General Sociology 111
This research looks at the works of Durkheim, Marx, Comte, DuBois, Mills, Mead, and Parsons, and their major ideas, concepts, theoretical orientations as well as their contributions to the field of sociology. The first phase of the paper involves evaluating, Functionalist, Conflict, Symbolic Interactionist, and Postmodernist. Followed by presenting the basic assumptions, ideas, and approaches the theory takes for the study of sociology.
What is sociology and why do we study it? It’s the study of society, a social science involving the study of our behavior as social beings. A society is an organized group of people, who share the same living environment associated together for religious, cultural, or political expectations. There are a variety of trends and ideas that influence the development of sociology. Studying sociology allowed sociologists to view society from many different view points. Some will argue that it’s “many groups competing for scarce resources,” while other might view it as a “stable and ongoing entity”. I would even go as far to say, it seemed that sociologists were more focused on how they thought a society should be, verses what the society actually was. Each of these views are based on a method of examining how social life is organized and represented in the efforts to link these specific observations in a meaningful way. Sociologist starts off with a theory “a set of logically interrelated statement that attempts to describe explain and (occasionally) predict social events”. (Kendell pg21) Sociologists use this theoretical model as a perspective. There are three major theoretical perspectives, Functionalist, Conflict and Symbolic Interactionist. Another perspective has emerged over the years; postmodernism is becoming more accepted from some of the social thinkers recently. However, like all theories, nothing is proving to be facts just a thought that’s study and reported so the theories didn’t necessarily conform to these perspectives perfectly. Functionalist Perspective views society as a system, with functional requirements that must be met for it to survive. Functionalism is like a car; a car is composed of various parts were as each part is needed for the whole car to function properly. If one part of the car is not functioning properly, it can throw the rest of the car off balance and cause the car to brake down all together. Emil Durkheim has stressed that “people are the product of their social environment” (Kendell pg13) and that people can not be held accountable for their individual biological and psychological traits. He believed that the limits of human potential was purely social not biologically based. (Kendell 2010) Conflict Perspective groups in society are engaged in a continuous power struggle for control and competing with one another for scarce resources. (Kendell 2010) This theory in essence explains conflict between social classes. Society is designed to support all the major institutions, and laws that have already traditionally been in power. Karl Marx is most commonly associated when it comes to the conflict theory. This puts me in the mind frame of slavery because; slaves struggle day to day working for a higher power for little to no pay at all. Soon people get fed up and stand up to the greater power and demand a change. The Symbolic Interactionist Perspective, allows sociologists to consider the symbols of everyday life. What could these symbols mean and how people interact with one another. Although, George H. Mead and Max Weber share the same views on the Symbolic perspective George H. Mead introduced the perspective that “individuals’ behavior is developed according to their interpretation of their world” to American sociology in the 1920s. Symbolic interactionist perspective, suggests that people attach meanings to symbols and start to act accordingly to what they have learned through interaction with other people. The Microlevel is the framework for this approach, which focuses on the small groups verses the “bigger picture.” George H. Mead theory suggests that peoples personalities develop from their social experiences as well as we would not having an identity of “self” without the interactions of others. Postmodernist perspectives are the attempts to explain social life in modern societies that are characterized by postindustrialization, consumerism, and global communications. (Kendell 29) Postmodern theory challenges the other perspectives and questions their belief systems. Society approaches should be examined in an entirely differently way from functionalist, conflict and interactionist.
Emile Durkheim and Karl Marx contributed some major theories to contemporary sociology. These theorist help pave the way to contemporary sociology with their major ideas, concepts. Durkheim focused on the social facts; the fast changing social world puts a strain on society, and the decline in shared values and purpose could lead to a breakdown or absence of social norms. However, according to Marx, there will be a constant class between the owners and the employees, giving them no other option but to sell their labor to others.
C.W Mills proposes a concept that to understand personal experiences and social issues, we needed to understand the connection between the both. He introduced “The Sociological Imagination” that forcing us to look at the distinction and connection between social issues and our private troubles beneath everyday events to observe the power elite. W. E. B. Du Bois idea was to stress the strengths and weaknesses of the community struggling with the overwhelming social problems. Du Bois theory was that the dual heritage (double-consciousness) creates conflict for the people of color. That people of color had to accept racism and group discrimination even though, people in this county espouse certain values as democracy, freedom and equality. Du Bois felt that these conflicting values and the behavior that has resulted from them left African Americans to become victims. I thought Talcott Parsons had the most realistic perspective of society of them all. Parsons stressed that all institutions should work together to provide social needs in order to survive.