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Structural Functionalism - Conflict Theory - Symbolic Interaction

Autor:   •  February 11, 2018  •  1,449 Words (6 Pages)  •  413 Views

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Conflict Theory does a good job at explaining the reasons behind social stratification and social disorder. This theory takes a more realistic approach to society than functionalism, conflict theory realizes that there are reasons behind certain deviant behaviors, and that there is a cause. However, Conflict Theory poorly realizes that not all actions are a means for those in power to gain economic and social superiority over those who are not.

The symbolic interactionist viewpoint is a micro-sociological school of thought that concentrates in on the actors that make up society. It is very closely related to social psychology due to the fact that it is one of the only sociological perspectives that focus on the micro level instead of the macro (Singelmann 420). The Symbolic interactionists view comes heavily from Max Weber theories of human interaction. He states, “individuals act according to their interpretation of the meaning of their surroundings” (Seidman 393). This formed the ground work of this theory, but it wasn’t until George Mead and Herbert Blumer did the term “Symbolic Interaction” became noticed by the greater world stage.

The basis of this theory is how individuals interact with one another, through the assignment of meanings to certain symbols, which are letters and words. These meanings are primarily subjective, and rely on people to correctly interpret the given symbol. Therefore, it can be argued from this POV, that society is a social construct created from the subjective meanings given to symbols, which are then interpreted by humans, whether those symbols are blatant, such as a stop sign on a street corner, or subtle, such as how to behave in a social situations based solely upon the symbols given by others. These interpretations are called the “definition of the situation” theory of symbolic interaction. Definition of the Situation further relies on the human perspective of one’s self, compared to the outside world similar to Charles Horton Cooley’s “Looking Glass Self”.


- Crothers, Charles. "Merton as a General Theorist: Structures, Choices, Mechanisms, and Consequences." American Sociologist, vol. 35, no. 3, Fall2004, pp. 23-36. EBSCOhost,

- Singelmann, Peter. “Exchange as Symbolic Interaction: Convergences between Two Theoretical Perspectives.” American Sociological Review, vol. 37, no. 4, 1972, pp. 414–424.,

- Seidman, Steven. “The Main Aims and Thematic Structures of Max Weber's Sociology.” The Canadian Journal of Sociology / Cahiers Canadiens De Sociologie, vol. 9, no. 4, 1984, pp. 381–404.,


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