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Example Answers for AQA A Level Sociology Paper 2 (2019) - Culture & Identity
- A Level
Last updated 17 Jan 2020
Here are some example answers to the Paper 2 questions in 2019 on Culture and Identity for AQA A-Level Sociology.
Please refer to the AQA exam papers for questions and items. These responses have been written by experience AQA teachers and examiners, but without reference to a mark scheme.
One way that individuals may be socialised into their national identity is from their families. Families perform the role of primary socialisation, according to Durkheim and Parsons. Children are taught the values of their culture such as the language, food, clothes of their nation. For example, in British culture children may be used to eating roast dinners on Sundays and speaking the English language. However, with the changing society which some theorists, such as Strinati, argue that we are now in - a postmodern age - it is not as simple as that. Due to diaspora and the ease of travel and migration patterns, societies are becoming much more multicultural and national identity can be split between two nations such as the country of family’s origin the country they live in. Modood points out that second or third generation immigrants such may have multiple identities such as British, Pakistani and Muslim. In order to fit into British society, individuals may adopt a "white mask" by wearing British or Western clothing rather than cultural dress or speak in English in public rather than Urdu. This could be in response to the rise in right wing politics and the rejection of multiculturalism as a threat to British values that is supported by groups such as the EDL. It could be argued, therefore, that national identity has been strengthened as a response to globalisation rather than from the family.
Another way that people are socialised into their national identity is though media reporting of national sporting and cultural events. For example, the Olympics, Eurovision, and the World Cup all serve to unite the nation in supporting the nation's representative(s). Individuals can assert their national identity by waving flags or wearing clothes that are a sign or symbol of their culture, in the UK for example it is the Union Jack or, when supporting England, it is St. Georges flag. The media also reports on global events with a focus on the British people effected, e.g. the British victims in a terrorist attack. Durkheim may argue this serves to make the public have social solidarity with the victims and feel more of a connection. The media also transmits national events such as the Queen’s Speech and the Royal Weddings, with the Royal family an example of a symbol of the British national identity. However, the media can also be used to show alternative views such as those who believe the Royal family should be abolished or that prefer to assert their subcultural identity associated with music that transcends national boundaries.
One way that the media has contributed to growing uncertainty about identities is due to the range of different role models and media messages about different types of cultures and identities. Postmodernists, such as Baudrillard, would argue that we live in an era of media saturation, where individuals cannot escape media messages. These can be contradictory, for example, some representations of different cultures are positive whereas some are stereotypical. The character Apu in the Simpsons in an example of a white person playing an Indian character that uses the language and accent in a stereotypical way. This can cause confusion for someone of an Indian heritage who may feel that they have a stigmatised identity. Goffman would argue that the power of minority individuals to ‘impression manage’ their identity would be difficult if the media reproduces stereotypes. This may result in them using a ‘white mask’ (Fanon) to fit in with peers and distance themselves from the stereotype. However, this would cause role conflict with their family. The reasons for this may be that much of the media is owned and produced by a white middle class, so the images are shown ‘through the white eye in which they are seen’ (Hall). Much of the global media is actually more like American media which could be argued is cultural imperialism which can erode traditional rural identities and replace them with ‘Americanisation’ and make global identities that are more homogenous, which may give people uncertainty about how they feel about their local cultures value and the impact on their identity. Other sociologists may argue that global media is a two-way process and glocalization occurs where individuals can embrace both Western and local cultures.
One way that the changing nature of workplaces has contributed to growing uncertainty about identities is due to the lack of jobs for life. In modern society, Parker argued that identity was linked to our work. For example, people may experience opposition patterns in work such as manual labour so need to de-stress after work by doing something completely different. However, postmodernists would argue that there is less certainty about jobs in postmodern society, which Beck describes as a ‘risk society’. This can be linked to the decline of manual labour, which comprised of traditionally-male jobs, which may contribute to a crisis in masculinity linked to the decline of what Parsons called the instrumental role for men in the family. Individuals may instead base their identity on their leisure and consumption choices. However, as Marxists point out, this is often reliant on jobs, status and earnings. With the increase in part-time employment and zero-hours contracts, individuals may feel like they need to save their money, especially after the economic crisis of 2008, therefore not realising the identity they wish to have, or previously had.
As stated in the source, Marxist sociologists such as Marcuse, argue that mass culture has been created to sell products to the proletariat to further the profits of the bourgeoisie in a capitalist system. The industrial revolution enabled the creation of products on a mass scale and that are reproduced not with function in mind. For example, in contemporary society, smart phones like the iPhone are made not to last, the consumer is expected to buy the next models that are released annually. This promotes a throw-away culture that is constantly encouraging people to buy the next big thing. The media is a platform that advertises mass cultural products such as new clothes fashions, toys or media products like films. Global capitalism has enabled global conglomerates to sell products on a worldwide scale. There are relationships between companies and genres that encourage consumption. For example, consumers are encouraged to watch a Disney film, eat at McDonalds to receive a Disney toy, then go to another shop and buy Disney branded clothing. However, not everyone buys mass cultural products and the rise in climate change awareness has promoted a reuse and recycle culture instead.
Gramsci argues that the media promotes the dominant ideology and encourage individuals to accept the hegemonic idea that capitalism is fair and reasonable. Certain individuals are shown to have made a success in a capitalist system which makes people think it is achievable. Despite not being able to afford the lifestyles of the rich and famous, people can purchase something to make them seem like they are experiencing a part of the same identity. For example, celebrities such as Kylie Jenner making mass cultural products such as her make-up brand. However, the media can also be used to spread alternative messages to the dominant ideology such as the use of email petitions from sites such as Amnesty International and Change.org. Therefore, the mass media as part of mass culture can be used to challenge the dominant ideology as opposed to being purely to provide profit.
As stated in the item, other sociologists, such as postmodernists, argue that mass culture is actually popular culture that provides individuals with more choice of products. Strinati argues there has been a cultural blur between the high culture that the upper class can afford and low cultural products available for the masses. Due to products being made on a mass scale it has meant products previously out of reach are available for all. For example, if people cannot afford a piece of fine painting to hang in their house, they can choose to buy a poster instead. If individuals want to watch the ballet, they do not need to be able to afford a ticket to a live showing, instead it could be streamed on YouTube, which means time, money and place are no barrier in a postmodern society. However, it could be argued that this is not true for people who have a digital divide and limited or no internet access. For example, people living in rural areas of the UK and continents such as Africa which have low internet penetration rates.
Some sociologists, such as feminists like McRobbie, would argue that mass culture does not offer as much choice as postmodernists assume. Women’s magazines, for example, promote the myths that women should be concerned with beauty, fashion, domesticity, having a relationship with a man and a preoccupation with image. This promotes the patriarchal view that women should be subordinate, and encourages them to choose subjects at school such as food technology rather than physics as it has more of a feminine image. This maintains their subordinate position, which Marxist feminists, like Ansley, argue is due to the limited earning potential of these types of jobs and being trapped by the assumption that women need to spend money on unnecessary products such as makeup in order to be accepted in society and taken seriously. The symbolic annihilation of some women even in powerful positions, like Theresa May when the press analyses her clothing choices, is an example of this. However, postmodernists would argue that there are changes in society and social media gives voice to alternative views. For example, the actress Jameela Jamil is using social media, which could be argued is a mass cultural product, to spread a body-positive movement which encourages people to look beyond their weight and external image and instead celebrate other successes.
The interactionist approach may suggest that the extent to which mass culture is purely for profit or giving choice and diversity is dependent on the individual and if they are active consumers. Garfinkel argues that people are not the ‘cultural dopes’ that Marxists claim, and individuals can critically absorb the messages from mass culture and choose to accept or reject them.
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