The Major Sociological Theories

The Major Sociological Theories

Much of what the society today understands about relation and social behavior has emerged; as a result the various socialization theories. As a sociological student, one would have to spend much of the study time engaging with these theories. There are many of these theories, with some having fallen out of use while some remain at the center of explaining social issues. Despite the fact that the argument has fallen out of favor they still have an important role in offering insight and understanding of the social concept. Some theorists have often argued that society and social thought are quite complex and at times hard to explain. However, with these theories, it has become easier to explain social issues.  Some of the prominent sociological theories include the symbolic interaction, conflict, and functionalism, feminist’s critical and labeling theory.

Symbolic interaction theory

The focus of this perspective is to look at ant symbols and details in daily life and define the meaning of these symbols concerning everyday human living. The basis of the theory is Max Weber who stated that human being act based on the interpretation of the meaning of the world around them. However, George H Meand, introduced another perspective to the concept (Denzin, 2017). The new definition often states that the actions of people depend on the purpose that they attach to symbols and interpretation of these symbols. For example, in a vocal conversation, the spoken words are the basic symbols and help to provide a subjective understanding of the issue.

The application of the symbolic interaction in American society can be present in the institution of marriage. The symbols in such an institution might include the wedding bands, wows, weeding case, white bridal dress, music and the church ceremony. Each of these aspects plays an important role of representing a given aspect in the institution of marriage. For instances, the circular ring might symbolize the never-ending love. However, there are cases where the fault in communication might result in the differing perception of the same symbols.

However, there are still critics have often argued that symbolic interactions do not present the macro level of human interactions. The theory often does not show the bigger picture. They say that the focus on the small issue (tree) might often fail to present the bigger problem of the “forest” therefore, the failure of these theory to perform the bigger picture often leads to the need to look for other methods.

The functionalist perspective

The perspective looks at the society as being made of small aspects that eventually contributes to the functioning of the community as a whole. For instance, the state will spend money educating children who will finally get jobs and pay taxes that the government would depend on to run its functions. The perspective seems to look at the society as composed of several individual aspects. However, these different components do not work in isolation since each of them contributes to the wholeness of the community.  If a particular function of the society fails, then the society would have to look for an alternative method to try and restore the order (Denzin, 2017). The supporters of this theory argue that the community is held in place by social consensus where members agree to work together to achieve the best for everyone. One of the proponents of this theory is Emile Durkheim. He proposes and the number of frameworks that provide ground for the functioning of the method.

One of the frameworks is mechanical solidarity. In this case, the people are held together because they share similar values, beliefs and engage in similar jobs. Such a model is standard in simple society such as one where people engage in cattle herding.

There is also the other form of a society that is termed as solidarity. In this form of organization, cohesion comes from the fact that people live independently. However, they still hold on to values and beliefs and engage in varying tasks. The functionalism perspective took its shape in American society during the 1950s and 40s. There was also a difference in the way the concept was applied in the different organization. In America, the theory focused on human behavior while in Europe the focus was more on the inner workings of the social order. Some of the proponents of the argument were Robert Merton that sought to look at human functions as manifest and the latent functions. The manifest functions are intentional and obvious. On the other hand, the potential is unintentional and not noticeable.

However, the critics of this theory argue that it has resulted in issuing such divorce. Besides, the critics have pointed out that it seems to support the status quo thus leading to complacency among members of the society (Stanley et al. 2016) The theory often does not require people to get out and try to make a change in the community. Instead, the focus is to allow the society to operate in the way it is because at some point it will eventually compensate for itself.

The conflict perspective

The theory emerged from Karl max view on the issue of class struggle and seemed to look at the society from a different light. The view it presents appears to be entirely different from the functionalism or the symbolic views. The focus of this view is on the collection and the negative aspect that led to the daily changes in the society. The discussion of this theory is entirely different from the functionalism since it does not seem to support the idea of the status quo. In fact, the theory stipulates that the rich might exercise some form of control over the poor. In this case, the argument seems to support that there should be inequality in the society since people can never be equal.

The American society did not accept the conflict theory and opted for the functionalism. However, during the 1960s, the sociologists in the country had to focus their efforts towards the conflict theory. They also helped to explain the Marx idea that stated that the economy is the crucial fact that seems to affect the aspects to conflict theory (Weiß 2017). The basis of this theory is that we live in a society that has an unequal interest that would clash in various points. The constant competition between the multiple groups thus leads to the ever-changing society. However, the critics have often argued that the theory seems to support the capitalism where those one that has it are the ones that can control the society.


Feminism is one of the contemporary theories that seek to offer under on the status of men and women in society. The focus of this theory has always been to better the lives of women. The primary discussion of the theory is on giving women a voice and highlighting the ways that women might be of a better contribution to society. For many years women have often been left out in the discourses of the role they play contributing to the community. Therefore, theory seeks to ensure that women might be a part of the essential elements of society.

It is evident that society is made of social beings that interact with different levels with differing interest. The fact that these interest would often clash in various areas often requires that there is a way to provide a level ground so that people can interact without any problems. The sociological theories thus help to provide an understanding of how society communicates. With the knowledge of these theories, one can be able to explain and even solve a problem that might emerge in the community. In most case, human issues would often arise as a result of conflicting interest. Therefore, one can apply any of these theories to explain and thus solve the conflict. However, these theories do not exist in exclusion. At times there is a need to use the different methods together towell understand a situation thoroughly. It has emerged that each of the theory has its demerits. Therefore, they cannot be applied in isolation. In the cases where they fail the other theories would come in and offer an explanation.




Denzin, N. K. (2017). The research act: A theoretical introduction to sociological methods. Routledge.

Stanley, I. H., Hom, M. A., Rogers, M. L., Hagan, C. R., & Joiner Jr, T. E. (2016). Understanding suicide among older adults: a review of psychological and sociological theories of suicide. Aging & mental health20(2), 113-122.

Weiß, A. (2017). Sociological theories of global inequalities.