Structure And Significance Of Different Sociological Theories
Task: Present an in-depth review of various sociological theories, and describe their functions and interaction with individuals.
While submitting a sociological report, a social worker is supposed to have conducted thorough research with the application of different sociological theories. Sociology consists of a variety of sociological theories explaining and critiquing the reasons behind human behaviour, their interactions among one another and institutions, social actions, and society's organization. It is important to consider different sociological theories in the field of social work in order to ascertain the importance of social change. The present sociological theories essay will bring into picture the significance and structure of these theories in solving sociological problems.
Sociologists' work is studying social gatherings and functions, the ways and patterns of interaction, and accordingly come up with a theory, explaining the reason behind it. The sociological theory explains social phenomena and develops a hypothesis about the society which can be tested at any point in time. Theories change basis the scope of issues required to be explained. As per the sociological theories essay, there are two categories of theory; one macro-level theory that relates to bigger issues and more groups and another micro-level theory related to small groups and their relationships. These theories explain the reason behind society's formation and an explanation of changes being made (Dahmen, 2020). There is a constant change in sociological theories, so they are never regarded as complete. The classical sociological theories are still regarded as important breakthroughs in sociology. They are an inspiration behind the later developments made in the theories and writing of different sociological theories essay.
Paradigms of sociology and proponents of Sociological theories essay
Some broad theories in sociology consider different aspects of human life, and they are referred to as paradigms. As per different sociological theories essay, paradigms are a set of theoretical frameworks used in a specific field of study to prepare theories. Different experiments and researches are conducted in order to support these paradigms (Friel, 2017). Three paradigms have dominated the sociological thinking due to their acceptable explanations which include structural functionalism, symbolic interactions and conflict theory.
Structural functionalism is also referred to as functionalism theory which considers society as a complex arrangement of different parts erected to fulfil the social and biological needs of people residing in the society. Hebert Spence was an English philosopher who helped in growing the functionalism theory through his writings during the period 1820 to 1903. He advocated the resemblance of society and the human body by saying that different body organs help in the functioning of the body. Likewise, different parts of society help in society's functioning (Abrahams, 2018). According to Spence’s view, parts of the society include social institutions, beliefs and behaviours behind meeting social needs consisting of governments, family, literacy, healthcare, economy and religion.
Emile Durkheim was a French sociologist interested in finding out the possibility of social order and reason behind society's stability. He took some insights from Spence and propounded his theory. In his sociological theories essay, he stated that society is knitted together through language, shared values and symbols. A person committing suicide is his individual call, but Durkheim believed that there are some social factors that lead a person to commit the act (Carvalho, Cunha, Lima and Carstens, 2017). He studied group and social solidarity and concluded that religion plays an important role in the commission of crimes under different religions. He could share this opinion basis the suicides committed by Europeans. A person practising sociological experiments should not limit himself to the analysis of an individual. Rather, he should consider all the social facts that include morals, laws, values, customs, religious beliefs, fashion, etc., all of which is a part of one's social life. In order to maintain stability in society, it is necessary for all parts to work hand in hand. It will create a healthy society, and such a state was termed as dynamic equilibrium by some of the later sociologists like Parson. Through his sociological theories essay, Durkheim pointed out that each social fact has a function to perform. Sometimes there may be a single function and sometimes more than one (Carvalho, Cunha, Lima and Carstens, 2017). In the case of societal laws, the main motive behind the laws is to protect the society from miscreants, but at the same time, it has to punish the miscreants for their behaviours along with preserving public health.
Through his sociological theories essay, Robert Merton also advocated about structural functionalism and said that there are various functions of social process. The social process can have manifest and latent functions, one which will definitely happen and the other which may happen as a consequence. For example, through college education, one can gain knowledge, get ready for a future career, etc. Going to college also helps make new friends, talk part in extra curriculum activities, etc. The functions which come along the manifest functions can be harmful, beneficial or neutral. When a social process has some unpleasant consequences for society, it is known as dysfunctions. Getting fewer grades, failure, or unable to find the right job is examples of dysfunctions.
Like any other theory, structural functionalism also has some drawbacks and one of them being its inability is an inadequate explanation of the social change. The theory has a circular nature which creates a problem in understanding the functions of the society. People who repeatedly perform an act become a function, but we already know that the person has to do the act and it is already a part of his function; so there nothing new in it. It is said that functions lead to dysfunctions, but this is not true as the later can occur even though there is no manifest function. The proposition contradicts the theory of manifest and latent functions given by Robert Merton in his sociological theories essay (Øversveen, Rydland, Bambra and Eikemo, 2017). Many sociologists disagree with functionalism as a macro-level theory, but they agree that the theory has some usefulness in the mid-level analysis.
Due to limited resources in society, the conflict theory regards society as a competition. The theory has a macro-level approach and could be mostly found in Karl Marx's works during the period 1818 to 1883. He was a German philosopher and sociologist who extensively wrote about society consisting of individuals from different social classes (Sica, 2019). According to his sociological theories essay, individuals compete for material, political and social resources which include food and water, housing, education, employment, pass time, etc. Competition can be found at government institutions, education and at religious institutions. These institutions do not behave equally with all the individuals and thus help in the existence of unequal social structures. Among these institutions, some are able to grab more wealth and resources which make them leaders of their fields. They maintain the society by using power and influence. There are some theorists ho have advocated different variations of this theory.
Ludwig Gumplowicz during the period 1838 to 1909, taking inspiration from Marx argued that civilization is based upon war and conquest. He was a Polish-Australian sociologist who was of the opinion in his sociological theories essay that conflicts arising due to culture and ethnicity led to the demarcation of states controlled by a dominant class that could exert power on others. Similarly, Max Webber, a German sociologist, also agreed with Marx with an exception that conflict may also arise due to unequal political power and social structure (Zelditch, 2018). As defined by him in his sociological theories essay, every group of individuals reacted differently basis their gender, education and race. Class difference played a major role in moderating the people’s reaction to different inequalities. Social mobility and the reputation of those in power also helped in the moderation process.
Georg Simmel, a German sociologist during the period 1858 to 1918 opinionated in his sociological theories essay that conflict can stabilize and create a bond in society. According to him, the magnitude of the conflict changes basis personal participation of the parties' personal participation, the intensity of agreement among the opposite party, and the scarcity of the goals. He showed that working in groups can maintain internal solidarity, amalgamate powers, and reduce disagreements (Zelditch, 2018). Settlement of conflicts can remove hostility and reduce tension, thereby creating a way for future harmony.
During 1930 to 1940, some German philosophers popularly referred as Frankfurt School elaborated about Marxist principles and came up with a critical theory. Critical theory is not just an elaboration of conflict theory with the coverage of sociology, but it includes social sciences and philosophy as well (Leeb, 2018). In their sociological theories essay, the German philosophers explained that critical theory addresses the structural issues that cause inequality. It should explain what is incorrect in the present social reality and identify individuals who can make effective changes. Those people should be capable of setting feasible goals for social change.
Gender or race inequality has also been explained on the lines of critical theory, leading to identifying some institutions exerting power that have helped maintain the inequality among the groups. During 1941 to 2006, Janet S Chafetz advocated about feminist model through his sociological theories essay. The theory explains the reasons behind gender inequality and provides resolution to solve the problem to make some changes in society. On the same lines of critical theory, critical race theory came into existence and pointed out the illegalities of inequalities due to race and racism (Sica, 2019). It regards structural inequality is caused due to wealth, power, white privileges and prestige.
As the critical theory gives too much importance to conflicts without recognizing stability, many sociologists have rejected it. Some stable social structures have progressed gradually rather than altering itself due to conflicts, as stated by the conflict theorists.
It is a micro-level theory focusing on the relationship of individuals residing within the society. It is also called a symbolic interactionism theory. People through communications specify the social world they live in. Herman and Reynolds during the year 1994 specified in their sociological theories essay that human beings actively take part in molding the social world rather than merely performing activities which are necessary.
George H Mead during the year 1863 to 1931 is regarded as the father of symbolic interaction, but there are no related works published by him. It was Herbert Blumer, one of the students of Mead who came up with the name of the theory. According to him, the theory's basic premise was that humans' interaction with certain things is based upon their meanings. Interactions with others in society bring out the real meaning of the things and the interpretation of the things changes as per the people's circumstance (Molana and Adams, 2019). If you love a movie then as per the symbolic interactionism theory, it can be said that someone has told you that the movie is really good during your interaction with him or her.
Sociologists who advocate about symbolic interactionism try to find interaction patterns between individuals. Majority of times, they consider interaction which re one to one. While studying about a political war, a conflict theorist would find the reason behind the war based upon class differences, but symbolic interaction theorists will look for the type of interaction established within individuals in the war. They would analyze the signs and symbols used by the people during the war. Symbols playing an important role in building a society led to the development of a technique named as dramaturgical analysis by Erving Goffman in the year 1922 to 1982 (Leeb, 2018). He took the example of theatre in his sociological theories essay to explain the social interactions and the behavioural patterns in the form of cultural scripts.
Sociological theories based upon symbolic interactionism will majorly use qualitative methods during investigations like interviews, surveys, etc. These methods include symbolic gestures to put down their points. Symbolic interactionism theory is called a constructivism theory as well because of people’s construction about reality. The social constructs are developed based upon the interactions made with others. The constructs that have been accepted by all individuals remain for a longer period of time in society. The proposition is used to understand the deviance in society, although the meaning of the deviance changes from society to society. If in case you find some money on the street, you may give it to a poor, but the other person in your place may keep it with himself (Abrahams, 2018). So giving the money to the needy would be appropriate action, but keeping it with oneself would be deviance. But there may be a person who would keep the money with himself and find out the real owner and give it back to him without helping a needy or giving it back to the local authorities.
As the symbolic interactionism theory majorly depends upon symbolic gestures, so it is difficult to remain objective at all times (Øversveen, Rydland, Bambra and Eikemo, 2017). Some of the theorists in their sociological theories essay have criticized this theory's narrowness, although people who advocate the theory consider it to be one of the strengths.
The three approaches discussed above are sources of evolution for the development of other theories in sociology. Structural functionalism was prevalent after World War II. During that time, some of the sociologists felt that the theory was unable to explain the quick changes coming in society, resulting in the establishment of conflict theory. The theory emphasized on inequalities maintained by social institutions, but it was also rejected, and sociologists mentioned a new theory in their sociological theories essay. The theory was referred to as symbolic interactionism theory which was based on constructivism and interpretation of symbolic gestures.
Abrahams, R.G. (2018). Structural functionalism. John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Carvalho, A. D. P., Cunha, S.K.D., Lima, L.F.D and Carstens, D.D. (2017) The role and contributions of sociological institutional theory to the socio-technical approach to innovation theory. RAI Revista de Administração e Inovação, 14(3).
Dahmen, M. (2020). The Ambivalence of Emancipation. Psychoanalysis between Functional Integration and Dialectical Negativity in US Sociological Theories, post-WW II. Politik- und Sozialwissenschaften.
Friel, D. (2017). Understanding institutions: different paradigms, different conclusions. Revista de Administração, 52(2).
Leeb C. (2018) A Festival for Frustrated Egos: The Rise of Trump from an Early Frankfurt School Critical Theory Perspective. In: Sable M., Torres A. (eds) Trump and Political Philosophy. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-74427-8_16
Molana, H.H and Adams, R.E. (2019) Evaluating the sense of community in the residential environment from symbolic interactionism and architectural design perspectives. Journal of Community Psychology, 47(7).
Øversveen, E., Rydland, H.T., Bambra, C and Eikemo TA. (, 2017). 'Rethinking the relationship between socio-economic status and health: Making a case for sociological theory in health inequality research', Scandinavian Journal of Public Health, 45(2), pp. 103–112. DOI: 10.1177/1403494816686711.
Sica, A. (2019). Classical Sociological Theory. The Wiley Blackwell Companion to Sociology, [online] pp.1-20. Available at:
Zelditch, M., Jr. (2018). Legitimacy theory. In P. J. Burke (Ed.), Contemporary social psychological theories (p. 340–371). Stanford University Press.