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REFLECTIVE ESSAY USING MACRO (CONFLICT THEORY & FUNCTIONALISM) AS CASE STUDY

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Conceptual comprehension of a social theory/theories and the successful application of the theory/theories to practice, to help promote social change by encouraging social justice and fairness is what I aim to achieve to be a successful change agent.

The importance of social experiment in critically analysing social problems/issues cannot be overemphasized. The ability to think outside the box with deep understanding of facts to help enlighten the society on what the real issues are will bring about the change that is desired by the society. Applying social theories to social problems can be achieved when there is an enabling environment to foster genuine conversation and engage in issues in society. A little more openness, sincerity, tolerance, respect for human dignity and humanity in general will go a long way to minimizing social issues and challenges that some people in society are facing today. applying conflict theory and functionalism to understand these issues is reflected on this writeup.

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Human being’s social interaction with her environment within a global perspective, has been from time immemorial. Understanding the complexity and uniqueness of people and proffering solution to issues within their social system structure is important. This reflective piece will attempt to critically analyse and solve underlying systemic social issue(s) and its effect on social worker(s) in society by applying social theory/theories. These theories can be argued as attempting to unravel and solve social problems that have been socially constructed. From time immemorial, human being have lived and interacted with her environment. The society that people lived can be argued as socially constructed. Natural phenomena such as change, and human social dynamics further integrated human beings into an already complex society making it even more social-structurally complex. Complex structure or superstructure emanated from the need for stability in society resulting in many stronger social structures such as Power, money, class struggle, gender, education etc. For stability to be achieved in society, these structures play important role which can be argued as attributes in capitalist society. It is argued that for stability to be possible in society, resources will be influenced and controlled by capitalists (Abercrombie, N., Hill, S., and Turner, B, S., (1984) The Penguin Dictionary of Sociology, Penguin Books, Harmondsworth)

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Social problems are fluid and dynamic just like the society that encapsulates such problem. As evident in the Food documentary, huge multinational companies where formed because of many factors such as population growth, demand, supply, price, modernisation, industrialisation, money, power, control, etc. The underlying challenge that caused these social issues/problems in the food incorporated documentary, can be objectively and subjectively analysed. The way we eat changed over the years because of these structurally influenced societal factors. High demand for food increased the pressure on already capitalist economy that has been class divided. Major stakeholders in the food documentary knew that it would be difficult to meet the demand for food, affordable price while still retaining food organic quality. Changing food production processes to meet demand and make money indicates that compromising food quality and authenticity is inevitable. Taking advantage of social facts, food multinational companies began to introduce technology to food production by engineering food. It can be argued that technology and technical possibilities were veritable tools in this capitalist stronghold society (Weber, M. (1905) [2002] The Protestant Ethic and the ‘Spirit’ of Capitalism, Penguin Classics, United Kingdom)

As social worker, the reason for this approach can be viewed from both side of the debate. I believe having the ability to see through and read between the lines of the immediate social issue and understanding the root cause of the social problem is an invaluable skill that I must possess to be that successful positive change agent in society.

It can be argued that functionalism and conflict theory will be applicable in understanding such social problem like in the food documentary. Getting the facts and underlying reasons behind the real issues means using primary research method by qualitatively and quantitatively sampling people’s opinion and using estimated statistical information respectively – in this case, farmers, consumers and food multinational companies in the food documentary. However, when opinions from all stakeholders relating to social problem are not considered, prejudice could easily set in and outcomes could be influenced based on gathered opinions. It is also important for social workers like me to understand that modernity and civilisation plays important role in the decision-making process by these huge multinational food companies. The role these multinational companies played by applying technology and engineering to food production to meet the demand of the market could be argued as being encouraged by consumer demand. People generally like to buy more at a cheaper price. It is also evident that industrialisation and modernisation has developed overtime and the capitalist approach to production has changed with it (Beck, U. (1992) Risk Society: Towards a New Modernity, Sage Publications Ltd., London)

AS a social worker, the ability to know and understand the best research method needed in tackling and addressing social issues like cost, labour condition, willingness by the people involved and other socio-cultural factors is invaluable. The success of the research method used by social worker is directing connected to the usefulness of data collated or used in relating to the social problem(s). Understanding the peculiarity and fluidity of a social problem and attempting to cause a positive change along same line by observation approach, information gathering, awareness and enlightenment campaign, inclusion techniques, advocacy, asking questions where necessary about what, how, and when, will give the desired or expected result. The above-mentioned social problem in the Food documentary has given me a cause to pause and then try to understand the reasons for deception on the part of the huge multinational food companies. I should always remind myself to check the role money influence, control and power played in trying to address related social issues when applying these theories. As a social worker, I will try to see and differentiate what it seems from what it is and what it should be rather than believing what was intended. So, it is important to evaluate and piece together the entire collated data for concrete information and critically analyse the information to help unravel the truth (Bourdieu, P. (1984) ‘A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste’ from Distinction, Routledge)

Another good example I reflected on as a social worker is the documentary social experiment ‘First Contact 3’ which aimed at attempting to understand the systemic ongoing social issues faced by the people. It is imperative for social worker to note that thinking sociologically can help us to understand the sensitivity and acceptance of cultural diversity, identity, ethnicity, individual uniqueness, and sharpen and broaden our approach to social problems beyond our experiences for better understanding of human condition, which has remained systematically invisible (Bauman et al 2001 Thinking sociologically)

As a social worker, reflecting on ‘First Contact Episode 3’ by asking important questions regarding social issues the people were confronted with, is very important. Bo-dene hard-line was broken when she allowed herself firsthand to experience some of the social problems faced by the people. There was re-socialization – especially with Bo-dene and Jasmine because they had the willingness and capacity to allow themselves to live the experience and through the process with the people. This lead to deeper understanding of the social issues that the people were facing. Quantitative and qualitative research method is also important in carrying out this sort of social experiment as evident in the social experiment. Reflective practices involving me as a social worker in participative observation and survey, is very useful in practical field (Matthewman et al 2007). Collating existing data and new data just like we heard percentages being used to describe alcohol related deaths and the intervention method used to reduce that percentage is vital. Questioning what was sacrificed for stability in society with the effect of such sacrifice on the people it affects is also very important in attempting to solve or minimize the cycle of offending and reoffending – in this case, first contact. Social workers need to be aware of this fine line that must be separated for critical and analytical innovative ideas to flourish in alleviating the root cause of most of these social issues. However, as a social worker, pragmatically combining reality and optimism in a course of action through conscious and rational deliberation, will help in anticipating probable outcome (Bauman et al. 2001 Thinking Sociologically)

It is pertinent to note that humans crave for power which is an important factor in all human connection (Matthewman et al 2007). Power play an important role in influencing social structuration and cannot be alienated when attempting to demystify seemingly endemic social problems that emanated from such structured society. When social issues relating to class, race, gender is analysed in a social context, I opined that the validity of such analysis should be evident in the application of social theory. In this case – conflict theory and functionalism.

In conclusion, this reflective write-up reiterated important points by understanding the multidimensional and fluidity of social issues to apply best theory-practice method.

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