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The Three Major Sociologcal Perspectives

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Shawn Nyman

on 8 January 2018

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Transcript of The Three Major Sociologcal Perspectives

1. Functionalism
Emile Durkheim sought to understand how societies maintain stability and survive over the course of time.
Conflict Theory
This sociological perspective focuses on competition for resources and how those with power, resources, or social capital control the poor and less advantaged.
C. Wright Mills
C. Wright Mills
an American Sociologist who coined the term 'Sociological Imagination'. He also added to the conflict theory with his study of the 'power elite'.

The Three Major Sociological Perpectives :
3. Symbolic Interactionism
This theory focuses on the idea that we live in a world of symbols. Interactions with other people in society, the meaning of the symbols we encounter (written words, spoken words, signs, gestures, facial expressions, etc) and our interpretation of the details of everyday life guide our behavior in the social world.
(Sometimes called Structural Functionalism)
This perspective focuses on the parts of society and how they work together interdepdently to keep society functioning as one unit
MACRO level
Emile Durkheim
Two forms of social consensus
1. Mechanical solidarity

The type of social consensus you might find in a small rural community.
Organic solidarity

The type of social consensus you might find in a large city.
Mechanical solidarity
is a form of social cohesion that arises when people in a society maintain similar values and beliefs and engage in similar types of work. Mechanical solidarity most commonly occurs in traditional, simple societies such as those in which everyone herds cattle or farms. Amish society exemplifies mechanical solidarity.
In contrast,
organic solidarity
is a form of social cohesion that arises when the people in a society are interdependent, but hold to varying values and beliefs and engage in varying types of work. Organic solidarity most commonly occurs in industrialized, complex societies such those in large American cities like New York in the 2000s.
Criticisms of functionalist perspective:
Not able to account for social changes or conflict such as divorce.
Justifies the status quo and complacency in societal members.
Functionalism sees social change as a negative.
Karl Marx
Marx studied the inequalities of different groups in society, he felt we would eventually evolve from feudalism, to capitalism and finally communism where we would all have a utopian lifestyle.
2. Conflict Theory
3. Symbolic Interactionism
1. Functionalism
Marx believed that those controlled the means of production-
The Bourgeoisie
- were exploiting the workers -
The Proletariat
- and had turned labor into a commodity, which was the workers only material value.
Marx believed that eventually the
would rise up and overthrow the Bourgeoisie. The citizens of this new government system would then create a communitst world where all wealth was shared and there was ample time for self actualizing pursuits that made life rich and meaningful.
Marx felt that modern work was alienating. He believed that as modern workers lost control of their work (through repetitive mindless tasks), they ceased to be autonomous beings.
Conflict Theory Criticims
It has an extremely negative view of society.
Every action in society, no matter how kind or humanitarian, is motivated by the desire for money or power.
Bridging the gap from Conflict Theory to Symbolic Interactionism
Weber saw conflict in society, but he also saw meaning and purpose in human nature.
George Herbert Mead
Symbolic Interactionism
, people attach meaning to symbols, and then act according their interpretation of these symbols.
This micro level perspective is focused on:
The interaction between the individual and the world.
The individual's ability to interpret meaning from the symbols they encounter in society allows them to function as a member of society. These symbols also cue the symbols they use in their speech, writing or gestures. They are now
Symbolically Interacting.
Criticisms of Symbolic Interactionism
Lacks the "Big Picture" in social interactions.
Does not account for social forces such as socioeconomics or prejudices and their influence on society
In Summary:
The three main perspectives in sociological theory are
1. Functionalism
2. Conflict Theory
3. Symbolic Interactionism
Functionalism :
Society is a network of interdependent connections and each part plays a role in maintaining a state of social balance for the whole.
For Example
A sports team is comprised of superstars, role players and benchwarmers. Each member of the team plays a role, and in this way the team functions as one harmonious unit.
Conflict Theory :
Groups in society struggle for a limited supply of resources. The groups with more power use that power to exploit the groups with less power, they also use that power to maintain their control and advantages in society.
Symbolic Interactionism
Focuses on the dyamic interaction process between individuals and the world. Each individual interprets writings, words, speech and social objects and consciously assigns meaning to these symbols, and this guides the individual's actions in society.
In a addition to studying society from different perspectives, Sociologists study social phenomena at different levels.
MICRO Level- Focuses more on the individual interactions in society.
(Small social patterns)
MACRO Level - Focuses on the interactions of groups.
(The big picture of society)
In this philosophy we all have a role to play,
He believed society was held together by social consensus.

2. Conflict Theory
"A specter is haunting Europe - the specter of communism." - The Communst Manifesto
University of Chicago
His theories were based on pragmatism and behaviorism.
For example, conversation is a process in which individuals interpret verbal signals from each other and assign meaning to them. In this process their interpretation of the world is dynamic.
Music is written as black dots and lines on a paper, and then someone reads it. The symbols on the paper are given meaning ....When the person reading the music begins to play their instrument, their interpretation of these symbols is manifested in the performance.
The rich get richer, the poor get poorer.
We are constantly interpreting symbols and what they mean to us, this is a dynamic social process.
Giddens, Anthony. 2014.
Intoduction to Sociology,
New York, NY: W.W. Norton and Company.
Newman, David. 2014.
Sociology: Exploring the Architectue of Everyday
Life, Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Pubications Inc.
Conley, Dalton. 2013.
You May Ask Yourself
, New York, NY : W.W. Norton and Company.
Why learn about Sociology?
We need to understand how society works. What influences our most ordinary social actions and social exchanges that we all take for granted on a daily basis. We need to understand why one social group may not thrive in society while others do. We need to understand why it seems the rich get richer, and things seem to only get more difficult for the common man. We need to have a Sociological Imagination to help us understand the world around us.
The Sociological Imagination
"The ability to see the connections between our personal experiences and the larger forces of history"
(Conley, 2013)
Each person has a set of social factors and historical events that lead them to where they are and where society is today. The ability to look through the lens of the Sociological Imagination helps us see how the individual and society merge with history and biography. And allows us to see the echoing effects of poverty, poor health maintenance and lack of education.
Looking at our personal situation in life, or that of another, and recognizing the factors that caused us to arrive at our current station.
The Sociological Imagination allows us insight into personal troubles and social issues
"...Migrant workers are caught in a never ending loop of poverty, poor health maintenance and lack of education. That is why it is difficult for them to rise out of their personal problems that as a group are social issues......."
For example....
Shawn Nyman

University of Alabama at Birmingham
Sociology 728 The Sociology of Education
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