Sociological Theories of the Body and the Process of Death

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Sociological Theories of the Body and the Process of Death



The expectation of death or danger will occur in a human being in stressful and anxious conditions; this condition is the one sociological experts call anxiety. The moment a person is anxious, he or she starts to experience a weird state of mind with heightened fear, tension and depression. This state may result in the desire for one to fight against an instinct (Nelson, 2001, p. 28). There is a form of threat in the person intangible and wandering; it is after this tension is completely overcome that the person/animal can be able to return to a state of normal body and mind functioning. It has therefore been suggested that the occurrence of prolonged stress will automatically disrupt the normal life of a person, damage the person’s social relationships and sometimes produce some life-damaging changes, physical, spiritual and emotional. We can say that the anxiety from death becomes the cause of human’s grandest uneasiness.


Sociological theories of the body 

The human body has today emerged as one of the important and interesting site for building theories within the field of Sociology. These theories can hence be useful in explaining and understanding our bodies. We can also be able to able to learn more about the human body and how it will behave towards the environment around it (Katz, 2001, p. 102). In that case we can be able to learn about the society and get meaningful information through paying maximum attention to the human body and its sociological aspect. The body attributes in human beings can be the best evidence of how man can regulate, classify and understand other people’s behaviours, and how they manage to group themselves in specific groups, family or tribe. The human body is also known to be the main thing that humans use to classify themselves (Nelson, 2001, p. 87). From studies, it has been shown that man classifies himself according to a number of things of his body; he uses the body to articulate and place himself to a given gender.


According to sociological theories, the human body is marked or guided by stigma; this may give negative impressions of the person’s acceptability to the society, and determining how people make personal statements concerning themselves (Blumer, 2002, p. 37). Some processes are defined from the human body context such as the human social processes of adoration, gender issues, decorations and marking of the body. Some of these theories of the human body show a number of reasons behind the diverse human motivations as well as manifestations. The body of a person will also be a big instinct that may be aimed towards the conformity and the transgression of the soul, the desire to scare, attract, torture or dazzle the other person near to him or her (Nelson, 2001, p. 81).


Sociological theories integrate themselves as a form of science that tries to interpretive human understanding to his social actions and by so doing coming up with an understandable explanation from the human behaviours. Sociological theories hence seek to come up with concepts and uniformities based on the processes of the human actions, behaviours and thoughts (White, 2004, p. 67). Sociology should, therefore, be differentiated from history since the later is interested so much with the general analysis of a given past action, event or a human personality.



Action is that part of the human behavior through which the individual or person tries to attach himself to a more or less subjective concept with a bigger meaning. Such a meaning can be inward or overt and extremely subjective (Katz, 2001, p. 98). An action will hence be considered social only when the subjective ideology is from the acting human being(s); this takes in to account the overall behaviors of those around him or her. Most of the social actions are usually oriented to the present and past events, and then help predict human future behaviors (Blumer, 2002, p. 54).


Over the years there have been a number of theories that have been used to give more insight to death and its processes. Death has been seen by man as a normal occurrence and yet a significant part of the experience of human being (White, 2004, p. 16); death is known to be influenced by social as well as cultural diversities, and also material dynamics from one society to the other. Death forms a kind of transition at which an individual will pass all the way from his childhood, his adulthood and finally the eventual death; these occurrences have therefore been seen sociological, natural and biological in their own context (Giddens, 2003, p. 48). There is a lot of bereavement that people have to cope with after a beloved person has passed. Most of the sociological theories today suggest that the society of today has been becoming death denying.



Giddens (2003, p. 56) claimed that the occurrence of a death has been seen as a taboo, and a critical subject that is known to cause a lot of suffering to the people who are crossing the horrible threshold to the other side of life. No mortal returns; it also causes more grief to the people who are left behind and sincerely loved the deceased sincerely at heart. Death as a subject and dying has been much emphasized in today’s society with many modern movements. The application of sociological theories on issues of aging and death has been on the increase in the fields of literature, TV programs as well as in and university subjects (Barry, 2008, p. 47). In the school context, the main aim for such courses is to help people become more and more aware and concerned of their general feelings towards the death of a beloved one. Because of such applications, the society today is becoming much comfortable with the occurrences of deaths especially with the aged individuals. These studies helps the people understand that there is the necessity of the aged to die since they have achieved their major duties on earth and the reason they need to rest. The fact, though, is that the society is still not ready to accept and think of the deaths of the young people (Barry, 2008, p. 51).


The application of sociological theories towards issues of death has brought a few changes on the feelings and handling of death over the last years; this has also included a number of changes of people’s feelings towards the aging and dying of people. It is from the social theories that a number of authors and scholars have come up with other theories that try to shed light on the emotional attitudes and adaptations to the issues of death, the dying and the grieving. There have also been changes in people’s ritual practices and rites upon somebody’s passage (Barry, 2008, p. 56). Through these sociological theories, people are no longer afraid of talking about death or dying, and hence most of the measures that should be taken to ensure reduction in death occurrences are being realized (Helman, 2004, p. 42). These theories have also tried to show how man may not be unwilling to use words of death; like the way people say, she passed away, left us, she is gone, and at the same time, people will be willing to say: I feel dead tired (Helman, 2004, p. 46).



Today we have quite a number of examples of the things people fear the most such as flying, cemeteries, public speeches, being left alone or when is buried alive. Unlike the case of anxiety and lonely-ness, there is a form of fear which is associated to a kind of a threat in death. This is more or less likely to play a grand role in disrupting the person's day-to-day life. In such case, one will learn how to move away and avoid such uncomfortable (and killing) situations, or else learn new ways of making himself comfortable by mastering the ways at which these dangers pose themselves to him (Helman, 2004, p. 51). Fears aroused by anything to do with death tend to be unreasonable and unreachable, obscure and extremely hard to hold; such will be what these theories call phobias. These phobias usually appear (or will seem) as if they may have little or no effect especially to the occurrence of a death, unlike how the fear to fly, being alone or being buried when still alive may give strong death impressions (Becker, 2004, p. 62).


During his time, Marx never wrote much on crime; he was arguing that most of the applied laws were used for classes in the people. Therefore, Marxism will recognize that any specific society will function properly if there is a social order in the community (Becker, 2001, p. 67). He also added that this would be quite different with a communist community; such a community will consider all societies to be one class and no society that rules the other. Marxists also tends to agree with the functionalism perspective whereby socialization in a society helps to promote understanding and conformity in the societal order. Modern Marxism perspectives hold that there is much role of education as well as the media since they will help much in improving human power of socialization and hence be able to shed more light on such societal problems such as death and how these problems can be solved (Annandale, 2000, p. 41).


Today, most of the approaches applied in the field of archaeology are focused on the issues of dying and death with a sole intention to getting a meaning solution to the ritual practices and social attitudes upon the death of a beloved. Interactionism is also another important theoretical aspect in sociological theories (White, 2004, p. 53). This is a social perspective with a very long history; this perspective was brought up and discussed by a German economist called Weber Max who lived between the years 1864 to 1920; another proponent of this perspective was a philosopher by the name Mead George who lived from 1863 to 1931. Internationalism tends to give much emphasis on the behavior of man in the society set up (Jones, 2000, p. 29).



According to the interactionism perspective, a society will always consist of different organized interactions from the specific individuals, the family all the way to the society structure. Most of the researches on interactionists focus much on face-to-face interactions by men instead of the macro-level or structural interrelationships that utilize social functions or institutions in solving problems (White, 2004, p. 78). These researches focus much on men’s interaction especially during meaningful situations and events that concern the participants. This interactionalism aspect shifts much of its attention away from the norms of the society in order to achieve change that will help achieve continuous re-adjustments in the affairs or processes of the society (Jones, 2000). With functionalism, the aspect of socialization tends to create a sense of stability concerning the societal systems; with the Interactionism perspective, the negotiations held by the people in the society usually result in the creation of short-lived social relations that tend to remain constant. Many Interactionists stress on the importance of applicable roles of man that may bring about positive changes in the social behaviors and practices (Annandale, 2000, p. 49). Interactionalism therefore argues that there is the necessity for role-making in the society as one of the major strategies for constant human interactions, especially during grandiose moments, like after the death of a beloved one.


Functionalism is another perspective considered to very objective in the understanding of human macro aspects in their behavior towards the societal setting. The perspective of functionalism adopts the belief that a society is constituted of different parts that integrate themselves together to form a community. This then forms a society that will be considered complete or whole; this will include all the major parts that are intertwined together in the society function (Garfinkel, 2004, p. 21). This perspective ensures that the cases and issues of death are defined as a society’s calamity hence making the people join hands in moments of grief.


Postmodernism on the other hand has been widely used to refer to the ideas that follow after the achievement of modernism (Stacey, 2004, p. 17). Postmodernism tries to identify the major contemporary issues on the society and its culture in terms of its developments after modernism. Using this perspective, we can be able to project how death issues may be addressed in the future. This may include the preservation of dead bodies or even giving them out to hospitals for scientific research.  In summary, it will be agreed that most of these sociological perspectives are helpful in understanding human behaviors better (Jones, 2000, p. 36). Something outstanding, though, with this postmodernism perspective is that in it there exists a very complicated interrelationship between death and culture. Postmodernists usually hold that the world has inherited very many negative traits from the past and current culture; these traits are usually gay and pro-choice. This perspective hence accommodates population control measures aimed in reducing the swarthy population of man so that the few who will remain live in peace and harmony on earth (Garfinkel, 2004, p. 37).


Any perspective that can be used effectively to explain the human behavior will be based on a number of issues, such as, how the people should live with one another in the society. In addition, how the people should behave towards each other, how should the relate with each other after the death of a beloved fellow, and so on (Jones, 2000, p. 44). Therefore, it will be argued that the application of sociological theories as a tool in the understanding of human behavior is vital since it will help to solve most of the problems faced in the society today, and help to come up with ways of dealing with the problems. During the period of death, people will be required to come together and support each other since no man can be able to stand alone in difficult times (Stacey, 2000, p. 23).




Death is an experience, very universal and inescapable, that each person must face alone and without the assistance of another person; the thing is that the death of someone who is loved will have big impact on the people around the deceased. Since death is as historical as the universe and man himself, there are very many kinds of rituals that have been practiced by man over the years. Such practices have been determined and influenced by the people’s religion, society and culture; some ritual are always aimed at making the people to be able to cope with the hardships experienced after a death has occurred. The society exhibits a variety of behavioral attitudes towards aging, dying, and the death of a person. The ways at which a given group of people celebrate the death of a person tell much about the society’s philosophy and attitude towards death. Since we people are social creatures by nature, we should therefore have ways and means of developing strong social ties and attachments during the harsh moments that our society may experience. Death has been seen as a thing may help break the existing attachments in a given community or society. Again, the funeral should be socially and naturally applicable at such a time as a way of expressing grief being faced at the very moment of death. This hence brings in a practice that is acceptable with the cries and sobs experienced. From the discussion in this paper, we should agree that there should be means of ensuring that unnecessary deaths are prevented as much as possible. Because of this fact, there should be more studies concerning death that should be offered in Schools and Health-care Centers. There should also be counseling theories that will help in emotional adaptation when it comes to issues of death.


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