Sociological Theory Paper





Sociological Theory Paper

Trouble the Water is a documentary that was produced and subsequently directed by Carl Deal and Tia Lessin in the year 2008. The documentary provides a tale of government indifference as evident through the neglect exhibited by failed levees, an abandoned community and bungling bureaucrats. The documentary features an aspiring American rap artist and former drug dealer Kimberly Rivers Roberts with her husband Scott at a shelter owned by the Red Cross in Central Louisiana. The failing levees illustrate the failures by the government to ensure the safety and wellbeing of individuals in this neighborhood. It is noted the area is home to low income population and racial minorities. The documentary was effective in providing an illustrating the issue of race, social disorganization, discrimination and the poor relationship between the government and its people. These are critical issues that continue to haunt the unity of the country across racial and class divides.

The governments, state and federal, play a critical functional role in ensuring that the welfare needs of such communities are provided. From a functional sociological perspective, the government’s role is critical in terms of provision of basic social services that are necessary for the human development. The government’s indifference in terms of responding to the infrastructure needs and welfare of individuals living in this area as well as similar communities experience identical problems illustrates the presence of double standards to addressing social problems.

In understanding structural functionalism, conflict theory provides that society can be understood as a competition for the meager resources rather than an interaction of complex systems that are striving for equilibrium. Essentially, the society consists of individuals or groups of people who are competing for various resources whose availability is limited. Such resources may include finances, sexual partners, mineral resources, land, and success. Essentially, the broad social structures or organizations such as class, religious groups, and race are an express reflection of the competition for the limited resources in the respective inequalities. In addition, some individuals and organizations may be predisposed to having more resources such as power, money, and influence all of which can be attributed to social classification and race. They may utilize such resources for the sole purpose of enhancing or maintaining their respective positions of power in societies or communities.

Conflict theory has been used to illustrate the various limitations of structural functionalism. This is because the structural functionalist approach provides that society has a tendency for seeking equilibrium and stability as opposed to social change. On the other hand, the conflict approach provides that society is continually in conflict over various limited resources. The primary perspective provided by the conflict theory is that it provides an understanding of the presence of social change, which the structural functionalist approach is unable to deliver.

The modern conflict theory has a variety of assumptions. The first assumption is that the competition for scarce resources is at the core of all human or social relationships. Additionally, competition as opposed to consensus is a basic trait of all human relationships. Secondly, it assumes that inequalities in terms of power and reward systems are inherent to all social structures. Groups and individuals within any particular social structure usually strive to ensure such sustained inequalities. Thirdly, it assumes that change takes place because of the presence of conflicts between the various competing interests as opposed to adaptation to change. Change is usually a revolutionary and an unexpected phenomenon as opposed to evolutionary. Such perspectives are critical towards developing an understanding of the government’s indifference in interaction or engagement of the communities in New Orleans.

Based on the conflict theory, it can be inferred that the dilapidated infrastructure in New Orleans as noted in the documentary, is because of competition. The competition for resources such as funding and political power has gradually rendered parts of New Orleans inhabitable. This is attributed to the presence of social disorganization and divides based on social class, financial ability, education, and more so race. The lack of adequate infrastructure well as systemic failures by authorities ensure that the communities living in this area are provided with appropriate services and infrastructure are evidence of indifference. The documentary begs questions over the reluctance and indifference of the government to provide the communities with the appropriate services and in the process risking the lives of a large number of individuals.

The Hurricane Katrina highlighted the presence of a clear divide in terms of both race and class given that the response provided by the government, society, and non-governmental organizations was poor. Media images as provided in the documentary highlighted that a majority of the population in this flood prone area was predominantly made up of African Americans as well as other minority groups. This has been attributed to the fact that the areas highly affected were flood prone. In addition, this was compounded by the fact that these communities were poor whereas the rich were able to afford housing in high areas as opposed to the flood prone areas that were covered in this documentary.

Thus, the competition for quality housing means that the rich are able to afford housing in safe areas whereas the poor are only able to access areas that are prone to flooding. Furthermore, competition for resources such as money renders the rich class powerful and driven by the need to control the poor. It is clear the dysfunctionalism and stratification of society base don race and class has been harmful in the country as evident in the case of New Orleans. The hurricane Katrina as well as previous incidences of flooding is evidence of the unresponsiveness of the government.

The unresponsiveness of the government can be attributed to the presence of varied understanding of problems and needs based on their race and class. The government response is presumed to have been effective it affects areas that are home to the society’s elite. A majority of discussions over the response of the government and society as a whole to hurricane Katrina underpin the presence of social stratification based on class and race. There are claims that the hurricane Katrina brought forth the presence of a class dynamic in the American society. Class was a critical element in the events of the hurricane given that majorities of these individuals were unable to leave their homes, possessions, and businesses for the fear of looting and loss.

Furthermore, this compounded by the fact that they lacked resources to move from this flood prone areas to other safety regions. It is critical to note of the intertwined factors namely race and class in America. Race and class are intertwined given that America has been historically divided based on race, which was compounded by the establishment of class as a social tool for control of the minority populations. Race has been used in the country as a tool for superimposition of inferiority on the minority groups. It has been used as a tool for authority, power and control and in the process enabling the presumably majority racial groups with avenues for amassing wealth and power.

Racial discrimination has been historically used in the United States as a means of maintaining white privilege and supremacy. It has been used as a means of affirming superiority and massing political and financial power. Social class and race are two elements that are intertwined given the history of the country. Criticism claim that the events of the hurricane Katrina are intricately embedded in the well institutionalized racism in the south of the country. The documentary is also indicative that the sate and federal governments also failed in the previous years to rehabilitate the levees, which brought about perennial flooding.

The conflict theory indicates that power and competition are central to all social relationships. Thus, power is central to the relationships between New Orleans and the federal government. Karl Marx in relation to the conflict theory notes that the social struggles, as seen in New Orleans, are because of the competition between the rich and poor. The rich have the power and resources to find property in dry areas that are not prone to flooding whereas the poor have to contend with the struggles of living in areas such as new Orleans that are marked by the presence of faltering levees.

It can be inferred that the problems noted in new Orleans are as a result of the strategies used by the majority in enhancing their authority, power , control and wealthy by ensuring the visibility of a class and racial divide. Additionally, the historical injustices propagated against minority groups are responsible for the systemic failures in ensuring adequacy of infrastructure such as the levees leading up to the catastrophic hurricane Katrina. The documentary was effective in providing an illustrating the issue of race, social disorganization, discrimination and the poor relationship between the government and its people. These are critical issues that continue to haunt the unity of the country across racial and class divides. It was accurate in terms of highlighting the government’s indifference in ensuring the welfare of its citizens based on social stratifications of race and class. Race and class are issues that are core to the inability of the government to provide services and ensure wellbeing of all its citizens irrespective of their backgrounds and origin.



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