Sociology Essay

Words: 1989
Pages: 8

Social order requires social behaviour to be predictable and individuals to cooperate. Amongst the explanations of social order are five outlined by Hechter and Horne: (shared) ‘meaning’, ‘values and norms’, ‘power and authority’, ‘spontaneous interaction’ and ‘networks and groups’. Following Hechter and Horne, describe how at least TWO of these explanations might account for social order, and discuss the extent to which you find those explanations convincing.

Social order is one of the most central aspects of sociology. Two main factors are necessary for the existence of social order: predictability of society and cooperative behaviour of individuals (Hechter and Horne, 2003). In this essay I will describe how ‘values and norms’ and
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This suggests that although norms are regarded as external criteria for evaluation, external factors alone are not enough for them to be effective, they also need to have some internal basis to account for social order.

One of the issues with explaining social order simply as people following norms is that the norms are regularly violated and do not prevent deviant behaviour. In addition norms cannot fully account for social order in capitalist societies where according to Engels (1884 in Hechter and Horne, 2003) a minority (the capitalists) dominates and exploits the majority (the working class). Engels considers coercion by a central authority, the state, ‘necessary to moderate the conflict and keep it within the bounds of ‘order’ ’(Engels, 1884 in Hechter and Horne, 2003:179)

Hobbes’ (1651 in Hechter and Horne, 2003) explanation of social order is also based on a central authority. According to him all humans desire approximately the same things and therefore if given complete freedom are in a state of a constant competitive struggle. The authority of a state to which the individuals surrender part of their freedom is the only way to prevent conflict and disorder. One of the problems with Hobbes’ theory is that he assumes humans to be rational egoists, which is not necessarily true. The opposite is suggested by the findings of Joseph Henrich et al. (2004) that most people play the Ultimatum Game pro-socially rather than selfishly, as a rational egoist would.