Compare and contrast the functionalist, conflict, and interactionist theoretical approaches to the study of society. How does each approach view society, the individual, social order, and social change? Your textbook analyzes sports in terms of various perspectives. Using the analysis of sports as a model, analyze the role of television from the functional, conflict, and interactionist approaches.
Sociologists analyze social phenomena at different levels and from different perspectives. From interpretations to sweeping generalizations of society and social behavior, sociologists study everything from specific events; the micro level of analysis of small social patterns, to the big ...view middle of the document...
Written music serves as an example; the black dots and lines become more than mere marks on the page, they refer to notes organized in such a way as to make musical sense. The symbolic interactionists give serious thought to how people act, and then seek to determine what meanings individuals assign to their own actions and symbols, as well as to those of others.
According to the functionalist perspective, it “emphasizes the way in which the parts of society are structured to maintain its stability (p. 13)”. The government, or state, provides education for the children of the family, which in turn pays taxes on which the state depends to keep itself running. That is, the family is dependent upon the school to help children grow up to have good jobs so that they can raise and support their own families. If all goes well, the parts of society produce order, stability, and productivity. If all does not go well, the parts of society then must adapt to recapture a new order, stability, and productivity. For example, during a financial recession with its high rates of unemployment and inflation, social programs are trimmed or cut. Schools offer fewer programs. Families tighten their budgets. And a new social order, stability, and productivity occur. Functionalists believe that society is held together by social consensus, or cohesion, in which members of the society agree upon, and work together to achieve, what is best for society as a whole.
Sociologist Robert Merton divides human functions into two types: manifest functions are intentional and obvious, while latent functions are unintentional and not obvious. The manifest function of attending a church or synagogue, for instance, is to worship as part of a religious community, but its latent function may be to help members learn to discern personal from institutional values. With common sense, manifest functions become easily apparent. This is not necessarily the case for latent functions, which often demand a sociological approach to be revealed.
The conflict perspective “assumes that social behavior is best understood in terms of tension between groups over power or the allocation of resources, including housing, money, access to services, and political representation (p. 14).” While these former perspectives focus on the positive aspects of society that contribute to its stability, the conflict perspective focuses on the negative, conflicted, and ever-changing nature of society. Unlike functionalists who defend the status quo, avoid social change, and believe people cooperate to effect social order; conflict theorists challenge the status quo, encourage social change, and believe rich and powerful people force social order on the poor and the weak. The 1960’s saw American sociologists gain considerable interest in conflict theory. They also expanded Marx's idea that the key conflict in society was strictly economic.
Today, conflict theorists find social conflict between...