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Q. Define social thought and sociological theory.

Explain the differences

between them.
Social thought: Thomas Hobbes in'the seventeenth century drew a picture of
human society in these words: Human society Was surrounded by a continuous
fear and aggressive death danger and the short life of an individual had fallen a
prey to loneliness, poverty, unpleasantness and cruelty.
According to Hobbes, man was busy in the continuous attempt of achieving power
because of which the social world was changed into a field of wars and fights. The
sociologists of that time accepted the opinion of Hobbes about the society and
began to search the answer of the question keeping in view the condition of the
society as how to create, maintain and change the patterns of social organization.
Long before Thomas Hobbes, sociological thoughts had a modified form, the earliest
example of this is the birth of a renowned Muslim historian, philosopher and
sociologist, Abdur Reliman Khuldun, on May 27, 1337. in Tunis who presented
sociological thoughts on modern research lines which became a torch bear for
modern sociological thought and theory.
Among the ancient Greek philosophers, Socrates, 400 BC, is honour as the founder
of much physical and social knowledge. Socrates way of reasoning and thinking
was scientific and he provided a foundation for modern physical and social
knowledge and took the knowledge from theological age to scientific age.
The period of progress of social thought started after the rise of Islam. Islamic
education produced such social thinkers who brought revolution in human life.
These thinkers include the names of Ibne Sena, Ibne Rushud, Toosi, Imam Abu Iianifa, Imam Ghazali, Imam Razi and Al-Farabi. These thinkers introduced logical
thinking by taking it away from magic and whims but the Muslim suffered a downfall
in the fields of art and knowledge, the West availed of these arts and knowledge
and promoted modern knowledge. Among these, Western thinkers is August Comte,
Emile Durkheim, Max Weber, Karl Marx, George Samuel, Montesque, John Locke and
The basic aim of social thought is to end dispersion from the society, to lessen the
problems and to promote harmony, control, justice and unity in the society.
Sociological Theory Theory is a mental activity. This is an action of construction of
thoughts through which we can explain that how the different incidence take place.
Its basic aim is to explain social situations. It keeps in view different characteristics
of society and derives principles about it. Theory also presents the solution of social
problems and gives an organized shape to the facts of a society, laying the
foundation of knowledge. All physical and social learning are based on theory and
the stages of evolution of knowledge were settled by acceptance or rejection
A social theory is based upon four elements.
1. Concepts
2. Variables
3. Statements

4. Formats
All social themes can be divided into four perspectives:
1. Functional theory
2. Conflict theory
3. Exchange theory
4. Interactionism and role theory
Sociological theory has the following characteristics from which its f importance can
be judged:
1. It surrounds the observable facts of the phenomenon of social theory.
2. The indicators of the theory are simple and measurable.
3. It has the capacity to foretell the facts.
4. Not only it explain the social phenomena but also points to views of new
researches in the fields of research.
Q. Explain functional school of thought in detail.
The functionalist perspective attempts to explain social institutions as collective
means to meet individual and social needs. It is sometimes called structuralfunctionalism because it often focuses on the ways social structures (e.g., social
institutions) meet social needs.
Functionalism draws its inspiration from the ideas of Emile Durkheim. Durkheim was
concerned with the question of how societies maintain internal stability and survive
over time. He sought to explain social stability through the concept of solidarity, and
differentiated between the mechanical solidarity of primitive societies and
the organic solidarity of complex modern societies. According to Durkheim, more
primitive ortraditional societies were held together by mechanical solidarity;
members of society lived in relatively small and undifferentiated groups, where they
shared strong familyties and performed similar daily tasks. Such societies were held
together by sharedvalues and common symbols. By contrast, he observed that, in
modern societies, traditional family bonds are weaker; modern societies also exhibit
a complex division of labor, where members perform very different daily tasks.
Durkheim argued that modern industrial society would destroy the traditional
mechanical solidarity that held primitive societies together. Modern societies
however, do not fall apart. Instead, modern societies rely on organic solidarity;
because of the extensive division of labor, members of society are forced to interact
and exchange with one another to provide the things they need.
The functionalist perspective continues to try and explain how societies maintained
the stability and internal cohesion necessary to ensure their continued existence
over time. In the functionalist perspective, societies are thought to function like
organisms, with various social institutions working together like organs to maintain
and reproduce them. The various parts of society are assumed to work together
naturally and automatically to maintain overall social equilibrium. Because social

institutions are functionally integrated to form a stable system, a change in one

institution will precipitate a change in other institutions. Dysfunctional institutions,
which do not contribute to the overall maintenance of a society, will cease to exist.
In the 1950s, Robert Merton elaborated the functionalist perspective by proposing a
distinction between manifest and latent functions. Manifest functions are the
intended functions of an institution or a phenomenon in a social system. Latent
functions are its unintended functions. Latent functions may be undesirable, but
unintended consequences, or manifestly dysfunctional institutions may have latent
functions that explain their persistence. For example, crime seems difficult to
explain from the functionalist perspective; it seems to play little role in maintaining
social stability. Crime, however, may have the latent function of providing examples
that demonstrate the boundaries of acceptable behavior and the function of these
boundaries to maintain social norms.
Social Institutions
Functionalists analyze social institutions in terms of the function they play. In other
words, to understand a component of society, one must ask, "What is the function
of this institution? How does it contribute to social stability? " Thus, one can ask of
education, "What is the function of education for society? " A complete answer
would be quite complex and require a detailed analysis of the history of education,
but one obvious answer is that education prepares individuals to enter the
workforce and, therefore, maintains a functioning economy. By delineating the
functions of elements of society, of the social structure, we can better understand
social life.
Criticism of Functionalism
Functionalism has been criticized for downplaying the role of individual action, and
for being unable to account for social change. In the functionalist perspective,
society and its institutions are the primary units of analysis. Individuals are
significant only in terms of their places within social systems (i.e., social status and
position in patterns of social relations). Some critics also take issue with
functionalism's tendency to attribute needs to society. They point out that, unlike
human beings, society does not have needs; society is only alive in the sense that it
is made up of living individuals. By downplaying the role of individuals,
functionalism is less likely to recognize how individual actions may alter social
Critics also argue that functionalism is unable to explain social change because it
focuses so intently on social order and equilibrium in society. Following functionalist
logic, if a social institution exists, it must serve a function. Institutions, however,
change over time; some disappear and others come into being. The focus of
functionalism on elements of social life in relation to their present function, and not
their past functions, makes it difficult to use functionalism to explain why a function
of some element of society might change, or how such change occurs.

Q. Distinguish between functionalism and conflict theory.

Functionalism and conflict theory are two major perspectives on how society works.
The two take very different approaches to understanding what society is like.
Functionalism holds that all parts of a society play a role in keeping society stable
and relatively harmonious. To functionalists, even bad things like crime and
deviance actually help to keep our society stable. They say that crime and
deviance help to ensure that the rest of us (those who do not act in criminal or
deviant ways) feel connected to one another. We see people who act in bad ways
and we feel that we all have something in common because we follow societys
rules and do not act wrongly. Thus, functionalists believe that even bad aspects of
society help to bind us together.
By contrast, conflict theorists believe that all aspects of our society do not create
harmony. Instead, the various aspects of our society come about through conflict.
Society is not made up of parts that work together to bring stability. Instead, it is
made up of parts that compete with each other for dominance. In this view, even
things that we might think of as good (family, religion, schools) are actually created
by the dominant forces in society as a way to keep the other parts of society down.
Families are created by men to dominate women. Religion is created by the
powerful to keep the poor and weak from rebelling. Schools are created to teach
the values of our society so that even the poor think that we have a great society
that is basically fair.
In these ways, functionalism and conflict theory are essentially polar opposites in
terms of their views of how the various parts of society interact

Q. Give introduction of different theoretical perspectives of

Sociologists today employ three primary theoretical perspectives: the symbolic
interactionist perspective, the functionalist perspective, and the conflict
perspective. These perspectives offer sociologists theoretical paradigms for
explaining how society influences people, and vice versa. Each perspective uniquely
conceptualizes society, social forces, and human behavior (see Table 1).

The symbolic interactionist perspective, also known as symbolic

interactionism, directs sociologists to consider the symbols and details of
everyday life, what these symbols mean, and how people interact with each other.
Although symbolic interactionism traces its origins to Max Weber's assertion that
individuals act according to their interpretation of the meaning of their world, the
American philosopher George H. Mead (18631931) introduced this perspective to
American sociology in the 1920s.
According to the symbolic interactionist perspective, people attach meanings to
symbols, and then they act according to their subjective interpretation of these
symbols. Verbal conversations, in which spoken words serve as the predominant
symbols, make this subjective interpretation especially evident. The words have a
certain meaning for the sender, and, during effective communication, they
hopefully have the same meaning for the receiver. In other terms, words are not
static things; they require intention and interpretation. Conversation is an
interaction of symbols between individuals who constantly interpret the world
around them. Of course, anything can serve as a symbol as long as it refers to
something beyond itself. Written music serves as an example. The black dots and
lines become more than mere marks on the page; they refer to notes organized in
such a way as to make musical sense. Thus, symbolic interactionists give serious
thought to how people act, and then seek to determine what meanings individuals
assign to their own actions and symbols, as well as to those of others.
Consider applying symbolic interactionism to the American institution of marriage.
Symbols may include wedding bands, vows of lifelong commitment, a white bridal
dress, a wedding cake, a Church ceremony, and flowers and music. American
society attaches general meanings to these symbols, but individuals also maintain
their own perceptions of what these and other symbols mean. For example, one of
the spouses may see their circular wedding rings as symbolizing never ending
love, while the other may see them as a mere financial expense. Much faulty

communication can result from differences in the perception of the same events and
Critics claim that symbolic interactionism neglects the macro level of social
interpretationthe big picture. In other words, symbolic interactionists may miss
the larger issues of society by focusing too closely on the trees (for example, the
size of the diamond in the wedding ring) rather than the forest (for example, the
quality of the marriage). The perspective also receives criticism for slighting the
influence of social forces and institutions on individual interactions.

The functionalist perspective:

According to the functionalist perspective, also called functionalism, each
aspect of society is interdependent and contributes to society's functioning as a
whole. The government, or state, provides education for the children of the family,
which in turn pays taxes on which the state depends to keep itself running. That is,
the family is dependent upon the school to help children grow up to have good jobs
so that they can raise and support their own families. In the process, the children
become lawabiding, taxpaying citizens, who in turn support the state. If all goes
well, the parts of society produce order, stability, and productivity. If all does not go
well, the parts of society then must adapt to recapture a new order, stability, and
productivity. For example, during a financial recession with its high rates of
unemployment and inflation, social programs are trimmed or cut. Schools offer
fewer programs. Families tighten their budgets. And a new social order, stability,
and productivity occur.
Functionalists believe that society is held together by social consensus, or
cohesion, in which members of the society agree upon, and work together to
achieve, what is best for society as a whole. Emile Durkheim suggested that social
consensus takes one of two forms:

Mechanical solidarity is a form of social cohesion that arises when people

in a society maintain similar values and beliefs and engage in similar types of
work. Mechanical solidarity most commonly occurs in traditional, simple
societies such as those in which everyone herds cattle or farms. Amish
society exemplifies mechanical solidarity.

In contrast, organic solidarity is a form of social cohesion that arises when

the people in a society are interdependent, but hold to varying values and
beliefs and engage in varying types of work. Organic solidarity most
commonly occurs in industrialized, complex societies such those in large
American cities like New York in the 2000s.

The functionalist perspective achieved its greatest popularity among American

sociologists in the 1940s and 1950s. While European functionalists originally
focused on explaining the inner workings of social order, American functionalists
focused on discovering the functions of human behavior. Among these American

functionalist sociologists is Robert Merton (b. 1910), who divides human functions
into two types: manifest functions are intentional and obvious, whilelatent
functions are unintentional and not obvious. The manifest function of attending a
church or synagogue, for instance, is to worship as part of a religious community,
but its latent function may be to help members learn to discern personal from
institutional values. With common sense, manifest functions become easily
apparent. Yet this is not necessarily the case for latent functions, which often
demand a sociological approach to be revealed. A sociological approach in
functionalism is the consideration of the relationship between the functions of
smaller parts and the functions of the whole.
Functionalism has received criticism for neglecting the negative functions of an
event such as divorce. Critics also claim that the perspective justifies the status quo
and complacency on the part of society's members. Functionalism does not
encourage people to take an active role in changing their social environment, even
when such change may benefit them. Instead, functionalism sees active social
change as undesirable because the various parts of society will compensate
naturally for any problems that may arise.
The conflict perspective
The conflict perspective, which originated primarily out of Karl Marx's writings on
class struggles, presents society in a different light than do the functionalist and
symbolic interactionist perspectives. While these latter perspectives focus on the
positive aspects of society that contribute to its stability, the conflict
perspectivefocuses on the negative, conflicted, and everchanging nature of
society. Unlike functionalists who defend the status quo, avoid social change, and
believe people cooperate to effect social order, conflict theorists challenge the
status quo, encourage social change (even when this means social revolution), and
believe rich and powerful people force social order on the poor and the weak.
Conflict theorists, for example, may interpret an elite board of regents raising
tuition to pay for esoteric new programs that raise the prestige of a local college as
selfserving rather than as beneficial for students.
Whereas American sociologists in the 1940s and 1950s generally ignored the
conflict perspective in favor of the functionalist, the tumultuous 1960s saw
American sociologists gain considerable interest in conflict theory. They also
expanded Marx's idea that the key conflict in society was strictly economic. Today,
conflict theorists find social conflict between any groups in which the potential for
inequality exists: racial, gender, religious, political, economic, and so on. Conflict
theorists note that unequal groups usually have conflicting values and agendas,
causing them to compete against one another. This constant competition between
groups forms the basis for the everchanging nature of society.
Critics of the conflict perspective point to its overly negative view of society. The
theory ultimately attributes humanitarian efforts, altruism, democracy, civil rights,
and other positive aspects of society to capitalistic designs to control the masses,
not to inherent interests in preserving society and social order.