The Sociological Perspective

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There are many different perspectives in sociology. There are three main views that are used by almost all sociologists, though. These are the functionalist, conflict, and interactionist perspectives.

The functionalist perspective emphasizes the way that parts of a society are structured to maintain its stability (Schaefer 13). Functionalism uses the macro-level approach. Macrosociology concentrates on large-scale phenomena, or entire civilizations (Schaefer 13). The functionalist approach holds that if an aspect of social life doesn't contribute to a society's stability, it will not be passed on from one generation to the next (Schaefer 13). Also, this perspective distinguishes between the different types of functions. It defines manifest functions as open, stated, conscious functions; and latent functions as unconscious, or unintended functions (Schaefer 14). Not all aspects of a society contribute to its stability at all times though. Functionalists define this as a dysfunction, or an element of society that may actually disrupt a social system (Schaefer 14). Functionalists also view society as objective and orderly, assuming that behavior is concrete and tangible and that society has a real systematic existence (Putnam 194).

The conflict perspective assumes that social behavior is best understood in terms of conflict or tension between competing groups (Schaefer 14). This perspective also uses the macro-level approach. Where as functionalists see stability and consensus,

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though, conflict sociologists see a social world in a constant struggle (Schaefer 14). Many views held by conflict sociologists come from the work of Karl Marx. He viewed the struggle between social classes as inevitable, and because of this, sociologists now come to see conflict not merely as a class phenomenon, but as part of everyday life in all societies (Schaefer 15). Conflict theorists are interested in how society's...
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