Sociology:Social Care in Context
NationalUniversity of Ireland, Galway.
18thof November 2014
Thesocial conflict theory seeks to explain negative relations insociety. The theory posits that unequal distribution of resources,both material and non-material, gives rise to conflict in society.Individuals, groups or different social classes compete for thesescarce resources driven by selfish desires to amass more or have agreater influence over distribution of these resources (Abbott &Wallace, 2011). In the social context, these resources are assumed towield a lot of social power. However, the conflict that arises is notalways confrontational or hostile but the term is used to also implyopposing views or ideas in society. The common parameters that maydivide society into different clusters with different conflictingviews mainly include race, age, gender, wealth, sex among others.Given that the theory is based on conflicts between classes orindividuals, it is clear to see the theory’s basis on Karl Marx’sviews on society (Abbott et al., 2009).
KarlMarx believed that that society is a dynamic entity experiencingconstant change driven by class conflict over resources. To Marx,society comprised of individuals and social classes of peopleconstantly competing for meagre resources such as leisure,employment, money and land among others. Their relationship is thusdefined by competition as opposed to consensus on sharing ofresources with those better equipped to compete having undueadvantage. Deprived people on the other hand, may end up usingunconventional means in an attempt to bring equilibrium indistribution of resources (Hanlon,2012). For instance, males in most species are better equipped inphysical power and are more muscular and thus are better equipped inwinning physical confrontations compared to females. When they feeldeprived, they can employ violence. However, in Marx’s views,people who may feel deprived will be in a constant struggle to bringbalance and thus drive change (Zastrow, 2010). One area noted forimbalanced competition pertains to women’s domination in socialcare. This paper seeks to use the social conflict theory to explainthe higher number of women working as social care professionals.
Thenurturing and mothering ability of women make them naturally betterequipped in offering social care. Social care requires a certaindegree of care, compassion and tenderness that is best delivered bywomen. This is courtesy of their natural ability to give birth andtake care of children. These skills have therefore been honed andsharpened over time and passed on genetically and through trainingfrom one generation of womenfolk to another. They have come to acceptas their moral role in society. In fact, “despite culturalvariations, and the way family members can feel differentiallyobligated to care, it is women who experience a most moral imperativeto care” (Hanlon 2012, p. 36). Does this mean that men are notpositioned to be tender, compassionate and caring or morally inclinedin that manner? No, the argument here is care for children in thefamily is best delivered by women as opposed to men. The ability ofwomen to carry pregnancies and breast feed children creates astronger link with infants more naturally than men can. However, thisis not always the case. Men can be trained on such skills to work inprofessions such as social care.
Coreskills demanded in social care largely include compassion, tendernessand a certain degree of care. The scope of social care ranges fromnursing to teaching. It involves a great deal of human interactionwhere human relations created between the provider and the recipientgreatly influences the quality of care delivered. Women arebiologically set to offer superior human relations that are fosteredand reinforced through maternal care (Hanlon 2012). In most familiesand societies, women are assigned the role of caring for childrenbesides bearing them. This kind of human connection corresponds withsocial care work which requires one to reinforce people withdisabilities, illness, aged or in other activities of personal life.This makes women more naturally suited in working as social careprofessionals as opposed to men (Zastrow, 2010). In fact, professionssuch a teaching in elementary schools and kindergarten and working innursing homes are dominated by women.
Theneeds of social care recipients demand an amplified humane approach.Majority of them are vulnerable and weak in society. They possesslittle power in terms of power distribution in society. As such, theyare more likely to identify with and respond better to professionalswho can mimic or portray vulnerabilities similar to them in order tofoster understanding and develop trust. Men as dominant and masculinebeings by nature are attracted by professions and positions insociety that command power and hence working as social careprofessionals would mean that they might find it challenging toportray the desired image by the recipients of care. Therefore, theconflict theory explains that the nature of the job has limitationslargely based on gender (Hanlon, 2012). The tasks involved in socialcare profession may be deemed to go against the socially assignedgender roles in society. For instance bathing an elderly patient fora man may seem to go against his gendered role in society. Despitethe fact that this job is tiring and expensive to both the person andsociety at large, it is poorly compensated.
Thisimplies that low wages alone discourage men to work as social careprofessionals. In the view of the social conflict theory, men aremore suited to compete for power. Their masculine nature gives themmore edge in competing for resources which they seek to retain fortheir own gain. They therefore choose professions that attract thehighest pay and ones that are not physically tiring like social care.For men, a career as an engineer, pilot, medical doctor orprofessional athlete is more attractive, competitive and betterrewarding. Consequently, few women excel in those professions due tointense competition. Additionally, society is dominated by employerswho hold an inferior view of women and tend to consider men first inperceived superior careers or positions (Bakudi 2011). Majority ofwomen, who are naturally disadvantaged in competing, are left to workin the seemingly less competitive and less rewarding professions suchas social care. However, there are those who are opposed to thisperception that men are naturally well adapted to certain professionsor role in society different from those of women.
Thegender inequality theory explains these inequalities further. Thetheory argues that women’s location, experience and socialsituations are different and unequal to those of men (Abbott et al.,2009). Liberal feminists demonstrate that women have similar moralreasoning capacities as men, but the structure of labour grouping hasdenied women the chance to express their thinking. Women have beendelegated household duties and kept away from the public domain. Ininstances where women are gainfully employed, they occupy lower ranksand less influential positions than men (Bukodi & Dex, 2011).However, to achieve equality, labour division along gender lines inboth public and private sectors should be altered. To do this,it will require offering a different education to young ones tounderstand that their sex should not hinder abilities, talent ormerit in the society. This way, girls who may feel not inclined tosocial care or what is considered female roles may not feel inferior.Again, both sexes learn from an early age that girls can be as goodas boys. Socialization is the best way to teach this to children.
Socializationcan achieve this because it offers the most persuasive learningexercise that human infants can get. This social experience differsin other living things because their behaviours are biological whileindividuals rely on their social experiences to develop culture whichis what sets human beings apart from other social animals (Rego,2013). Cultural systems formed both at the family and society levelguide education systems. Included in this cultural education aregender issues that influence children to take different roles.Developed countries such as Ireland have made positive steps throughsocial learning unlike developing and highly cultural societies suchas China (Battel-Kirk & Pudy 2010). However, this learning doesnot necessarily take place through the modern formal education butrather through any given social environment including peer groups andfriendships. The social learning theory, another theory that explainsgender issues in society, also indicates that children learn bestthrough imitating what they see and hear. Therefore, gender issuessuch as assumed male dominance are passed through education from onegeneration to another (Anderson, 2013). Therefore, to addressimbalanced gender roles in society will only begin by teachingchildren to deconstruct current social constructs on gender.
Onesuch way of deconstructing these views is changing attitudes andperceptions towards different genders. These gender attitudes developthrough socialization. It includes teaching boys to behave as boysand girls to learn to be girls. The learning is accomplished bynumerous agents of socializations and the parents reinforce thisthrough social learning (Bukodi & Dex, 2011). It is easier tolearn such phenomena and adapt them as one matures hence passing themfrom one generation to the other.
Theother argument that tries to explain why social care is a femaledominated profession is that that there are more women in the worldthan men. However, their strength in numbers has not resulted intomore social and political power. One reason is that a good number ofthem engage in professions and roles that do not command much socialpower such as the non-profit making sector (Bukodi & Dex, 2011).For the majority working in social care, they have been relegated tofield operations with senior and administrative roles managed by men.This means that the most visible side of the social care professionis dominated by women who work in various roles that involve directlyinteracting with care recipients. A good fraction of men in theprofession is holed up in offices where it is not visible to thepublic. Again, the manner in which society is structured andattitudes towards men means that the few men working in social carebenefit more from higher pay compared to female counterparts and aremore likely to be promoted faster than their counterparts too (Bukodi& Dex, 2011).
Althoughthe paper has discussed social and cultural influences that drivewomen towards social care as a professional, there is an opposingview to this. The central opposition claims that social care as aprofession attracts women due to its form, structure and nature(Delamont, 2012). The fact that it requires a set of skills such asbeing caring and nurturing means that women feel they can achievemore personally and professionally as social carers as they arenaturally gifted with the needed skills. This would mean that genderinequalities or cultural orders or education or even being pushedthere by lack of power as explained by social conflict theory areirrelevant and untrue. This should mean that conflict between thesexes has nothing to do with women’s dominance in the profession.They have chosen to work in that profession naturally without anypressures or external influences based on their perceived ability andcompetence in the profession. This argument also suggests that thefew men in social care have not ignored any form of social orcultural order by engaging in the profession or rather that they lackin competitiveness expected of them through the social conflicttheory but rather out of love for the profession and perceivedcompetence in it (Hanlon, 2012).
Fromthe discussion presented above, it is clear that social care isperceived and continues to be perceived as a women’s profession.The issue of contention is what drives them there, which is what thesocial conflict theory has explained. Some of the factors playingthat role are culture, education, socialization, nature, and genderinequality. Two of the issues that stand and prove to be the mostsignificant are culture and socialization. These two have createdsocial constructs that depict women as inferior and suited tosupposedly inferior roles in society. In so doing, this has drivenwomen to such careers and professions because they lack power andsocial resources to compete against men. What this implies is thatthese social constructs created by culture and socialization can bedeconstructed to create a more even ground. Therefore, future socialstudies should explore means to deconstruct current gendered socialconstructs and also seek more ways other than the feminist calls toaward more social resources to women to create an even ground forcompetition.
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