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Strengths and weaknesses of sociological perspectives

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Topics: Sociology
SOCIOLOGY

SOCIOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVES

FUNCTIONALISM (CONSENSUS STRUCTURALISM)

STRENGTHS

WEAKNESSES
1
The role of socialization in determining behaviour is recognized.
Violent and radical social change cannot be explained adequately by a theory that emphasizes consensus.

2
The importance of culture in structuring society is identified.

Society does not have a life of its own (organic analogy), it is dependent on the people that make it up.

3
The importance of understanding how society is an integrated whole with independent parts is identified.

It supports conservatism and thereby justifies social equilibrium.
4

Too deterministic, ignores possibility that individuals have free choice to resist social forces.

Teleological (an approach that explains something by the purpose it serves, e.g. norms and values exist because they serve the maintenance of social order.

MARXISM (CONFLICT STRUCTURALISM)

STRENGTHS

WEAKNESSES
1
Taken-for-granted institutions, such as employment and the legal system, are examined critically.
Ownership or non-ownership of the means of production (class relation) is seen as the most important factor when examining society: all other factors are secondary. The superstructure can play a directing role in social change.
2
Major inequalities are challenged through examining conflict in society, such as lack of power and wealth.

The ruling class is seen to be in ‘conspiracy’ to maintain the oppression of the subject class.
3
It provides an explanation for the maintenance of existing social systems, by showing that various parts of society are interrelated.
History has not supported Marx’s claims about the route of social change – class has become more complex rather than polarized, communism in eastern Europe has been replaced by democracy.

4
It is not a deterministic theory because ‘Man makes his own history’. The economy was created by people and can therefore be changed by people.

Has been accused of economic determinism and some forms of Marxism appear to do this.

SOCIAL ACTION THEORY (WEBERIAN PERSPECTIVE)

STRENGTHS

WEAKNESSES
1
Weber provided insight into the nature of social inequality in relation to power.
The nineteenth century liberal view of the individual used by Weber limits his theory on action and meaning. The individual is seen to be totally subjective, rather than having inter-subjective relations with others, i.e. concentrating on conscience rather than morality, which stops his theory developing as an interpretive approach.
2
The role of social actors was explained by the way in which they take into account the behaviour of others when planning their own action. Therefore people were identified as having conscious intentions, something ignore by theories that stressed only the causes and consequences of the social structure on behaviour.

Structural theorists claim that Weber fails to acknowledge the controlling influence of material forces, outside personal control, on the lives of individuals.
3
He provided insight into the way the social world could be seen to be constructed by people’s social interactions.
Capitalism is believed to have existed before Protestantism and therefore Protestantism could not have a causal effect on capitalism

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