Understanding Our Society (Part 2): The Social Structure and Social Problems

Hello! Welcome to Greg’s InsighTalk. Today’s discussion is about the role of the social structure in the persistence of social problems.

Before proceeding to our topic today, let us review the previous introductory discussion about understanding our society. Last time, we learned that to understand the culture and our community, we must realize the primary social institutions’ processes we participate in (What are those institutions?): the family, education, economy, government and politics, and religion. We also must admit that our behaviours result from interactions with the said institutions, creating good or bad consequences. Another striking point is that to understand our society more, we must understand why people behave in public the way they do. Recalling the social structure and our societal position is also an excellent idea to connect today’s discussion of social problems. Once again, look at the illustration for a few seconds.

In a profound sense, what does it signify? Do you recognize what it represents? The social structure symbolizes inequality, power and domination, showing that wealthy people rule societies. They comprise a small population yet accumulate much material wealth or massive resources. Hence, it implies socioeconomic status and uneven material wealth or resource distribution. Consequently, these social representations are functional and embedded in our society. Reflectively, social problems result from these influencing factors: the root causes of struggles in the social equilibrium. At this point, the government’s function to regulate such disparity comes in by making laws. Thus, legislation becomes an institution to control social order. >>>

For that reason, even though the government imposes authority, social problems persist. Others might argue that some take advantage of the law, creating another problem. They might have a point. But do you dwell on how the law enforcers or government executives contribute to social glitches? I mean, how they use their power or influence. Do they engage in a “deviance dance” to achieve their leadership goals? A “deviance dance” is a process of interactions, negotiations, and debates between groups with conflicting views and different behaviours. This topic is another interesting discussion in one of my lectures to come.

Moving on to our discussion, let us look at several persistent social problems. First, contemporary social issues such as dysfunctional families, bullying and harassment, discrimination and corruption exist because they evolve in various forms at different times and places, depending on a given social setting. It means that these social dilemmas were already happening in ancient societies while continuing to expand in our current time. For example, slavery and prostitution are forms of forced labour, coercion and exploitation, constituting today’s human trafficking. Second, the violence and abuse against women and children are perfect examples. Such violence and abuses are deeply rooted in gender roles, masculinity and male hegemony or dominance.

Similarly, poverty, as a social problem, results in crimes like robbery, financial scams, or fraud. Thus, it only implies that social forces, for example, inequity and discrimination, put people into such situations, making their behaviour and its consequences social realities. Those social forces, such as power and domination, are building blocks or fundamental elements in the formation of society illustrated in the social structure.

Rationally, the pressure of power, domination, rights, freedom and laws are not as essential debates as poverty, crimes and corruption in the government, particularly in less developed nations. That is how the powerful few deviate from the focus of social discussions, blaming subordinate social class responsible for what is happening in society. This technique requires the upper class to maintain or preserve their power. Thus, the lower class will fail to achieve class consciousness and solidarity to oppose or struggle against them, disorienting or confusing them through economic and political discourses. For instance, the working class competes for employment because many seek jobs to earn a living, by which the upper class controls the labour market.

Now, let me ask you. Have you thought poverty or corruption is just a surface of a more significant social problem, such as power, greed and domination? Destitution or a crime is just the tip of the iceberg, meaning such a problem is only superficial or the only visible part of a more significant issue. It is just one of the outcomes or consequences of the power and dominance of the powerful few on top of the social hierarchy.

So far, as social institutions become more complicated, social issues also develop to become more complex. Thus, people’s different perceptions of social phenomena affect their behaviours in a subjective rather than objective way. For example, as part of the class consciousness disorientation project, the upper class uses lower-class people’s social behaviours to their advantage. As a result, our (emotional/subjective) personal perceptions come with biases and prejudices. But, then, such subjectivity often overpowered our accurate views or rational thinking that is objective and practical. Hence, if this happens, the chance for class consciousness fades or is at the edge of collapse, then the ruling class perpetuates.

At this point, more questions might come across your mind. For example, do people have equal opportunities to gain material wealth at par with others? Does culture evolve because of economic, political, and technological advancements, or does such an advancement change human behaviour, affecting their way of life? As a result, those previously cited multifaceted social factors contribute to our personal decisions and behaviours shown publicly. Accordingly, social progress alters human behaviours and social relationships, particularly in the post-modern time or today’s material culture, where money is the primary embodiment of societal power. Also, social problems, such as poverty and criminality, evolve and persist in a given time and space. Nevertheless, it is the elite or upper-class power and control framework to hold their domination over the lower social order. As the symbol of their power, money maintains and expands their influence.

In this case, there are four salient points that we need to know to keep us motivated in our social environment. First, we must be mindful of the social realities and accepting them is the key to focusing on which direction we want to go. Considering the facts surrounding us means letting us focus on our attainable goal. Second, recognize and use our potential and resources to grab current opportunities. We need to acknowledge those chances to start with our purpose. Third, what we see is real, but we can apply our actions rationally and take opportunities to live our dream or what we want to be. Hence, it means we can have informed and better decisions, thus creating our standards rather than doing what the public pleases.

Finally, we need to be pragmatic and reflexive to cultural changes. We must understand and admit that things happen and that the past is irreversible. We can not do anything about it; instead, we need to move forward and learn from the lessons of yesterday. Accordingly, act based on our social position and reality. Let us start from there.

To conclude, we must accept inequality and domination are inseparable elements in the social system. We must also admit that we can not change institutional organizations based on personal philosophy, but we can change our behaviour in dealing with them. At the same time, we incessantly struggle for social equilibrium in vain. As we learned that social realities are external and coercive to people, it is conspicuous and discernable that we only have total control over ourselves, nothing more.

That ends our session. I am hopeful that you learned and realized something about the subject matter. I  am Greg Jabal, and you are with me at Greg’s InsighTalk: Your way, our way to understanding pieces of social realities. Do not forget to subscribe, like and share. Subscription is for free. Thank you for watching the video. See you at my next lecture. >>>

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