The same society social trend can be approached or viewed or studies from different theoretical viewpoint in sociology. Modern sociologists concede three general hypothetical perspectives, or ways of looking at how various social phenomena are related to one another. These are the functionalist, the conflict, and the symbolic integrationist perspectives.
- The Functionalist Perspective
- The Conflict Perspective
- The Interactionist Perspective
The Functionalist Perspective: Functionalists make out the structural characteristics and functions and dysfunctions of institutions, and distinguish between manifest functions and latent functions.
The Conflict Perspective: The clash loom draws much of its stimulation from the work of ‘Karl Marx’ and argues that the construction of society and the nature of social relationships are the result of past and ongoing conflicts.
The Interactionist Perspective: Symbolic interationists vie that society is possible because human beings have the ability to communicate with one another by means of symbols. They say that we act toward people, objects, and events on the basis of the meanings we impart to them.
The Functionalism Perspective:
Functionalism is the oldest, and still the dominant, theoretical perspective in sociology and many other social sciences. This perspective is built upon twin emphases: application of the scientific method to the objective social world and use of an analogy between the individual organism and society.
The Functionalist perspective draws its original inspiration from the work of Herbert Spenser And Durkheim in the view of functionalists, society in like a living organism in which each part of its organism contributes to survive. Therefore the functionalist perspective emphasizes the way that parts of a society are structured to maintain its stability.
Spenser compared societies to living organism that any organism has a structure that is it consists of number of interrelated parts, each as a head, limbs, heart, blood veins, nervous system, and so on. Each of these parts has a function to play in the life of the total organism. Spenser further argued that in same way, a society has a structure- it also consists of interrelated parts as family, religion, state, education, economy, and so on. Each of these compone4nts also has a function that contributes to the overall stability of the social system, Modern Structural – functionalism (which is usually referred to as functionalism) does not insist much on the analogy between a society and an organism. However the general idea of society as a system of interrelated parts, persists even now.
Emile Durkheim analysis of religion represented a critical contribution to the development of functionalism, Durkheim focused on the role of religion in reinforcing feeling of solidarity and unity within group life.
The Work of Durkheim , Max Weber and other European sociologists greatly influenced Talcott Parsons (1920-1979), a Harvard University Sociologist. For over four decades, Parsons dominated American Sociology with his advocacy of functionalism. He saw society as a network of connected parts, each of which contributes to the maintenance of the system as a whole.
The functionalist theory assumes that society tends to be an to be an organized, stable, well-disciplined system in which most members agree on basic values.
The Conflict Perspective:
The several social theories that emphasize social conflict have roots in the ideas of Karl Marx (1818-1883), the great German theorist and political activist. The Marxist, conflict approach emphasizes a materialist interpretation of history, a dialectical method of analysis, a critical stance toward existing social arrangements, and a political program of revolution or, at least, reform.
The Conflict perspective derives its strengths and support from the work of Karl Marx, who saw the struggle between the social classes as the major fact of history. In contrast to functionalists emphasis on stability and consensus, conflict sociologists see the social world in the continual struggle. The conflict theorists assume that societies are in a constant state of change, in which conflict is a permanent feature. Conflict does not necessarily imply outright violence. It includes tension, hostility, severe competitions and disagreement over goals and values. Conflict is not deemed here an occasional event that disturbs the smooth functioning of the system. It is regarded as a constant process and an inevitable part of social life.
Karl Marx viewed struggle between social classes as inevitable because of the exploitation workers under capitalism. Expanding on Marx’s work sociologists and other have come to see conflict not merely as a class phenomenon but as a part of everyday life in all society. Thus in studying any culture, organization or social group sociologists want to know “who benefit who suffers and who dominates at the expense of others”. They are concerned with conflicts two women -d men, parents – children, cities – villages, rich and poor, upper castes and the lower castes and so on. In studying such questions conflict theorists are interested in how society institutions including the family, government, religion, education and the may help maintain one privileges of some groups and keep others in a subservient position.
The Interactionist Perspective:
Interactionism is one of the major theoretical perspectives in sociology. This perspective has a long intellectual history, beginning with the German sociologist and economist, Max Weber (1864-1920) and the American philosopher, George H. Mead (1863-1931), both of whom emphasized the subjective meaning of human behavior, the social process, and pragmatism. Although there are a number of versions of interactionist thought, some deriving from phenomenological writings by philosophers, the following description offers a simplified amalgamation of these ideas, concentrating on points of convergence. Herbert Blumer, who studied with Mead at the University of Chicago, is responsible for coining the term, “symbolic interactionism,” as well as for formulating the most prominent version of the theory (Blumer 1969).
Max Weber had emphasized the importance of understanding the social world from the viewpoint if the individuals who act within it. Later developments in this theory have been strongly influenced by Max Weber and by the work of early leaders in the Chicago School of Sociology particularly George Herbert Mead. “The interactionist perspective focuses on social behavior in everyday life. It tries to understand hoe people create and interpreted the situations they experience and it emphasizes how countries instances of social interaction produce the larger structure of society – government , the economy and other social institutions ”. This perspective presumes that it is only through these social behaved of the people that society can come into being. Sociology is ultimately created, maintained, and changed by the social interaction of its members.
The interactionist perspective has a number of loosely linked approaches.
1. Erving Goffman , for example takes a “dramaturgical ” approach to social Interactionist. He sees social life as a form of theater, in which people play different part of role and the impressions they create on others.
2. George Homans prefers to have and “exchange” approach. He stresses on the way people control one another’s behavior by exchanging various forms of rewards and punishments for approved or disapproved behavior.
3. Harold Garfinkel what he calls an “ethno methodological” approach this is only an attempt to find out how people themselves understand the routines of daily life. This approach focuses on how people view, describe and explain shared meanings underling everyday life and social routines.
4. Blumer preferred to stress on the symbolic interaction approach laid down by G H Mead in the thirties. Symbolic Interaction is the Interaction that takes place between people through symbols such as signs, gesture, shared rules, and most important written and spoken language. Much of this interaction take place on a face to face asis, but it can be also in other forms.
These functionalist, the conflict, and the symbolic interactions perspectives not only explained human interaction when they were created many years ago, but can also be applied today to more modern situations. The three sub levels of Theoretical Perspectives help us to better understand how sociologists go about crafting their theories, and how they will experiment to attempt to prove them. While there is no single way to go about producing sociological theories, each one of the sub categories listed in this essay can offer a legitimate explanation for almost any sociological issue. Sociology makes all these perceives since each offers unique insights into the same problem being studied. These perspective overlap as theirs interests overlap.