Overview of Social Structural Explanations and Cultural Explanations

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Something we have discussed in our course over the past few class sessions, is a major debate between typically liberals and conservatives. How do we best explain and correct the major societal issues of today, such as inequality or education. On one side, we have many believing that these issues are caused by social structural factors that create an unequal playing field created by certain institutions and laws within our society. However, this is in direct contrast with what many conservatives see as the root cause of societal programs, and that is they see certain cultural norms within our society which they believe lead to said societal issues. While this is somewhat of a generalization of the explanations these different ideological views use towards understanding major social problems, it is what we typically see from both groups. However, as I have learned over the course of my time as sociology major, that social structure and cultural explanations are not mutually exclusively, but are more of circular spectrum that intersects heavily, and by understanding that spectrum, we can better understand how these social problems come about.

Over the course of the paper, I will first explain what exactly are social structural explanations and cultural explanations, and show some of the most popular examples of both. In addition, I discuss what I think is the core of the disagreement between the two, and what I think matters in comprehending life chances.

The idea of a “social structure” is probably one of the most popular and influential concepts in the world of sociology, with social theorists from Durkheim, Marx, Weber, and Parsons, all base their work off the fundamental idea that there is a large societal structure which pl...

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... leads to the perpetration of major social issues.

Works Cited

Blau, Peter M. 1977. “A Macrosociological Theory of Social Structure” American Journal of Sociology 83(1): 26-54. Retrieved March 20, 2014 (

Kelling, George L. and James Q. Wilson 1982. “Broken Windows.” Washington, DC: The Atlantic. Retrieved March 20, 2014 (

Schorow, Stephanie 2008. “Wilson perceives social structure and culture as key causes of poverty.” Cambridge, MA: Harvard Gazette. Retrieved March 20, 2014 (

Wilson, William Julius. 2010. More than Just Race: Being Black and Poor in the Inner City. New York. W. W. Norton & Company
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