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Ways of Seeing-A Brief Overview and Analysis of the Three Dominant Sociological Approaches


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Ways of Seeing-A Brief Overview and Analysis of the Three Dominant Sociological Approaches

  1. 1. “Ways of Seeing”: A Brief Overview and Analysis of the Three Dominant Sociological Approaches Sarah Perry Johnson, MSW Antelope Valley College Sociology 101 Spring 2015
  2. 2. Introduction: “Ways of Seeing” in Sociology
  3. 3. Sociology: Meaning and Purpose • Sociology=the study of society and its structures, institutions, and processes ▫ Socio- means society or people ▫ -logy means study of • Sociologists have the job of describing, explaining, and interpreting social phenomena. • Sociologist use theoretical paradigms in order to frame their way of seeing the world.
  4. 4. Macro and Micro-level Orientation • The field of Sociology formulates theoretical perspectives that reflect a certain level of analysis (orientation) and espouse a certain view of society. • Two levels of analysis exist: ▫ Macro-level ▫ Micro-level
  5. 5. Macro-and Micro-level orientation (Continued) Macro-level orientation • Broad focus on social structures that shape the society • “Big picture” view ▫ Social structures ▫ Societal institutions ▫ Political, economic, social structures • Theories that reflect a macro-level orientation: ▫ Structural Functionalism ▫ Social Conflict
  6. 6. Macro-and Micro-level orientation (Continued) Micro-level orientation • Closer focus on social interaction in specific situations • “Small picture” view ▫ Individual interactions ▫ Social transactions • Theory that reflect a micro-level orientation: ▫ Symbolic Interaction
  7. 7. “The Big Three”: Sociology’s Three Dominant Paradigms
  8. 8. Important Definitions • Approach=an overarching perspective or viewpoint which is used to examine various facets of society • Theory=a set of logically interrelated statements that attempt to describe, explain, or predict social phenomena Each of the three theoretical approaches reflect a certain view of society. • Structural-Functional Approach: a theoretical approach that views society as “a complex system whose parts work/function together to promote solidarity and stability” (Macionis, 2008:14) • Social-Conflict Approach: a theoretical approach that view society as “an arena of inequality that generates conflict and change” (Macionis 2008:15) • Symbolic Interaction Approach: a theoretical approach that views society as “the product of the everyday interaction of individuals” (Macionis 2008:17)
  9. 9. Structural Functional Approach Structural-Functional Approach • Macro-level Theory • Classification: Positivist • Explores how social structures work together to help society operate • Sociologist’s Role: Scientist, Observer • Theorists: ▫ Auguste Comte ▫ Emile Durkheim ▫ Herbert Spencer ▫ Robert K. Merton
  10. 10. Structural Functional Approach (Continued) Themes: Order Consensus Organism analogy Norm Maintenance • Major Assumptions of Theory/Strengths of the Theory: ▫ Society is seen as a system composed of interrelated parts that are static. ▫ The various parts of the society works to establish and maintain social order. ▫ There is consensus amongst society’s members regarding the values and norms of society, which leads to the maintenance of the status quo. (Macionis 2008)
  11. 11. Structural Functional Approach (Continued) • Major Critiques of theory: ▫ Inequality is not viewed as a problem but is functional for society. ▫ This theory is not open to social change and does not address issues of power and conflict. ▫ This theory supports the maintenance of the status quo and incorrectly asserts that there is widespread consensus amongst the members of society.
  12. 12. Social-Conflict Approach Social-Conflict Approach • Macro-level Theory • Classification: Evaluative/Non-Scientific • Explores how inequality creates conflict and causes change • Sociologist’s Role: Activist, Participant • Theorists: ▫ Karl Marx (Marxism/Class-Conflict) ▫ W.E.B. Du Bois (Race-Conflict) ▫ Harriet Martineau (Feminism, Gender-Conflict)
  13. 13. Social-Conflict Approach (Continued) Themes: Conflict Inequality Power Differentials Competition for Scarce Resources • Major Assumptions of Theory/Strengths of the Theory: ▫ Society is seen as a system that is characterized by class, race, and gender inequality. ▫ An imbalance of power creates a society that benefits certain categories of people and harms others; the maintenance of the status quo gives advantage to some and disenfranchises others. ▫ Social inequality causes conflict that eventually leads to social change. (Macionis 2008)
  14. 14. Social-Conflict Theory (Continued) Major Critiques of Theory: ▫ This theory has a past overemphasis on class conflict (Marxism). ▫ This theory ignores evidence of social stability, shared values, and equitable exchange in society. ▫ This theory has limited scientific objectivity due to the participatory nature of the sociologist’s role as an activist.
  15. 15. Symbolic Interactionist Approach Symbolic-Interactionist Approach • Micro-level theory • Classification: Interpretive • Explores how people construct reality in everyday interactions via symbols • Sociologist’s Role: Interpreter • Theorists: ▫ Max Weber ▫ Erving Goffman
  16. 16. Symbolic Interactionist Approach (Continued) Themes: Pluralism Subjectivity Interaction Interpretation of Symbols Social Construction of Reality • Major Assumptions of Theory/Strengths of the Theory: ▫ Society is constantly changing and is an ongoing process. ▫ Individuals interact in various settings using symbolic communication. ▫ The social realities experienced by individuals are variable and ever- changing.
  17. 17. Symbolic Interactionist Approach Major Critiques of Theory: ▫ This theory has a myopic focus on small-scale social interactions and is too psychologically based in its approach to social analysis. ▫ This theory has an overemphasis on individuals, thus creating a lack of generalizability to macro- level social structures. ▫ This theory does not address or explain large-scale processes, the origins of social change, and power differentials.
  18. 18. References Macionis, John J. 2008. Sociology. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc.