In sociology, people try to figure out how society functions. This can range anywhere from a small two person interaction to explain the entirety of how the world functions. The explanations sociologists formulate to describe societal functioning is called a theory. A testable proposition, or hypothesis, is used to help formulate the theory of a sociologist. A perspective is a generalized way of looking at the world, and theories help discover different perspectives. Together, theories help provide a certain perspective. It is important to recognize the three different paradigms, since the theories proposed throughout sociology all help to explain them. The three different perspectives, or paradigms of sociology are functionalism, conflict theory, and social interactionism.
Simply put, functionalism is the way each small part of society contributes to the whole. This paradigm began with the theories of sociologist Herbert Spencer in Great Britain. Spencer believed that the parts of a society are found in social institutions, which are actions human beings complete based on the needs of individuals. These social institutions can be seen in hospitals, schools, churches, homes, and government buildings. Another sociologist named Émile Durkheim suggested a similar stance that society is a complex system of parts working together to keep solidity within itself and that these smaller parts of the whole are not social institutions, but are rather held together by social facts. Social facts are any rules that influence society including laws, morals, values, religious beliefs, customs, and fashions among other things. Alfred Radcliff-Brown speculated that facts like these serve a certain function, contributing to the continuation of society, creating a dynamic equilibrium. One last sociologist named Robert Merton suggested that social happenings might have different functions. He suggested two main functions in social processes: manifest functions and latent functions. Sociologists study this type of paradigm when learning about the global culture in our world today. Three main ways sociologists study this type of paradigm is through exploring the social interactions of online communities compared to their own countries societal norms, the impact of this perspective on small local countries, and how this outlook effects global markets and social discriminations.
While functionalists believe in society as a group small parts working together, the conflict theorist looks at society as a different groups and interests competing for power and resources. This kind of paradigm was explained in the writings of Karl Marx. The perspective is very beneficial in explaining which groups in our world has power based on a specific arrangement in society. Marx described how some people are successful in society and use this achievement to keep certain social institutions for their increased benefit and influence. Marx believed this was a majorly economic inequality, while Max Weber additionally believed this fight for resources was in education, race, and gender. Georg Simmel showed how the conflict theory can be a positive part of society in that it creates unity in differing communities, centralize power, and reduce tension once conflicts are solved. Two theories that stem from the conflict theory are the feminist theory and critical race theory, which both try to solve the inequalities or society and make positive changes. The conflict theory can be used to study and solve a wide range of inequalities in society today. Some main sources of inequalities that sociologist try to solve using the conflict theory include issues of race, gender, and religion. Solving issues like police brutality, pay differences between men and women, and religious freedom can be seen in the conflict theory.
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