Sociology is known to be a very debatable subject without an agreeable consensus. Different perspectives exist and each one tries to explain the society in a different way.
A perspective can be defined as a set of principles, an approach or a school of thought which helps to understand and explain social life. A perspective helps us to understand how the society is organised, how social life is arranged and how it functions.
Sociological perspectives can be categorised into 2 broad groups:
(1) STRUCTURAL PERSPECTIVES
The Structural perspectives study society as a whole system. This perspective is interested in the very structure of society and a macro analysis of society is adopted.
The Structuralist approach emphasise on the power of ‘society’ over the individual. This perspective emphasise on the way behaviour is constrained or controlled by social forces (society). Society directs behaviour and an individual is said to be a social construct (a product of society). So, society shapes individuals’ behaviour. Individuals are made and controlled by society. They are socialised into a preset list of roles, norms and values. We are what we are because of the expectations of the social groups we belong to.
(2) Social Action / Interpretive perspective
The social action perspective emphasise on the ability of individuals to shape their own behaviour. Unlike the structuralist perspective, the social action or interpretive perspective emphasise on the ability of individuals to control and decide their own actions. According to this perspective, it is society which is constructed by individuals, not individuals shaped by society as the structuralist claim. They do agree that norms, values exist but not to direct behaviour rather to be used as guidelines and they can even be interpreted differently. So, interpretive sociologists argue that individuals shape their own actions.
Functionalist forming part of the structuralist perspective analyse society as a whole system. This perspective developed in the nineteenth century Europe. The functionalist draw a comparison of the society with the human organism. The various parts of the body works together for the well-being of the whole body. Each part has a contribution for the body to function properly. Similarly, the various parts of the society are seen as interrelated and, taken together they form a complete system. Each institution in society is examined in terms of the contribution it brings to the overall maintenance of the whole social system.
According to the functionalists, society is a social structure made up of interrelated norms and interconnected roles. They examine how this social structure functions.
Societies have certain basic needs or requirements that must be met for it to survive. These requirements are known as functional prerequisites. The different institutions of society help to meet the functional prequisites of society.
For the society to function well there should be a degree a integration between the different parts of the society and this integration is based on value consensus which means an agreement about values by members of the society.
One of the concerns of the functionalist theory is to explain how social life is possible. For society to function well there should be order and stability and this can be achieved through value consensus.
The Marxist perspective created by Karl Marx explains society in terms of the conflict that exist 2 social classes. So, according to him there are 2 social classes in society namely, the high class and the working class. The relationship between the 2 classes is very much contradictory and unequal. The aim of the Bourgeoisie is to increase their profits and they use the labour of the proletariat who are the real producers of commodities. The...
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