A sociological theory is a concept in which sociologists have created in order to give themselves and others a deeper insight into the world of sociological thinking.
There are three main theories. These theories are functionalism, symbolic interactionism and conflict theory. The functionalism and the conflict theories are macro, which means they look at the big picture of things and use a general consensus to gain information, and Symbolic interactionism is micro, which means the small picture where information can be obtained by going into intricate detail and delving
Functionalism is a theory that states society is a structured complex where parts work in conjunction with each other to build a stable and solid society. Social structures keep our society stable and build a pathway for our future. These include school, college, legal system, workplace, media, political system and family. If there were no social structures in our lives, there would be chaos due to there being no rules or norms in place and everyone would be free to do what they want and not have any repercussions in doing so.
Symbolic interactionism is a theory that states that we perceive things such as not based on what is actually true, but what we believe individually due to social stigmas. An example of this would be the subject of smoking. Why do so many people smoke even though there is scientifically proven evidence that it is harmful? In our society a lot of people still think that smoking will help you fit in and is ‘cool’ so in the end the symbolic meanings override the real consequences of smoking. Media plays a big part in creating these stigmas, especially in today’s world as most young people have some form of social media and can be easily influenced by what they see on their screens. Media including the news, as it is very easy to believe everything you see – even though the headlines can be misleading and misunderstood, also heavily influence our generation.
Conflict theory is a theory which says that there is constant conflict between economic classes over resources and status. This means that social order is acquired from dominance and power rather than harmony and conventionality and that the wealthier you are, the more power you have. This theory stresses that inequality is a huge part of society, as many people define who we are and what we value based on our social status and class.
Our individual social values will all be different so we will all generally believe and stand by whichever theory that is closest to our beliefs. Each theory has good points and theoretically makes sense in our current society. Different factors make up our beliefs and values such as religion, culture, gender, education and family. Every individual will have a different opinion and outlook on a subject/situation so it is always important to include all sides of the story and all beliefs to maximise equality in our world today.