Comparison and Differentiation of Sociological Theories

Topics: Sociology, Evolution, Structural functionalism Pages: 6 (1900 words) Published: January 30, 2013
Evolutionary Theory
Evolutionary theories are based on the assumption that societies gradually change from simple beginnings into even more complex forms. Early sociologists beginning with Auguste Comte believed that human societies evolve in a unilinear way- that is in one line of development. According to them social change meant progress toward something better. They saw change as positive and beneficial. To them the evolutionary process implied that societies would necessarily reach new and higher levels of civilization.L.H Morgan believed that there were three basic stages in the process: savagery, barbarism and civilization.Auguste Comte's ideas relating to the three stages in the development of human thought and also of society namely-the theological, the metaphysical and the positive in a way represent the three basic stages of social change. This evolutionary view of social change was highly influenced by Charles Darwin's theory of Organic Evolution.

Those who were fascinated by this theory applied it to the human society and argued that societies must have evolved from the simple and primitive to that of too complex and advanced such as the western society. Herbert Spencer a British sociologist carried this analogy to its extremity. He argued that society itself is an organism. He even applied Darwin's principle of the survival of the fittest to human societies. He said that society has been gradually progressing towards a better state. He argued that it has evolved from military society to the industrial society. He claimed that western races, classes or societies had survived and evolved because they were better adapted to face the conditions of life. This view known as social Darwinism got widespread popularity in the late 19th century. It survived even during the first phase of the 20th century. Emile Durkheim identified the cause of societal evolution as a society's increasing moral density.Durkheim viewed societies as changing in the direction of greater differentiation, interdependence and formal control under the pressure of increasing moral density. He advocated that societies have evolved from a relatively undifferentiated social structure with minimum of division of labor and with a kind of solidarity called mechanical solidarity to a more diifferentiated social structure with maximum division of labor giving rise to a kind of solidarity called organic solidarity.(1)

Spencer defined sociology as the study of societal evolution and believed that the ultimate goal of societal evolution is complete harmony and happiness. Spencer's theory of evolutionary change is built upon three basic principles: integration, differentiation, and definiteness. Spencer argued that homogenous phenomena are inherently unstable, which makes them subject to constant fluctuations. These fluctuations force homogeneous systems to differentiate, which results in greater multiformity. In other words, homogeneous systems grow to become heterogeneous.(2)

Spencer focused much of his energy on trying to legitimize sociology as a scientific discipline. He argued that laypeople might think they deal with the same issues as sociologists do; however, they are not trained to adequately comprehend these issues. One of the ways that Spencer believed sociology could become more legitimate was for sociologists to study other disciplines, especially biology and psychology. Biology could be linked to sociology through the search for the basic "laws of life," understanding society as a "living body" and focusing on human beings as the starting point of sociological inquiries. Psychology is useful to sociology because it helps to show that emotions or sentiments are linked to social action. According to Spencer, individuals are the source of all social phenomena, and the motives of individuals are key to understanding society as a whole.(2)

Structural-Functional Paradigm

The Structural - Functional Paradigm looks at society as...

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