7 Examples of Sociological Perspectives
John Spacey, May 30, 2023
A sociological perspective is a general approach to the study of society. These represent broad trends in the social sciences that greatly impact academic research over the course of generations. Sociological perspectives also end up influencing society itself as broad academic trends such as postmodernism get picked up by culture. The following are the common sociological perspectives.
FunctionalismFunctionalism is a traditional or classical perspective in sociology that views human societies as being rational and positive whereby features of society serve some function such as social order, stability, economic production and quality of life. Ideally suited for defending the status quo.
Conflict TheoryConflict theory takes a more negative view of society with an emphasis on power struggles and conflict. This is based on Marxist traditions that critique capitalism in this light. As such, conflict theory is perfectly designed for criticism of dominant social systems and has several flaws.
Symbolic InteractionismSymbolic interactionism views society as shaped by interactions between people with a heavy influence of symbols and language. Where conflict theory portrays the masses as hapless victims of power structures, symbolic interactionism views all humans as having agency and a role to play in shaping things.
Social ConstructionismSocial constructionism is based around the idea that social reality is invented. This is adopted by conflict theory to suggest that power structures invent social reality to reinforce their power. Social constructionism tends towards idealism to suggest that all of reality is socially constructed not just social things such as institutions and language. For example, viewing hard sciences such as math as socially constructed.
PostmodernismPostmodernism is a particular mix of conflict theory and social constructionism based on relativism and the idea that universal truth doesn't exist -- only subjective truth. This has interesting implications whereby all of reality is viewed as invented by power structures and completely meaningless as reality essentially doesn't exist beyond what each individual happens to feel. In this context, each individual can demand that all of society conform to their view of reality as this is the only reality that truly exists. This is perfectly designed to say that what you feel is absolutely and unquestionably right without need of debate.
Rational Choice TheoryRational choice theory is based on the dominant approach to economics that views economic processes as competitive and economic actors as rational with some important limitations. This would view society as a competitive venue where people, organizations, institutions and governments are rational and driven towards motivations. In economics, this is the profit motive, social motives are more complex.
Exchange TheoryAn extension of rational choice theory to include more realistic human behaviors beyond competition such as trust, reciprocity and justice. Views people as having agency. Social processes are driven by social exchanges between mostly rational people who try to achieve goals in areas such as growth, connectedness and relatedness. More of a realistic view of society with less ideological zeal than the perspectives based on conflict theory.Next read: Characteristics of Postmodernism
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An overview of different types of perspective.
An overview of power distance with examples.
An overview of symbolic interactionism with examples.
An overview of the social perspective with examples.
An overview of culture perspective with examples.A list of major sociological theories.
An overview of society with definition, examples and comparisons.
An overview of collective behavior with examples.The definition of social values with examples.
A list of common social outcomes.
An overview of the basic types of society.
A list of the characteristics of human behavior.
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