Three Major Theoretical Traditions
The question that I hear the most with being a sociology major is “what is sociology?” sociology is the systematic study of the relationship between the individual and society and the consequnces of differences (Witt). Sociologists study the interrelationships between individuals, organizations, cultures and societies". Ritzier ("Sociology", 1979). With that are three main theoretical traditions that operate within sociology, there is structure functionalism, conflict theory, and symbolic interactions. These three theories shape sociology, there are other smaller theories, but these are the most important to understand. The main premise of structure functionalism is for that every social structure there must be a function that sustains society. The main premise of conflict theory is that there is an unequal distribution of resources in society, and the main premise of symbolic interactions is that society is structured by interaction-shaped symbols. This discussion is going to explore the three major theories traditions of society, and to the functions to maintain social order.
Structure functionalism is the study of social and cultural wonders in terms of the functions they perform in a sociocultural system. There are two types of functions: manifest and latent functions. Manifest functions are detailed functions that a society, a group, or individuals intended to do. Latent functions are not intended and are a result of manifest functions. In others words, a manifest function is a specifically stated goal of one of our institutions, but due to that function there can be some untended consequences that occur. French sociologist Emile Durkheim based his life’s work on the structure functionalism theory, he help establish sociology by arguing that society had to be studied on its own terms, and that studying individual psychology was insufficient. Durkheim believed that societies are held together by shared values that change over time. The development of functionalism was based on the model of the organic system found in the biological sciences. Various organs of a living thing work together in order to maintain a healthy whole in much the same way that various institutions in society work together to produce social order. Durkheim took this organic likeness and developed it into an outlook that would become structural-functionalism (Stolley). Most social systems tend to remain largely unaffected as long as all of their parts are function correctly. This refers to equilibrium (balance) and when it’s disturbed the system can fail to do their functions. Equilibrium must be dynamic because society is always changing and somehow change must be tolerated. As an example of an off balanced social system, I think of a store owner, there’s owner, store manager, shift leader, and cashiers. There are many things that can cause unbalance in the store system. A cashier calling in sick, late supply deliveries, and faulty registers. Equilibrium can be restored by employees working harder, employees working overtime, and hiring of more staff. Neo-functionalism expands the perspective by trying to respond to critics in such ways as incorporating some of the ideas of conflict theorists and also recognizing the importance of the micro perspective. Neo-functionalists argued that by rethinking some of the basics of functionalism and focusing on how it links with micro perspectives, much of this criticism can be overcome (Collins).
Conflict theory is also one of the three major theoretical traditions. Marxist-based social theory which argues that individuals and groups (social classes) within society have differing amounts of material and non-material resources and that the more powerful groups use their power in order to exploit groups with less power. Conflict theory explains the inequalities of money, gender, class, and age in the most...
Please join StudyMode to read the full document