SOC 101 OU Charlie Chaplins Assembly Line Discussion



Review the Charlie Chaplin Assembly Line clip (located in module 2 resources section) – What would Sociologists from each of the 3 Theoretical Perspectives (Functionalists, Symbolic Interactionists, Conflict Theorists) say about this? Don’t be afraid to use examples from specific Sociologists we learned about!

*NOTE: Structure your response in a way that is very easy to read –  Use bullet points or numbers to help organize and illustrate all of your points and click ENTER after each thought is complete for easy reading. No need to write like you would in an essay.


When you’re born, you have your very own unique DNA – your genetic makeup and biological traits, but is WHO YOU ARE predestined? Is it who you were MEANT to be based on fate? Is who you are at birth the same as who you are at 2 years old, 5 years old, 10 years old, 18 years old, 21 years old, 30 years old? 45? 75? 90?

  • Take out a paper and write out the most salient parts of who you are in these 3 different stages of your life – elementary school, high school, college years
  • Take your time and write out the most defining characteristics of who you were in each stage. 
  • Now, circle all the similarities and identify the main differences with a star. Jot down all the possible reasons for these differences. 
  • Once you’ve done this, write down all the different societies that you’re a part of.
  • Underline the ones with the biggest impact in your life and draw a square around the ones with the least impact on your life. 

In this discussion post, write a sentence or two reflecting on your observations, then explain how Sociologists observe the different stages of development in our lives.
Note: ONLY share the reflection, you do not need to share what you wrote on paper.

For your Response to at least 3 classmates due SUNDAY at 11:59pm

  1. Ask for clarification (that is, ask questions) if needed.
  2. Comment on anything you agree or disagree with, or something you found particularly interesting about their response.
  3. Provide any additional media, articles, ideas, links that you might have come across that relates to their post



Functionalists – A sociologist from this perspective would see this as a representation of the tasks done in industrialized societies like the factory we see. The factory in the video provides a social need by giving its employees work and a means of support, which is essential for both their success and society as a whole. They would view this scene as an example of how people are taken in into the workforce while working appropriately.

Symbolic Interactionists – A sociologist from this perspective would view this by looking at the interactions and some of the symbols within the factory. We can see Chaplin interact with the machinery and some of his coworkers in a way where we could make predictions as he is struggling.

Conflict Theorist – A sociologist from this perspective would look at this scene based on the inequalities presented in the video. The factory owner’s power over the employees and the poor working conditions can be served to emphasize deeper social problems.


After doing this small exercise, I noticed a salient part of me that has been with me throughout my life, which is being an introvert. Improvement began once I stepped foot into college. I noticed a big change. Another salient part of me is that I have always been adventurous. I love going on adventures, which is one of my favorite parts of life. The main difference I noticed was that I was never the type of person to be open with others, but once again, as I stepped foot into college, it changed. Sociologists observe the different stages of development in our lives through the lens of the sociological perspective, as we discussed earlier. Sociologists examine every part of life, from the early days of someone’s life to adulthood. 


Chapter 4:

Functionalist: I think that the Functionalist would say that the way everything was working in the video would prove that if one person is affected the whole thing is affected which then decided the fate of the whole thing. Just how Herbert Spencer explained it body. “He argued that just as the various organs of the body work together to keep the body functioning, the various parts of society work together to keep society functioning (Spencer, 1898).” Which is exactly what happens in this video if Charlie would not have been replaced while he when on that break, the whole thing could’ve broken down. each person is needed in order to function properly.

Symbolic Interactionalist: Herbert Blumer explains symbolic interaction as “the meanings of things are interpreted by a person when dealing with things in specific circumstances (Blumer 1969).” Which is why I feel like a symbolic interactionalist would point out how each person interacts with another like when a certain person relieved Charlie for a break and how that made him react, comparing this to when he was speaking to a coworker who wasn’t going to relieve him.

Conflict theorist: The first thing I think a conflict theorist would point out would be the whole break scene, he’d say how is it fair that Charlie was doing all this work and got such a short break this poor man didn’t even get to finish his cigarette. The theorist would say that he has no power since he is a worker in the factory. Which would prove to what it says in the textbook “Karl Marx, who saw society as being made up of individuals in different social classes who must compete for social, material, and political resources such as food and housing, employment, education, and leisure time.”

Chapter 5:

After doing this assignment, I found out i went through a lot of stages. But the one that stuck with me was wanting to work for things and not get hand outs. There was an age when I learned about doing certain things I’d get a reward. So I started to offer my services like washing cars for my family etc. for money. I think that sociologists observe our different stages in life as growth because as we grow we see what society asks of us and we do what we must to fulfill those asks. There are roles we must have at certain ages. Like as a kid, your whole life is family and in middle school/high school your life is learning things for the real world and then college is branching out on your own, getting a job, paying rent, etc. 


Chapter 4:

1.Structural Functionalism:

I believe a sociologist utilizing a structural functionalist perspective would believe that the Charlie Chaplin assembly line clip is the perfect example of how society functions. Specifically, Emile Durkheim, a functionalist focused on the importance of “interconnectivity” and how society was far more important than the individuals who make it up. An example of this theoretical perspective would be the human body and its organs, although the organs may be working strenuously they ultimately allow the human body to function. The assembly line may be strenuous and tiring, however, someone needs to do it and if no one were to handle this task the greater good of society would be harmed. Moreover, Durkheim believed that society was held together by mechanical solidarity, which essentially meant if people were doing the same work, they’d think and act alike. However, the spread of industrialization would begin to question this mechanical solidarity and Durkheim believed that society may begin transitioning into organic solidarity which would in the long run be beneficial, however, may be chaotic during the transition .

Symbolic Interactionism:

A sociologist taking a symbolic interactionist approach would suggest that the employees working on the assembly line could be considered efficient, however, still be detrimental to the workers. Max Weber believed in capitalism and rationalization, however, he also believed that capitalism could be responsible for harmful work that is far too strict and mechanized. Notably, in the text book we read of repetitive stress syndrome which essentially would be what Charlie Chaplin’s character has in the video as he is unable to stop working. Weber proposed the iron cage theory which states that individuals may feel trapped by the corporation or institution they work for and begin to develop a sense of indifference towards themselves and the world. A symbolic interactionist would be concerned about how the demanding assembly line alters an individual’s relationship with their career, themselves and the world.

Conflict Theory:

A sociologist with a conflict theorist perspective would suggest that the assembly line takes advantage of those less fortunate. Karl Marx would most likely believe that structures such as the assembly line expand the gap between the bourgeoisie and the working class. A conflict theorist would also share that the working conditions are far too strenuous and uninspiring for the employees. Moreover, in the clip we see the boss or high rank official of the factory demand “more speed” even though the workers are already stretched to their limit, this would lead a conflict theorist to believe that the workers are being treated poorly. Another noteworthy moment of the video would be when Charlie Chaplin takes less than a 30 second break to use the bathroom and is immediately reprimanded by the boss, this would lead one to believe that not only are the working conditions poor but the employees are also not given the right to a short amount of time to use the restroom or take breaks. Finally, Marx would describe this form of factory labor through his theory of alienation, he argues that work such the example we see in the video is not relatable or meaningful to the employees. The workers clearly share no connection to their job as it instills no sense of pride, creativity, and is ultimately demeaning.

Chapter 5:

After analyzing the various characteristics and societies that have impacted me throughout my adolescence, I concluded that who I am and was is anything but predetermined. I noticed and I’m almost certain that the vast majority of you noticed, we are extremely dynamic and humans are anything but static. An example of this observation would be: As a child, I had a completely different perspective on various subjects and people in my life, as I matured my viewpoints changed entirely, moreover, I noted that certain societies that I was a part of that dictated several aspects of my life no longer have an effect on me. Sociologists view the various developmental stages of our lives drastically different, examples of this include:

1. Kohlberg, who believed that moral development is determined by outside forces such as the world around us (childhood), others’ feelings (adolescence), and ultimately morality (adulthood).

  1. Gilligan, believed that moral development was influenced by one’s gender and that male and female subjects have different developmental perspectives, she suggested due to the way society upbrings its children, boys had a more justice based perspective while girls had a caring and responsibility oriented perspective.

Although both theorists had different views, both could agree that one’s character is heavily influenced by the world around them. 

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