The first paradigm of sociological theory is structural functionalism. In attempting to explain how society works, this paradigm views it as a large singular body with several parts that work together to keep it going (“Sociological Paradigms”). Its core question is: how do the several components in a society interact to maintain a balance? Various scholars liken society to an organism that needs all its parts to work well. However, others like Robert Merton disagreed with this analogy maintaining that there are three types of functions in society. These are manifest functions, latent functions, and dysfunctions.
The second paradigm is social-conflict. Unlike structural functionalism which takes society as a unit whole, this paradigm poses that society consists of several competing groups that are not in harmony (“Sociological Paradigms”). Its core question is: why do the dominant groups in society succeed and how opportunity and resources shape this success? The paradigm revolves around social inequalities and competition for scarce resources. Scholars such as Karl Marx believed that conflict ultimately leads to social change. In general, a group will seek to advance its interests ahead of others. At some point, if it gains dominance over other groups, it will use the various mechanisms of social control to maintain its position of dominance.
The third and final paradigm is symbolic interactionism. The paradigm simply suggests that the basis of social life is the objects or symbols around us to which we attach meaning (“Sociological Paradigms”). Its core question is: how do we, as individuals, impact social structures and what is our role in creating them? Unlike the other two theories, symbolic interactionism concentrates on small social structures. According to the theory, a person’s or group’s behavior is only understandable in the context of the society and setting where they occur. For example, actions that may be considered inappropriate in one part of the world may be a norm in the other.
I relate best with symbolic interactionism. It provides insight into the need to appreciate and understand other cultures. Regarding my decision to attend college, symbolic interactionism suggests an adherence to social norms. Additionally, education has significant meaning in our society which makes it a key part of social life. As per societal norms, it is expected of me to gain an education; college or otherwise.