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Examining Conflict Theory and Symbolic Interaction

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Sociology
Wordcount: 1859 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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University of Sunderland 1st Team Basketball vs. Teesside University: The incident occurred when the Sunderland Team kept calling out a basketball offence called ‘The Ten Offences’

I found this remarkable since each person on the Sunderland University team knew the play, positions and roles that they required to take. However the players felt that they needed to continue using this play in order to win as this is what was asked of them by the coach. You could see that some players were not used to this type of play and felt frustrated that they could not play their game. The players that have been there for years felt more comfortable and confident about what they were doing. The pressure to win at Sunderland University was high as it is known as one of the best Universities for sports.

This leaded me to reflect and think of two main theories that could answer my incident so therefore I did some research and decided that symbolic interaction theory and the conflict theory were the main ones I could use in answering my incident.

Symbolic Interaction Theory

Blumer (1969) was the finder of the symbolic interaction terms; Blumer was a student and interpreter of Mead (1934) mead offered a naturalistic account of the origin of the self and explained language, conception, perception, and think of terms of social behaviours.

Individuals exist in a symbolic world at the same time the physical world. Usually Individuals have different meaning for symbols. In order to value human behaviour, it is significant to identify the meaning behaviour has for the individuals. A mutual understanding of a symbol helps individuals identify with each other better.

Human we gain knowledge about themselves as a result of their interactions with other. Cooley (1964) stated that people learn about them self by developing personal feeling based on how other people react to their own behaviours; Cooley termed it as the “Looking Glass Self”. E.g. humans tend to pay no attention to the negative statement or reactions to their behaviour and accept the positive statement or reactions to build up a positive self worth.

Blumer (1969) formulated a process of interaction in the formation of meaning for individuals in order to understand individual’s interactive relation to their environment

Blumer (1969) theory consists of 3 premises:

Meaning: The build of social reality, in other word in order to understand the behaviours of human, first we must understand what their behaviours “mean” to the individual.

Language: The source of the meaning, meaning occur out of social interaction individuals have in the company of each other the meaning is not inherent in objects but however the meaning is negotiated during the use of language so therefore symbolic naming is the basis for society.

Thought: The means of talking the role of the other: individuals actively construct their self- concepts. The self concepts is how individuals learn to view them self as their think of other, this is called “looking-glass self”. According to Cooley (1902) this is a process of how we develop our own self-concept which consists of 3 steps: (a) we imagine how we appear to other (b) we imagine how other judge our appearance (c) ultimately we actively think about, internalize, or reject these judgments. David B al el (2008) suggests in turn imagining ourselves in the role of other in order to determine the criteria other will use to judge our behaviour. Mead (1942) stated that role talking starts in childhood where we learn the rights and obligations associated with being a child in our particular family. Ritzer (1996) Support Mead (1934) by saying by as saying individuals learn the meaning of objects through socialization, both as children and in all other interaction where are developed and refined. Physical objects (a chair) social objects (a student), and abstract objects (including idea and moral principle) all have learned meanings. Some will be learned differently by different groups of people at varying place and times.

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The Conflict theory

Conflict theory was based on the idea of Karl Marx he viewed sport as foundation of economic power being built in society. Conflict theory inspires discussion and research resting on how sport maintains power and privilege of elite groups in society and how it serves like tools of exploitation and oppression. If you look at each sport in the world you can easily make out the owner of the teams and promotes. Who profit money-wise at the expense of the athletes, coach, and spectators. Their own and promotes because it’s a way to gain power, status, money. Conflict theory focuses it attention on this main area of relationships enabling the elite groups maintain power and privilege. Conflict theory would aim to solve the problem by suggesting that promote sport at local level community and introduction more control in the hand of the sport participants in which it would benefits all the social classes to some extent than the elite few so therefore the working class would have further authority over sport then the wealthy have due to the fact it would be more fair as more working class participant in sport therefore their should have more power. The conflict theorist would support player unions that confront owner and promotes that use public funds to make stadiums that benefit only the elite. The theorist also argue that athlete should have a representation on all decision made in sport events.

Discussion and particular theoretical position

The way that symbolist Interaction theory relates to my incident is that teenagers are influenced to play sports by those who are important to them such as role models like the coach in my incident. You could see that the coach already knew and labelled the players that were good. Labelling can play an important role for example; the players that have been there for a while get special treatment over the new players, so therefore they will believe that they are good players as they have got special treatment. In turn this leads them to see themselves with confidence. Sport shapes how we see reality on ourselves. This can be good if the special treated players are successful. This may lead to a sense of conditional self worth in which they see themselves in a positive light when they win the game and can lead to depression if the game has been lost. So for example using Cooley (1902) self-concept which consists of 3 steps of how the special treated players might think after winning or losing.


We visualize how we appears to other: e.g. “it is a good thing that we won because if we didn’t win the other players that didn’t get as much time as me would see me as a joke, and ask themselves why I got more time when I wasn’t able to help the team.

We visualize how other judge our appearance: e.g. “Because we won player on my team will now see me in a better light as to why I get more court time then some of the player and it’s not just because I have played for him for longer then the new players on the team”

Ultimately we actively think about, internalize, or reject these judgments: I did a good job playing so I do not see why anyone would not like me to play more time, as I am able to give the team a better opportunity to win


We visualize how we appear to other: e.g. the other team mates must think why he was put on the basketball court for that long; I possibly will have done better than him if I had more time on the court.

(b) We imagine how other judge our appearance: He couldn’t even make a simple layup or even make simple free throws in the game so why did the coach give him that much time

(c) Ultimately we actively think about, internalize, or reject these judgments: Well next time I play I will make sure that every minute that I am on the basketball court I make all my shots and play good defence to show that I deserve to be on the court and get more time.

Symbolist Interaction theorist consider that the interaction that takes place between people occurs though symbols in the case the Labelling of player of who is better and who special treatment is the main factor in the incident occurred at city space when University of Sunderland 1st Team Basketball played Teesside University.

This is why coach might be good Role models as Role models are important during socialisation because it helps to refine skills, develop discipline and see things as positive tasks instead of uninteresting ones. Therefore the Symbolist Interaction theorist would ask the coach to understand the meaning assigned by individual’s team member as towards labelling in order for the coach to be successful.

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However conflict theory takes a different direction on the subjects who makes it into the sporting world through social class inequalities. Conflict theorist would make a point that many people strive for big time athletic success. Lower class people are mainly under inordinate pressure to make it in the sporting world as there ticket out of poverty for their friends and family. Conflict theorists would criticise the commercialism pervading sports today, even at a college and university level you can still see commercialisation from the elite group and would suggest that athletes are not as valuable in society as say doctors. However, they still make more money than doctors. Conflict theorists would suggest that this is due to exploitation by elite groups and corporate. For instance, in my incident the university would be looked at in a way that it alienates the players from the sport they once loved. Due to sports being a major business, conflict theorists would worry that university and college players are being exploited by offering scholarships and gifts such as cars and shoes ect. In order to wheel in the big up coming stars to their university so therefore making more money off the players talents than the players do themselves. Colleges and Universities make more money from their player’s talents than they do from their education. In America this happens a lot in basketball at college level, as many players form the NCAA tend to leave without their degrees due to the fact that the college and universities have exploited their talents and therefore leading them to think that they should drop out of university or college in order to get drafted into the NBA. However, most athletes do not realise that the NBA is not for everyone and not everyone makes it due to the lack of spaces available as there is only 400 plus spaces for players to play. Conflict theorists would highlight the fact that inequality in sports cannot be reduced without change. This will then lower and wide income inequalities and our commercial culture.

Overall both theories confirm my incident as being relevant in a particular theoretical position


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