Theoretical PerspectivesHow Sociologists Attempt to Make Sense of the World We Live In
Objectives• Students will identify the three major theoretical perspectives in sociology today.
Vocabulary• theoretical perspective: a set of assumptions accepted as true.• functionalism: approach that emphasizes the contributions made by each part of society.• manifest functions: intended and recognized consequences of an aspect of society.• latent functions: unintended and unrecognized consequences of an aspect of society.• dysfunction: negative consequences of an aspect of society.• conﬂict perspective: approach emphasizing the role of conﬂict, competition, and constraint within a society.• power: the ability to control the behavior of others.• symbol: anything that stands for something else and has an agreed upon meaning attached to it.• symbolic interactionism: approach that focuses on the interactions among people based on mutually understood symbols.• dramaturgy: approach that depicts human interaction as theatrical performances.
Role of Theoretical Perspectives• Perception is the way the brain interprets an image or event • Also how you interpret the meaning of an image or event• Which image you see depends on your focus • Your perspective inﬂuences what you see • One perspective of an event vs. another
Theoretical Perspective• Set of assumptions about an area of study • About the workings of society• Sometimes theories are competing or conﬂicting with each other• Sociology has three overarching perspectives: functionalism, conﬂict theory and symbolic interactionism
Functionalism• Emphasizes the contributions (functions) of each part of a society• Family, economy, religion, etc.• See parts of a society as an integrated whole • Change in one part leads to changes in others • e.g. Major change in the economy may change the family (Industrial Revolution)• Consensus on values - most Americans believe in desirablity of some values
Stability• Functionalism assumes societies return to a state of stability after some upheaval has occurred• 1960s: Student unrest and protest • American public no longer accepts involvement in all wars as legitimate • Universities are now more responsive to students’ needs and goals • Public is more aware of the importance of environmental protection• Revolutionized America?
Functional Aspects• Most aspects of society exist to promote a society’s survival and welfare.• Two kinds of positive function: manifest and latent• Manifest functions are intended and recognized (schools: manifest function ➙ teach math skills)• Latent functions are unintended and unrecognized (schools: latent functions ➙ develop close friendships)• Negative consequences: dysfunction (bureaucracies)
Conﬂict Perspective• Emphasizes conﬂict, competition, change and constraint within society• Reverse of functionalism • Functionalism emphasizes ways people cooperate to reach common goals• Conﬂict perspective focuses on disagreements in society or between societies
Power• Social living is a contest; those who have power have the most wealth, power and privileges • Have the most motivation to constrain, or limit the less powerful• As balance of power among groups shift, change occurs • e.g. women’s movement
Symbolic Interactionism• Charles Cooley and George Mead, late 19th century sociologists developed the insight that members of groups inﬂuence each other’s behavior• Symbolic Interactionism focuses on actual interaction among people• Focuses on symbols, that represent something else• American ﬂag, school mascot, etc
Symbolic Interactionism• Formal deﬁnitions of symbols that convey meanings about the group • Interactions based on mutually understood symbols
Three Assumptions• Three assumptions central to this perspective: • We learn the meaning of a symbol from the way we see others reacting to it (Latin American whistling) • Once we learn the meaning of symbols, we base our interaction on them. (Avoid encore) • We use the meanings of symbols to imagine how others will respond to our behavior (internal conversations)
Dramaturgy• To better understand human interaction, sociologists developed dramaturgy• Depict human interaction a theatrical performance• Presentation of self; or impression managment
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