Sociological perspectives

The first two perspectives I will describe are the structuralist theories. The theorists for sociological structures are interested in describing and gaining an understanding the main norms and institutions in society. In modern Britain these institutions could include the health services, education providers and the media.

The first two approaches I will explain are the functionalist (consensus) model and the Marxist (conflict) model.

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The functionalist model:

The functionalist approach can be dated back as early as Auguste Comte 1798 – 1857. It could be easier to understand his approach by relating it to the body and it consequent parts. For example, the liver, kidneys and the heart work together to make the body function as a whole, therefore society could be studied in terms of the institutions working together to make the it function.

The different institutions in society contribute different things; they all work together and have different ways of coping with people who deviate from the norm. For example, the police arrest and imprison those who commit offences and break the law.

Functionalists think it is the main role of an institution to socialise individuals and to ensure they knew the values of society and behaved in a socially acceptable manner.

The Marxist model:

Marxism is a conflict and structuralist model, it was first developed by Karl Marx 1818-1883. Marx believed that individual behaviour was shaped by their environment/society but money controlled society and what roles people could take in society because of their finances.

Marxism has two groups of people, the Bourgeoisie and the proletariat. The bourgeoisie are the more important people in society who own the factories and land. The people who own the factories are rich and are able to organise the economy and other important institutions in society to enable them to become richer or better off.

The proletariat are the people in society who work, the working class, these are the people that can only sell their services and can therefore be exploited by the bourgeoisie. The Marxist theory is called the conflict model because there are the lower class, who work for the upper class, that want more money but the upper class want to pay least as possible to make more profits. Marxism suggests that the two classes will also be in conflict for more. An example could be an employee wanting a pay increase but the employer saying no due to decreased profits. Marxists believe that the ruling classes control the media, education curriculum and the legal system.


Feminism looks at how men dominate women in relation to health and illness. Feminisms think that medicine is a way of controlling them. Feminists believe that men dominate them in all aspects of life. There are three types of feminism these are:

Marxist feminism: working class women are oppressed by patriarchy, patriarchy is when men dominate women and control society. Women’s roles are assumed as reproduction for the next generation of workers and house roles such as; cleaning, cooking and staying at home to look after the children.

Radical feminism: Those who believe in radical feminism do not think it is capitalism and money that controls women but just men, the family is seen as patriarchal as normally the man/husband would be seen as head of the house. Women believe they are oppressed by men.

Liberal feminism: liberal feminists argue that there have been changes in society recently, mainly through new legislation, such as, the equal pay act 1970 and equal opportunities act 1975. Liberal feminists believe that more changes will take place in time and will continue with new legislation and policies.

Interactionist model:

The Interactionist approach focuses more upon how smaller groups in society influence us, for example, instead of the media more towards teenage gangs and school classrooms. They will then study the dynamics for example, how do people see themselves? Do some have more power than others? Who are the formal leaders and are there informal leaders who actually have power within the group? Interactionists believe that we are not told to behave, but instead, we are shown different ways of behaving and we choose ourselves how to behave.

Social Interactionist theorists do not think that we are all influenced by the socialisation process. They say it is our choice how we behave to act after we have witnessed more than one type of behaviour expressed by someone else. It also relates to our perception towards others, so how people see us and how we see them is influenced by how we read into a particular situation, for example; we might see someone fall over and laugh because we have it before and someone else laughed and we didn’t know how to behave in reaction to it.

Post modernism:

Postmodernism is an approach that looks at the rapid change in our society, post modernists believe we can no longer discuss affairs such as our families and economies because they change so rapidly and we no longer know if we are ‘coming or going’. They also say that expectations are staying the same; for example, families are changing so quickly, ten years ago the nuclear family was more common but lone parent and same sex is quickly approaching it to the lead statistic.

Postmodernist say that because of our rapid changes in society, functionalism and Marxism can no longer explain it.


Collectivism is when everyone in society has an input into the ‘pot of cash’, this is when everyone pays their taxes and the state or government has the responsibility for the provision of health and social care provision. As a whole we all collectively influence our society, Beverage suggested that there are five giant evils in life. These five giant evils were; want, squalor, disease, ignorance and idleness.

The Beverage report in 1942 provided a report into the welfare services and was used to improve health and social care provision. The first steps were the government accepting responsibility for fighting disease and illness through the provision of a national health service (NHS). Eradicate squalor conditions by supplying local authority housing, and introducing a fair rental scheme to ensure that everyone has an equal right in finding accommodation. Introduce state support such as the benefit system, this solves the poverty cycle because everyone will have a basic amount of money to live on. Provide better education to combat the problem of ignorance and would also put more money into society as the population would be earning more in better jobs. Remove the last giant evil of idleness by creating more jobs, for example, building more houses would create more jobs.

New right:

The new right is a perspective that wants society to return to the ‘golden age’ where there wasn’t a dependence on benefits and state services. The new right emphasises traditional values, such as, marriage before having children and making divorce harder. People who believe the new right think that society should become more capitalist and society should have more choice how they want to earn their money and they should have the right to choose what they spend it on. Capitalism is about keeping money for the earner rather than having to pay it out on taxes; Capitalism is about conserving/saving money from the taxman rather than paying it out for society to take advantage of. The new right says that our state is too protective over us and we should be allowed to just get on with it, as welfare services and state benefits interfere too much with the working economy.

The new right has a theory that an underclass exists; the under classes are those who depend on state benefits and are below the working class, they believe that long term unemployment will lead to higher crime rates and more family breakdowns. (Murray 1984)