Sociological Perspectives and Theories
Sociologists try to explain how society orders itself but there are
many different theories for this, which often conflict with one
another. Some of these classic theories include Marxism,
Functionalism, and Interactionism. There are also more modern or
contemporary theories such as Feminism. Each sociological perspective
has different beliefs.
Marxists are concerned with the distribution of economic power and
wealth. They believe that society is in conflict between two classes.
Those classes are the Bourgeoisie; who own the means of production,
i.e. land and the Proletariat; who sell labour to these owners for
wages. The Proletariat are being exploited in order for the
Bourgeoisie to gain economic and cultural power over them; Marxists
believe this leads to antagonism, arguments and conflict between the
An example of this could be in a factory. The manager owns the
factory, which is a means of production, so he is a Bourgeoisie
whereas the factory workers are the Proletariat because they work for
the manager in exchange for wages.
Functionalists argue that society is organised much like the Human
Body. Everything must function correctly in order for society to work
as a whole, just like every organ in the body must function correctly
in order for the body to work as a whole.
They believe that social institutions such as Police, NHS, Church,
Schools, etc ensure that certain prerequisites are met and they must
all work together to produce a healthy society. Those prerequisites
are that people need to learn how to be part of society
(socialisation), people need to develop skills to enable them to work
and they need to stay healthy in order to make money.
The education system would probably be a good example of this. College
help teach people so they can gain desired qualifications which will
allow them to go out and work in society. Without people being taught
professions society would break down because there would be nobody to
do certain jobs.
Another classic view is Interactionism. We can liken Interactionism to
a play; everyone must play their respective roles in order to create a
successful performance – in society everyone must do their jobs in
order to create a successful society. This approach is much like the
It argues that action is meaningful to those involved and that they
interpret the meaning. They also argue that how others see us affects
the way we act and how we see ourselves because our actions are based
on self-concept. This is otherwise known as ‘The Looking Glass Self’ a
phrase that was coined by Charles Cooley (1864-1929) and his theory
backs up the ideas of Interactionism.
‘In a very large and interesting class of cases the social reference