The social phenomenon is analyzed from different perspectives and at different levels. Sociologists study every specific event from large social patterns. European sociologists have also offered a wide conceptualization of society’s fundamentals and its workings. Today, there are three major perspectives that offer theoretical paradigms that are commonly used by sociologists. These theoretical approaches aid in explaining the inter-relationship between people and society. They include the functionalist, the interactionists, and the conflict perspectives. Each of these perspectives conceptualizes society, human behavior, and social forces. In this paper, the comparison and contrast of these different perspectives with one another are looked into.
The functionalist sociological perspective studies society at the macro-sociological level. This approach gives emphasis on the structured parts of society aimed at maintaining its stability. It views society positively as stable, with the proper working of all its parts. Under this perspective, every social aspect is crucial for society’s survival. Sociologists look into latent and manifest functions, and dysfunctions when using the functionalist perspective to study a subject. A latent function describes an unexpected function while a manifest function describes an expected function. Dysfunction is a structural part of a society that is likely to cause instability. The functionalist perspective view of the individual is that they are socially molded, and not forced to accomplish societal functions. Order is maintained when there is cooperation between members of society. Under this perspective, social change is viewed as positive and predictable. TV sports viewers learn the latest technology and fashion in their best-loved sports to help them cope with the ever-changing world.
The conflict sociological perspective also studies society at the macro-sociological level. It assumes that the best understanding of social behavior is in terms of tension or conflict between different groups. The approach views society as full of struggle, tension, and conflicts. It contradicts the functionalist perspective that sees society as stable. An individual is perceived as being molded by power and authority. The conflict approach enables sociologists to study society through the eyes of people who do not influence society’s decisions. Social order is rather maintained through force, and not cooperation as viewed under the functionalist perspective. Social change on the other hand is not predictable, though it constantly takes place. Sports are all about competitions, winners, and losers. The winner of a contest is given more say than the loser. This brings out conflicts as people tend to relate their daily lives to what can be termed as a manufactured struggle on TV.
The interactionist approach of society study generalizes fundamental social interaction. Unlike the functionalist and conflict approaches, this approach studies society on a micro-sociological level. It mainly focuses on the actions of small groups, and people’s daily behavior and their reaction to the surroundings to bring out an understanding of the whole society. Under this approach, society is viewed as people having an influence on each other’s daily social interactions. The approach also deduces that every individual, through his/her interactions, creates a social world of his/her own. Social order is maintained through sharing of understanding of each other’s daily behavior, while social change is deemed to occur when there are changes in communication and position with one another. People who watch sports on TV tend to compare themselves, and their actions with the stars of their favorite sports. This leaves them with motivation and a feeling of self-worth, impacting change to society as a whole.
All three perspectives have different approaches to the study of sociological issues. They all attempt to explain why people behave the way they do in different ways, and none is superior to the other.