Sociology and Coffee

Writing Assignment #1 Coffee is a beverage that is globally consumed, but also a product that has different values in different parts of the world. The role coffee plays in society differs around the world, from the farmers who grew the crops to the people who constantly consume them. Social theoretical perspectives are capable of showing the different roles coffee has in different societies. Symbolic interactionism, functionalism, and Marxism are three theories which show coffee’s role sociologically.

These theories show how coffee affects people physically, how it affects them emotionally, how it leads them to have interactions, how it connects different parts of society, and how it’s economically controlled by a select few. Symbolic interactionism is a social theoretical approach established by George Mead, which emphasizes the importance of symbols and language in understanding the social world. This theoretical theory first allows us to derive the symbolic meanings coffee has on society. Coffee is often viewed as a beverage for energy.

It’s often drunk in the morning for means of getting drive after one has woken from sleep, or during the day when one is having a tiresome day, or sometimes after the consumption of alcohol to sober up. All these symbols can be used to identify the nature of coffee consumption within society. These symbols can lead to the social interaction, which George Mead said, involved the exchange of symbols. People can understand a person’s state of mind and mood when they see them drinking coffee, because coffee is capable of symbolizing certain moods.

When people see one another drinking coffee before conversing, in Mead’s theory, it’s the exchange of symbols, in this case how one is feeling at that moment. After understanding one another, the people then can start talking in the manner in which they want to. Functionalism is another social theoretical approach which emphasizes the study of social activity as society functions as a whole. In the case of coffee, this involves the chain of events that take place, starting with the coffee as a form of a crop all the way to it reaching the consumer.

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This gives us a clear understanding of society’s role in the production and consumption of the beverage, and the important role each one plays. Coffee is consumed around the world, but the wealthy nations consume far more than anyone else, even than the countries which produce the coffee. Functionalism advocates moral consensus, which is the maintenance of equality within society. In the case of coffee though, the wealthy countries have completely forgotten about equality and often economically oppress the countries which produce the coffee.

People within these wealthy countries simply demand their coffees and have forgotten about the lengthy process coffee takes to get to them. In the functionalism of coffee, everyone plays an important part and it’s possible the disappearance of one group can lead to the collapse of the whole chain. Yet coffee has led to divisions being created as well as conflicts arising, all due to the wealthy and powerful creating policies that only benefit them and their associates. Functionalists stress to people to understand everyone’s importance within society, and to oppose those who seek to create social ranks.

Marxism is also another social theoretical approach which emphasizes political reform but basically leads to more conflict. Marxists are often open to these changes in policy for their own advantages, in order to get more for their respective groups. Coffee is a valuable product on the world market and is often an issue of conflict over who receives more. The wealthy countries, through their power and shared ideologies, are able to dominate this area of the market and retrieve more coffee for themselves.

When these groups with extensive powers come together with similar values, they legitimize their hold on the product of coffee. Similar to how the colonial powers dictated the route of coffee, these powerful groups with similar ideologies, will be able to control the market and decide if and how much coffee other countries will receive. This will cause rank division and ultimately lead to class conflict among nations. The powerful groups actually prefer these conflicts though, because it enables them to show their strength and have a stronger say in the coffee market.

The sociological nature of coffee consumption can be defined through three theoretical methods. The first is symbolic interactionism and involves the observation of coffee as a symbol within society. Coffee can be regarded as an energy beverage, since it allows consumers to go on when tired. The second is functionalism and involves the chain of events which lead coffee from the farms around the world to the consumer. Coffee goes through a lot of steps to reach consumers around the world, but most are not aware of the long journey it experiences.

The third is Marxism and involves the groups, mostly the wealthy, who are in favor of changing policies to receive more coffee and dictate the market due to their wealth and similar ideals. The countries which produce the coffee as well as other poor countries which demand coffee are often oppressed financially by the wealthy that control all the influence in who receives the coffee. Coffee is no longer seen as a beverage but as a pile of money to the people who control its value on the market.

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