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Poverty: Symbolic Interaction, Functional Analysis, and Conflict Perspectives

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Poverty: Symbolic Interaction, Functional Analysis, and Conflict Perspectives

Symbolic interaction, functional analysis, and conflict theory represent useful dimensions for analyzing poverty. Symbolic interaction suggests that society defines poverty in terms of the meaning and interpretations people associate with this problem. This meaning changes as people interact and communicate. This theory suggests that the interactions between the poor and other groups cause and reinforce poverty (Thio 35). A form of segregation arises that limits the poor to certain circles in areas such as employment and residence. The functionalist perspective emphasizes the important role of poverty in society. This role includes working in blue-collar jobs and creating employment opportunities for skilled workers (Thio 34). The theory underplays the need for socioeconomic equality, leaving society in a skewed situation that creates poverty. Conflict theory places the blame for poverty on the poor. Given the land of opportunities, society expects all individuals to participate effectively and take advantage of opportunities. Based on this perspective, a “culture of poverty” associated with laziness is the primary cause of poverty (Thio 34). This theory overlooks the role of environmental factors in inequality. The nature versus nurture perspective suggests that equal access to opportunities is insufficient to prevent or eliminate poverty. Even the most naturally gifted individuals need some form of support to achieve their potential.

Symbolic interaction would provide a viable solution to the problem by targeting attitudes to poverty. The underlying notion that poverty is merely an abstract problem constructed through the meanings people assign to situations suggests that society can address this problem by targeting such meanings. A possible solution would be through relevant education of both the poor and the wealthy. Such education should foster a public opinion that sees poverty as a shared problem requiring all stakeholders’ concerted efforts. This dimension makes symbolic interaction the ideal option for solving poverty.

Work Cited

Thio, Alex, and Jim Taylor. Social problems. Jones & Bartlett Publishers, 2011.

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