Monday, February 21, 2011

Rewards, Worth, and Functionalism

By:  Jamie Gusrang

In any introductory sociology course, students are taught about the three main sociological perspectives: conflict theory, functionalism, and symbolic interactionism. These perspectives seek to make sense of our complex social world. Of the three, it seems that functionalism is the most outdated and does not adequately address the growing inequality in our society.

Functionalists believe that society is a system made-up of interworking parts, and that each part is needed to keep society functioning. We each fulfill necessary social roles and are rewarded for our work according to how much we contribute to society.  In other words, if we're "worth" more to society, we are given greater rewards (i.e. pay, status, etc) for our work.  This may have been true at one time, but how would functionalists explain things like like cast of "Jersey Shore?"

Recent reports claim that cast-members make $30,000 an episode, far more than many working and even middle class people make in an entire year.  It would be hard to argue that these reality TV stars are "worth" more to society than police officers, firefighters, nurses, and teachers, which begs the question, are we really rewarded based on our worth, and is functionalism really relevant in the age of reality television, YouTube, and instant celebrity? While I'm not proposing we do away with reality TV or pay everyone the same salary, I am suggesting that as a culture, we reevaluate our priorities from time to time and really think about what we value and how we reward those within our society.


  1. I totally agree with you. I believe as people we forget what is really important in life and that we are basically giving money away to people just for entertainment, and it's families out here that don't have money to eat and buy the basic's.

  2. I don't watch a lot of Jersey Shore but some of their episodes are quite entertaining and funny. I never thought much about how they are getting paid for it. Now that I know and to relate the show with other people who work so much more harder and dangerous things for out society, it makes me feel sad. It seems unfair and very unfortunate for those families with no money like Latifa Durham said. Also, students like me who is living on their own paying all of their own bills.

  3. I defiantly agree with you. I find it unfair that there are so many people who provide important services for our country but are severely underpaid, while the cast members of Jersey Shore are being paid
    30, 000 dollars an episode.

    Police offers, for instance protect citizens from crimes and help lower the crime rates.
    However, in Camden, the city with the second highest crime rate has recently fired a large part of their police forces due to budget cuts from the government. The government was force to fire police officers, because they could not afford to pay their salaries. So Camden offices are unemployed, and the city is unsafe, but it’s okay, because the Jersey Shore crew is being paid 30,000 dollars and episode to get drunk, have sex, and go tanning.

  4. I kind of agree with Thu with watching it and how entertaining it is, but it's what the masses want. The country demands reality tv shows, and mtv fills that need. Mtv is own a supply and demand purpose olny. If 30,000 per episode is too much just think what the "Real World" cast recevied or other reality shows that ran for many years.
    Of course, there is better ways to give out money, but it's what we want as viewers. We can easily stop watching reality tv which then make them think of something else to come up with.

  5. Carl, you make a great point. We, as consumers/viewers, do have a lot of power.

    I'm not discounting the "need for reality TV (I watch a bit of it myself), but rather want us to consider the utility of the functionalist perspective's notion that we are rewarded according to our societal worth. There are examples, especially within entertainment, that suggest that we've gotten away from rewarding based on worth. It could also be that our priorities have changed and that entertainment really is worth that much :o)

  6. While I do not watch "Jersey Shore" I do watch other reality shows that I find entertaining. However, I wonder about the young and naive minds that may consider getting drunk every night and fighting for $30,000 an episode rather than being a college graduate and making maybe $30,000 a year. Many of societies views of entertainment are quite pathetic in my opinion, once hard working and respected professionals are turning to ridiculous public stunts for attention that will hopefully bring them more income. Soon becoming a doctor will not be enough you will have to be a doctor on tv.

  7. If functionalist is a way for society to keep functioning, why does social society watch reality shows like “Jersey Shore” or “Skins?” Younger and younger generations are watching reality shows, teaching society that it’s ok to go out drink and get drunk, party and get into fights. Young teens go out and duplicate the casts in the show so they can have the Jersey Shore life. I have younger cousins who throw up their fits and do the so called “fit pump” when there is some kind of techno music on or even do the “t-shirt time” which is the shirt before the shirt that you change to when it is time to go out. Even though it’s entertaining and funny, this show is expressing to viewers not to work harder. How do people in a show who party get drunk and work in a t-shirt store for a few hours a week making more than a doctor, police officers and teachers who help people have a better life. The show is giving viewers the wrong concept of life, which is partying, tanning, drinking equals happiness and money.

  8. I also don't watch "Jersey Shore" and agree with Jessica's comment that television shows like the "Jersey Shore" beings mix signals to young veiwers. In a sense young viewers are learning bad behaviors and ideas from shows that changes their idea in life. Since the cast members on "Jersey Shore" makes $30,000 an epidsode for doing nothing but acting silly and drunk then why does anyone have to work so hard to make ends meat if all they have to do is get into the entertainment career rather then going to get a better education. Our society is changing so much because young people don't value hard work as much as they use too. For instance on the MTV show "Sweet Sixteen" young teens are given a huge and expensive sweet sixteen birthday party, brand new car, and expernsive jewelary etc. because they know their spoiled to the point where their parents give them anthing they want without any expectations.

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