Sociological Theories Functionalism Is Usually Defined As Essay

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Sociological Theories

Functionalism is usually defined as viewing society from the aspect of its different parts, and how those parts relate to each other and society as a whole. Many functionalists liken society to a biological form, such as the human body, with its different organs all working in conjunction to keep the body as a whole functioning. Each of the elements of the body has a "function- to maintain the whole, so ensuring the stability or order of the system." (Bissell, 2005, p.41) But while each element has a manifest function, or the function that is expected from it, there are also unexpected functions called latent functions.

On the other hand, Conflict Theory states that the different parts of a society are in a state of conflict over the limited resources available to society. While Functionalism stresses the unity between the different groups, "conflict theory emphasizes strife and friction" between groups. (Anderson, 2008, p. 21) This theory has its basis in the writings of Karl Marx, who emphasized the different parts of society and how they grapple for social and economic resources. According to Marx, order in society is maintained by the supremacy of one group over the other groups, not by cooperation among the groups.

Interactionism is best described as the sociological effects on society that the interaction of individuals can have. This interaction is asserted to have its basis in the individuals' emotions. (Stets, 2007, p. 173) It is the face-to-face social interaction that is important to the study of Interactionism.

All three of these theories deal with communication between different aspects of society and are therefore similar. On the other hand these theories are very different as well, one example is the difference in perspective between Functionalism and Conflict Theory. Functionalism stresses the cohesion and cooperation between groups in society, while Conflict Theory stresses the problems different groups have between themselves. (Ritzer, 1992, pp. 237, 265) While they do both study the interactions between different groups in society, they stress opposite aspects of those relationships. Interactionism includes aspects of both of these but focuses more on individuals rather than groups.

Sports, especially on television, can be an example of the different approaches to social relations. In order to broadcast a sporting event there are numerous tasks that must be accomplished in cooperation from operating the cameras to announcing, producing, and many others. Functionalists would analyze the interaction necessary to broadcast, the team's dynamics, as well as the role of a televised event as an element of the social interaction between sports enthusiasts. Televised sports events have become the basis of rivalries among sports fans by exposing the event to more people than just those sitting in the arena. And because various people can view a televised sporting event from anywhere, interest grows among individuals as they witness others interested in the event. The interaction of fans and rivals is often intensified because of ease of access and prevalence of viewers. Televised replays on the news, or other…

Sources Used in Document:


Anderson, Margaret, Howard Francis Taylor. (2008). Sociology: Understanding a Diverse Society. Belmont, CA: Thomson Wadsworth. Print.

Bissell, Paul, Janine Morgall Traulsen. (2005). Sociology and Pharmacy Practice. London: Pharmaceutical Press. Print.

Ritzer, George. (1992). Sociological Theory. New York: McGraw Hill. Print.

Sifferlin, Alexandra. (9 Dec. 2013). "Sandy Hook Families Seek Privacy On Anniversary

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