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Conflict Perspective to Analyze Personal Problems

The conceptualization of the various social issues allowed the sociologists to offer theoretical perspectives on those issues. The main three perspectives used by sociologists today are the functionalist perspective, symbolic interactionism, and conflict perspective.

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Examining the aforementioned perspectives, this paper applies the perspectives to three social issues, which are high crime rates, high poverty rates, and high unemployment.

According to the functionalist perspective, society is viewed as an organism in which each part has its function. In that regard, every aspect of society makes a contribution to the stability of society’s systems. The examined issues can be seen as dysfunctions in the society, where a dysfunction refers to “an element or process of a society that may actually disrupt the social system or reduce its stability.” (Schaefer) Thus, taking the examples provided, all of them can be considered as dysfunctions, however, in the functionalist perspective, high crime rates can be interpreted based on the different values and positions from which this dysfunction can be interpreted. In that sense, high crime rates can be seen as providing a functional part of the police departments’ work. High poverty rates and unemployment can be seen as a function through which the society must take several actions to restore stability and consensus, such as various welfare programs, or their elimination.

The conflict perspective, on the other hand, understands social behavior through the prism of the tension between various groups regarding resources, in which one group will benefit, while the other will suffer. Thus, taking the example of high crime rates, this phenomenon can be explained as a reaction to some form of pressure, between two groups with different values, e.g. lower-income populations and social institutions. In another perspective, high poverty rates can be seen as the reaction of a certain group, and the wealthy corporation, which can create inequality in income distribution. According to the Marxist view, the society’s institutions help “to maintain the privileges of some groups and keep others in a subservient position.” (Schaefer) Similarly, high unemployment rates can be seen as a reaction to the wealthy part of the population keeping their privileges at the expense of another part of the population losing their jobs.

The symbolic interactionism perspective views people as “living in world of meaningful objects” (Schaefer), and accordingly these objects might represent symbols through which people can communicate. Applying to the high crime rates issue, the interactionists might see the raised number of criminals resulted from the changes in the perceptions of criminals, and how the label of criminal is applied. High rates of poverty can be examined also through the objects people interact with, i.e. poor families, poor education, and poor working opportunities, where all of the aforementioned can predetermine poverty in society. In terms of unemployment, first of all, the loss of jobs can be seen as a loss of the symbol of status which was acquired through the process of interaction. Accordingly, unemployment itself can symbolize a crash of a certain system, e.g. the American dream. Additionally, as interactionism might view the issues from the macro level, the high unemployment rate might be examined through specific situations, rather than providing a general picture, e.g. the interaction of the employees and the employers as the cause of high unemployment rate in the company X.


Schaefer, Richard T. Sociology: A Brief Introduction. 8th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill 2008.

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