Functionalism Conflict Theory and Symbolic Interaction The functionalist thoery can be traced to a movement in the late nineteenth-century under the influences of Darwinism on the biological and social sciences. It is an attempt to understand the world, and it tests the cause and effect of sociological behavior. Some of the more famous functionalists are Charles Darwin, Emile Durkheim, and Horace Kallen. Horace Kallen’s article in the article in the Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences, states that functionalism has influenced every discipline. In psychology, it led to the substitution of the stream of consciousness for states of mind.
In philosophy, it led to the rise of pragmatism and instrumentalism, and in logic it replaced the laws of thought with the theory of scientific method. Functionalism basically came to be seen as a means to an end. There are two major sub-schools of modern functionalism; macro-functionalism and micro-functionalism. Macro-functionalism focuses primarily on breaking down large scale systems such as societies or civilizations and making them into small scale systems, such as groups. Micro-functionalism deals mainly with the behaviors and personalities of the group. Functionalism has not fully been accepted because it is a theory that is still developing and is still trying to be understood.
Conflict theory is the belief that change and conflict are good for societyflict theorists such as Karl Marx, David Hume, and Adam Ferguson believe that every society requires a minimum realistic view about its conflicts in order to survive. In Adam Ferguson’s An Essay on the History of Civil Society, he states that the conflict theory of society has reevaluated the importance of specific institutions so that social order can be maintained. He suggested that revolts were beneficial and that the elimination of state would move society in a foward direction. Some of the reasons that the conflict theory was not completely successful were due to the fact that not many social scientists were thrilled about the idea of replacing the state with a bureau of sociologists. People believed that economic institutions were paramount.
They also held the thought that family and religion were extremly important and a mutany would only make problems worse. Symbolic interaction is a sociological theory that focuses on the processes of person to person interaction, on how people come to develop viewpoints about themselves and others, and on forms of interpersonal communication. Symbolic interaction deals with verbal and nonverbal interaction. It is often helpful when dealing with small groups. Symbolic interactionists such as George Herbert Mead, Charles Horton Cooley, and William James are aware of the two types of interaction; symbolic and nonsymbolic.
Nonsymbolic interaction occurs when people respond to each other without interpretations. With symbolic interaction individuals are allowed to think. Humans act toward things based on the meaning that things have for us. The meaning for such things arise from interactions. In James’ Principles of Psychology, the relations between individuals and society were examined. He discovered that humans have a habit, or a social norm that governs how we react to situations.
James believed that the state was a part of the personal consciousness and that symbolic interaction has had an influence on almost every contemporary sociologist, functionalist and conflict theorists feel as though it is a strong enough sociological concept, and that their theories enhance it.