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Research done from this perspective is often scrutinized because of the difficulty of remaining objective. Others criticize the extremely narrow focus on symbolic interaction. Proponents, of course, consider this one of its greatest strengths.

Sociological theory today

These three approaches are still the main foundation of modern sociological theory, but some evolution has been seen. Structural-functionalism was a dominant force after World War II and until the 1960s and 1970s. At that time, sociologists began to feel that structural-functionalism did not sufficiently explain the rapid social changes happening in the United States at that time.

Conflict theory then gained prominence, as there was renewed emphasis on institutionalized social inequality. Critical theory, and the particular aspects of feminist theory and critical race theory, focused on creating social change through the application of sociological principles, and the field saw a renewed emphasis on helping ordinary people understand sociology principles, in the form of public sociology.

Postmodern social theory attempts to look at society through an entirely new lens by rejecting previous macro-level attempts to explain social phenomena. Generally considered as gaining acceptance in the late 1970s and early 1980s, postmodern social theory is a micro-level approach that looks at small, local groups and individual reality. Its growth in popularity coincides with the constructivist aspects of symbolic interactionism.


Sociologists develop theories to explain social events, interactions, and patterns. A theory is a proposed explanation of those social interactions. Theories have different scales. Macro-level theories, such as structural functionalism and conflict theory, attempt to explain how societies operate as a whole. Micro-level theories, such as symbolic interactionism, focus on interactions between individuals.

Short answer

Which theory do you think better explains how societies operate—structural functionalism or conflict theory? Why?

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Do you think the way people behave in social interactions is more like the behavior of animals or more like actors playing a role in a theatrical production? Why?

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Further research

People often think of all conflict as violent, but many conflicts can be resolved nonviolently. To learn more about nonviolent methods of conflict resolution check out the Albert Einstein Institution (External Link)


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Calhoun, Craig J. 2002. Classical Sociological Theory . Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.

Durkheim, Émile. 1984 [1893]. The Division of Labor in Society . New York: Free Press.

Durkheim, Émile. 1964 [1895]. The Rules of Sociological Method , edited by J. Mueller, E. George and E. Caitlin. 8th ed. Translated by S. Solovay. New York: Free Press.

Goffman, Erving. 1958. The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life . Edinburgh: University of Edinburgh, Social Sciences Research Centre.

Goldschmidt, Walter. 1996. “Functionalism” in Encyclopedia of Cultural Anthropology, Vol. 2 , edited by D. Levinson and M. Ember. New York: Henry Holt and Company.

Henry, Stuart. 2007. “Deviance, Constructionist Perspectives.” Blackwell Encyclopedia of Sociology . Retrieved October 14, 2014 (http://www.sociologyencyclopedia.com/public/tocnode?id=g9781405124331_yr2011_chunk_g978140512433110_ss1-41).

Herman, Nancy J., and Larry T. Reynolds. 1994. Symbolic Interaction: An Introduction to Social Psychology . Lanham, MD: Altamira Press.

Horkeimer, M. 1982. Critical Theory . New York: Seabury Press.

Irving, John Scott. 2007. Fifty Key Sociologists: The Formative Theorists . New York: Routledge.

LaRossa, R., and D.C. Reitzes. 1993. “Symbolic Interactionism and Family Studies.” Pp. 135–163 in Sourcebook of Family Theories and Methods: A Contextual Approach , edited by P. G. Boss, W. J. Doherty, R. LaRossa, W. R. Schumm, and S. K. Steinmetz. New York: Springer.

Maryanski, Alexandra, and Jonathan Turner. 1992. The Social Cage: Human Nature and the Evolution of Society . Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Marx, Karl and Friedrich Engels. 1998 [1848]. The Communist Manifesto . New York: Penguin.

Parsons, T. 1961. Theories of Society: Foundations of Modern Sociological Theory . New York: Free Press.

Pew Research Center. 2012. “Mobile Technology Fact Sheet.” Pew Research Internet Project , April 2012. Retrieved October 15, 2014 (http://www.pewinternet.org/fact-sheets/mobile-technology-fact-sheet/).

Radcliffe-Brown, A.R. 1952. Structure and Function in Primitive Society: Essays and Addresses . London: Cohen and West.

Spencer, Herbert. 1898. The Principles of Biology . New York: D. Appleton and Company.

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UCLA School of Public Affairs. n.d. “What is Critical Race Theory?” UCLA School of Public Affairs: Critical Race Studies . Retrieved October 20, 2014 (http://spacrs.wordpress.com/what-is-critical-race-theory/).

Questions & Answers

limit of anxiety disorder ?
limit of anxiety disorder is a kind of madness that is presented in almost all the human beings...
who is the founder of sociology
Ali Reply
Auguste Comte
Socialogical prospective_imagination.
Zeina Reply
what is sociology
Rabecca Reply
is study os social interaction and the society
What are the main element of the Strain Theory?
Renee Reply
Examine four factors that undermines the home's ability to socialize the child
Francis Reply
what is a unit of analysis
Gcobani Reply
A unit of analysis could be considered as the subject that you are focusing in a social study. That unit could be also many entities.
what role does globalization play in modern slavery?
Kay Reply
Globalization play a great role in modern slavery. Why? because, globalization contributes people as rich to be more powerful and go to new areas in order to put people of these different a horizons to fall in a great slavery.
roughly speaking, I think that globalization phenomenon had more inconveniences than advantages even if there are also advantages for people who knows how to take a part for. Globalization could show us a new state of slavery if it's not use appropriately.
what are the characteristics of scientific methods?
Brandina Reply
its emirical, systematic
can someone please help me? What is social statistics?
Moses Reply
As I know, I could describe social statistics as a science who use statistics. That science make a study by using quantitative and qualitative numbers. And also make interpretation of these quantitative and qualitative numbers in order to solve a problem and understand all about this.
Difference and realtionship between sociology and economivs
Temjensangla Reply
Conclusion for difference and realtionship between sociology and economics
What is economics
In conclusion, I could said that sociology it's a study of man and his habits, behaviours and interactions between humans and the environment where he lives.
sociology could embrace many domains of the human culture.
In a second time, economics could be define as a study economics structures in order create wealth.
Nowadays, sociology and economics are completely integrated and linked. Why? Because, sociology try to study economics structures in order to help firms... to develop and conquer markets by understanding attitudes, behaviours of the costumers.
In regard on what I had said before. Sociology makes a study of economics and economics takes also advantages of sociology as a tool. economics depends more on sociology even if there are complementary.
what is the origin and development of socialogy
Talha Reply
Explain how man harnessed of nature for his own use
How? I think that man realized that there is natural elements that he could dominate and that he could not. A this moment, man start a reflexion in order to take a full profit of nature by a meticulous study of these different elements. (1)
(2) And now we could see that after this meticulous study of the nature man had also observe nature. Man harnessed of nature for example by creating air planes, houses, cars...
As I was read, sociology comes from philosophy.
sociological reference and examples of each section
Alex Reply
Discuss the following isolated case Anna Case,Isabelle case,Genie case
who where the fathers of sociology and thier works
Kudzaishe Reply
Auguste Comte
make psychology a science developed the first psychology lab
also establish the first journal to publish psychological research
can i pliz have their names
for psychology is wilhelm wuldt
sorry I forgot
comte was the first to propose positivism
its alright
I think Ibn khaldon in his "introduction " and after he is Augest comt, Dorkheim, wiber
Durkheim, Weber. although you have the patriarchs and matriarch of the theories. Foucalt, Marx, Pearson's, Merton and Mead and Martineau.
Discuss the following isolated case Anna case Isabelle case,Genie case
Outline the five main ideas of functionalism
Salient Reply

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