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Structural Functionalism Conflict Theory and Symbolic Interactionism

Structural Functionalism, Conflict Theory, and Symbolic Interactionism

Structural functionalism sees society as a structure having interrelated sectors that are meant to meet the social and biological needs of the individuals that make up that society (Tyler, 2020). Conflict theory views society as being in a state of competition for diminishing resources (Tyler, 2020). On the other hand, symbolic interactionism views society as a social construct that depends on the relationships among the individuals that make up the society (Scott, 2012). Although the three viewpoints help in understanding society, they individually have unique differences and similarities.

When it comes to theory, both conflict theory and structural functionalism have a macro level of analysis that widely understands the larger elements of society, like institutions (Tyler, 2020). However, structural functionalism is based on the assumption that institutions automatically change themselves to establish stability. On the other hand, conflict theory views institutions like religion as such that institutions are utilized by capitalists to manipulate others (Scott, 2012).

It is important to note that such inequality is dissimilar from symbolic interactionism. Symbolic interactionism has a micro-level of analysis, according to Tyler (2020). Symbolic interactionism holds that individuals believe in similar symbols and meanings (Menzies, 2014). Despite this difference, both conflict theory and symbolic interactionism are explicitly successful in categorizing individuals together by symbols and class (Tyler, 2020). Moreover, symbolic interactionism has a conceptual similarity with structural functionalism when it comes to dependency. This is because structural functionalism and symbolic interactionism assign the interdependence of society on institutions and ascribed communication, respectively. Nonetheless, symbolic interactionism attributes circumstances to people’s meanings, while structural-functionalism focuses on the overall functions that play a role.

In conclusion, all three perspectives give an important contribution to sociology. Structural functionalism focuses on functions that are in existence for social stability. The conflict perspective gathers most individuals to classes that stimulate inequality in society. On the other hand, symbolic interactionism focuses on the individuals who agree, share, and assign symbolic mannerisms and meanings. Thus, the techniques of analysis, definition, and observation of the society are the basis from which the three perspectives are similar or different.


Menzies, K. (2014). Sociological Theory in Use (RLE Social Theory). New York: Routledge.

Scott, J. (2012). Sociological Theory: Contemporary Debates, Second Edition. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing.

Tyler, S. (2020). Human Behavior and the Social Environment I. University of Arkansas.


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Write an essay comparing the similarities and differences between structural functionalism, conflict theory, and symbolic interactionism.

Structural Functionalism Conflict Theory and Symbolic Interactionism

Structural Functionalism Conflict Theory and Symbolic Interactionism

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