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Theoretical Perspectives in Sociology

Sociology is a relatively new science that has many interpretations and approaches, as any other science. The main complication arises from the fact that sociology is the science about people and their activity, interaction. People are so unpredicted, unexplainable and weird creatures that it is really hard to adopt a single approach that would lead to discovery of all mechanisms of human communication, correlation and interrelations and develop a single system of concepts, terms and definitions as well as tools for sociological research.

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Historically there have formed three main sociological approaches – they are functionalism, theory of conflict and symbolic interaction. Functionalism seems to be more rational from the point of view of regarding the society as a working mechanism in which all people are indispensable elements, correlation and unified work of which ensures functioning of the whole society. This approach makes sense and has found many followers because of the true resemblance of human relations to those of parts in a complicated, intricate mechanism. The failure of every tiny part may lead to the disruption of work of the whole machine – the same situation may be witnessed in the society. Every group of people united by a common goal and fulfilling common goals is a living organism where every person is an organ that assists in the entire working process.

The second theory was extensively developed and promoted by Marx and is called the theory of conflict. According to this theory, any change is initiated only by a conflict and evolution is the result not of the unified and well-arranged social effort but of resolved conflicts. The theory is said to be created analogically to medical and psychoanalytical findings – the way improvement and change happen in a human organism is highly similar to the ones happening in the society.

However, the approach that is the most appealing one for me is the third one, symbolic interaction. This approach is based on the fact that the full idea of the world and society is built up not from the objective reality but from human opinions, feelings, perceptions and reflections. Human perception is subjective and it cannot be represented as ultimate truth; however, the society consists of people who feel, act, live and think. Their lives can hardly be subject to any dry theoretical analysis because in any way the situation turns out to be completely different from the point of view of theoreticians.

I would adopt the symbolic interaction approach as a sociologist because I think it is the only way to get really deep into the matter of human interactions. They are also not based on the commonly formulated rules and regulations, all people are individual, they are biased and influenced by a plenty of outer factors at every moment of their life. For this reason it is hard to say what guides their actions and thoughts – it is necessary to look at the situation with the eyes of the researched person. Only under this condition it will be possible to understand the motives of his or her actions and to make some scientific conclusions. In this respect, I am sure, field studies will be highly efficient in conducting the scientific research – people may open their souls, may try to explain their true feelings only in the context of direct communication. This is what I am planning to achieve in my future activity.

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