Sociological theorists study social events, society, Cultures, customs, interactions, and patterns. After the study, they develop a theory to explain why things work as they do, and these theories analyze from sociological perspectives.
Sociological theories shed light on social phenomena and explain them. Theories are used to create a testable proposition, called a hypothesis, about society (Allan 2006).
Theories vary in scope according to the issues, which are meant to explain. There are three significant theories, macro level, micro-level, and grand level theories. Each level explains a different scale.
Sociology theories intend to consider, explain objects of social reality and analyze from the sociological perspectives. These sociological perspectives are called Sociological paradigms. There are three major sociological paradigms.
Three major Sociological perspectives/paradigms
- Functionalist perspective
- Conflict perspective
- Symbolic interactionist perspective
The sociological theorist who worked on the functionalist perspective is;
- Herbert Spencer
- Emile Durkheim
- Talcott Parsons
- Robert Merton
According to the functionalist perspective, society is interconnected like human parts of the body and work together. Society is a system, and each institution is its part of the body, and they all work together to maintain the balance and social equilibrium for the whole.
There are five institutions of society.
- The family is a universal social institution performs several functions like reproduction, socialization of children, and stable satisfaction of sex need.
- Education has a tremendous and vital function, especially in the modern, complex industrialized societies: such as, to complete the socialization process, transmitting the central heritage, occupational placement, reformations of attitudes, formation of social personality, etc.
- The political institutions provide the means of governing members of society.
- The function of economic institutions is to produce, distribute, and consumption of goods and services.
- Religion provides an outlet for the worship of higher power and moral guidance.
- Each part of society influences others, and all are interconnected with each other.
Functionalist perspective sociological theorists used the terms functional and dysfunctional to describe the effect of social elements on society. Elements of society are functional if they subscribe to social stability and dysfunctional if they disrupt social stability.
Sociologists have identified two types of functions
Manifest functions are consequences that are calculated and commonly recognized, while Latent functions are the consequences that are unintended and often hidden.
The conflict perspective is based on the classic works of Karl Marx. The functionalist perspective based describes society as composed of different parts of working together. While the conflict perspective views society as composed of different groups and interests competing for power and resources.
Conflict perspective sheds light on the social world’s various aspects by looking at which group has power and benefits from a specific social arrangement in society.
Karl Marx divides society into two major classes of people- the “haves” and “have-nots”_ is beneficial to the Bourgeoisie because they use their power to control the institutions of society. According to Marx bourgeoisie (owners of production) ruling on the Proletariat (workers who work on wages).
Symbolic Interactionist perspectives
Functionalist perspective and conflict perspective view two broad aspects of society: institutions and social groups, and how they influence the social world.
Sociological analysis is called Macro level of sociology: which looks at the huge picture of society and advocates how social problems are affected at the institutional level.
The micro-level of sociology is concerned with the individuals interacting in small groups. Symbolic interactionist perspective reflects the micro-level of sociological analysis. The sociologist and philosopher who shed light on symbolic interactionist perspective included are:
- George Simmel
- Charles Cooley
- George Herbert Mead
- Erving Goffman
This perspective emphasizes that human behavior by observing how others view us, see us, we follow a reflection ourselves that Cooley calls the “looking glass self-theory.”