Sociology, as a science seeking to explain various phenomena in society, can take three major perspectives or theories. As a matter of fact, there are many occurrence, changes, and behaviors that take place in the world; hence, theories have been developed to elaborate and make us understand various aspects in society. The three major theories adopted in elaborating social order, and the relationships between various parts of society are: the conflict theory, the symbolic interactions theory and the functionalist theory (Ferrante, 2011). These theories are different from one another in the sense that they give a different approach to the study of society, and explains various aspects of society in different perspectives.. Much as they are different, the perspectives are similar to the scope that they both hunt for to explain why community is the way it is, as well as what the forces behind social order are. The theories analyze the society at both the micro level and the macro level. Micro level focuses on the study of minute aspects and patterns in the society. On the contrary, the macro level analysis focuses on the study on how big social variables interact. This paper seeks to explain the above mentioned perspectives, the extent to which they are similar, as well as the manner that they vary from one another.
Arguably, the symbolic interactions perspective attempts to explain the society through analyzing and trying to interpret micro-level symbols used by the members of society. The theory looks into such tiny symbols as the usage of words, as well as asserting meaning. One word can have many meanings to different societies. Words are classified as symbols since anything can be a representation as long as it is intended to mean something other than itself (Taylor & Andersen, 2008). Members of the same society should therefore interpret one symbol the same way, this implies that a symbol need to be given the same meaning. This implies that, in effective communication between two parties, the receiver of the message should understand a message the way the sender expected them to understand it. In a wedding for instance, both parties should interpret the symbolic use of rings the same way. This theory has been criticized as neglecting the macro-level variables of society.
Undeniably, every society needs to carry out its activities in order to exist. In this case, every aspect of society is given some level of importance because it contributes to societal progress. The functionalist perspective works on the premise that each and every element of society is inter-reliant. This theory argues that no aspect of society is independent and that all aspects of the society contribute to the societal well being. This perspective holds that it is this interdependence that brings about order, efficiency and permanence (Ferrante, 2011). A good illustration to this theory is the manner in which the state relates to its citizens. The government caters for the educational needs of children who grow to be responsible patriots who pay taxes to keep the state stable. Such taxes are then used to educate others, and the cycle continues. This theory is based on the presumption of an implicit social consensus. This consensus is based on two types of solidarity in society: mechanical and organic types of solidarity.
Unlike the symbolic interactions theory that takes a micro-level approach to explaining societal phenomena, the conflict theory is a macro-level perspective. Like the functionalist theory, this perspective focuses on the macro-societal variables. The theory is based almost entirely on the works and literature of Karl Marx. This perspective holds that the social order is imposed on the poor and the weak by the rich, powerful and influential people from the society’s elite (Taylor & Andersen, 2008). The argument here is: societal phenomena are results of the inter-class struggles. In the contemporary world though, it is not necessarily the struggle between the rich and the poor but rather the struggle between two groups or classes that are likely to hold different opinions. For instance, this theory may be explained by the differences and conflicts between two or more races, tribes or religions.
Looking at the theories from a reality point of view, the conflict theory is the most practical and applicable in real life. The theory is a macro-level analytic concept. As such, it embraces all aspects of society. Practically, every aspect of society experiences some imbalances and challenges. The life in society has never been perfect even if its members try to perform to their best. As opposed to the other theories that ignore the negative side of life, this theory embraces all aspects of societal activities-both positive and negative. The stability and progress in society is achieved after conflicts have taken place, since it shows the weak points in society that need to be focused on. Additionally, this theory is more realistic than all the others because it uses classes of society. All societies in the contemporary world are metropolitan and have different classes. These classes are in constant conflict over the limited resources.
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Taylor, H & Andersen, M. (2008). Sociology: Understanding A Diverse Society (4th Edition.) Belmont. Thomson Wadsworth
Weitz Et Al. (2008). Essentials of Sociology (7th Edition). Belmont. Thomson Wadsworth