Concept of Perspective

A perspective can be defined as a way of looking at and seeing something. The sociological perspective reveals the power of society to shape individual lives. Peter Berger described the sociological perspective as “seeing the general in the particular.”  Wright Mills called this point of view the “sociological imagination,” claiming it transforms personal troubles into public issues.

The experience of being an outsider or of living through a social crisis can encourage people to use the sociological perspective. The sociological perspective helps us assess the truth of “common sense.”

It helps us see the opportunities and constraints in our lives. It empowers us to be active participants in our society. It helps us live in a diverse world.

Concept of Theory

A theory is a statement of how and why specific facts are related. The job of sociological theory is to explain social behavior in the real world. Sociologists use the four major theoretical approaches to describe the operation of society: Functionalism, Symbolic- interaction, Conflict Theory and Post- modernism

Functionalism( Meaning, context and key assumptions)

Functionalism (structural functionalism) sees society as a structure with interrelated parts designed to meet the biological and social needs of individuals who make up that society. It is the oldest of the main theories of sociology. It explores how social structure- patterns of behavior, such as religious rituals or family- work together to help society operate.

Auguste Comte, Emile Durkheim, Herbert Spencerc,Talcott Parson and R.K. merton e helped develop the structural – functional approach. It was emerged in 19th century from Europe.

Key Assumptions

  • Functional Unity
  • Functional Indispensability
  • Functional Universality
  • Structural Relationship
  • Society is a stable rather than dynamic system
  • Social Consensus rather than conflict
  • Concept of function, dysfunction, latent function and manifest function
  • Interrelationship between parts, sub system, system and structures
  • Based on macro level theoretical orientation

Functionalism of Emile Durkheim and Talcott Parsons (Basic ideas and criticism):

Emile Durkheim (1858- 1917): The most famous French sociologist. His theory sees society as a complex system of interrelated parts, working together to maintain stability. He believed that individuals may make up society but in order to study society, sociologists have to look beyond individuals to social facts.

His major works:

  • The Division of Labor in Society (1893)

- Mechanical solidarity( Simple society)

- Organic solidarity ( Complex society)

  • The Rules of Sociological Method( 1895)

-Material social facts( visible and touchable)

-Non- material social facts( Invisible and untouchable)

  • Suicide (1897)

According to Durkheim , suicide refers to“ every case of death resulting directly or indirectly from a positive or negative death performed by the victim himself and which strives to produce this result

-Egoistic Suicide:  results from the lack of the integration of the individual into his social groups.

-Altruistic Suicide: result from the over- integration of the individual into his social groups.

-Anomic Suicide: result from the state of degeneration found in society.

  • Elementary forms of Religious Life( 1912)

Durkheim’s concern about religion lay in the fact that it was one of the main agencies of solidarity and morality in society.


  • His theory is too broad.
  • Religion does not necessarily have to be social.
  • Lack of empiricism

Talcott Parsons (1902- 1979):

He was an American sociologist of the classical tradition, best known for his social action theory and structural functionalism. He is considered one of the most influential figures in sociology in the 20th     

His major work: “ The Structure of Social Action(1937)”

Parsons builds up an elaborate model of systems and subsystem. In order to survive, each system must meet four ‘Functional Prerequisites’: AGIL

A= adaptation

G= goal attainment

I= integration

L= latency or pattern maintenance

The four systems (system of action): Cultural system, Social system, Personality System and Biological System.

Criticism of Functionalism

Its influence declined in the 1960s and 1970s because many sociologists believed that it could not adequately explain the rapid social changes taking place at the time.

Many sociologists now believed that functionalism is no longer useful as a macro- level theory, but that it does serve as useful purpose in many mid- range analyses.