Sociology is the study of human culture, communal group and communal interactions of people of different ethnicities, races and religions (Taylor 22). As people interact, they happen to share some common values and behaviours. This interaction may lead to disagreement due to diverse perceptions on how to attend things and when they should be done among others. These disagreements led to the introduction of theories, which try to elucidate why people in a certain society may be in a state of conflict. Some of them are:
Symbolic Interaction theory
Symbolic interaction theory can be termed as micro-sociology since it reflects the direct (face-to-face) interaction in the society (Andersen and Taylor 22). This theory evaluates society by concentrating on individual meanings that the community imposes on situations, conducts, things and other various aspects as they perceive them. According to this theory, people interact using the same language and symbols. Therefore, according to the theory, people conduct themselves according to what they think, not the real truth. Use of the same language makes it possible for people to discuss a situation or object and conclude on a common meaning. It is possible for people to place meaning on objects, since our surroundings have no meaning in them unless a meaning is placed (Delaney 29).
Symbolic interaction theory can be said to be flexible since the meanings constantly change with people’s interactions. This is so, since a community that has a meaning of a situation, behaviors or things, interacts with people of another social group. The first interpretation will definitely change, so the meaning will be modified to include the new community formed. This leads to social connection formation. The event that happened and is well known to exist may be argued to never happen, and people perceive and accept that it did not happen. This shows clearly that symbolic interaction theory does not depend on truth, but on people’s perception and explanation. A disagreement may arise where people in the same social connection fail to come into conclusion for a certain behavior even after constant consultation. This leads to sociological conflict known as symbolic interaction conflict. This theory attracts much criticism from some people since it relies on personal belief.
Conflict theory brings about the conflicts that arise due to the difference between the powerful and the dependable group in a state, society or nation, termed as the struggle of class. This theory articulates on the harm the weak/poor receive from the rich while those with power benefit at the expense of the poor. Those in power use excessive force to manipulate and control the have-not’s (Andersen 18). Conflict theory finds a country being divided into sets that are competing for the natural resources, such as social resources and economic resources available in a society. People with power are the ones who maintain order in the society. This is so since they hold all the influential positions and the weak group are left without an option, other than to follow blindly on what has been agreed by the dominance group.
This type of conflict is practiced in almost all the countries, because no society is able to bridge the gap between the rich and the poor. This makes it possible for the rich to occupy influential positions in the government. This is because they want to control and protect their interests from other prominent group who may have interest on the same. In accordance with the theorists of conflict, agreement can only be arrived between people converged together and with a common goal to achieve at the expense of the lesser group (Ballantine and Spade 7).
Inequality is the main characteristic of conflict theory, since the powerful class takes control of power and manages the resources in the society with the aim of protecting their interests. This builds up a gap between the two classes since the rich continue to be rich while the poor become poorer. This shows that there is no any times the rich and the poor will share the resources equally. In this theory, the main emphasis is on social control of the less fortunate people (being the large group) who are compelled to follow the powerful elite. The unfortunate group has no contribution to the society since they have no common interest and hence they are always at the mercy of the haves. It is clear that the dominant group has its own lifestyle which differentiates them from others. An example is the type of car they drive, area of resident, hotels they visit among others, which indicate their significance to others. There has been a direct relationship between cultural power and the performance of their children in schools. Students from a good background tend to perform well compared to those from a poor background. This makes them compete in the best schools and colleges as well as in the job market, as indicated by Hill and Treiman 2001 (45).
Conflict theory also concentrates on other aspects like religion and race in a country since these are the basis of important and enduring conflicts in the country. This theory finds no importance of negotiations on values to be shared and community agreement in a country as it emphasizes much on inequality and power. This is the main reason that attracts critics from other theories. Functional theory and conflict theory share one major characteristic of the origin of people’s behavior, but conflict theory contradicts with emphasizing on the importance of power.
Conflict theory tends to dominate in many societies as it highlights the main causes of conflicts and disagreement in many countries. Even with much effort applied to unite people and have a common view in the growth and development of a society, it is wastage of time until the bridge between the powerful and the less unfortunate will be created.
Functional theory uses learning institutions as the basis that controls the smooth running of a society. It values schools, religion, hospitals and family since they play an important role in the survival and the continuity of the society at large. Functional theory has its history, since other theories like symbolic interaction and conflict theory came into existence with a motive of modifying this theory. Theorists compare functional theory with body parts; just like the different parts of the body coordinate to ensure a person remains active and healthy, education, family and other social association should work together to ensure the running of a society is healthy (Ballantine and Spade 9). The functions played by each social institution, may it be family or schools, are of much importance since they contribute to the society’s functions and continuity.
According to functional theory, a state of balance in the society is maintained when all the social institutions integrate and are co-dependent with every other. By these institutions working together, a consensus is arrived on the acceptable behaviors, norms and values to be shared by all members of the society (White and Ortega 24). Durkheim finds classroom as an agent and intermediary between the family morals, and the generally accepted societal moral values. It is in learning institutions that children are taught the importance of socialization, acceptable moral values and good behaviors. This explains why schools are the best training site for studying the best skills to be practiced in the society at large and the rule of law governing the country (Madigan 10).
Unlike the conflict theory which explains why the less powerful people control the society for their own interests at the expense of the poor people, functional theory argues that learning institution should be controlled by the society without any pressure and influence from any group or persons with an aim of benefiting themselves at the expense of the larger society (Andersen 11). Education executes a very significant duty of preparing the students/people on roles performed in an independent state. These are the roles they will play when they become aged and during their reign. Hence, education acts as a link between the old generation and the new generation. This makes it possible to transmit information, values, norms and behaviors from one generation to the other without deviation from the accepted behaviors in the society. Since there is no discrimination in learning institutions, good performance in school is not due to status or background of a student, but it is on merit. Those who perform well, disregarding status quo, find their way through in the best higher learning institution as well as job market.
Functional theory and conflict theory are called macro-sociology since the meaning placed on behaviors, norms and values is from the wide perspective of the society with no negotiations or modifications (Davies and Kaufman 52). The behaviors in these two theories do not change since they are transferred from one age bracket to the other, and the trend continues. This is unlike the symbolic interaction theory where meaning is placed according to individual understanding and perspective, and changes with time.
The conflict theory tends to be the most dominant theory that explains the reason why many societies are in conflicts and the most affected countries are the third world countries (Janoski 93). The remarkable causes of conflicts according to conflict theory are: gender inequality, discrimination in the job market, political dominance by some tribes, tribalism, religion, poverty among others. All these factors lead to tension, disagreement and finally conflicts in a society.
It is clear that transforming a society from a conflict state to a peaceful state is a problem compared to changing from a peaceful state to a conflict state. Many societies have tried to find a solution to solve these conflicts, like gender equality where all genders should be presented regardless of their race, tribe, religion or background. Other efforts applied are right of education to all children, health facilities to all and job placement to all those who have the required qualification to the job. All these solutions have not worked since the powerful influence on culture to favour them and look for solutions that will be on their benefits. In addition, after a solution is found for a specific problem, another problem crops up. Since the solutions provided to solve these problems have not completely worked, the society should provide other means in order to end social conflicts.
- White, Lynn and Ortega, Suzanne. Essentials of Sociology. New York: Cengage Learning publishers. 2007. Print.
- Janoski, Thomas. The Handbook of Political Sociology: States, Civil Societies, and Globalization. New York: Cambridge University Press. 2005. Print.
- Davies, John and Kaufman, Edward. Second Track/Citizens’ Diplomacy: Concepts and Techniques for Conflict Transformation. New York: Rowman & Littlefield. 2003. Print.
- Andersen, Margaret and Taylor, Francis. Sociology: The Essentials. New York: Cengage Learning. 2012. Print.
- Delaney, Tim and Madigan, Tim. The Sociology of Sports: An Introduction. New York: McFarland. 2009. Print.