What role might holidays and festivals play in creating social solidarity and/or social conflict in society?

Part 1. Choose a festival or holiday with which you are familiar. Based on your study of the Week 3 learning resources (UMGC, n.d.), explain some key aspects of the holiday or festival, including the relevant beliefs, values, norms, and symbols associated with it. As part of your post, be sure to explain why each of the different aspects would be considered a belief, value, norm, etc. (For example, why would family get-togethers on Thanksgiving be considered a norm)?
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Part 2. Based on what you read about the different theoretical perspectives on society presented in the Week 3 learning resources, what role might holidays and festivals play in creating social solidarity and/or social conflict in society? Be sure to refer to at least one of the ideas, concepts, and/or theories explained in the Theoretical Perspectives on Society section of this week’s learning resources.
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(Source Material REFERENCE MATERIAL)
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Theoretical Perspectives on Society
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While many sociologists have contributed to research on society and social interaction, three thinkers form the base of modern-day perspectives: Émile Durkheim, Karl Marx, and Max Weber. They developed different theoretical approaches to help us understand the way societies function. Peter Berger and Thomas Luckmann also contributed a significant perspective on society called social constructionism.
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Functionalism
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As a functionalist, Émile Durkheim’s (1858-1917) perspective on society stressed the necessary interconnectivity of all its elements. To Durkheim, society was greater than the sum of its parts. He asserted that individual behavior was not the same as collective behavior and that studying collective behavior was quite different from studying an individual’s actions. Durkheim called the communal beliefs, morals, and attitudes of a society the collective conscience. In his quest to understand what causes individuals to act in similar and predictable ways, he argued that it was often the threat of social isolation that helped ensure that people would follow social expectations (Durkheim, 1982). Durkheim also believed that social integration, or the strength of ties that people have to their social groups, was a key factor in social life.
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Following the ideas of Comte and Spencer, Durkheim likened society to a living organism in which each organ plays a necessary role to keep the organism alive. Even socially deviant members of society are necessary, Durkheim argued, as punishments for deviance affirm established cultural values and norms—punishment of a crime reaffirms our moral consciousness. Durkheim (1960) called these elements of society social facts, meaning that social forces were real and existed outside the individual.
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As an observer of his social world, Durkheim was not entirely satisfied with the direction of society in his day. His primary concern was that the cultural glue that held society together was failing, and people were becoming more divided. In his 1893 book The Division of Labor in Society, Durkheim argued that as a society grows more complex, social order makes a transition from mechanical to organic (Durkheim, 1960).
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Preindustrial societies, Durkheim explained, were held together by mechanical solidarity, a type of social order maintained by the collective conscience of a culture. Societies with mechanical solidarity act in a mechanical fashion; things are done mostly because they have always been done that way. This type of thinking was common in preindustrial societies where strong bonds of kinship and a low division of labor created shared morals and values among people, such as hunter-gatherer groups. When people tend to do the same type of work, Durkheim argued, they tend to think and act alike.
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In industrial societies, mechanical solidarity is replaced with organic solidarity, which is social order based around an acceptance of economic and social differences. In capitalist societies, Durkheim wrote, division of labor becomes so specialized that everyone is doing different things. Instead of punishing members of a society for failure to assimilate to common values, organic solidarity allows people with differing values to coexist. Laws exist as formalized morals and are based on restitution rather than revenge.
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While the transition from mechanical to organic solidarity is, in the long run, advantageous for a society, Durkheim noted that it can be a time of chaos and normlessness. One of the outcomes of the transition is something he called social anomie. Anomie—literally, without law—is a situation in which society no longer has the support of a firm collective consciousness. Collective norms are weakened. People, while depending on each other more than ever to accomplish complex tasks, are also alienated from each other. Anomie is experienced in times of social uncertainty, such as war or a great upturn or downturn in the economy. As societies reach an advanced stage of organic solidarity, they avoid anomie by redeveloping a set of shared norms. According to Durkheim, once a society achieves organic solidarity, it has finished its development.
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Conflict Theory
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Karl Marx (1818-1883) is certainly among the most significant social thinkers in recent history. While there are many critics of his work, it is still widely respected and influential. For Marx, society’s constructions were predicated upon the idea of base and superstructure: A society’s economic character forms its base, upon which rests the culture and social institutions, which form the superstructure. For Marx, it is the base (economy) that determines what a society will be like.
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Karl Marx asserted that all elements of a society’s structure depend on its economic structure.
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Marx saw conflict in society as the primary means of change. Economically, he saw conflict existing between the owners of the means of production—the bourgeoisie—and the laborers, called the proletariat.
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Marx maintained that these conflicts appeared consistently throughout history during times of social revolution. These revolutions, or class antagonisms as he called them, were a result of one class dominating another. Most recently for him, with the end of feudalism, the bourgeoisie emerged as a revolutionary new class that dominated the proletariat laborers. The bourgeoisie were revolutionary in the sense that they represented a radical change in the structure of society.
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In the mid-1800s, as industrialization was booming, industrial employers—the owners of the means of production in Marx’s terms—became more and more exploitative toward the working class. The large manufacturers of steel were particularly ruthless, and their facilities became popularly dubbed satanic mills based on a poem by William Blake.
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Add to that the long hours, the use of child labor, and exposure to extreme conditions of heat, cold, and toxic chemicals, and it is no wonder that Marx and Engels referred to capitalism, which is a way of organizing an economy so that the things that are used to make and transport products (such as land, oil, factories, ships, etc.) are owned by individual people and companies rather than by the government, as the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie (Marx & Engels, 1998).
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For Marx, what we do defines who we are. Throughout history, despite the persistence of one class dominating another, some element of humanity existed. There was at least some connection between the worker and the product, augmented by the natural conditions of seasons and the rise and fall of the sun, as we see in an agricultural society. But with the bourgeoisie revolution and the rise of industry and capitalism, the worker worked for wages alone. The relationship between workers and their efforts was no longer of a human nature, but based on artificial conditions.
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Marx described modern society in terms of alienation—the condition in which an individual is isolated and divorced from society, work, or the sense of self. Alienation in modern society means that individuals lack control over their lives. Even in feudal societies, people controlled when and how they carried out their labor. But why, then, doesn’t the modern working class rise up and rebel? Marx predicted that such a revolution would be the ultimate outcome and cause the collapse of capitalism.
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Another concept that Marx developed is false consciousness, which refers to a condition in which the beliefs, ideals, or ideology of a person are not in the person’s own best interest. In fact, it is the ideology of the dominant class (here, the bourgeoisie capitalists) that is imposed upon the proletariat. Ideas like the emphasis of competition over cooperation or hard work being its own reward clearly benefit the owners of industry. If workers hold these beliefs, they are less likely to question their place in society and are more likely to assume that they themselves are responsible for existing conditions.
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In order for society to overcome false consciousness, Marx proposed that it be replaced with class consciousness, the awareness of one’s rank in society. Instead of existing as a “class in itself,” the proletariat must become a “class for itself” in order to produce social change, meaning that instead of just being inert in its level of society, the class could become an advocate for social improvements (Marx & Engels, 1998). Only once society entered this state of political consciousness would it be ready for a social revolution.
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An assembly line worker installs car parts with the aid of complex machinery.
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Has technology made this type of labor more or less alienating?
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Source: Carol Highsmith, Wikimedia Commons
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Symbolic Interactionism
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Like the other social thinkers discussed here, Max Weber was concerned with the important changes taking place in European and European-colonized society with the advent of industrialization. Like Marx and Durkheim, he feared that industrialization would have negative effects on individuals.
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Weber’s primary focus on the structure of society lay in the elements of class, status, and power. Weber, like Marx, saw class as economically determined. Society, he believed, was split between owners and laborers. Status, on the other hand, was based on noneconomic factors such as education, kinship, and religion. In this view, both status and class determine an individual’s power, or influence over ideas. Unlike Marx, Weber believed that these ideas form the base of society.
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Weber’s analysis of modern society centered on the concept of rationalization, which argues that a rational society is one built around logic and efficiency rather than morality or tradition. To Weber, capitalism is entirely rational. Although this leads to efficiency and merit-based success, it has negative effects when taken to the extreme. In some modern societies, this is seen when rigid routines and strict design lead to a mechanized work environment and a focus on producing identical products in every location.
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Weber was also unlike his predecessors in that he was more interested in how individuals experienced societal divisions than in the divisions themselves. Symbolic interactionism, the third of the three most recognized theories of sociology, is based on Weber’s early ideas that emphasize the viewpoint of the individual and how that individual relates to society. For Weber, the culmination of industrialization and rationalization is what he called the iron cage, in which the individual is trapped by institutions and bureaucracy. This leads to a sense of “disenchantment of the world,” a phrase Weber used to describe the final condition of humanity (Weber, 1946, p. 155). In a rationalized, modern society, we have supermarkets instead of family-owned stores and chain restaurants instead of local eateries. Superstores that offer a multitude of merchandise have replaced independent businesses that focused on one product line, such as hardware, groceries, automotive repair, or clothing. Such changes may be rational, but are they universally desirable?
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Cubicles are used to maximize individual workspace in an office. Such structures may be rational, but they are also
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isolating.
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Source: Tim Patterson, Flickr
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Another important perspective on society, social constructionism, evolved out of the symbolic interactionist perspective. In 1966, sociologists Peter Berger and Thomas Luckmann wrote a book called The Social Construction of Reality. In it, they argued that society is created by humans and human interaction, which they call habituation. Habituation refers to how repeated actions become a pattern that forms the basis for how society is constructed. Not only do we construct our own society, but we also accept it as it is because others have created it before us. Society is, in fact, habit.
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For example, a school exists as a school and not just as a building because you and others agree that it is a school. If the school is older than you are, it was created by the agreement of others before you. In a sense, it exists by consensus, both prior and current. This is an example of the process of institutionalization, the act of implanting a convention or norm into society. Bear in mind that the institution, while socially constructed, is still quite real.
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Another way of looking at this concept is through W. I. Thomas’s notable Thomas theorem, which states that what people define as being real has real consequences (Thomas & Thomas, 1928). That means that people’s behavior can be determined by their subjective construction of reality rather than by objective reality. For example, a teenager who is repeatedly given a label—overachiever, player, bum—might live up to the term even though it initially wasn’t accurate.
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Like Berger and Luckmann in their description of habituation, Thomas states that our moral codes and social norms are created by “successive definitions of the situation” (Thomas, 1931, p. 43). This concept is defined by sociologist Robert K. Merton (1957) as a self-fulfilling prophecy. Merton explains that with a self-fulfilling prophecy, even a false idea can become true if it is acted upon. Merton uses the example that for some reason, many people falsely fear that their bank will soon be bankrupt. Because of this false notion, people run to their bank and demand all their cash at once. Because banks rarely, if ever, have that much money on hand, the bank does indeed run out of money, fulfilling the customers’ prophecy. Here, reality is constructed by an idea.
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The notion that people construct society is important because it suggests that we are not just subject to external factors; we can make choices. At the same time, it’s important to also recognize that some people (those with power and resources) have more ability to shape reality than others.

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