Essay Example on Sociological Theory: Analyzing Society's Structures & Relationships

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  7
Wordcount:  1895 Words
Date:  2023-05-23


Sociological theory entails a set of ideas that offer an explanation regarding human society and provide a positive view regarding the reality within the society. The approaches represent specific facts regarding the social world and the relationships that exist in society. Sociological theories can be grouped into structural that analyzes how the society a whole tends to fit together. The structural theory views the society as systems of relationship by creating the structure within which people live in. Through social theories, people are able to understand better the structures within society and appreciate the efforts made to enhance equality. Understanding the theories is crucial in the fight against racial discrimination and enhancing equal opportunities to all sexes. The theories are also vital in the classical era, characterized by numerous social changes. Additionally, the theories help in shaping behaviours and leadership within the society and ensure people are satisfied by the existing sociological structures.

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Simmel's notion of the Stranger compared to Dubois' notion of Double Consciousness

Throughout the worlds' history, Du Bois and Georg Simmel have brought t about significant influence towards various key theories as well as ideas that developed in the social sciences. Among the theories and concepts developed by the two theorists are the two well-known concepts of "the stranger" and "double consciousness." Various similarities and differences exist between the two schools of thought, as elaborated below.


Both the concept of double consciousness and the Stranger are similar since they both show how an individual can belong to a certain group through some general or special characteristics. Additionally, they look at how individuals are capable of existing outside the group based on characteristics that are more particular, and which are consistent as per the dominant group. In both theories, a sense of otherness is emphasized and that it does not prevent social solidarity but also inhibits the development of the unified self (349-350). According to Dubois, the blacks are found outside the white community that is dominant, yet they continue to exist within it for survival. Comparatively, the Stranger, as highlighted by Simmel, belongs to an aggregate group, but exists outside ultimately. In both cases, the individuals existing outside the groups are confronted by the groups. Additionally, the two address the concept of self and isolation, in which individuals view themselves differently, and they are on their own and do not belong to a group hence they become isolated in their world. In both cases, a veil exists from the individuals, which calls for them to break. In Simmel's work, the veil is broken when the Stranger joins the group while Dubois highlights the need to accept oneself despite the racial prejudice and opposition from the whites.


Various differences exist between the two theorists. For instance, Simmel' Stranger is, for most parts, a rather definitive and positive type of participation, whereas the position of blacks in the society remains marginal and is definite and takes the negative form of oppression. Simmel identifies various ways in which the Stranger benefits given his position as an outsider within. However, the double conscious, as explained by Dubois, is mainly rooted in strife, and the blacks must come up with the best way to merge being 'American' and being 'Negro' in a society full of the whites and who view being black as a bad thing. According to Simmel, the Stranger is viewed as a valuable addition to the society they live in. On the other hand, according to Dubois, the seventh son is taken to be a burden to the society, and he is being looked down upon, and the son sees himself through the other world's revelation. The double conscious makes him look at himself through the world of others in society. Dubois looks at the disadvantageous positions individuals find themselves in as a result of the division created in the society while Simmel views the chances of unity once the Stranger gets incorporated into the group and adopt the ways of the group. In essence, Dubois highlights how the whites look down upon the blacks by having a "racially conscious" and view them as bad and outcast hence mistreating them and taking them as slaves. Simmel, on the other hand, look at the society from an equal perspective once individuals realize their potential and join the rest of the group to work towards a common goal.

Mead's notion of "Generalized other" and Charlotte Perkin's Social Inequality

George Mead introduced the concept of "generalized other" in the symbolic interaction field. The concept implies that an individual has a general notion of common expectations about the thoughts and actions within a specific society hence serves to clarify the individual's relation to other individuals as representatives of a social system shared by all the individuals (Edles & Appelrouth, 2012). Each time an actor tries imagining what is expected of them, they tend to take the generalized another perspective as in the case of the women in The Yellow Wallpaper who have to follow the gender roles as the society expects them as discussed below.

The end of the nineteenth century and the start of the twentieth century was referred to as a time of developing change for women concerning their rights as well as freedom. However, several women continued having the notion of the generalized other and suffering under the patriarchal society in which the man was the dominating figurehead in the house. The generalized other in the novel is that the women and men largely resided within distinct spheres in the society, and the society expected the women to live their lives at home and ensure the wellbeing of the entire family. The generalized other in the story, as presented by the author, reinforces the already existing social inequalities where the women live in misogynistic and oppressive societies.

Taking the attitude of another by the women in The Yellow Wallpaper makes them feel suffocated by the smothering societal expectations; and this explains why one of the woman characters in the novel; the narrator endures self-destruction to liberate herself from the societal expectations imposed on her. The men in the story are dominant over the females; for instance, the narrator's husband does not treat her wife, the narrator, as an individual during the Victoria era. In a society where the male is considered the dominating gender makes the narrator to be patronized exceedingly by John, who is her husband hence suppressing her identity through the husband's actions. The passing remarks made by the narrator "John laughs at me, of course, but one expects that in marriage" shows the generalized other notion and the suffocating nature of the relationship which exists between the narrator and her husband and also portrays how the narrator conforms to all her husband wishes blindly.

How the generalized other reinforces, the existing social inequalities can also be seen when the narrator states that even though she loves writing, "he hates to have me write a word." The narrator's revelation clearly shows that generalized others deny an individual the opportunity to generate real empathy since they have to perceive themselves from another person's point of view. The narrator is therefore trapped in a marriage that denies her any freedom to the extent that she cannot even properly express herself, and this makes her associate herself with the woman trapped in the yellow wallpaper. According to the narrator, the trapped woman resembles her since she just like an individual in a cage or trapped bars.

In Gilman's novel, The Yellow Wallpaper, the effects of the generalized other have made the protagonist struggle to live under the oppressive environment established by social expectations. The largely patriarchal society strains the woman to the extent that the only way she frees herself is through succumbing unconsciously to her debilitating mental condition. The generalized other has a tragic cost to society and especially to individuals who are forced to conform to the unrealistic, narrow, and restrictive conventions as expected by society.

Dubois Theory on the Oppression of African Americans compared to Gilman's Theory on the Oppression of Women

In Gilman's discussion, she starts with a positive regarding a private enterprise as being practical, and there is survival for the fittest. Capitalism is a vital element for the survival of human beings. However, private enterprise development results in independence. According to Gilman, self-conservations are characterized as something created through the common determination or the survival for the fittest in which an individual's battle for sustainability. Gilman also characterizes race conservation, which has a comparative thought and is more centred on the survival of all the species.

Gilman discovered that the free enterprise could be useful, and at the same time, the patriarchy inside the private enterprise tends to be useless as men are viewed as the essential merchandise makers, who cultivate and offer for free the enterprise pickups. On the other hand, ladies are turned into essential purchasers but are not involved in the creation of the products. Ladies do not have the chance to add value to the free enterprise; hence marriages becomes their only hope for survival and self-conservation. According to Gilman, all the species battle for survival and come up with structures that will help them survive even if it is at the expense of others. Gilman added that men tend to be individualistic, forceful and ruling; hence they make ladies their subjects hence justifying the discrimination and the sexual orientation abuse. Dubois developed a comparative thought in relation to Gilman while at the same time he centred on race as opposed to Gilman who paid attention to sex as a way of expressing their dissatisfaction to the social oppression inflicted on those perceived to be less fortunate.

Dubois proposition is based on the oppression received by the black Americans from the whiles while Gilam looks at the oppression and inequality developed towards women but did not consider the injustices brought about by racial inclination. The liberating ideas of Gilman are mainly based on women and do not go beyond that, and this is contrary to Dubois who look at liberation beyond the gender inclination. Dubois believes that capitalism does not have the capacity to transform itself, but instead, it is doomed to result in self-destruction. He upholds that capitalism is the root cause of inequality as the white oppress the blacks in their business.

Just as observed by Gilman, Dubois highlights the misused of capitalism to oppressed others in society. Dubois observed that the proprietors also known as the white men misused the blacks and underpaid them to work for them in their business while the American counterpart specialist was not exploited but instead paid well for their work. Gilman also explains the exploitation of women by not giving them the opportunity to perform tasks carried out by men. She explains that the discriminations leave women without options on how to survive without having to rely on men. Gilman stated that "A woman should leave her home but three times- when she is christened, when she is married, and when she is buried" (262). The indication is how women are not allowed to leave their homes for work but instead allow men to work for them as they stay at home. Comparatively, in both Gilman and Dubois growth is curtailed, and certain individuals are perceived to be slaves and must serve their masters diligently. Accordi...

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