What level of analysis accompanies the three theoretical perspectives?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I assume you are asking which level of analysis each of the three major sociological perspectives is concerned with.  The answer to this is that two of the major theoretical perspectives operate on the macro level while the third operates more on the micro level.  Both functionalism and conflict theory are concerned with the macro level while symbolic interactionism is more interested in the micro level.

Both functionalism and conflict theory look at large groups and institutions in society.  Functionalism looks at the various institutions of the whole society and asks how they help to make the society more stable and orderly.  For example, it might look at our family structure and try to determine how that structure (an institution) helps maintain order and stability in our society.  Conflict theory looks at groups in society and their conflicts with one another.  Conflict theory says that everything in society comes about through conflict between groups.  A conflict theorist might look at our family structure and interpret it as a result of conflict between men and women.  Either way, these are macro-level perspectives.

Symbolic interactionism is different.  It is more concerned with the individual.  It wants to understand how the individual interacts with institutions, ideas, and other people in our society and how the individual is affected by those interactions.  They might say that the meaning of family in our society depends on the ways in which various individuals interact with and are affected by our typical family structures.  Since this perspective is more interested in individuals it, unlike the other two, is operating on the micro level.

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