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Sociology (Theory) - Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin

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Add embedded citations from "Black like Me" and show the page numbers for the examples. c) include some discussion about the examples illustrated for the chosen theoretical argument. Robert Merton’s Structural Functionalism focused “on social functions rather than on individual motives” (Ritzer 81). He defined functions as observable consequences that help a particular system adapt or adjust. However, Merton believes that this lone focus on adaptation or adjustment produces a clear ideological bias, for the consequences are always positive. Early structural functionalism omitted the negative consequences one social structure can have for another social structure.

In this regard, Merton developed the idea of a dysfunction or the negative consequences that could hamper the ability of the parts of the social system to adapt or adjust. Merton also developed the idea of net balance to “help answer the question of whether positive functions outweigh dysfunctions, or vice versa” (Ritzer 83). However, sociologists cannot objectively determine which outweighs the other by simply summing up the positive functions and dysfunctions because of the complexity of the issues, which are based on so much subjective judgment.

Nevertheless, Merton’s concept of net balance is useful in “the way it orients the sociologist to the question of relative significance” (83). Merton’s idea about the levels of functional analysis (Ritzer 83), enables functionalists to do an analysis of an organization, institution, group or any standardized and repetitive social phenomenon, instead of restricting themselves to analysis of the society as a whole. Also, Merton’s concepts of manifest (those that are intended) and latent (those that are unintended) functions and his concept of unanticipated consequences, may shed light on why the discrimination against blacks and other minority groups continues to exist, like in the following excerpts from “Black Like Me”: I hurried to the alley and walked down it into the gloom of a cluttered courtyard.

A few Negroes, who could not enter the white bar, were served from the back. They stood around or sat at wooden tables drinking. I saw a sign that read GENTLEMEN and was almost at the door when several voices shouted. “Hey! You can’t go in there. Hey! I turned back toward them, astonished that even among skid row derelict joints they had “separate facilities. ” (Griffin 27) The above-cited example clearly illustrates Merton’s functional theory (Ritzer 85).

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preview essay on Sociology (Theory) - Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin
  • Pages: 10 (2500 words)
  • Document Type: Essay
  • Subject: Unsorted
  • Level: Masters
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