Sociologists developed a way to identify the social world and its fundamental elements through several perspectives when conducting an investigation. Each perspective has a its own one-sided view, which illuminates selected aspects of a behavior and social interaction. However, using just one perspective leaves other areas in the dark. That is why sociology contains a substantial number of distinct perspectives that are divided into two categories: micro and macro. Micro is in relation to something small in time and space, meaning an individual or small group. While, macro is in relation to something big in time and space, meaning institutions, society or global systems. Furthermore, Colomy talks about one micro perspective (symbolic interactionism) and two macro perspectives (functionalism and the conflict approach). Symbolic interactionism is a micro perspective that resides in pragmatism, a philosophical approach that assesses the truth or beliefs of meaning towards theories. The origins of this philosophical theory assign John Dewey, William James, George Herbert Mead, and Charles Peirce. Who are all early twentieth century American thinkers. Symbolic interactionism is based on five core ideas as well as the other perspectives.
First, people act in terms of the meanings they assign to objects in their environment. For example, there is an urban legend that adults believe on Halloween which is filled with potential danger and children are vulnerable to strangers dispensing drug-tainted candy. Even today, parents still believe in the legend and continue to inspect their children’s candy for signs of mishap. The second assumption asserts that social action involves adjustments and readjustments as interpretations of situations change. For example, if one makes peanut butter cookies and takes them to a friend’s house, not knowing that she is allergic. There is going to be a readjustment and know to take away the peanut butter cookies from your friend. Third, meanings are socially constructed with no innate meaning. For example, balloons do not necessarily symbolize a good time there is no innate characteristic that means happy. They could symbolize other things such as mourning at a funeral. But, because of our society proclaimed that balloons mean joy that is what we see them as. Fourth, different groups might assign different meanings to the same things. Parents and adolescents, for instance, disagree on the meanings of curfews and age.
Finally, established meanings are subject to transformation, but that transformation might be uncomfortable. A generation or two ago, it was assumed by women as well as men, that a women’s place should be at home taking care of the kids, husband and doing household chores. In the late 1960s-1970s feminists questioned this assumption and struck out a different way to view women, a view to treat women equally in every respect of a male. Functionalism is a macro perspective that examines the maintenance and alteration of institutions and societies. It is said that the classic founder of functionalism is Emile Durkheim, a great French sociologist. Functionalism assumes, first, that for a society to function it must problem-solve. For instance, the government provides children with education, in return the families of these children pay taxes on which the state depends on to keep running the economy. Second, social functions and needs can be met with alternative structures or institutions. For example, the school’s institution can teach children about morality through religious classes. Third, institutions can interact with each other. Addition to the previous example, if the school is going to teach the children morality then they must let the parents know the lessons being taught and reinforce them at home. Forth, specialized institutions create social cohesion with shared values of other institutions.
Furthermore, the example prior, rather than schools teaching morality to the students many churches provide Sunday school so that the children can still learn about morality. Fifth, deviance and conflict arise from strains or contradictions between or among institutions. An example, if a child learns lessons of morality in a fundamentalist church which says that women should be submissive to a male dominant. Later in life they learn that women should be more independent and non-submissive to a male dominant. Finally, like functionalism, the conflict perspective is also a macro approach. The conflict perspective against the functionalist approach that societies can be portrayed as problem-solving entities. First, groups with conflicting interests struggle against each other. Second, those groups give motivation for the construction and maintenance of social practices and institutions. Third, practices and institutions promote the interests of the dominant groups. Fourth, ideologies within the practices and institutions reflect the interests of the dominant groups. Fifth, social change reflects one groups’ effort to “advance” at the expense of another group.
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