The Functionalist Theory

High School ・Sociology ・APA ・2 Sources

According to the functionalist theory, every aspect of the society is interdependent and contributes to its functioning. The theory gives a classical example of state or government providing education to children who belong to a family. Thus, the family depends on a school in helping the children to grow up and secure good jobs as a way of supporting their families in the future. In the process, the children become law-abiding tax payers who support the country. If the process goes as desired, parts of the society produce order, stability, and productivity.

Functionalists believed the society is held in one place by cohesion or social consensus. Its members agree and work upon achieving the cohesion as the best for the society as a whole. Thus, the social consensus is achieved by one of two forms. Organic solidarity is a form of cohesion resulting from the interdependence of the society members while holding various values and beliefs of engaging in work. Mechanical solidarity is a type of social cohesion arising from society members maintaining similar values and beliefs while engaging in similar work (Sulivan, 2016).

Functionalists have been criticized for neglecting negative functions of an event. Critics have claimed that this perspective can properly justify status quo and complacency on the society members. Hence, functionalism discourages people from taking an active role seen as undesirable.

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Conflict Perspective

The theory originated from Karl Marx and his writings on class struggle. It focuses on the negative, conflicting, and changing nature of the society. If the functionalism theory defends its status quo, avoids social change, and believes in individuals' cooperation for bringing social order, conflict perspective tries to challenge the status quo. This theory argues that the wealthy and mighty in the society force social order on the weak and poor.

Critics of the conflict theory as a view to social interaction show that it is an overly negative image of the society. The perspective ultimately attributes any positive aspect of the society as a design of controlling the masses and not as the inherent interest of preserving social order.

Interactionist Theory

Symbolic interactionism is a perspective directing the sociologist to consider symbols of daily life and individuals' interaction with each other. According to the theory, symbols are attached to their meanings and their actions upon subjective interpretation (Bradzell, 2011). Conversation is an interaction symbol between persons in the constant interpretation of the world around them. With this theory, anything acts as a symbol in as much as it can offer something beyond itself. For example, the black lines and dots in written music show more than just marks on a page but refer to notes organized to make a musical sense.

Critics claim such perspective of social interaction neglects social interpretation at the macro level. Moreover, the big picture of symbolic representation may fail to incorporate the larger issues of the society by focusing on the branches (Bradzell, 2011). The theory was criticised for diminishing the influence of institution and social forces on personal interactions.

Theory I Identify with Most

Conflict theory is the most adorable perspective I can identify with. It focuses on the negative and conflicting nature of the society. Despite it has been criticized for creating a negative image of the society, I can highlight several assumptions about the human nature: self-interest and human potential. Society is assumed to constitute of inherently unequal elements which result in the organization of classes creating a potential conflict.

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Bradzell, J. (2011). Interaction Criticism: An introduction to the practice. Retrieved


Sulivan, T.J. (2016). Introduction to Social Problems. 10th Edition. Northern Michigan University.

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