The three main sociological perspectives include functionalist theory, conflict theory, and symbolic interactionist theory. These approaches consider the same social problems from different angles. Functionalism is based on the works of Herbert Spencer, Emile Durkheim, Auguste Comte, and Robert Merton. The main idea of functionalism is that a strong society and adequate socialization and social integration are critical for social stability. Functionalism regards social problems as arising from society’s natural evolution.
Thus, functionalists divide the world into the functional elements that help maintain stability and the dysfunctional ones that prevent it. Notably, the same elements can be both functional and dysfunctional. Although the idea of a stable society is highly detailed, functionalism is over-focused on the concept of stability. Additionally, although it is assumed that individuals control their actions, they are determined by the environment. Thus, suicide is regarded as a social phenomenon that lacks psychological factors. Overall, the functional perspective disregards individual actions and views as a consequence of social order or disorder.
The social-conflict approach opposes functionalism and views society as the primary cause of conflict and inequality. It was developed during the industrial revolution by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. In conflict theory, society is characterized by inequality based on social class, race, and gender, among other factors. Social problems are perceived as arising from fundamental flaws in the structure of society. Feminist theory is one of the branches of the point of view with the primary conflict concerning gender rather than the class, as discussed initially by Marx and Engels. Overall, the conflict theory thoroughly studies social development with changes as the core of its progress. However, the disadvantage of the approach is that it excludes stability.
Symbolic interactionism is the third social perspective that focuses on the interaction of individuals and how they interpret that communication. It was developed in the 1900s by American sociologists, psychologists, and philosophers interested in investigating human consciousness and action, with Max Weber being one of the key authors. According to this theory, people build their social roles on their interactions as they reflect on their daily situations and attempt to construct them socially. The advantage of this theory is that it does not focus on a single concept of a stable or unstable society but rather on individual acts and relationships between people. However, the main disadvantage of the approach is subjective interpretations of various circumstances.