Major Sociological Perspectives
The major theoretical perspectives in sociology include Structural Functionalism, Conflict Theory, and Symbolic Interaction Theory. Each of these theories explains social interaction from a different viewpoints and despite almost contradictory differences in explanation, each theory provides a logical assumption for the manner for the underlying motivations that causes society's functions either at the macro, micro, or both levels.
Structural functionalism is a concept founded in the idea that society attempts to create stability and order. Society operates in an orderly and stable manner at a macro level. Within this framework, one can explain concepts such as social class in terms of their function i.e. social class maintains a division of labor that is needed to make society operate properly.
In contrast to structural functionalism, conflict theory explains society in terms of economic factors such as scarcity of resources. For example, a lack of resources such as oil creates class differences due to the fact that the class that controls the oil will control more wealth. This class conflict also inspires people to act in certain ways towards one another such as stratifying groups in order to maintain control of resources. Conflict theory explains social behavior in terms of macro level concepts but it can be viewed at a micro level also when looking at behavior.
Symbolic-Interaction theory posits that everyday interactions and individual experiences with other people and groups create the motivations for behavior and the manner in which society is constructed. This theory looks strictly at micro level forces mainly pertaining to the individual.
While each theory has merit, they also have broad application issues such as symbolic-interaction theory’s focus on individuals which overlooks vital group dynamics. Similarly, not all sociological phenomena can be explained through class conflict over resources. As such, these theories guide the sociologist when examining sociological phenomena rather than providing absolute answers.