Analysis Of The Three Paradigms Of Sociology

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For this paper I will be discussing three paradigms. In Sociology, a few theories provide different perspectives that can help people explain many different aspects of social life, they are Paradigms. What is a paradigm some may ask, according to it is “A typical example or pattern of something; a pattern or model.” The three theoretical paradigms we will be comparing the differences are functionalism, conflict and symbolic interactionism.

First, we will begin with Functionalism, which is a macro level of analysis. Functionalism sees society as a structure with interrelated parts designed to meet the biological and social needs of the individuals in that society. We all know that the government and state provide education for children, which in turn pays for taxes on which the state depends on in order to keep themselves running. So, the family is dependent upon the school to help children grow up and succeed in life with jobs and be able to raise and support their own families in the future. So, because of all this the children then will grow up and become taxpaying citizens who hopefully follows the law, and then this is supporting the state in a way.

If everything goes the way we expect it to, parts of society will produce an order that has stability as well as productivity. Now if for some reason it does not go as well as we expect then society will have to adapt and capture a new order for stability and productivity. Like, if there was a problem with financial recession because of higher rates of unemployment in an area schools would offer fewer programs due to the loss of teachers, and families would ultimately have to stop spending as much. This causes a new social order for stability and productivity.

Functionalists say that society is held together by social consensus which means people of societies agree with each other and work together in order to achieve what’s best for the community/society. Emile Durkheim suggests social consensus takes two forms: Mechanical solidarity and organic solidarity. Now when we discuss mechanical solidarity its just a form of social cohesion that arises when people in a society have similar values and beliefs and they all have similar types of work.

Mostly this type of solidarity is common in traditional societies such as Amish societies. Moving onto organic solidarity it is a form that arises when people in a society can be interdependent but can hold to different values and beliefs of one another and have varying types of work. This is mostly common in industrialized societies like large cities such as New York.

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Among several American functionalist socialists there is Robert Merton. He divides human functions into two different types which is manifest and latent. Manifest functions are intentional and obvious where as latent functions are unintentional and not obvious. An example I thought of for manifest function is people using social media to connect with other people around the world. You can contact many random people. This is a manifest function of social media. But social media is something that is great for advertisement, this is a form of latent functioning in social media.

The second paradigm I will talk about is conflict, which is a macro level of analysis. This originated because of Karl Marx’s writings on class struggles. It presents societies in different lights than what functionalists and symbolic interactionalists do. This paradigm focuses a lot on negative, conflicted and basically an ever-changing form of society. Unlike functionalists, where they will defend the status quo, avoiding the social changes and believes that people can cooperate with each other to avoid social changes, conflict theorists are able to challenge the status quo as well as encourage the social changes that there are and have belief in people who are rich and powerful to help force a social change on the weak and poor.

Today, conflict theorists can find social conflict between almost any groups where there is potential for things such as: race, gender, political, religious and so on. They make a note the unequal groups have conflicting values and such which causes them to have to compete with one another. According to “Understanding Social Problems”, Marx suggested that religion serves as an “opiate of the masses” in that it soothes the distress and suffering associated with the working-class lifestyle and focuses the workers’ attention on spirituality, God, and the afterlife rather than on such worldly concerns as living conditions. Religion diverts the workers so that they concentrate on being rewarded in heaven for living a moral life rather than on questioning their exploitation.

There is a German sociologist named Georg Simmel who believed that conflict can help stabilize and integrate a society. He once said, “the intensity of the conflict varies depending on the emotional involvement of the parties, the degree of solidarity within the opposing groups, and the clarity and limited nature of the goals”. He was able to show groups work to create reduced dissent, and internal solidarity within the society. This meant that resolving the conflicts reduced the tension and hostility that was shown and all of that could help better future agreements.

The last paradigm we will discuss is, symbolic interactionist theory, which is a micro level of analysis. Symbolic interactionist focuses on the relationships among individuals within a society. It helps direct sociologists to consider symbols and details of everyday life and what those symbols can possibly mean, and how people everyday interact with one another. This paradigm says that people attach different meanings to symbols, and they will act a certain way because of the interpretation of these symbols.

For example, words have a certain meaning when someone says them but during communication, we hope they have the same meaning for the person you are speaking to. I’m saying this because some words or sentences mean different things to other people and can be interpreted differently. “Conversations are basically interactions of symbols between people who interpret the world around them. Anything can be referred to as a symbol as long as it refers to something beyond itself.”

For example, I think that there is symbolic interactionism in marriage. Symbols for that can include, wedding bands, vows, white dresses, wedding cake, celebration with family, music and flowers. We attach these general things to symbols, and we also maintain our own perceptions of what these and other symbols mean to us. So, the wife may see their wedding rings as symbolizing their love for each other whereas the husband can see them as a financial expense to himself. This is a great example on how symbolic interactionism effects everyone differently.

So, functionalism, conflict theory and symbolic interactionism are three common and distinct perspectives that share many differences and similarities because of the methods they use to help view society. Despite the differences of functionalism and conflict theory, they both are very successful in grouping individuals together, whether it is by class or symbols. Similarly, symbolic interactionism shares theoretical similarity of the dependence with functionalism but interactionism is able to contribute to the meanings of people in society, whereas functionalists emphasizes on the general ideas that are played as a role.

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