According to Kendall (2012), sociology is “the systematic study of human society and social interaction. ” (p. 5). It is the study of societies with emphasis on modern and complex societies. Sociology is also the study of the development and structure of the human society. It is concerned with group activities such as how people interact with each other and their behavior during the interaction. Sociology includes four major sociological perspectives: functionalism, conflict theory, symbolic interactionism, and post-modernism.
All of these theories in sociology equip us with different perspectives with which to view the social world. Each of the four major theoretical perspectives offers a range of explanations about the human behavior and social world. The functionalist perspective is often referred to as functionalism or structural functionalism. It is based on the works of Emile Durkheim, Talcott Parsons, and Robert K. Merton. According to Kendall (2012), the functionalist perspective is “based on the assumption that society is stable, orderly system” (p. 6). Within this perspective, a society is composed of interrelated parts, each of which serves a function and contributes to the overall stability of the society. All social institutions such as families contribute essential functions to society. These social institutions include the family, religion, education, government, and the economy. For example, there is a division of labor between husband and wife. The division of labor between men and women is important for the social order and family stability.
The husband or the men performs “men’s work” such as decision-making responsibilities in the family and outside of the family such as the workplace to support the family. On the other hand, the wife or women is responsible for the house-work, caring for the children, and providing emotional support for the family. If anything happens to one of the five social institutions, all other institutions are somewhat affected, and the stable system is no longer stable or functions properly (Kendall, 2012) According to the conflict perspective, the different factions in society are focus on the continuous power struggle for control of scarce resources.
The conflict perspective tries to show that society creates conflict to the gender and class inequalities that are present in everyday life. Conflict can take the form of negotiations, politics, family arguments and disputes about financial matters. This particular theoretical perspective is based on the works of Georg Simmel, Karl Marx, and Max Weber. The three sociologists focus on the inevitability of conflicts between social groups. Supporters of the conflict perspective view social life as an unceasing power struggle among social groups.
The conflict perspective is about those in power wanting to stay in power and those not in powers wanting to gain power. Throughout history, there have been many battles waged in the desire to gain power such as the proletariat, bourgeoisie, working class, and upper class (Kendall, 2012). The symbolic interactionist perspective is a micro level analysis, which focuses on small social groups rather than largescale social institutions. It is based on the works of George Herbert Mead and Herbert Blumer.
Symbolic interactionism tends to view things by paying full attention to the micro level. According to Kendall (2012), symbolic interactionist perspectives is where society is the sum of the interactions of individuals and groups” (p. 19) People uses the symbolic interactionist perspective focus on the process of interaction and the part that symbols play in giving meaning to human conversation. According to Kendall (2012), a symbol is “anything that meaningfully represents something else. Some examples of symbols include signs, gestures, written language, and shared values” (p. 20).
Basically, this particular perspective centers on the relationship between interactions and symbols. Symbols are very essential in this perspective because the use of symbols helps people assign meanings to people and things. For people to be able to understand human behavior, people have to be able to know the meaning of a certain behavior for a person. Through interactions with others, meaning is created in the interactions we have with one another in sharing our interpretations of symbols. For example, a ring on the left ring finger indicates a couple’s engagement or marriage.
Symbolic action may take the form of facial gestures, tone of voice, gestures, and posture. People interact with a variety of symbols, forming long-lasting and short term relationships around them. The main goal of social interactions with one another is to create shared meaning (Kendall, 2012). According to Kendall (2012), postmodern perspectives are when “existing theories have been unsuccessful in explaining social life in contemporary societies that are characterized by post industrialization, consumerism, and global communications” (p. 20).
Postmodern social theorists reject the other three theoretical perspectives, which are the functionalist, conflict, and symbolic interactionist perspective (Ritzer, 2011). According to Kendall (2012), this theory is “based on the assumption that the rapid social change that occurs as societies move from modern to postmodern conditions has a harmful effect on people” (p. 21). One affect of the postmodern perspective is the significant decline in the influence of social institutions such as the religion and family on people’s lives due to pursue of individual freedom.
Another reason is that people do want the structural constraints that are imposed by the five social institutions because they do not want to be exposed to a higher levels of stress that produce fear, depression, and anxiety (Kendall, 2012). From November 30 to December 11, 2015, three representatives from the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights spent 10 days in the United States. The delegation of human rights experts visited Texas, Oregon, and Alabama to evaluate a wide range of the United States policies, education, health care ystems, and the status of women relative to men in the country.
Their missions was to determine the extend to which U. S women “enjoy international human rights. ” The representatives found women in the United States to be significantly lacking in human rights based on international standards. Their report states, “In the US, women fall behind international standards as regards their public and political representation, their economic and social rights and their health and safety protections” (Cole, 2016).
They also found the United States to be lagging far behind international human rights standards in a number of areas, including the underrepresentation in politics, maternity leave, gender pay gap, and affordable child care. For example, the delegation of human rights experts pointed out that women hold less than 20 percent of Congressional seats. Their report states that the United States ranks 72 among all countries in the world for representation in the legislature.
Lastly, the human rights experts stressed that all women are the victims of the missing rights, those who are poor, immigrant women, Afro-American, Hispanic ethnic minorities, LGBT women, and women with disabilities (Cole, 2016). The conflict perspective applies to this particular news article because women, in the United States, are participants of a subordinate group in the United States. This news article shows that women have less power than men in the workplace, government, and household because they earn less than men due to the gender pay gap.
Women also have less human rights which results in less security, authority, and protection for women. Women also suffer from serious loss of wages and wealth. On the other hand, men are seen as the dominant sex and they are members of the dominant group in the social world because men have held most of the world’s resources and power. Men usually mistreat subordinates ones which are the women in the workplace, household, and school because men are engaged in a continuous power struggle for control of scarce resources and authority over subordinate roups.
They want to maintain their status and power so they oppressed subordinate groups such as women. As a result, there is gender inequality in society especially in the workplace because women are always struggling for dominance among social groups that compete for scarce resources (Kendall, 2012) When examining sociology, everyone is going to approach topics in a different method because there are four different theoretical perspectives that can be used such as the functionalist, conflict, symbolic interactionist, and postmodern perspectives.
Some people view the society as a stable and ongoing entity; others see it in terms of many social groups competing for scarce resources. There are still others who describe society based on the daily, routine interactions among individuals. Each of the perspectives represents a method of studying the same phenomena because each of the four sociological perspectives involves a different assumption. The four theoretical perspectives also leads people to ask different questions and to view the social world differently.
For example, functionalism stresses social order and cohesion. On the other hand, the symbolic interactionist perspective studies people’s communication and shared meanings in everyday life through symbols, gestures, and values. The postmodernism tests all of the other perspectives and belief systems in society. The functionalist and conflict perspectives are able to look at largescale social change and stability which is known as the macrolevel.
On the other side, the symbolic interactionist perspective is able to look at smaller-scale interactions between individuals, such as conversations. The postmodern perspective is the only perspective that can look at sociology at the macro-level and micro level. After applying the conflict perspective to a news article, I have learned that there are dominate and subordinate groups in the social world. Men are more likely to be members of the dominant group. In contrast, women are participants of the subordinate group in society (Kendall, 2012)