Sociological theories are the key components of sociology as a discipline. They function as guides for researchers and also guide practitioners who conduct intervention strategies. Sociological theories are defined as a set of concepts which are interrelated. They explain, describe and predict the relationships among different parts of the society.
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The theories are made up of ideas and concepts that have close relations and are scientifically tested and brought together to expand, clarify, magnify and enlarge how human beings understand people together with their unique behaviors and the society in general. The theories assist sociologists to perform different types of studies with particular questions that examine the assumptions in the theories (Ritzer 110). This is a concept explaining paper that focuses on the concept of sociological theories.
In the following example, two researchers, Henry and Cumming conducted a study that focused on the process of aging. They developed an aging theory that comprised of assumptions. In the theory, they assumed that once elderly people realize that they are about to die, they stop their youthful actions.
At the same time, the members of the society shift their focus from them. The researchers tested their theory by using a large number of aging people and found out that the generalizations and findings they had devised resulted did not support the theory. The theory was therefore abandoned since the findings did not support it. This showed the importance of research in determining the validity of sociological theories.
Theories are used to study millions of people in societies and even at other levels. When they are used to study large groups of people, they are referred to as macro theories.
On the other hand, when theories are used to study small groups of people such as families, couples or teams they are known as micro theories. The macro theories are basically comprised of functional and conflict theories while the micro theories include social exchange and symbolic interactionism theories. In most situations, most theories are used at both the micro and macro levels.
There are two broad categories of theories. The first category is referred to as the grand category of theories and focuses on universal qualities of social issues or problems. Its basis is abstract concepts and ideas as opposed to specific evidence. Such theories include symbolic interactionism, conflict, and social exchange theories.
The second broad category of theories is the middle-range category of theories. These theories are formed on the basis of scientific findings which are specific and centre on the interrelation between or among concepts in a specific social problem or process.
Conflict theory is an example of a macro theory. A macro theory is used to study issues that affect larger groups of people. The founder of the theory was a German economist, philosopher and a sociologist known as Marx. He was disappointed because the educated people in the society mistreated the less educated and the poor.
He could not tolerate the capitalist ideals that allowed the powerful individuals in the society to exploit the poor and perpetrate inhumane acts on them. The theory was later developed by Max Weber and took a moderate ground. In the development, he conducted a thorough study of capitalism but did not agree with Marx on rejecting the theory.
Conflict theory is very important when trying to understand poverty and wealth, war, revolutions, slavery, child abuse, domestic violence and political strife among others social issues. The theory asserts that the society is constantly in conflict and people always compete for scarce resources.
It assumes that individuals who have wealth in the society strife to earn more of it at the expense of those who do not have. It is usually a power struggle that favors the elites and the wealthy while the poor become the victims of hard situations. Power is the capacity of individuals to seize whatever they want even when they face strong opposition.
The second type of grand theory is the structural functionalism or functionalism. Functionalists argue that society must sustain a state of balance as the different components of the society perform their functions. This theory has a relationship with ecological and biological concepts.
The functional and non-functional systems in the society are analyzed the same way the human body is analyzed to detect problems. Some of the processes that express functionality in the society include romantic relationships, growth or decline of the population, socialization, religious practices and friendship among others.
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Functionalists agree with proponents of conflict theory that the society experiences some breakdowns and that mistreatment of the poor in the society is a reality. The societal breakdowns are referred to as dysfunctions and threaten the stability of the society. However, functionalists exhibits a more positive and optimistic attitude than the conflict theorists.
They acknowledge the fact that societies experience problems just like the body does. Functionalists study the parts and processes of the society to find out how societies maintain their stability in the wake of factors that make society unstable.
The third type of theory is symbolic interactionism. Interactionism takes place as either social exchange or symbolic interaction. Symbolic interaction theory argues that people in the society interact with one another on a daily basis.
It is a useful theory that is used to improve communication, understand people, and impart skills among individuals of different cultures and foster good relations in the society. Generally, the theory is used to understand most of the aspects that make up the society. It is a theory that provides a magnified understanding of meaning.
The fourth type of theory is called the social exchange theory. This theory argues that in the society, individuals constantly interact as they try to maximize rewards and incur minimal costs. Its assumptions resemble those of the conflict theory.
Human beings exhibit rationality since they have the capacity to differentiate between the good and the bad after they have learnt the advantages and disadvantages of every choice. People look at the available options in every situation and figure out how the rewards can be maximized and costs minimized. One of the most outstanding features of the theory is its equity concept (Axelrod and Cooper 10).
All the sociological theories are applicable when it comes to conducting studies on collective and individual behaviors. However, some theories are best suited in some circumstances because they handle certain issues better than other theories. A particular issue may be studied through several theories in order to establish certain aspects of the issue. Sociological theories are important since they are used by researchers to establish various societal facts and solutions to specific problems.
Axelrod, Rise and Charles Cooper. St. Martin’s Guide to Writing. New York: Bedford Books, 2007.Print
Ritzer, George. Sociological theory. New York: McGraw-Hall, 2000.Print