The Three Major Theoretical Perspectives In Sociology

1955 words - 8 pages

Sociologists develop theories to explain and analyze society at different levels and from different perspectives. Sociologists study everything from the micro level of analysis of small social patterns to the “big picture” which is the macro level of analysis of large social patterns.
Sociologists employ three major theoretical perspectives in sociology today. They are the structural-functionalist perspective, the conflict perspective, and the symbolic interactionism. The structural-functionalist perspective is done at a macro level and its focus is on the relationships between the parts of society. The Conflict perspective is done at a macro level and its main focus is on how the wealthy controls the poor and weak. Symbolic Interactionism is done at a micro and it focuses on the use of symbols and face to face interactions.

Structural-Functionalist Perspective
The structural-functionalist perspective looks at society as a complex system composed of various parts much like a living organism. Each aspect of society contributes to society's functioning as a whole. Social institutions play a key role in keeping a society stable. All societies need certain things to survive (Newman 2010).
Auguste Comte (Newman 2010) pointed out the need to keep society unified as many traditions were diminishing. He created the term sociology. Auguste Comte suggests that sociology is the product of a three-stage development.
Talcott Parson (Parsons 1951) sees society as a collection of systems within systems Parson determined that each individual has expectations of the other's action and reaction to his own behaviour, and that these expectations would be derived from the accepted norms and values of the society where they live. Emile Durkheim was concerned primarily with how societies could maintain their integrity and coherence in the modern society when things such as shared religious and ethnic background could no longer be assumed (Durkheim 1915, 1964). He also did studies on education, crime and suicide.
Sociologist Robert Merton (1957) divides human functions into two types. They are manifest functions and latent functions. Manifest functions are intended and the obvious consequences of activities. Latent functions are the unintended, sometimes unrecognized, consequences of actions. The manifest function of going to church is to worship as part of a religious community, but its latent function may be to meet people.
From the structural-functionalist perspective, if an aspect of a social life does not contribute to society’s survival it will eventually disappear (Durkheim 1915, 1964). This may be considered as dysfunctional. Dysfunctions are consequences of structural elements that produce changes in their environing social system. Dysfunctions can also be manifest or latent. Manifest dysfunctions are anticipated disruptions of social life. A manifest dysfunction of a festival might include disruptions of...

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