SOC 280 The Three Main Sociological Perspectives

March 8, 2022
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SOC 280 The Three Main Sociological Perspectives

SOC 280 The Three Main Sociological Perspectives

This week, you read about the major theoretical perspectives in sociology (functionalist, conflict, feminist, queer, and symbolic interactionist).

Write an essay defining and interpreting each perspective. Paraphrase each perspective, using your textbook as a resource. Do not copy the definitions from the text, but rather paraphrase in your own words and provide citations in APA format where necessary. Additionally, briefly explain the importance of the perspectives to the field of sociology.

Your essay should be 1–2 pages in length. Compose your essay in APA format with a title page, introduction, conclusion, and references section. Cite at least one scholarly reference in APA format. An abstract is not necessary.

Theories in sociology provide us with different perspectives with which to view our social world.
A perspective is simply a way of looking at the world. A theory is a set of interrelated
propositions or principles designed to answer a question or explain a particular phenomenon; it
provides us with a perspective. Sociological theories help us to explain and predict the social
world in which we live.

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SOC 280 The Three Main Sociological Perspectives

SOC 280 The Three Main Sociological Perspectives

Sociology includes three major theoretical perspectives: the functionalist perspective, the
conflict perspective, and the symbolic interactionist perspective (sometimes called the
interactionist perspective, or simply the micro view). Each perspective offers a variety of
explanations about the social world and human behavior.
Functionalist Perspective
The functionalist perspective is based largely on the works of Herbert Spencer, Emile Durkheim,
Talcott Parsons, and Robert Merton. According to functionalism, society is a system of
interconnected parts that work together in harmony to maintain a state of balance and social
equilibrium for the whole. For example, each of the social institutions contributes important
functions for society: Family provides a context for reproducing, nurturing, and socializing
children; education offers a way to transmit a society’s skills, knowledge, and culture to its youth;
politics provides a means of governing members of society; economics provides for the
production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services; and religion provides moral
guidance and an outlet for worship of a higher power.
The functionalist perspective emphasizes the interconnectedness of society by focusing
on how each part influences and is influenced by other parts. For example, the increase in singleparent and dual-earner families has contributed to the number of children who are failing in
school because parents have become less available to supervise their children’s homework. As a
result of changes in technology, colleges are offering more technical programs, and many adults
are returning to school to learn new skills that are required in the workplace. The increasing
number of women in the workforce has contributed to the formulation of policies against sexual
harassment and job discrimination.
Functionalists use the terms functional and dysfunctional to describe the effects of social
elements on society. Elements of society are functional if they contribute to social stability and
dysfunctional if they disrupt social stability. Some aspects of society can be both functional and
dysfunctional. For example, crime is dysfunctional in that it is associated with physical violence,
loss of property, and fear. But according to Durkheim and other functionalists, crime is also
functional for society because it leads to heightened awareness of shared moral bonds and
increased social cohesion.
Sociologists have identified two types of functions: manifest and latent (Merton 1968).
Manifest functions are consequences that are intended and commonly recognized. Latent
functions are consequences that are unintended and often hidden. For example, the manifest
function of education is to transmit knowledge and skills to society’s youth. But public
elementary schools also serve as babysitters for employed parents, and colleges offer a place for
young adults to meet potential mates. The baby-sitting and mate-selection functions are not the
intended or commonly recognized functions of education; hence they are latent functions.

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