“Sociology is the scientific study of human groups and social behaviour, including its origins, development, organisations, and institutions”. (Anon., n.d.) It uses various methods of investigation and analysis to develop knowledge about social order, social disorder and social change.
Sociology and psychology are both social sciences, and deal with behaviour. Sociologists focus on groups of people -- societies, including culture, religion and traditions. Sociologists attempt to analyse the behaviours with-in a group. The actions of individuals are of less interest to them than evolution and prediction of group behaviour in response to economic conditions, political actions. Psychology is interested in individuals, although psychologists may study the impact society has on the individual, they are interested in the thought processes of individuals.
There are two types of sociological theories; the structural or macro theory that adopts a “Top-down” approach to the study. Top-down approach means that it looks at society as a whole when studying it.. Macro is a positive theory that uses scientific methods to research; they are not interested in feelings or emotions as these cannot be objectively observed . Strengths of Positivism are its use of quantitative data collected from statistics, experiments and questionnaires. Quantitative data is more reliable as it is more “scientific” in its methods. Quantitative research gathers data in numerical form which can be put into categories. This type of data can be used to construct graphs and tables of data. A limitation is the belief that objective inference and conclusions can be reached as long as the person doing the observation is objective and disregards their emotions.
The micro or social action theory (interpretive) looks at the smaller groups within society; it is interested with the personal states of individuals. Social action theorists see society as a product of human activity and take the “bottom up” approach. Interpretivists believe to analysis society it needs to be studied on the individual level and that sociologists should use in-depth methods in their method of data collection. Social action theory use qualitative research methods to collect data, such as open-ended questionnaires, case studies and interviews. Qualitative data is descriptive data and is useful for studies at the individual level, to find out, in depth, the ways in which people think. A limitation to the interpretive approach is its use of qualitative data, qualitative data is difficult to analyse and requires accurate description of responses Another critique of the interpretive approach is that it neglects the macro level of social interpretation—the “big picture.”
Level of analysis
Key elements. Arguments
Marxism is a structural conflict theory, this means that it looks at society as a whole and what influences it.
The conflict perspective, originated from Karl Marx's writings on class struggles, it presents society in a different light than functionalist and interactionist perspectives. While these latter perspectives focus on the positive aspects of society, the conflict perspective focuses on the negative, conflicted, and ever‐changing nature of society. Conflict theorists challenge the status quo and encourage social change. Marxist believe that the rich and powerful people (bourgeoisie) force social order on the poor and the weak (Proletariat) Conflict theorists, for example, may interpret an “elite” board raising tuition to pay for new programs that raise the prestige of a local college as self‐serving rather than as beneficial for students. Conflict theorists find social conflict between any groups in which the potential for inequality exists including; race, gender, religion, political, and social economic status,. Conflict theorists note that unequal groups usually have conflicting values and agendas, causing them…