When trying to understand social issues and events, it is necessary to look at and study them from a sociological view or approach. The sociological approach to understanding social issues and events is significant in life today and in earlier centuries as it provides us with different answers to certain questions that are sometimes difficult to understand or comprehend. During this essay, I will try to portray how the sociological approach is significant to understanding social issues and events by highlighting a number of these issues and events. The social issues and events that I will focus on are:
Crime and violence in the media
Suicide in Ireland
Road traffic accidents in Ireland
Crime and violence in the media is a social issue or event that has been at the bone of contention in the sociological world for many years. The sociological approach to understanding this social issue or event is significant in the way that it helps us understand the medias influence on crime and violence in the world, or in fact the question of does the media actually influence crime and violence directly? The sociological approach to understanding crime helps us see crime not only as a social behavior, but, more importantly, as a “backstage behavior”. Through looking at crime from this point of view there is evidence that violent media does in fact lead to an increase in social aggression. However, while violent media does increase violent behavior, how does this lead to an increase in crime? This question is answered by taking the sociological approach. From a sociological point of view, the concept of violent media leading to crime is shown as follows:
“Media depictions of violence lead to increased social aggression, which then lead to increased amount of crime”.
(Surette, 1998. p.116)
However sociologists do realize that the media is only one of many reasons for crime and violence in the world. By using the media as a sociological approach to understanding crime and violence we are able to get a different perspective on the social issues which makes this sociological approach significant.
Gender and crime is another social issue and event studied by sociologists. The sociological approach in studying gender and crime is significant as it portrays the differences in the relationship between crime and females and the relationship between crime and males. Gender is a major issue in crime, especially in the area of women and criminology. Lombroso and Ferrero, two sociologists, stated in 1895 that
“if women did commit a crime, then by definition their lack of femininity must be explained since it was not in the true nature of femininity to do so”.
(Surette,1998. p. 99)
This led to the ideology of control where men were the superior and women the inferior. If women did not comply with this ideology of control, for example, absent mothers, single mothers, working mothers, then they would be blamed for the increase of the male youth crime rate. However, when a male committed a crime it was seen as an attempt to achieve masculinity, rather than an attempted to demote it. Therefore, male youths would become involved in delinquency as a way of doing masculine things. The sociological approach of looking at youth crime from a gender point of view is therefore very significant as it explains why the male youth crime rate is often higher that that of the female youth crime rate.
Suicide is, for a lot of people, one of the hardest things to understand. However, the sociological approach to understanding this social issue and event is very significant as sociology provides us with, and highlights, four different types of suicide, as identified by Durkheim (1966) in a classic sociological study. The first form of suicide is Altruistic suicide, which is,
“the obligatory suicide of widows in patriarchal Asia, the suicide of shamed warriors who dishonoured their people, the suicide of elderly tribe people when they became a burden in times of scarcity”.
(Keohane and Kuhling, 2004. p.56)
This form of suicide highlights people who kill themselves for the group, such as mass suicides in a cult. The second, fatalistic suicide is
“ the suicide of slaves, unwilling partners in loveless arranged marriages, people who are trapped and whose abilities to determine their own futures are cut off”.
(Keohane and Kuhling, 2004. p.57)
These two types of suicides explain the pre-modern, traditional communities that are rarely found today. However, the next two forms of suicide, anomic and egotistic suicides are the main types of suicides in modern society. Anomic suicide is
“suicide related to times of moral confusion due to rapid social change, when moral and regulatory frameworks and institutions are unstable”.
(Keohane and Kuhling, 2004. p.57-58)
For example, anomic suicide is visible during times of economic recession. Egotistic suicide may be
“ suicides related pressures and anxiety generated by expectations, examinations and career performances”.
(Keohane and Kuhling, 2004. p.57)
This is the most typical type of suicide in Ireland. As I have already stated, suicide is one social issue that most people find very difficult to comprehend. However, through taking the significant sociological approach of looking at four different types of suicide, most people might then be able to understand a little more about this social issue or event.
Road traffic accidents in Ireland are, from a sociological point of view, as a result of modernization in Ireland since the 1990s. The sociological approach to understanding this social issue and event is very significant as it provides people with an explanation for the increase in the rate of road traffic accidents in this country over the past number of years. Since the economic boom experienced by a young population in Ireland in the 1990s there is a higher number of young, inexperienced, people driving on our roads. The sociological approach to understanding this social issue highlights the behavior and attitudes of these young drivers towards the rules of the road and the laws and regulations of the road. People in this modernized country disregard the law due to the
“states inability to enforce the law due to an evasive and subversive attitude to rules and regulations and to the law in general”.
(Keohane and Kuhling, 2004. p. 10)
The economic boom in Ireland during the 1990s has lead to a rapid increase in traffic on the roads. While modernization is a contributory factor towards the increase in road traffic in Ireland one of the biggest factors contributing towards the increase is the different driving cultures that we have in this country. The first driving custom in the country is the driving practice of local traffic, the second is the commuter driving culture and the third and most important culture is the power driven culture which highlights people who break the speed limit, drive in bus lanes, and act in a selfish and illegal manner. This sociological approach to looking at the increase in road traffic accidents in Ireland is very significant as it portrays a number of reasons for this increase.
The sociological approach to discussing and understanding religion is very significant as it provides, not answers, but different theories that are involved in religion. Sociologists have found it very hard to create a general definition of religion, as due to the variety of religions it would be impossible to find a definition that would be accepted by all. However, the sociological approach to understanding religion does help us to understand the characteristics that all religions share. Some of these characteristics include, a set of symbols, feelings of reverence or awe, rituals or ceremonials that are attended by the religions community. Sociology also portrays the different rituals that different religions partake in, such as praying, chanting, singing, eating certain types of food, fasting on certain days, etc. The sociology approach to understanding this social issue or event is significant in that many sociologists, such as Marx, Durkheim and Weber, provide us with different theories of religion. The sociologist that I find contributed the most to the study of religion is Emile Durkheim. Durkheim spent a major part of his career studying religion and relates it to
“the overall nature of the institutions of a society”.
( Giddens, 2001. p.537).
Religious rituals play a major part in Durkheim's sociological study of religion. Within these religious rituals Durkheim defines the distinction between the sacred and the profane. However with the development of modern societies the influence of religion decreases in peoples lives according to Durkheim. From a sociological point of view this aspect of religion is significant in helping us to understand why and how religion changes. Therefore, due to Durkheim's sociological approaches to this social issue and event it is easy to see the significance of sociology in our lives.
In conclusion, when looking at social issues and events and when trying to understand them it is necessary to study them from a sociological point of view to get the full meaning of the issues and events. Social issues and events, such as, crime, gender, suicide, traffic road accidents and religion are all very important issues in society. However, they are also the most complex and diverse issues for some people to understand. In order for people to fully understand these social issues and events, it is necessary to take the sociological approach to understanding them as it is a significant approach to these matters due to its supply of definitions and reasons for these social issues and events.