Sociological Theories

  • Created by: Hannah
  • Created on: 23-03-15 13:33


  • Social Institutions work like organs within the human body for society (Family, education, religion, law enforcement.)
  • Functional Imperatives: Goal attainment, adaption, integration, latency (pattern maintenance)
  • Structures of society - medicine, families, education, religion
  • Functional sub-systems - economic, political, family/kinship and cultural systems
  • When socialisation is inadequate or where social change is rapid anomie can occur. This is a state of normlessness.
  • Education: socialise individuals into norms and values, allocates individuals into a class based society through meritocratic principles.
  • Health: Medicine performs a vital social control function by limiting acess to the sick role
  • Religion: Integrates people and provides support and guidance.
  • Crime: Occurs due to blocked opportunities and from sub-cultural pressures.

Critisms:The theory is ideologically driven. Therefore it is reductionsist

1 of 9

Functionalism - Strengths and Weaknesses


  • Detailed theoretical perspective
  • It demonstrates the links between major social institutions for e.g. education, religion and the economy
  • Parson's and Durkheim's work has provided insight that has helped modern sociologists to understand contemporary societies


  • Tends to over-emphasise the harmonious nature of society by ignoring differences between groups of individuals.
  • They try to explain the beginning of a social institution by its function. However we know that certain functions such as religion's function have been diluted and be questioned.
  • Functionalism proovides an inadequate explanations of social change.
2 of 9


  • Social class (ecomonic - ownership of the means of production)
  • False class consciousness - the working class are unaware of the full extent of their exploitation
  • Social Structure - Capitalist
  • Althusser - Ideological/Repressive State Apparatus
  • Economic base (infrastructure) and political/ideological superstructure
  • Forms of (non-economic) conflict (gender, ethinicity) ignored in forms of economic conflicts.
  • Education: Serves to reproduce and justify the social class structure through its socialisation role, allocated individuals to jobs on the basis of social class rather than merit
  • Health: Medicine maintains a healthy workforce and difrects attention away from the social causes of ill health
  • Religion: Prevents social change and is the 'opiate of the masses'
  • Crime: Causes by economic inequalitty and capitalist values, laws are created to maintain the power and privilege of the ruling class, the police selectively enforce the law against the working class
3 of 9

Marxism - Strengths and Weaknesses


  • it has a large theoretical appeal and has been a major influence on other theories
  • It also attempts to link the structural elements of society with the consciousness of the individual
  • Marxisms accounts for the relvolutionary upheaval as societies go throught large-scale change


  • Critised for over-emphasising conflict in society. Functionalist say that for society to work there has to be harmony and shared values
  • Also critised for its economic determinism. Economic nesds shape everything in society
  • The evidence of communism not working shows that the Marxism theorus in longer viable. The promise of conmmunism has been replaced by the desire for western-style democracies.
4 of 9



    • Gender inequality - e.g. laws and status
    • female biology - through pregnancy and size, marriage, sex
  • Men are the enemy of women (adovate same sex relationships/ female support groups)
  • Public sphere (work) and private sphere (the home) - dual form of female exploitation
  • technology (e.g.freedom from child) emancipation can be achieved


  • Social change - evolutionary not forced
  • laws needed / used to redress males/ female power imbalance
  • Equality of opportunity -  main weapon - legal system (anti-discrimination, equal pay, child-care, maternal rights, equal legal and social rights


  • Class inequality - cause of female oppression, expolitation and discrimination
  • Family system benefits capitalism and men e.g. domestic labour
  • Do not see men as the enemy (radical) - have to live together in harmony
5 of 9


Society actively constructed through social interaction

labelling thoery (master labels, categorisation, stereotypes)

Role Play (ascription and achievement)

Society has no objective existence (society = elaborate fiction)


  • Focus on small-scale, relatively trival, aspects of social life
  • Over-emphasis on "the individual" (and their common sense, subjective, interpretations)
6 of 9

The New Right

Economic freedom

Individual superior to the collective

State as "oppressive of individual freedom"

Traditional family roles/gender freedom


  • Over-emphasis on individuals at expense of social structures
  • Ignore inequality of class, gender, status and power
  • ignore role of culture in the shaping of social identites
7 of 9

Post - Modernism

Culture and identity (gender, age, ethinicity)

Rejection of postivism (science as ideology)

Consumerism/ Consumer Culture

In-groups and out-groups (one of us or one of them)

Social construction of reality (subjective realities not objective realities)

Reject ideology of "progress"


  • Post-modern society is ideology invention
  • Over-emphasis on individuals, consumers, choice etc
  • Under-emphasis on how "choice" is socially created/produced
  • Ignore power structures in society
  • Social class clearly realted to life chances
8 of 9


Structuration (social action and social structure)

Market postion (economic dimension of stratification)

Conflict (across class, gender, age, ethnicity, religion, etc) - basis for stratification

Life Chances - Status groups and interest groups

Multi-casual analysis (e.g. religion and capitalism)  and Value freedom


  • Over emphasis on motives, interpretations on individuals
  • Emphasis on subjective interpretations of individuals downgrades importance of social structures
  • Impossible to clearly identify social structures
  • Reduces individual actions and motivations to social structures
  • Over emphasis on cultural conditions and changes at expense of ecomonic conditions
9 of 9


No comments have yet been made

Similar Sociology resources:

See all Sociology resources »See all Theorys resources »