Sociology a large part of British society, the cause

Sociology is a very broad topic as it studies all aspects of human societies from multiple perspectives (Form and Faris, 2015). Because of this, contemporary issues such as obesity in the UK can be analysed in relation to sociological perspectives. A recent study (NHS Digital, 2017) found that in 2015; 68% of men and 58% of women were classified as overweight or obese. From this it can be deducted that obesity has become a large part of British society, the cause and/or effect of this issue can be viewed differently by different sociological perspectives. This essay will present and outline and evaluate functionalism, Labelling theory and radical feminism. In addition to linking these perspectives to obesity within this UK and determining whether or not they are still relevant.Labelling theory, was founded by Howard Becker in 1963 (Skaggs, 2018). This theory focuses on ‘deviance’ and states that by society labelling people as criminal or deviant, encourages them to repeat this behaviour (Webb et al, 2009). This theory contains a process called the ‘moral panic’ in which deviance becomes amplified, this process contains two terms; ‘moral entrepreneurs’ and the ‘folk devil’. The moral entrepreneur is a person, group or organisation with the power to create or enforce rules and impose their morals, view and attitudes onto others (Cohen, 2002). The folk devil, is a generalisation of a particular social group that the moral entrepreneurs wish to demonise (Cohen, 2002). The Moral panic is the process where the moral entrepreneurs arouse social concern over an issue, which leads to the creation of a folk devil (Cohen, 2002). Moral panics lead to deviance amplification, shown by Jock Young (2009). Nonetheless, not all labelling theorists see the act of labelling as bad. For example, John Braithwaite proposes ‘reintergrative shaming’ (2007). This is where the individual is labelled for doing a bad thing, but also acknowledges that it does not mean they are inherently a bad person, therefore, avoids the stigmatisation (Braithwaite, 2007). This theory has been accused of being deterministic (Webb et al, 2009). This is because it does not account for the free will of the individual, instead it assumes the actions of the individual are decided by the labels given by others (Webb et al, 2009). Furthermore, highlighted by Alvin Gouldner this theory gives the offender the status of a victim (1968, pp. 103-116). This essentially states that the crime is not the individuals fault, and because of this, the victims of the crime are ignored (Gouldner, 1968, pp. 103-116).With obesity being a perceived as a deviant behaviour (Puhl and Heuer, 2009), the process of moral panic can be applied. In this case, the moral entrepreneurs can be seen as the fashion industry who project their idealised body shape onto society. In doing so, they create a moral panic through the media coverage, which may influence society to obsess over healthy lifestyles. Following this, as obese people do not conform to the idealised body shape, they become stigmatised. Meaning this group becomes the folk devil and will be associated with negative generalisations such as being unhealthy, and not caring for their health. Because of this, this stigma can have a negative effect on the individuals such as depression which has be linked to binge eating (Koeing and Wasserman, 1995). Consequently, the individuals become increasingly overweight or maintain their weight, therefore, deviance amplification occurs. On the other hand, Braithwaite’s theory of reintergrative shaming views this analogy from a slightly different perspective (Braithwaite, 2007). Instead of becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy; reintergrative shaming keeps the option open for the individual to lose weight. This is because they would not internalise the label, instead recognising that it does not make them a bad person. Functionalism was developed into a systematic theory by Talcott Parsons (Webb et al, 2009). However, the fundamental ideas can be traced back to Emile Durkheim (Form and Faris, 2018). Functionalism is a macro, structural theory (Webb et al, 2009). This means that it focuses on the requirements for a ‘healthy’ social system and how these requirements embody key features of society (Webb et al, 2009). Furthermore, it is considered to be a consensus theory, as it views society as built upon an agreements between its occupants, in regard to their rules, value and goals (Webb et al, 2009). To portray this Parsons proposes an analogy for society (1961).This compares social structure to a biological organism, essentially stating that social institutes such as education or individual roles such as a teacher or mother, are the organs of society. Furthermore, it states that similar to how an organism needs nutrition, society too has needs, such as its members co-operating with one another. There are multiple criticisms for functionalism, for example, a postmodernists critic that functionalism assumes that society is secure and stable (Webb et al, 2009). Therefore, functionalism does not account for the diversity and instability that modern societies exhibit (Webb et al, 2009). Furthermore, criticism comes from conflict theorists such as Marxism (Webb et al, 2009). Due to functionalisms consensus nature, Marxists argue that it fails to account for conflict and change that has been exhibited in past societies (Webb et al, 2009). Moreover, Marxists continue this line of argument, going onto state that society is separated by classes the ‘bourgeoisie’ and ‘proletariat’, by this standard, stability of society is achieved through the domination of one class, preventing change (Webb et al, 2009).In addition to this, Marxist theorists describe functionalism as a conservative ideology (Webb et al, 2009). This means that as this approach emphasises the stability over conflict, it is protecting those who hold power and wealth, as they would have most to lose from change within society (Webb et al, 2009). Lastly, Dennis Wrong (1961) comes from an action perspective to criticise functionalism. Wrong states that functionalism is deterministic in the view of the individual as functionalism disregards free will, describing humans as puppets of society (1961). 


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