Sociology Functionalism and Symbolic Interaction

Topics: Sociology, Émile Durkheim, Anomie Pages: 5 (1505 words) Published: May 20, 2013
The key features, similarities and differences of Functionalism and Symbolic Interaction.

Sociologists analyse social phenomena at different levels and from different perspectives. From concrete interpretations to sweeping generalizations of society and social behaviour, sociologists study everything from specific events, the micro level of analysis of small social patterns, to the big picture, the macro level of analysis of large social patterns. Sociologists today employ three primary theoretical perspectives: the symbolic interactions perspective, the functionalist perspective, and the conflict perspective. These perspectives offer sociologists theoretical paradigms for explaining how society influences people, and vice versa. Each perspective uniquely conceptualizes society, social forces, and human behaviour. This essay will focus on two of the three perspectives: on the functionalism and the symbolic interaction perspective. Functionalism is a macro structural theory that studies sociology as a whole. It sees society as a system with inter-related structures working together to meet the needs of society. Functionalism focuses on an individual’s role within society and, more specifically, on the institutions which make up that society. The father of functionalism is Emile Durkheim who focused on social facts, social structures, cultural norms, and values, all of which he argued are external to the individual. Social facts as a key feature are referring to concept; expectations that come not from individual responses and preferences but from society which socializes each of its members. The purpose of social fact is that it coerces an individual to think, act and behave in a manner that is not what they would naturally for example they develop knowledge through institutions such as the political system, education system , family, religion, economy and the legal system. Furthermore individual behaviour is constrained by language: while we know language internally we are constrained still by it, so there is a different way to communicate according to gender, age, profession, social class or region. Another social fact is suicide. According to Durkheim’ people have a certain level of attachment to their groups, which he calls social integration. Abnormally high or low levels of social integration may result in increased suicide rates; low levels have this effect because low social integration results in disorganized society, causing people to turn to suicide as a last resort, while high levels cause people to kill themselves to avoid becoming burdens on society’ (Durkheim, Suicide, 1897 in Sociology Guide) Durkheim explores the differing suicide rates among Protestants and Catholics, explaining that stronger social control among Catholics results in lower suicide rates. Functionalises argue that there is a value consensus within social systems and believe that without a collective consensuses of shared values and beliefs, achieving social order is impossible and social order is crucial for the well-being of society. According to functionalise, value consensus forms the basic integrating principle in society. As a result if members of society have shared values they consequently have similar identities which helps them to cooperate and avoid conflict. Children learn roles from their family. By this the son is expected to take the role/job of his father as the daughter is expected to cook and clean same as her mother. The role taking of the family is created to socialise the new members and teaches them the norms and values essential to the social life and to functioning together to make society work as...

References: Brym, R.J and Lie, J. (Cengage Learning, 12 Jun 2009), Sociology: Your Compass for a New World.
Nisbet R.A (Greenwood Press, 1976), Emile Durkheim. (Accessed on 09/12/12 ) (Accessed on 12/12/2012)
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