Sociology Essay Theoretical Perspectives

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Explain two sociological theories and the relationship between social factors and health.

“Sociology is the study of human social life, groups and societies. It is a dazzling and compelling enterprise, having as its subject matter our own behaviour as social beings. The scope of sociology is extremely wide, ranging from the analysis of passing encounters between individuals in the street up to the investigation of world-wide social processes. (Livesey 2005).

During the nineteenth century changes in science and technology opened the minds of people to wonder if there could be a scientific reason for everything we do and that the wider scientific knowledge could give an explanation as to the problems encountered throughout human life. Auguste Comte was born in 1798; he was a philosopher during the French revolution. It is believed that though he did not discover the concept of sociology, he made an influence in the area with his work and is said to have inspired work of Karl Marx. Karl Marx is known for his studies in politics, economics and society; these are known as the one group - Marxism. Modern sociologists have three views: the symbolic perspective, the functionalist perspective, and the conflict perspective. These perspectives give theorists the opportunity to explain how society influences people or doesn't influence. Each perspective has a different view of society, social forces, and human behaviour. The symbolic interactionism perspective enables sociologists to study activities of everyday life, what these mean to individuals, and how we interact with each other in society, the theory is based on the view that individuals live their lives according to their own beliefs which are developed through social interaction. The functionalist perspective, also named functionalism focuses on society being interdependent and how this keeps society functioning as one. Functionalism does not encourage change in individuals’ lives or social environment as the various levels of society will have adapted to any problems which may arise. The conflict theory however believes those in power control the poor and the weak in society, basing the theory on power within social classes and competitiveness for power and domination.

This essay will focus on two of these theories, symbolic interactionism and the conflict theory. These two theories have been chosen as they contrast with one another. The social action theory emphasizes how we make our own decisions based on our beliefs, while the conflict theories belief is that only those in power make the decisions and the lower classes in society obey these.

“The basic principles of symbolic interactionism include the following: (1) human beings possess the capacity for thought, which is shaped by social interaction; (2) people learn meanings and symbols through social interaction; and (3) people are able to modify or alter the meanings and symbols they use in interactions by interpreting the situations they are engaged in.” (Ritzer 2004). One major influence of the theory was George Herbert Mead he was born in 1863; he spent most of his career teaching sociology. Mead strongly believed in individuals defining their own behaviour depending on the attitudes of the social group in which they have. Mead believed that as individuals communicated and interacted within a community they would learn different social roles and the expectations which people have and become self-conscious within themselves. Karl Marx, a German philosopher, is one of the most influential figures within this theory, his work however was not fully recognised until after his death in 1883. Marx strongly believed that power is used within the higher classes to oppress those in the working classes, as those in power control businesses, politics, religion etc. Thus the lower classes are controlled in every aspect of life.

“Health inequalities that are preventable by reasonable measures are unfair....
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