegal behaviour. If someone is caught committing these crimes they are judged and punished. Often this is used to deter others from committing the same crimes. Formal control is about the lower class being fearful of the consequences should they disobey the laws.
Thomas Hobbes, a seventeenth-century philosopher, thought that people are, at the core, selfish and competitive and without rules and constraints society would be in chaos because these competitive streaks would cause a relentless struggle between individuals in society. He said that people are rational and would accept a strong government because they want to restrict their selfish desires and live in an ordered society. Emile Durkheim agreed that humans always desire more than they have and if these desires are to be fulfilled there must be a way to limit them.
However Durkheim believed that it is society that limits these desires, not the individual. This is done through moral standards that the individual ‘internalizes’; these rules and standards begin to shape peoples personalities. Durkheim said this is called ‘collective conscience’. He outlined two ways in which this was done; Mechanical and organic principles of solidarity. Mechanical solidarity is small-scale societies. There is not much division of Labour and hardly any differentiation of institutions. People have bonds that occur because of a shared experience.
Organic solidarity is the opposite as it is about modern and complex societies. There is high division of labour and people are aware of the interdependence that makes it impossible to survive without the support of others in society. Durkheim says that there is a impulse to accepts rules that are good for others as well as ourselves. For a modern society to exist Durkheim argues that there must be a basic agreement on moral code and if humans are naturally selfish then such complex societies could not function.. There must be a ‘value consensus’.
Marxists provide a different explanation. They believe that in a capitalist society social order is attained through the economic pressures to the proletariat that cause them to accept the employment and standard of living that is forced upon them by the bourgeoisie. The bourgeoisie maintain this by being the creators of dominant ideas of each era and so remain in control of the economy and in power. Marxist criticizes the functionalist’s explanation of ‘value consensus’ because they don’t believe that there is one set of values in society.
Marxists say that people in the working class live in a state of ‘false consciousness’ because they are so influenced by the dominant class that they don’t see the extent to which they are being exploited. Marx says that there are two ways that the Bourgeoisie control society: Repressive State Apparatus and Ideological state apparatus. Repressive State apparatus is ruling by force through the use of the Army, Police, Courts and Jail. On a deeper level the Territorial Army and Death. An example of this is the case of Ian Tomlinson who collapsed and died during the G-20 summit protests.
Tomlinson was not a protestor nor was he giving any grief or disrespect to the police. So when video footage was released showing Tomlinson being struck by a policeman with a baton it became clear that this was now a criminal investigation. When Tomlinson was struck he had been walking away from the police with his hands in his pockets. Harwood, the policeman in question, pleaded not guilty to manslaughter and was acquitted a year after the incident because according to the court there was not enough evidence to prove Tomlinson’s death was due to the blow or his poor health in general.
This sparked huge debates as to whether this was at all ethical. Marxists say that this just shows the power of the bourgeoisie and authority. They aren’t as susceptible to the law as that of a working class (proletariat). Another example is the case of the 23year old college student from South East London. During the London riots he was walking home from his girlfriend house and stole a bottle of ? 3. 50 water. When confronted by police he threw away the bottle and ran but quickly confessed when caught.
He was arrested and sent to court and charged with 6 months in prison. The Judge said that although Robinson expressed great remorse and had no prior criminal charges, by taking the bottle he had contributed to the conflict and huge public disorder and as a result needs to face the consequences. Marxists would argue that this is outrageous and that the rule enforcers are using him as a threat to others to show what can happen should they break the law even slightly.
Marxists would argue that if this had been a member of the bourgeoisie he would not have even been arrested. This is an example of Latent function because it shows the socially acceptable behaviour. Linking strongly to Marxists theory of Repressive State Apparatus and the idea that authority rule by force and fear because they are able to unjustly hurt a person without facing consequences themselves and also excessively punish a person who has committed a basic and small crime. The proletariat are taught to fear the power of the bourgeoisie.
Ideological State apparatus is about socialisation. Marxists say that the bourgeoisie brainwash the proletariat to accept the capitalist system. With excessive wealth and power you become untouchable. Combard Finance became bankrupt in April 2008, owing 125 million dollars to 4400 investors. Four of the men were found guilty on four chargers of making false statements in documents seeking money from the public in December 2007. However all of them avoided jail, only being given community service and fines.
This proves the Marxist theory that the bourgeoisie are untouchable because even when they commit huge crimes and steal millions of dollars they get the same punishment, if not lighter, as a man who stole a water bottle. This did create a public outcry however people accept it because they have been socialised to believe this is how it should be and who are they to fight it. I agree that social order exists partially because people are afraid to disobey the rules due to fear inflicted by authority however I think another important contributing factor is the informal controls that are used.
Socialisation is an extremely powerful tool. If a person is taught to trust their government then they believe they are protected by them so will rarely challenge them. Also the tool of media and schools are very important as they teach you how to behave. Both these tools cause you to feel as though the majority of people are behaving and thinking ‘normally’ so if you have the urge to act ‘abnormally’ you must suppress those urges as you will be excluded and ostracized by society if you do not.
I believe humans, at the core, have a need to be accepted and apart of a group. For this reason socialisation is a better tool to use to create social order. When violence is used people may be suppressed for a while but will eventually become so tired of living in fear that they demand change, as Marxism says a new level of consciousness will be formed, for example ‘socialist consciousness’. If a person is not living in fear there is nothing they see as important to change and so continue to live as the government and more importantly the bourgeoisie deems appropriate.