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Main Theories in Sociology

By ellebirch Jun 24, 2013 2411 Words
Outline and briefly discuss the main theories in Sociology
In sociology there are several theories that each has different perspectives, concepts and views on the way society is. The main ones are Functionalism which looks at society as a whole, Marxism which reject the idea that society is based on a consensus and Interpretism which is where it looks at the individuals look on society rather than society. Feminisms is a list of views written by women on the role of women in society, Postmodernism which is where there are trends in society that show modernity is dissolving and The New Right which is a more political perspective associated with the government. All the theories argue that their perspective is right and people can use these theories to see where they fit in. If a person’s view were similar to a theory’s then they would probably agree with everything to do with that theory. The theory Functionalism is where they see an individual person as less important than the social structure of society; it sees society as a living thing where all parts of society are working in harmony to stabilise society. They say norms, values and culture are all organs of the society and they must function together for society to work as if society is a body, like as a whole. This links with their approach on society because they see it as a whole which is macro, this means they look at it as a whole. Functionalists are very positive people and they always see the good in everything that happens around them. They also believe that society is based on a consensus, which is that we are all socialised to agree on how to behave and what is right and wrong. There is a top down look on society where it emphasises that an individual is a product of society. Structural theories suggest that behaviour is influenced by the structure and working of society, so if order didn’t exist they say we would be confused and uncertain about our or others values then it would results in chaos and anarchy. Structural theories also suggest that agencies play an important part of interconnecting roles and expectations between these institutions. The strengths of this theory is that it acknowledges that we are influenced by socialisation so some aspects of this theory can be agreed with whether you are functionalist or not. They are optimistic so they always look at things in a good so it’s as if nothing bad ever happens which could mean they live a less stressful lifestyle. They say society is based on a consensus which is when people have a general agreement on something, but it has also produced a stable society because then it results in everyone getting along. The weaknesses of this theory is that there is poverty in society where people are much poorer than other which means that this theory cannot be true as not everybody can be as optimistic as each other. There is also crime, conflict and war which are all negative aspects of society but these happen and functionalists do not include these institutions. I believe that all parts of society must work together in some way for it to carry on being a society, but I don’t agree that functionalists don’t look individuals because individuals do have a choice each person has a choice to do what they want it just depends how they’ve been socialised to see what path they actually take. The theory Marxism rejects all other theories that convey the idea that society is based on a consensus. They argue that there are inequalities between people based on power and wealth, and that these differences lead to less powerful groups developing sub-cultures in response to and in resistance to the dominant culture. It is simply the divide between a worker and a boss in the workplace. Karl Marx has a theory which says we live in a system called capitalism; it divided everyone into two classes the bourgeoisie (the ruling class) and the proletariat (the workers). It’s a structural theory, in the fact that it sees the social structure as more important than the individual. The economic organisation of societies is responsible for the behaviour of individuals. Marxists see society as if it is in conflict and that it is based on an exploitative and unequal relationship. It says that working class people are dependent on the class above them. When people unite and stand up for themselves it results in rebellion, riots and strikes. They argue that the working class rarely challenge capitalism because those who control the economy also control the family, education, media, religion etc. The strengths of this theory are that it accounts for the idea of inequality unlike functionalism; it includes the individual as a part of society. The second strength is that it suggests that human behaviour can be manipulated, this could be for better or for worse but as it’s a strength it means for better. The weaknesses are that not all bosses are the same because you may come across one that is kind and considerate of their employees whereas another may be more money orientated and want his staff to make as much money as possible. It can be argued that this theory is too negative as well; it is very pessimistic compared to functionalism. It ignores the freedom of choice that people have and just concentrates on the things that people have been manipulated to do through socialisation. It is also based on economics which is related to money, so this is another criticism. I believe that this theory is very negative and it doesn’t give any leeway into that a boss can either be kind or harsh. I think that society is not in conflict because I think it is down to individuals that create society and this is not what Marxism promotes. The theory Interpretivism can be known as social action/interprevist, it talks about the individual rather than the whole society. The theory rejects the structuralist’s assumption that behaviour is determined, so this means that they believe that human behaviour is a matter of the individual’s choice. They argue that people are not passive puppets which means they are not controlled or manipulated by the society around them to make their decisions. An interprevists’ viewpoint sees people as having a more positive, but active role in shaping society. There is a concept that Interpretivism follows which is German and it’s called ‘verstehen’ it is to understand, perceive and comprehend the nature of people. I think that this is a good concept because it allows individuals to learn more and understand more about each other, then they can learn that everybody makes different choices. Max Weber is a theorist which said that in order to understand human behaviour you have to imagine what it is like to be in their situation before you start to understand. The criticisms of this theory is that it doesn’t consider other agencies that create label and meaning within society. It also suggests that individuals in society may have too much freedom so they don’t know what it’s like to be trained as a society for example like in the army. People can also act in very similar ways this then would be called ‘culture’ as they share the same interests, so not everybody in society is as individualistic as they think because there will be other people that will be exactly the same. Another criticism is that it isnt random, it is influenced by social and historical context which can affect their outlook on society now. The strengths of this theory that when its being researched an interprevist would ask people open ended questions where they express their own opinion because the person is an individual. I agree with this theory the most as I believe that individual do have their own choices and the life they have is partly due to decisions they have made in the past. I do know that a child could be living in foster home because they have bad anger issues therefore this wouldn’t be their fault, but once they have realised this it becomes their choice to act upon it. I also think that not everybody is an individual otherwise we wouldn’t make friends easily because people for example would have no common interests to talk about. The theory Feminisms is a series of perspectives written by women on the role of women within society, there are different strands to feminisms so it could fall under both the macro and micro view on society. This means it looks at society from a top down point of view as well as bottoms up, this suggests they look at society as a whole and as an individual. They argue that sociology is mostly focused on the concerns of men, which is called male-stream sociology. All feminists believe that society is based on conflict between the sexes; they argue that women have been disadvantaged in society and men have more power when it comes to work, money and relationships. Most feminists think that society is dominated by males which is called patriarchy, where they believe that men have an advantage in society just because they are male. All the strands of feminism theories all share one thing in common and it is that they want things to be resolved between the sexes. The criticism of feminism that it is only centred around women which can be called sexist by certain people, men don’t get argue about their rights because they already have all the rights therefore this goes back to the point of women being disadvantaged in society. The strands of feminisms are liberal that believe men and women are becoming more equal in society, Marxist feminists that believe men and women are still unequal in society and radical feminists that believe men and women are still unequal altogether. So another criticism is that radical feminists can be seen as very unnatural because they still believe women are being exploited even though they can have careers unlike when they had to be housewife many years ago. The strengths of feminisms are that it actually gives women a voice and it gives them a chance to get their opinion across to the rest of society. Feminism has already changed society now so it shows that feminists have already made a difference. My opinion is mostly like the liberal feminists but I don’t feel that strongly about feminism because I don’t feel like I’m disadvantaged in society although that might be because I am young. I believe that women are becoming much more equal to men as we have gained the same rights and in the workplace a woman has just as much chance of getting a job as a man would, which I think is much better for society. The theory Postmodernism has been developed in the last 30 to 40 years where there are trends that show modernity is fragmenting or dissolving. It suggests that structures in society are breaking down and being replaced by a whole range of different and constantly changing social relationships. They think that it is all happening through globalisation, consumerism and advanced digital technology. They argue that social behaviour is no longer shaped as it used to be by peoples background and through socialisation, this is why they say that modernity is dissolving/breaking down. They also argue that factors such as class, ethnicity and sexuality don’t influence people as much as they used to. They suggest that people are much freer to choose their own identity and lifestyle depending on what they like. The boundaries between social groups are also breaking down and so people can no longer predict the sorts of lifestyles that people will adopt. The two sources of identity according to post-modernism are the family and media. People don’t realise how much they follow and believe these two sources, because the media influences our fashion sense, music taste and interests. The media can also be seen as manipulating society because it depends who is advertising what for example if Cheryl Cole was advertising a nail varnish, fans of Cheryl would be more likely to buy the nail varnish just because she advertised it whereas it would be exactly the same nail varnish if she wasn’t advertising it and the fans would be much less likely to buy it. The strengths of postmodernism are that it’s a critique of modernism and that there is no one right single answer or truth given question asked in society. Some weaknesses of postmodernism in music types could be if musicians didn’t ‘follow the crowd’ as in making pop, people were quickly labelled ignorant because they didn’t like the popular, mainstream music. I agree quite strongly with postmodernism as I think that social relationships are always changing because people are not judged or influenced by their class, ethnicity or sexuality like they used to so I think its great that everybody is becoming more equal. The last theory is The New Right, which concentrates on a more political perspective associated with conservative government. There are four main features of it which are emphasis on individual freedom which reduce the power of independence on the state, the second is reduce the spending by the state so it’s making the individuals more self-reliant. The third feature is a defense of the ‘free market’ which is encouraging free competition between individuals, companies and schools etc., the third is stress on importance of traditional institutions and values. The New Right say that government interference in the market place will distort the balance of supply and demand. The New Right developed in response to changes in the world that started in 1960s and 70s. The changes included the decline in usefulness of the concept of first, second and third world due to the increased diversity between countries that are developing. They argue that the nuclear family is the bedrock of society, and that the welfare state creates a dependency culture. This is the theory that I least believe in because it is very traditional and political, which doesn’t interest me. I think that The New Right is an important theory and it seems to keep society stable but I don’t feel as strongly as I do for Interpretivisim.

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