Comparing the four main sociological perspectives
Sociologists analyse social phenomena from a series of different perspectives, there are four main sociological perspectives that all differ from each other in one way or another, these are; feminism, Marxism, interactionism and functionalism. The main difference between these perspectives are that there are structuralist theories (Marxism, feminism, functionalism) and action theories (symbolic interactionists.) Structuralist theories believe that there is a set structure in society and the individual’s life is predetermined, meaning that society shapes the individual and their way of life, whereas action theories believe that the individuals shape society and they have free will to do what they want with their lives, the only perspective for this argument are symbolic interactionists who look at the symbols and meanings behind the actions of the individuals of society. Structuralist theories would criticise interactionists by arguing that they are not deterministic enough. The structuralist theories all have one thing in common, they believe that there is a structure to society, however the three theories are categorised into conflict theories and consensus theories which all disagree on the way society functions and where conflict is seen. Functionalists believe that each aspect of society has a role to play in making society function as a whole, Durkheim one of the founders of functionalism sees society as a functioning body, each aspect has a role to make it function, this is called organic analogy. A different analogy (created by Goffman) is dramaturgical analogy which originates from the ideas of symbolic interactionism. Goffman uses a theatrical metaphor of stage, actors and audience to observe and analyze social interaction.
Conflict theories criticise functionalism for being too naive and not doing anything about the conflict in society, they disagree that there is consensus (a general agreement)...
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