The following essay will use the ideas of Durkheim to construct my social biography - Biography Essay Example

The long controversy exists over the influence of society on an individual social biography - The following essay will use the ideas of Durkheim to construct my social biography introduction. With different school of thought such as Functionalism arguing that society is held together by sets of norms which are transmitted to us by social institutions like the family and school, and the process fundamentally shapes our social biographies. While Other school of thought believe that human behaviour is not shaped by society but rather they see society being shaped by human behaviour. Integrationists believe that individuals are conscious, self-aware and that their individual social action is not simply a reaction to external forces.

So the following essay will use functionalism thought that society is held together by sets of norms which are transmitted to us by social institutions like the family and school, and the process fundamentally shapes our social biography. Functionalists believe that for society to survive there must be an existence of central value systems that imposes common values on all individuals. So when Functionalists look at various institutions and what their function is it is to ensure that they help perpetuate and maintain common value system.


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Thus individual identity needs to be constructed to socially accepted, correct or proper forms if society is to survive. So the following essay will use the ideas of Durkheim to construct my social biography . First part of this essay will discuss Durkheim theory in general , and part two will attempt to apply Durkheim ideas to my social biography . Before we can discuss Emile Durkheim theory it will be important to familiarise ourselves with the meaning of norms . Norms according to Durkheim refers Expectations or rules (often unwritten) that forbid or encourage certain social behaviors ( Giddens, 1997).

Many different people, from many different backgrounds can define society in many different ways. To some it is the community they live in, to others it is the entity that shapes their lives, and yet to others, it is an exclusive club in which they’re a member of. To Emile Durkheim, the world’s first official Sociologist, society is a complex structure in which each separate part is responsible for its own function for the benefit of the whole. According to Durkheim, society comes in two forms: internal and external. First, the internal society forms the ‘collective moral conscious (Bilton, 1981).

In other words, it is the defining mechanism in shaping our beliefs and attitudes for survival in the world. If society does not conform to the internal society, then social isolation, ridicule, and other forms of punishment could occur (. Bilton, 1981). Examples of internal society are the Bible, education, and laws. Society uses these devices to attempt to keep social order and construct a socially acceptable individual. External to society is the actual pressures from the community to conform to the collective For example, ways of thinking, acting and feeling are external to society.

Social facts exist externally to us and compel people to behave in a unified way, with norms that are constructed by society. These facts are recognizable through power that the external persuasion has, which can be exercised over an individual. Durkheim defined social facts, according their exteriority and constraint, focusing his primary concern on the operation of the law (Miller, 1996). He later changed his views and stressed that social facts become competent guides and controls of conduct only to the extent that they become internalized by individuals while continuing to exist outside of them .

Social facts contain several characteristics. One characteristic is constraint. Constraint is the ability to condition an individual to conform to society. (Johnson , 1986) For example, a person will receive a traffic ticket if they go over the speed limit. The ticket is the act of constraint because it is used as a way to force the person to adhere to the law that has been imposed. A second characteristic is generality (Johnson, 1986). Generality is something that is potentially universal and diffused with a group.

Again, using the speeding ticket as the example, the generality is that the speed limit applies to all persons that possess a valid driver’s license. A final characteristic included in social facts is externality, which constitutes a reality sui-generis outside of any individual (Johnson, 1986). For example, when a child is born, it is born without any constraints. Among others, cleanliness, obedience, and respect are imposed on the child from the time they are born. Emilie Durkheim (1858-1917) viewed society as a structure of social facts. Society has a life of its’ own and can shape our thoughts, ideas and actions.

Durkheim argues that society is held down by set of norms which are transmitted to us by social institution.. Durkheim believe that society consist of institutions that are required to perform functional pre-requisites that are necessary for society to function. Schools are one of these institutions, and contribute to society by educating children and providing them with necessary skills needed in working life later on. As stated by Durkheim schools provide secondary socialisation, taking over from the family, to instill society’s beliefs and values in children and this is important to maintain social order by ensuring value consensus. McKay, 1995) Durkheim argued that society makes us who we are. He saw social change due to division of labour. Durkheim argued that in pre-industrial societies, strong tradition was the main societal influence (Kirby. 2000). He added that this tradition bound people together and termed this collective conscience. From this he concluded that people of the same social beliefs are part of mechanical solidarity. social bonds, based on shared morality that unite members of pre-industrial societies .

He saw that with the advancement of modernity, this mechanical solidarity was increasingly replaced by organic solidarity , social bonds, based on specialisation, that unite members of industrial societies (Johnson, 1986). Therefore, this solidarity is based on differences as opposed to likeness. As jobs became more specialised to promote efficiency, we have to rely on others, mainly strangers, to ensure the successful completion of tasks. This may create a lack of morality, due to the increased freedom people of modern society have. They are no longer held together by strict traditional moral social regulations((Johnson, 1986 ).

Another term which Durkheim coined is anomie, which is a condition in which society provides little moral guidance to individuals (. (Johnson, 1986) Fewer restrictions are imposed on people in modern societies and whereas Durkheim acknowledges the advantages of modern freedom, he warned of the negative effect of anomie. To social solidarity, there are some threats. Durkheim thought in industrial societies, egoism or anomie could undermine the control over individuals. Anomie, which means normlessness, was believed to be produced by the specialized division of labor and rapid industrialization.

In Durkheim’s phrasing, during the transition from mechanical societies to organic societies, ‘the scale is upset; but a new scale cannot be immediately improvised. Time is required for the public conscience to reclassify men and things. ‘ (Haralambos, 2000, p. 692) He argued that the cause of anomie is not the existence of division of labor, is the situation in which the division of labor could not make the society integrates organically. In the period of transition between mechanical solidarity and organic solidarity, there might be lack of normative regulation of action, which characterizes the anomic division of labor.

MR Frans Moraswi Motlatla was born on 19 June 1982, in a small farm known as (Makiba), and grew up in moletjie Ga -Hlahla in the part eastern moletjie that lies between the opulent horse farms and the impoverished coal fields. Mr. Fm motlatla was the first born of Mrs. Molatelo Elizabeth motlatla and Chuene William motlatla. MR Fm motlatla begin his school at malokaneng primary school in 1992. The school that I attended was dominated by male teachers; the head of the school was also a male. By the time when I was still in primary school my father was working for the company known as Sentech (SABC) the company was situated in Johannesburg.

So I spend all my childhood with my mother . My father use to come back after six months. My grandfather was a traditional doctor, and in 1993 he took me to initiation school. In 1999 I received a Grade 12 certificate from Westernburg secondary school, and then served as a cashier for pick n’ pay in polokwane . In 2000 Mr. F motlatla enroll for bachelor of commerce in Business Administration from University of the north. Mr. Motlatla received a bachelor of Business Administration from University of the north in 2002. Following graduation, he moved back to seshego and work for Dingaka herbal association as business administrator.

After working for Dingaka herbal association I decided to further my career and in 2003 I enrolled for Bachelor of Arts in Industrial Psychology and economics from the University of the Witwatersrand. When I arrived at the University of the Witwatersrand I was a Christian I was following the norms of Christianity. I met different people from different background and I was exposed to different religions . It was my first time that I sat with a whites in the same lecture room . My lecture was also white. Our country hade shared a rocky racial history involving the Dutch Afrikaner colonialists and the native South Africans.

There was extreme racial segregation and it has only been in recent years that black South Africans have freed themselves from persecution. When I arrive at the University of the Witwatersrand Racial relations were still shaky and I was not sure if the divide has been surpassed. For this reason it was difficult for me to trust whites, I did not participate in functions or activities which were organized by whites. My rearing was within the black culture at a time when the whites were ruling, and the Policy of apartheid was still in existence. This policy of Apartheid made me to view whites as devils.

The fact that the society that I’m living, the church that I’m attending, my society arrangement and practices existed before I was born mean that I make association with the living and the dead, in a socially constructed world created by past and present generations . As stated by Haralambos (1980 p. 3) “The individual is not born a member of society, but becomes a member of society”. Thus sense of identity is dependent on culture. The process where we learn our culture, develop an identity and become a member of society is known as socialisation.

For this to happen, we need sustained, structured interaction with culture and social environments. Primary socialisation begins at birth in the family and carries through childhood. Socialisation is not only restricted to childhood but is a lifelong process (Van Huyssteen, 2002). During socialisation process I was able to take the image of society that were mediated to me by significant others. Bilton et al 1997 illustrates the importance of friends in the formation of identity by explaining that over our lives we will receive opinions, views and reactions that influence our self concept.

But we will not simply be able to absorb them all but choose what to take into account and what to ignore. He believes that we will be more likely to absorb responses made by significant others. Parents and friends prominently figure amongst significant. We take on their culture and make it a part of our own Human and fitting into society. Durkheim believes that our social biography is formed through the characteristic norms and values of cultures and societies that we belong to and socialise in(. These characteristics were important sources of my social biography .

These characteristics are sex, gender, ethnicity, class and region. When I was born (19 June 1982) I was given these labels (Male, Black. working class, Christian) and enters into a symbolic world where meaning of everything has to be interpreted and was dependent on the context in which it exists. These categories and labels exist because they represent attempts to explain and understand differences that exist between us. Thus people who share certain similarities such as male were placed in particular social categories.

Each category of a person was given certain characteristics that define their category. We as man like I mentioned in the discussion of my social biography we were required attend initiation school (koma). The characteristics people have had in time and place to these categories or labels are important because they represent normative behaviour associated with roles. These roles played an integral part of my social biography since they represent the way I was expected to behave, project an image of my self, assure different levels of status and exercise different levels of power.

In 2001 I attempted suicide, Durkheim will say that I attempted Anomic suicide . Anomic suicide happen as a result a result of weak or contradictory messages given to an individual by the social group or groups they belong to. When I grew I knew that it was a norm for a child to have both father and mother . In July 2001 my parents divorced , and to me having father and mother was seen as a norm ,so after the divorce I was alienated from other members of the society . Members of our society regarded me as an outsider because of the fact that I was only living with my mother.

In my conclusion I would like to mention one last theory by Anthony Giddens who incorporates both structure and agency in his theory. Giddens believes that there is a complex interplay between structures in society and our social action as agents. Bilton, Bonnet, Jones, Lawson, Skinner, Stanworth, Webster (2002 p. 18) Were quoted saying that “A double involvement or interdependence in which human beings create society and at the same time are created by it sometimes referred to as a dialectical relationship’.

I agree with this view that the process in which my social biography was created was the result of social structures and human creativity interacting rather than them being separate. As Mills observed (1970, p. 12) ‘every individual lives, from one generation to the next, in some society… he lives out a biography, and… he lives it out within some historical sequence. By the fact of his living he contributes, however minutely, to the shaping of his society and to the course of its history, even as he is made by society and by its historical push and shove’.

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