64 Outcome: Theoretical Perspectives on Culture and Society

Contrast the various theoretical perspectives on society

Consider what you already know about the three main theoretical perspectives in sociology and think about what you’ve already learned in this module about society. How do you think Émile Durkheim would describe sociological advancements? What about Karl Marx or Max Weber? What might a feminist say about all of this?

There are three major theoretical approaches toward the interpretation of culture and society. A functionalist perspective acknowledges that there are many parts of culture that work together as a system to fulfill society’s needs. Functionalists view culture as a reflection of society’s values. Conflict theorists focus on populations that may be systematically disadvantaged while other groups are advantaged. They focus on power and inequality in society. An interactionist is primarily interested in culture as experienced in the daily interactions between individuals and the symbols that make up a culture. Various cultural and sociological occurrences can be explained by these theories; however, as you’ll see in the following reading, there is no one “right” view through which to understand culture or society.

What You’ll Learn To Do:

  • Discuss how functionalists, conflict theorists, and symbolic interactionists view culture
  • Describe Durkheim’s functionalist view of society
  • Understand the conflict theorist view of society
  • Explain Marx’s concepts of class and alienation
  • Identify how symbolic interactionists understand society


The learning activities for this section include:

  • Reading: Theoretical Perspectives on Culture
  • Reading: Functionalism and Society
  • Reading: Conflict Theory and Society
  • Video: Conflict Theory and Alienation
  • Reading: Symbolic Interactionism and Society
  • Self-Check: Theoretical Perspectives on Culture and Society


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