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The American Sociological Perspective


The American Sociological Association defines Sociology as the scientific study of social life, change, causes, and related consequences of human behavior as a result of social action (Livesy, 2005). Sociology studies the social structure and how people interact within the structure. This is informed by the belief that all human behavior is social. On his part Anthony Giddens in Livesy (2005) defines sociology as the study of human behavior in the society. He aims at explaining why man behaves the way he does. According to Max Weber (1897), sociology is the scientific study of social action through the analysis of cause and effect relationship (Weber & Heydebrand, 1994).

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Sociology enables me to understand why people behave the way they do in the study. It also enables me to study and understand social phenomena. In this respect I am able to understand such issues as crime, racialism, religion, cultural practices, and traditions of a society. Besides, sociology has tools that enable me to carry out scientific research both in qualitative and quantitative form.

Functionalist Perspective

This perspective argues that the society is made of interdependent parts which function together to produce the whole (Cliffnotes, 2010). According to the functionalists, social order in the society is brought about by social consensus. They believe that the society strikes an agreement to work together for the common good of the larger society. However, if conflict arises between the different parts, these parts must be reorganized to achieve a new social order. Emile Durkheim divided social consensus into mechanical and organic solidarity. He argued that mechanical solidarity occurred in interdependent, homogenous, and egalitarian societies where there existed similar values and belief systems.

These are traditional and simple societies which mainly practice communal ownership of property. On the other hand, organic solidarity is exhibited in societies which are interdependent but practice different belief systems, values, and practices. This form of solidarity is characteristic in modern industrialized and highly complex societies (Cliffnotes, 2010).

Conflict Perspective

This was advanced by Karl Marx writings which emphasized on the class struggles between the rich and the poor (Cliffnotes, 2010). He saw the society as dominated by the wealthy over the poor. To the conflict theorists, the conflicts in the society are entirely economic. The wealthy are the owners of the means of production. They exploit the poor lower class that provides labor through poor compensation for their labor, long hours of working, and restrictions from engaging in labor unions. As a result there emerges dissatisfaction which causes friction between the two classes. This unites the poor who overthrow the wealthy capitalist and put in place a socialist system which emphasizes on equality in the society. In the modern day, conflicts between various social groups produce a new order. The competing values and agendas between races, economic classes, religions, and genders lead to the constant change in the nature of the society.

Interactionist Perspective

This looks at various symbols present in the society and how people interact within a society. According to Max Weber, people’s individual actions are driven by their interpretations of the meaning of the world (Cliffnotes 2010). People attach meanings to various symbols and thereafter act according to the meaning they have attached to those symbols. For these symbols to make sense to both the sender and the receiver they must have the same meaning to both parties. If the parties interpret these symbols differently then there arises a difference in perception of the symbols. For examples, wedding rings, crosses, music notes, emblems, and flags are all symbols with various meanings which cause people to behave in a particular way.


Sociology is the study of human beings in the society. The functionalists see the society as working towards the whole. The conflict theorists on their part look at the society as consisting of competing parts which are always producing a new order. On the other hand, interactionists emphasize on the role of symbols in human interaction.

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Reference List, (2010). Three Major Perspectives in Sociology. CliffsNotes. Web.

Livesy, C. (2005). Sociology. Web.

Weber, M., & Heydebrand, V. Wolf (1994). Sociological Writings. Continuum.

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