Ccompare and contrast the three (3) sociological perspectives.    

Expert Answers
pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are three main theoretical perspectives in sociology.  These are structural-functionalism (often just called functionalism), the conflict perspective, and symbolic interactionism.  The first of these two have some things in common and some differences.  The third is rather different from the other two and does not really share anything in common with them.

Functionalism and conflict theory are similar to one another in that they are both macro-level theories.  Both of these perspectives look at society as a whole or at large groups.  They do not really look at individual people.  Beyond this, however, these two perspectives differ.  Functionalism holds that society is like an organism and that each aspect of society plays a vital role in keeping the society healthy and stable.  This is essentially a positive view of society in which all aspects of society exist for a good reason and help to maintain stability.  By contrast, conflict theory holds that aspects of society arise out of conflict between groups.  There are, in this view, many groups in society that compete with one another.  In each area of conflict, one group wins, and some aspect of society is created.  Each aspect of society is created by the winner of the conflict in such a way as to help them.  Thus, society is made up of institutions that arise from conflict and which are meant to privilege one group over another.

Symbolic interactionism is simply different from these two.  It is so different that it cannot really be compared to them.  While the other two perspectives focus on the macro level, structural functionalism looks at the micro level.  It looks at individual people and how they understand and define the various aspects of the world around them.  To this perspective, society is created by the combined ways in which people interpret all the things that they see around them.  This perspective, then, is one that is concerned not with large groups but with the interactions between individuals and the environment in which they live.