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Argumentative Essay

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There are three major theoretical perspectives that help sociologists interpret social life: Symbolic Interactionism, Structural Functionalism, and Conflict. All three of these perspectives guide sociologist's ideas and research, helping them understand social behavior (Dykstra 2012).

Symbolic Interactionism perspective states that through interactions and symbols, one socially constructs their own world. This process is completed through social interaction, which takes place through the perception and interpretation of symbols (Dykstra 2012). Symbolic Interactionism is micro based, making one of the main criticisms that this perspective neglects macro structures. Another criticism is that it is difficult to study concepts such as "the mind" and "the self," both of which are concepts brought by Goffman and Mead (Dykstra 2012).

Structural Functionalist perspective states that society is primarily stable and orderly; all parts of society are interrelated and necessary for such society to function properly. Criticisms of this perspective state that it fails to explain change in society, and that it assumes conflict is harmful. Functionalist perspective theorists believe that every part of society exists because it fulfills a particular function: manifest (planned outcomes), latent (unplanned outcomes), or dysfunctions (actions that undermine the stability of society.) Major theorists of this perspective are Comte, Durkheim, and Merton (Dykstra 2012).

Conflict perspective states that conflict underlies all social relations. Social change is desirable, especially when it can lead to massive equality. Main criticisms of this perspective include that it is macro level based, making macro level unexplained, along with the difficulty of testing empirically. Key theorists of this perspective are Karl Marx, Dubois, Simmel, and Coser (Dykstra 2012).

All three perspectives are useful for sociologists to study the way society is functioning and how social context is organized. Without these perspectives, sociologists would have a difficult time distinguishing between behaviors of societies.

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