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Social theories overview (part 1)

Video transcript

I know all these social theories can seem pretty daunting but they're actually fairly simple to keep track of if you remember the main points the first theory of society that'll review is functionalism this theory looks at how a society can exist and survive over time basically functionalism states that a society is always trying to come to an equilibrium trying to stabilize the structures that make up a society like institutions will remain pretty constant and only change if absolutely necessary when society loses stability remember that institutions are structures that fulfill the needs of society there's an example of that in our society right now the business institution has had to adapt to the huge online shopping boom as online retail providers like Amazon draw more and more people away from retail stores down the street those stores have to find ways to attract people again so they will take the time to stop in and shop but it takes a lot of energy to change so the stores will only do what is absolutely necessary to get customers again right so when you think of functionalism think of the minor changes in institution makes to find a stable balance in the society only change to be functional again the next theory is conflict theory which is just like it sounds it focuses on how societies change and adapt over time through conflict in any society there's going to be conflicting viewpoints and beliefs and people are going to take sides eventually this is going to polarize the society where one group is happy with the status quo and another group wants change this is a very fragile state for the society and eventually both sides will have to come to some sort of agreement or else tear the society apart the class struggle in 19th century Europe is an example of this process the workers want to change while the factory owners were happy with the way things were the two opposing positions were merged to create a new society where the workers had slightly more power than before and the factory owners had slightly less and everyone was content if maybe not ecstatic about the outcome okay so in conflict Theory you have two opposing sides at odds with each other that eventually lead to the creation of a new synthesized society conflict creating a new society next we have the theory of social constructionism which looks at what a society is rather than how it exists or changes in social constructionism everything is created from the minds of the society there's an agreement that something has meaning and value that the thing doesn't actually have intrinsically one of the most prevalent examples today is money it has no value on its own it's just paper or metal or numbers in a computer but as a society we have agreed to give it a specific value and that agreement actually helps to shape the society itself so when you think of social constructionism remember that everything only has value because of the agree it has value we construct the world around us the final social theory here is symbolic interactionism this one is kind of different than the other theories because it puts a lot of focus on the individual and how they behave it is based around the idea of the meanings we give to things like to me a tree could be a source of shade whereas for someone else it could be the home to spiders and ants people are created by their society they act based on their past experiences in their lives and the meanings they have given things but not everyone gives the same meaning to everything that tree could mean ten different things to ten different people and even if you just look at one person a tree could have multiple meanings and those meanings can even change over time the meetings we give things is based on our past experiences in society and those meanings in our interpretations create our future Society to put it in a phrase symbolic interactionism says that we interact with the world to give it meaning so to sum up this summary we have functionalism looking at the stability of the society conflict theory looking at how the society changes social constructionism discovering how things are given value and finally symbolic interactionism learning how individuals act