February 9, 2018
Theories: The World Through Multiple Lens
As we go throughout our everyday lives, we view many of
the same images on a regular basis. Although we may be looking at the same
objects physical appearance, are we really viewing the object from the same
perspective? Some people may look at things from a literal perspective, and
others may add a deeper meaning behind it. This can relate to a theory. A
theory is a general statement about how some parts of the world fit together
and how they work. In other words, a theory is simply an idea supported through
research. There are three major theories sociologists use in order to better
understand the world we live in.
In society, we use symbols quite often without
even realizing it. In most religions, a certain object or symbol is used to
identify what religion a person may identify with. We also use symbols to
identify the relationships we have with the people in our lives. This is known
as symbolic interactionism. In symbolic interactionism, society is viewed as
involving many symbols that people use to establish meaning, develop certain viewpoints,
and communicate with those around them. Language is the most important symbol
in society. George Herbert Mead was one of the main founders of symbolic interactionism.
He believed social interaction played a crucial role in the development of
one’s self. After his death, his lectures were composed into a book, “Mind,
Self, and Society”. An example of symbolic interactionism would be young people
and peer pressure. We as teens know that smoking and drinking is bad for us.
Because of the desire to fit in and be considered “cool” to our friends, we do
it anyway, ignoring the risks that could come along with our actions.
Therefore, in this situation, smoking and drinking is symbolized as cool, even
though it is not.
For society to function properly, each part of
society must play its role correctly. In functional analysis, it is thought
that society has many parts. Each part has to function properly for society to
remain equal and have balance. If all parts don’t fulfill their functions,
society is said to be at an unsettled state. Social institutions, or the way
society has created things to meet their needs, are what society relies on to
function properly. Some examples would be government, family, education,
economy, etc. Robert K. Merton used the word functions to imply functions are
what keeps society going right. He also labeled functions as being manifest
(intended to help), and latent (unintended consequences). An example of
functional analysis would be a mother rewarding her child for completing their
homework. If the child completes the work, they will be rewarded with candy, so
of course the child completes their work for the reward. Eventually the child
expects the reward constantly. The one time the child completes their work and isn’t
rewarded, they throw a fit and refuse to do their work. This would be the
latent function in this situation. It was not intended for the child to only
want to complete their work for a reward.
Lastly, we have conflict
theory. The main idea in conflict theory was that society was divided into two
groups, the rich and poor. Society was viewed as being composed of groups
competing for resources needed to survive. Karl Marx is said to be the founder
of conflict theory. He called the rich bourgeoisie and the poor proletariat. He
also felt that to make change the workers had to revolt against the rich, which
create some type of balance. An example of conflict theory would be an owner
and their tenant. Of course, the owner would have a bigger advantage in the
situation than the tenant. Suppose the owner
decides they want to keep the security deposit after that tenant has moved out.
The law states the owner is only required to notify the tenant when the
security deposit is being withheld. To get their security deposit back, a
lawsuit must be filed. This proves that conflict between the higher and lower
class does exist.
summarize the theories above, they all involve human behavior and how we
interact with each other on a daily basis. Theory and research work together.
You cannot have one without the other. The best thing about sociology is it
allows us to view both parts of our current world and reality. It also gives us
a better understanding of the society we live in and how we interact with the
people in our society.