Do You Know What You’re Thinking?


Review of “Manifest and Latent Functions” by Robert K. Merton

We see the need for things every single day whether it be food, clothing, shelter, companionship and the like. It is the type of items that we “need” that provide two sociological functions one that we see, and one that we do not see. The latter usually reflects what society has been able to put into our sub-conscience.

The basic thought, or manifest function as Merton calls it, when one goes to buy designer clothing, a good car and a large house will be first and foremost warmth, protection, shelter and a way to get from point A to point B. It’s pretty basic to see why one would want to go buy these things because they are a necessity in life as shelter, warmth and now, a bit more modernly, transportation.

As we look deeper into how society behaves when an expensive car is purchased or someone walks into school with designer clothes or when your neighbor is getting three more floors added to their house it gets a bit more complex. The latent functions of the items mentioned above are obvious and not so obvious.

Something we can expect to happen is of course the buyer is now seen as “higher” in status. People will look at them more not because of their minds or their personal achievements in life, rather the fact that they seemingly have money to purchase these things. In the general mind of society, if you have money and nice things then you must be doing something right. When someone drives up in a brand new Lexus or walk in new Louis Vuitton shoes, they now have the ability for more social doors to be open to them.

This allows for the buyer to have more social groups open to them due to the fact that they now have more self-esteem because people may be fawning over their new items. The more wealthy people in society will look at them with praise and of course that will make most people feel good about themselves, especially those who couldn’t seem to make friends before.

What happens to the people who have already established friendships? I believe that one of two things will ultimately happen. The first is that as the buyer begins to establish new friendships with people of “higher” status in society. In fact, these people may just value the materialism of things rather than actual friendships. This, in turn, can possibly create distance between the buyer and his previous friendships due to the fact that his “old” friends simply aren’t as socially accepted because they cannot afford these types of things.

The second thing that could happen is that the buyers friends could have established thoughts of jealousy about them. The friends see the buyer going out, creating new friends, having nice things and it can cause arguments. Even if the buyer still wants to maintain the relationships with his/her previous friends, the jealousy can take it’s toll. Insecurity about oneself is a big problem with a materialistic society and it can cause so many problems. Socially, we all want to be accepted by this status in society and we all want these nice things for ourselves so it’s no wonder that this ring of jealousy could possibly occur.

I personally have felt the latter of the two possible outcomes with friendship. I haven’t been in the buyers shoes but I have been in the friend position. As I was growing up there was always constant tension between me and my best friend as to who’s parents bought them the better toy. I’ve noticed that the childhood tendencies of wanting to always have better than my friend have seeped into my adult life to bite me.

My boyfriend has been able to buy himself all nice things and although he doesn’t know why I would always be so tense around him or moody I’ve realized it’s because I want to be able to be good enough for him. I have a constant fear of him leaving me due to the fact that someone else socially has more than me. Even though he is always willing to share with me, I’m just too prideful sometimes to accept it. It’s not him that I’m afraid of, it’s society. I’m afraid of society getting to his head but, maybe it’s just getting to my head then. I’ve caught onto these issues and I hope to clear them up within myself so that I’m not held by the grasps of society because from the looks of it, I’m letting society get to me more than I think!

It’s just so messed up to me that so many have fallen into these traps and so many are in debt just because they wanted to buy the “designer” things to be accepted. It sickens me also that people are friends with people just because of what they have. I still firmly believe now that I have a mind that can be used for bigger and better things. A well-developed mind is something money simply cannot buy and it is truly, in itself, worth more than any money can buy. (And no one can take it away from you)

Thoughts © Maria Campagna

We see the need for things every single day whether it be food, clothing, shelter, companionship and the like. It is the type of items that we “need” that provide two sociological functions one that we see, and one that we do not see. The latter usually reflects what society has been able to put into our sub-conscience.

The basic thought, or manifest function as Merton calls it, when one goes to buy designer clothing, a good car and a large house will be first and foremost warmth, protection, shelter and a way to get from point A to point B. It’s pretty basic to see why one would want to go buy these things because they are a necessity in life as shelter, warmth and now, a bit more modernly, transportation.

As we look deeper into how society behaves when an expensive car is purchased or someone walks into school with designer clothes or when your neighbor is getting three more floors added to their house it gets a bit more complex. The latent functions of the items mentioned above are obvious and not so obvious.

Something we can expect to happen is of course the buyer is now seen as “higher” in status. People will look at them more not because of their minds or their personal achievements in life, rather the fact that they seemingly have money to purchase these things. In the general mind of society, if you have money and nice things then you must be doing something right. When someone drives up in a brand new Lexus or walk in new Louis Vuitton shoes, they now have the ability for more social doors to be open to them.

This allows for the buyer to have more social groups open to them due to the fact that they now have more self-esteem because people may be fawning over their new items. The more wealthy people in society will look at them with praise and of course that will make most people feel good about themselves, especially those who couldn’t seem to make friends before.

What happens to the people who have already established friendships? I believe that one of two things will ultimately happen. The first is that as the buyer begins to establish new friendships with people of “higher” status in society. In fact, these people may just value the materialism of things rather than actual friendships. This, in turn, can possibly create distance between the buyer and his previous friendships due to the fact that his “old” friends simply aren’t as socially accepted because they cannot afford these types of things.

The second thing that could happen is that the buyers friends could have established thoughts of jealousy about them. The friends see the buyer going out, creating new friends, having nice things and it can cause arguments. Even if the buyer still wants to maintain the relationships with his/her previous friends, the jealousy can take it’s toll. Insecurity about oneself is a big problem with a materialistic society and it can cause so many problems. Socially, we all want to be accepted by this status in society and we all want these nice things for ourselves so it’s no wonder that this ring of jealousy could possibly occur.

I personally have felt the latter of the two possible outcomes with friendship. I haven’t been in the buyers shoes but I have been in the friend position. As I was growing up there was always constant tension between me and my best friend as to who’s parents bought them the better toy. I’ve noticed that the childhood tendencies of wanting to always have better than my friend have seeped into my adult life to bite me.

My boyfriend has been able to buy himself all nice things and although he doesn’t know why I would always be so tense around him or moody I’ve realized it’s because I want to be able to be good enough for him. I have a constant fear of him leaving me due to the fact that someone else socially has more than me. Even though he is always willing to share with me, I’m just too prideful sometimes to accept it. It’s not him that I’m afraid of, it’s society. I’m afraid of society getting to his head but, maybe it’s just getting to my head then. I’ve caught onto these issues and I hope to clear them up within myself so that I’m not held by the grasps of society because from the looks of it, I’m letting society get to me more than I think!

It’s just so messed up to me that so many have fallen into these traps and so many are in debt just because they wanted to buy the “designer” things to be accepted. It sickens me also that people are friends with people just because of what they have. I still firmly believe now that I have a mind that can be used for bigger and better things. A well-developed mind is something money simply cannot buy and it is truly, in itself, worth more than any money can buy. (And no one can take it away from you)

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