24 Jul 2013

The 4 Paradigms of Sociology

Emile Durkheim

For this week's article, I will take a very textbook approach. What I mean by this is that I will simply give you the definition of the sociological concept and a short example. The reason being is that these ideas are very broad, as they are tools used by sociologists to analyze issues of social institutions. So rather than giving you an in-depth, descriptive example of each paradigm, I will save it for when I write about the sociology of family or the sociology of religion.

My goal with this article is to get you to be familiar with the four major schools/ideologies of sociology so that you can start thinking about it, and maybe even applying it to the real world. So without further to do, let's get started:

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1) Functionalism (Macro sociological)

Functionalism is the relationship and interdependency between all social groups, big and small. When a change occurs to one, other institutions will be affected as well.

An example of this would be the relationship between the economy and new grads. Back in 2008, when the economy was hit with the financial crash, many new grads weren't able to find professional employment because companies were trying to cut costs by lowering the number of people working for them.

Functionalism is also broken into three sub-groups:
  • Manifest Function - The intended result.
  • Latent Function - The unintended result.
  • Dysfunction - The harmful result.
2) Conflict Theory (Macro sociological)

Conflict theory looks at the inequalities of life/society.

An example would be the narrative of some very wealthy people using their money and status to persuade the government into creating policies that are beneficial for the rich but are (the majority of the time) detrimental to the middle class and the poor.

3) Symbolic Interaction (Micro sociological)


W.I. Thomas
Symbolic interaction looks at how individuals interact with one another. Symbolic interactionists believe that society, or people's social reality, is created as people interact with one another, and not something that has been predetermined.

For example, if we, as a group, were to collectively view immigrants as a negative element of society, then immigrants will be a negative element of society because this is the definition that we have developed for them in our minds. The root of this example is based on the Thomas Theorem.

4) Feminists Perspective (Macro and micro-sociological)

The feminists perspective looks at the inequality among the genders, due to the dominance of men in major social institutions, such as education and work. It also looks at the efforts of women in overcoming discrimination.

An example of this would be the pay gap between men and women. If one male and one female with the same looking resume and same personality traits were to work at the same job and complete the same amount of work, the man would have a higher pay than the woman, according to studies. This is why many women challenge big corporations and fight for equal pay.

So there it is. These are the four paradigms of society. So now that you have an understanding of the theories and a gist of how society works, which paradigm do you think best describes your society? Is it just one, or a combination? Write your thoughts in the comments section.

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4 comments:

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    1. where did this Feminists Perspective come from? never heard it as a paradigm!! who is the founder of it?

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    2. The first paradigm is evolutionary or Darwinist sociology. Feminism is considered as a branch of conflict paradigm

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