Sociological Perspectives Essay

Sociological Perspective Essay Example

The discussion will focus on three major sociological perspectives, which include the functionalist, conflict, and symbolic interactionist theories. Mooney (2012) denotes that the functionalist perspective is based largely on the works of Herbert Spencer, Emile Durkheim, and Robert Merton. According to this perspective, society is a system of intertwined parts that work together in accord to maintain a state of balance and social order for the whole (Mooney, 2012). For example a family provides a surrounding for reproducing, nurturing, and socializing children.

On the other hand, the conflict theory denotes the society as a composition of different groups with diverse interests seeking for power and available resources. According to Karl Marx a typical society undergoes various stages of economic development to meet the needs of its people (Mooney, 2012).

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Significantly, as a society changes from the agricultural phase to industrialization, the goal of meeting the basic need of individuals changes to accumulating additional profits, which describes a capitalist system. Industrialization can results in two classes of people. Firstly, the bourgeoisies decribe individuals who own the means of production. These are the employers who hire individuals to who in their factories and companies. Secondly, the proletariat refers to individuals hired to work in firms and companies to earn a salary or wage.

Mooney (2012) proposed the symbolic interactionist theory, which defines individuals’ identity based on social interaction and their environment. According to the theory, personal traits develop from social interactions and the moral standards of a society. Values that people poses are determined by social norms and beliefs.

The three perspectives are similar as they explain how the society and people influence one another (Harcourt, 2016). However, the theory of conflict slightly differs to the other two concepts as it mainly focuses on the negative impacts of the two variants on one another (Tischler, 2011). Furthermore, functionalists defend the status of social change and believe people cooperate to effect social order.

The conflict perspective is the most compelling because it addresses the social inequalities in society. Every conflict in society emanates from a social exclusion (Brinkerhoff, 2008). In other words, there will be a social conflict between any groups in which there is potential inequality such as racial, gender, religious, political, and economic status among others (Harcourt, 2016).

From a functional perspective, crime and deviance are necessary in achieving and maintaining social order (Tischler, 2011). They emphasize the majority of the socially agreed upon norms and rules, which reinforce their value and social order. The conflict perspective explains crime and deviance in terms of social, political, economic, and material conflicts in society. It explains why people may commit a crime simply to survive in an economically unequal society. Finally, the symbolic interaction perspective states that people engage in crimes such as property stealing because the society has labeled them deviant.

Brinkerhoff (2008) denotes that social norms influence the social structure, which in turn affects how people lead their lives. In essence, they provide the distinction between the majority and the minority with the former being considered normal while the latter abnormal. A person’s location in the social structure determines the level and type of social interaction. People acquire behavior through association and interaction with others. It could be through direct or indirect association and identification with more distant reference groups. The people or groups with whom an individual interacts with determine the type of an individual he/she becomes. According to the strain theory, pressure derived from social factors such as the lack of income and quality education influence individuals to commit crime (Treviño, 2015). The inability to achieve these goals is a driving factor of committing crime.

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Andersen, M. L., & Taylor, H. F. (2008). Sociology: Understanding a diverse society. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Thomson Learning.
Brinkerhoff, D. B. (2008). Essentials of sociology. Belmont, CA: Thomson/Wadsworth.
Harcourt, H. M. (2016). Three major perspectives in sociology. Retrieved from
Mooney, L. A. (2012). Understanding social problems. Toronto: Nelson Education.
Tischler, H. L. (2011). Introduction to sociology. Australia: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.