A perspective in simple terms is a way in which we view things, while a theory is a set of proposition that tries to explain a phenomenon. Three essential methods in sociology give us a different perspective on how we look at the social world. These theories are Functionalism, Conflict Theory and Interactions among other theories. These theories main aim is to explain social life.

Functionalist Perspective

This perspective is mainly drawn from the works of Emile Durkheim, Robert Merton, Hebert Spencer and Alcott Parsons. According to this theory, society is viewed as a system of interconnected parts that work in collaboration to achieve social balance. Each institution in the community is believed to play a crucial role in maintaining balance. A good example is a family setting which is the most fundamental institution in society. The family provides a platform for reproduction, nurturing and also socialising. Politics, on the other hand, offers a platform for governing society. Economics provides a channel for producing, distributing and consumption. Religion plays an essential role in instilling morals. Education also provides a platform for transmitting knowledge and skills to members of the society same to all other institutions in society. They all play a crucial role in bringing balance.

The functionalist perspective gives a lot of emphasis on the interconnection of social institutions. An example is single parenting or both parents working is an issue in the family setting but affects education institutions. Most children from single-parent families or those that both parents are busy with their careers perform poorly since parents are rarely present to assist in homework due to divided responsibility. Another example is the change in technology.  Once the technology changes, employees have to get training to learn the new advancements. An increase in the number of women working has forced the political institutions to come up with laws that protect women from discrimination and sexual harassment.

Functional and dysfunctional are common terms used by functionalist in describing effects on social elements on society. Functional contribute positively to social stability while dysfunctional contributes negatively or in other words disrupt the balance.  In society, some activities are both functional and dysfunctional. A good example is a crime which is dysfunctional to peace, but on the other hand, it brings about heightened awareness, and social cohesion.

There are two different types of functions that sociologists have identified. One is manifest, and the other is latent. Manifest function meets the intended consequences or those that are recognised. While latent is about hidden or unintended consequences. A good example is the tertiary learning institutions. Its main aim is to transmit education, but it happens that most students get their mates there which are a latent function.

Conflict Perspective

The main difference between the functionalist perspective and the conflict perspective is that the conflict perspective views the society as a composition of different interest groups that are scrambling for power and available resources while the functionalist perspective views it as a composition of various institutions that work together for stability.

The conflict perspective attempts to explain various aspects of the social world by having a close look at how different social arrangement favours certain groups bringing about social hierarchy’s. A good example is a feminist theory which argues that we live in a patriarchal where men control the hierarchical system of organisation. The primary demand of most feminist theories is a change in economic, political, social and economic structures to favor women.

The conflict perspective can be traced to the classic works of Karl Marx. According to him, all societies undergo a process of economic growth and development. They all evolve from agricultural to industrial. The main concern of getting financial needs changes to the concern of gaining profits. On the other hand, industrialisation leads to the formation of two social classes, the bourgeoisie who are the owners of businesses, factories and farms and the proletariats who are mostly workers and receive low wages and can’t afford the lifestyle of the wealthy.

The higher class main focus is to maintain their position in society by influencing politics and other social institutions with the aim of protecting and limiting access to resources and privileges. While the low class, on the other hand, struggle and do anything that is possible to gain access to the higher class resources, but it’s not easy since the more senior class have conquered most loopholes for growth. The society is thus divided into the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots.’ Marx suggested that religion is the consolation of most people. Religion tries to sooth and distresses the poor by encouraging them that those are worldly concerns and they should not focus on them but rather lead a morally upright life and get a reward of going to heaven.

Interactionist perspective

Both the functionalist and the conflict perspective featured a broader aspect of society by looking at institutions that have a significant influence on the social world in other words macro-sociology. The problems addressed to try to show the impact of social issues on various institutions. While the interactionist perspective focuses on micro-sociology by looking into the psychological dynamics of individuals. It mainly focuses on the interaction of individuals in smaller groups.

The micro-sociological perspective is significantly influenced by the works of Charles Cooley, George Simmel and George Herbert Mead among other philosophers. They all claimed that interactionism is are in most cases affects human behaviour through meanings that are created and further maintained via symbolic interactions. Sociologist W.I.Thomas once suggested that human beings respond to a definition of a situation instead of responding to the objective of the situation itself. He significantly advocated for emphasis on the importance of meanings and interpretations of social behaviour.

“Looking glass self” is a theory of Cooley. The theory tries to explain that our interaction with other people shapes our personality and self-identity.  We develop self-concept by looking at how we are treated by others, the level of respect, how they label us and how they view us. It becomes a reflection of us.

Feminist Perspective

The emergence of feminist theories can be traced back to the year 1794 where several feminist publications came up which included the works of Mary Wollstonecraft “A Vindication of the Rights of a Woman”, “Ain’t I a Woman’ among other publications. The main aim of such publications was to advocate for rights of women.  The believed that a woman has great ability and can perform tasks that are considered only men can do. Previously, women could not vote, own property. Women were viewed as assets of men, and a man has all the power over a woman and is in a position to curtail any freedom he wishes.

The theory of feminism has gone through three waves. The first wave is which occurred in the nineteenth century to the early twentieth century where feminist activities happened in the UK and U.S. focusing on the same contracts and property rights.  The second wave occurred in the 1960s and lasted to the 1980s. It was a continuation of the first wave. It involved The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan’s, The Second sex by a French author Simone, and The Women Liberation of USA. The third wave began around 1990 with the aim of mending failures of the second wave and also to respond to the backlash on initiatives that were put in place by the second wave. It even tries to challenge second wave emphasis on the middle-class white woman.


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