Something we have discussed in our course over the past few class sessions, is a major debate between typically liberals and conservatives. How do we best explain and correct the major societal issues of today, such as inequality or education. On one side, we have many believing that these issues are caused by social structural factors that create an unequal playing field created by certain institutions and laws within our society. However, this is in direct contrast with what many conservatives see as the root cause of societal programs, and that is they see certain cultural norms within our society which they believe lead to said societal issues. While this is somewhat of a generalization of the explanations these different ideological views use towards understanding major social problems, it is what we typically see from both groups. However, as I have learned over the course of my time as sociology major, that social structure and cultural explanations are not mutually exclusively, but are more of circular spectrum that intersects heavily, and by understanding that spectrum, we can better understand how these social problems come about.
Over the course of the paper, I will first explain what exactly are social structural explanations and cultural explanations, and show some of the most popular examples of both. In addition, I discuss what I think is the core of the disagreement between the two, and what I think matters in comprehending life chances.
The idea of a “social structure” is probably one of the most popular and influential concepts in the world of sociology, with social theorists from Durkheim, Marx, Weber, and Parsons, all base their work off the fundamental idea that there is a large societal structure which places individuals within certain places of a larger society. The proper definition of the term is not exactly the easiest to find, because of the competing ideas that many sociologists have regarding the topic; however, the common dominator is that the "focus may be on the class structure or value orientation, on networks of social relations or institutional integration, on the division of labor or the construction of social reality, on the status set and role set of the ecosystem” (Blau 1977:27). Therefore, one can look at social structure as how society uses its overall power and influence to put us in our respective place in said society. The reason why many liberals lean towards structural explanations of social issues is that the typical “liberal” is more likely to accept communal and collectivist reasoning, and social structuring would fit into that type of reasoning in that it argues many problems in our society come from an intuitional and social constructivist base.
A common example of how structural causes play a role in major societal problems is the ineffectiveness of the public education system for many students. From an early age, kids are forced into certain school districts in the area they reside in...