Academic journal article International Journal of Islamic Thought

A Review of Three Major Sociological Theories and an Islamic Perspective

Academic journal article International Journal of Islamic Thought

A Review of Three Major Sociological Theories and an Islamic Perspective

Article excerpt

Social theory to a great extent is older than sociology itself. It can be found in the Old Testament, Hindu's Vedas and Chinese literature. Even social theories of modern social science orientation can be traced back 2400 years to ancient Athens. They were used as a means of visualising the social universe in order to obtain practical knowledge about it. (Caplow 1971: 156). However, modern sociology, as a science of society, emerged only after the extension of scientific method into the social world. This happened in early nineteenth century when systematic efforts were made to evolve a science of society as a distinct perspective from philosophy, history, politics, economy and other social sciences. (Cotgrove 1967:32). However, efforts at establishing a separate identity for the science of society involved formulation of various theories about the nature of social system and the methods of their study. Sociologists in pursue of this, formulated different theories from which three are the most popular. Therefore, this paper deals with the three major sociological theories namely, Structure Functionalism, Symbolic Interactionism and Conflict Theory.

Structural Functionalism

Charon (1992) views Structural Functionalism as a sociological theory that depicts society as a social system consisting of various structures, organizations and institutions, influencing each other and affecting the whole system. It focuses on the function of the institutions and their contribution to the continuity of the social system.Although some historians trace functionalism to Montestquieu (Cohen 1968:34 ) its roots can be traced to works of Herbert Spencer (1820-1903) an English sociologist, Wilfredo Pareto, (1848-1923) an Italian sociologist and Emile Durkheim (1855-1917) French sociologist (Joel 1991). Furthermore, some insights to functionalism can be drawn from August Comte's (1798-1857) concept of social static, a study of the coexistence of social phenomenon, based on the assumption of the interrelatedness of institutions, belief and morals of the society. He proposed this as one part of sociological inquiry in which the existence of each item in the whole is explained by the law that prescribe its manner of coexistence with other (Cohen 1968).

Herbert Spencer suggested a structural analysis of society by drawing functional analogy between society and an organism. According to him, society like organism displays different levels of structural complexity, which can be measured in terms of different component elements of its structures. Thus, a structure composed of identical elements would more or less be self-sufficient. But composition of the structure from unlike elements needs a greater degree of interdependence. Therefore, the degree of the integration of the whole depends on the extent of the difference that exists between the individual structural elements. In other words, the existence of more difference between the structural elements brings about greater integration in the whole and enables it to survive by reducing its internal disharmony. Thus, Spencer contributed something new to functionalism by analysing the different levels of complexity of society in terms of structural component and their contribution to functioning of the whole.Structural Functionalism, as Percy observed, is more indebted to Emile Durkheim than Spencer. Even though, like Spencer, he was influenced by biological thinking in his early stage of writings, yet he was able to identify some of the loopholes in its explanation (Cohen 1968: 35-36). By doing so he made the theory more attractive and useful to social anthropologists as well as sociologists in general.

Durkheim analysed division of labour, in terms of its cause and function hence, holding integration or reintegration of society as its function and moral density as its cause. He attributed the breakdown of the constraints built into simple society to pressure caused by growth of population and the broad scope of interaction. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.