Major TheoreticalPerspectives in Sociology GS 138:Introduction to Sociology New Life Theological Seminary Seth Allen
What is a theoretical perspective?Theoretical perspectives are the basic assumptions about how society functions, the role of sociology, and the application of a specific set theories in studying social life.
Examples of these basic assumptions: Society is a unified whole that seeks equilibrium Society is composed of groups competing for scare resources Social life can be measured through observing daily interactions Sociology should be used to enact social change Sociology should be value free
Why Should I Care about Theory? Explanation from the Dalton Conley (Link):
Three Major Perspectives Structural Functionalism-society is an organic being of interrelated parts that work together in harmony Conflict –society is the competition of a few groups of people for scarce resources Symbolic Interactionism-Society is essentially a set of daily interactions that are guided by symbols
Three Perspectives Visualized Believes that sociology Macro orPerspective Major Tenets should enact Micro Focus: social change: Society is an Structural organic whole No MacroFunctionalism of stable parts Society is a set of groups Conflict competing for Yes Macro power and resources Society is the sum of daily Symbolic interactions No MicroInteractionism guided by symbols
Structural Functionalism•Popularized by Americansociologist Talcott Parsons inthe 1940’s•Society is a stablearrangement of parts that fittogether•Social is glued together byshared values Talcott Parsons,1902-1979•Each part contributes to theoverall function•Macro-level focus
Structural Functionalism Visualized Religion Judicial Education System Society The Family
Real World Application: Functionalist Perspective and MarriageThe traditional family structure inwhich the husband was abreadwinner and the wifetended children and didhousework was ‘functional’.Men could earn more incomeand women were naturallybetter at childcare and thus,the traditional family structureworked.
The Conflict Perspective•Originated with the Germaneconomist/historian Karl Marx,the ‘father of communism’•Social groups (i.e. workers andcapitalists, men and women)struggle for scarce resourcesand power•Conflict is normal, stability andorder are not Karl Marx, 1818-1883•Macro-level focus
Conflict Perspective Visualized Men Women European Racial Americans minorities Workers Management Heterosexuals LGBTQ
Real World Application: Conflict Perspective and MarriageThe male breadwinner model benefits men in 2 ways (among others): It reduces potential competition from women in the labor market It downplays womens contributions in domestic workThis model demonstrates that men have the upper hand in society
Symbolic Interactionism•Micro-level analysis of society•Society is ‘played out’ throughdaily interactions between people•People interact through sharedsymbols (physical ones andintangible ones like bodylanguage) which gives meaning insocial interactions•All reality is based on shared Herbert Blumer, 1900-1987subjective agreement
Symbolic Interactionism Visualized Text your You Husband Smile at and Wife friend the barista respond about the at the to your Talk sale at the coffee shop Gap boss’s email Society Give up Move to the You greet your seat next lane on Your on the bus highway for Tuck the neighbor for the the car on exit children on the way elderly ramp into bed to work woman
Real World Application: Symbolic Interactionism and MarriageSymbolic interactionists would suggest that couples negotiate their particular roles. Through verbal and non-verbal interactions, they can negotiate things like:•If and how many children they will have•How domestic chores should be split•How will they divide time for themselves from timewith other couples and friends
In Conclusion…. Questions? Thoughts? Personal observations about the three theoretical perspectives? Which perspective appeals to you the most? Which of these perspectives believes that sociology should be used for social change? Which perspective has a micro-level focus? Which perspective believes that society is comprised of interlocking parts?