Monday, 6 February 2017

COLLEGE ESSAYS (Sociology) Compare and contrast the main sociological perspectives and explain the historical routes of these perspectives.




There are many sociological perspectives. This essay will be looking at the 4 main perspectives each described below:



Functionalism – Theories in Sociology and social anthropology which explain institutions primarily in the functions they perform. To talk of the function of something is to account for a social activity or phenomenon by referring to its consequences for the operation of some other social activity institution or society as a whole. ( Jary, D and Jary, J 2005)


Marxism – For Marx, the way that people live is, in may ways, a consequence of the arrangements they make for survival and the methods of producing and distributing food will to some extent determine the lifestyle, religious belief, custom and so on. (Marsh, I and Kealing, M 2006 (1996))


Postmodernism – Postmodernism is largely a reaction to the assumed certainty of scientific, or objective, efforts to explain reality. In essence, it stems from a recognition that reality is not simply mirrored in human understanding of it, but rather, is constructed as the mind tries to understand its own particular and personal reality. (www.pbs.org accessed 03 November 2010)



Symbolic Interactionism – A leading American social psychological theory which focuses on the ways in which meanings emerge through interaction. ( Marshall, G and Scott, J 2005)



Functionalism and Marxism are both considered to be Social Systems in that they are structuralist, macro perspectives and also deterministic. They believe that we are moulded by society and it's beliefs. Symbolic Interactionism and Postmodernism are considered to be Social Actions in that they are interpretive, micro perspectives based on free-will.



The Functionalism perspective was introduced by Émile Durkheim (1858-1917). Functionalism looks at the basis of social order and how it is maintained. The analogy that is best known for this perspective is that of the human body. Each part of the body plays an important role in keeping the rest of the body functioning properly. This perspective relies on social solidarity and everyone working as a 'unit' in order to keep everyone happy.



The Marxist perspective came is named after it's founder, Karl Marx (1818-1883). It looks at social groups and social classes. Marxism is a conflict theory. It shows society as an infrastructure shaped by a superstructure. The Superstructure is run by the 'bourgoise' and the infrastructure is run by the proletariate. Marxism believes that society is lulled into a false consciousness and until that sense of consciousness is realised then society will remain the same. Marxism is a deterministic theory. All of our futures are 'pre-determined' and we simply choose a path that takes us to an end goal that is the same whichever route we take.



The Post Modern perspective believes that the other theories are no longer relevant. The fact that society has changed means that the other theories are made redundant. The post modern perspective has become more influential since the 1980s. Post modernists believe that social behaviour is no longer shaped by people's backgrounds. They believe that people have more choice and free will. (Haralambos, 2008)



Symbolic interactionism was first introduced by Max Weber (1864-1920) and George H Mead (1863-1931). It is another theory that believes in free will. Symbolic interactionism focuses on how people interact with one another. The theory believes that we are all 'social actors' and that we give a continuous performance in the way that we present ourselves. It focuses on the subjective aspects of social life as opposed to the objective aspects. Unfortunately, symbolic interactionism focuses on small scale interactions and tends to ignore wider society.

Bibliography: 
(Sociology in focus. Talor, P et al 2004) and (http://web.grinnell.edu/courses/soc/s00/soc111-01/IntroTheories/Symbolic.html accessed 09 November)

Haralambos, M (2008) Sociology: themes and perspectives, Collins Educational, Glasgow

Jary, D and Jary, J (2005) Collins Dictionary of Sociology. Harper Collins, Glasgow

Marsh, I & Kealing, M. (2005) Sociology: Making sense of Society. Prentice Hall, New Jersey.

Marshall, G and Scott, J (2005) Oxford dictionary of Sociology, Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Talor, P et al (2004). Sociology in focus. Causeway Press Ltd, Ormskirk.
http://web.grinnell.edu/courses/soc/s00/soc111-01/IntroTheories/Symbolic.html

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