September 14, 2014
How Do You View the World?
Different theories in sociology offer us with a variety of perspectives to analyze and interpret our social world that we live in. A theory is simply a set of connected propositions intended to answer a question or explain a particular phenomenon. Theories in sociology help us to understand, explain how a society functions through various viewpoints. Sociology includes three perspectives: the functionalist perspective (macro), the conflict perspective (macro), and the symbolic interactionism perspective (micro). (PPT slide 1) Each perspective offers its own unique explanations and ideas about the human behavior and the social world.
Functionalism is a system of thinking based on the ideas of Emile Durkheim, that views society on a large-scale perspective. This theory looks at society as a whole consisting of “interdependent and interrelated parts.” It also examines the necessary structures that make up a society, and how each parts keeps a society stable and maintains social order. (PPT slides 2-4) One main idea is that society is heading toward equilibrium. While small rifts may throw off the balance of society, because of the structure, society will eventually return to a balanced state. Institutions and social facts/norms are two structures that are connected and work together to create a nice balance in order to maintain social order and stability. Institutions are structures that meet the needs of the society such as social classes, education systems, religions, business, and many more. Social facts are accepted ways of thinking and acting formed by the society. (Ferrante 4) For example, in a current movie, Divergent, when a member of the society reaches a certain age they must choose one of several factions to be a part of. Society is divided into five different factions based on human virtues: Abnegation (the selfless), Amity (the peaceful), Candor (the honest), Dauntless (the brave), and Erudite (the intelligent). There was also a faction called Divergent. Members considered as a divergent had all qualities and could not be easily manipulated as society thought they should be. They could not be easily controlled and were considered rebellious and a threat to society. Divergent were also feared because no one knew what to expect from them, so they were sought out to be killed as not to worry about them disrupting the smooth flow of society. Without each faction though, the society would not be able to function as a whole. Society is dependent on the structures that create it. August Come, the founder of sociology, developed the “organismic analogy. He created the thought that sociology, like a cell is dependent on all the little parts that make it up. Every part has a specific function that also depends on other parts of the cell. Herbert Spencer went on to say that as societies became larger, the parts become more complex. He was influence by sociologist Charles Darwin who stated that societies evolve the same as living organisms. Without everything working together, the organism would die and the same would be true for society. (PPT slide 4)
The Conflict Theory observes society as “multiple groups competing for limited resources.”(PPT slide 6) It shares one feature in common with the functionalist theory: it is a macro level theory that focuses on institutions and structures. This theory is based on the ideas of Karl Marx in the 19th century who believed society evolves through several stages. In the 19th century, Europe was considered to be a capitalist society. The bourgeoisie (upper class) were the minority of the population, while the majority were proletariats (lower class). (Ferrante 12) One would think that the majority would have more control over the minority as they do into today’s political world, but the bourgeoisie actually had the power. The upper class owned the factories that made products people...
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