Human behavior is complicated, especially when it comes to how we interact with each other and the world around us. Sociological theories are organized sets of ideas that help us make sense of human behavior. Sociological theories can be small, explaining single actions in the scope of a social situation. Theories can also attempt to explain the vast phenomena of human behavior or give us a new way of looking at behaviors we have seen all our lives. Some theories even attempt to predict the future and how humans will cope with our changing world.

The Importance of Sociological Theory

The importance of sociological theory lies in how it gives us a way to speak about, describe and interpret various behaviors. Many of the facts that we take for granted about ourselves as human beings in an organized society have come to us through the study of sociological theory.

Just like any branch of academic thought, sociological theories go through fads and fashions. Some theories even go out of style. However, this does not negate the importance of sociological theory. If you’re skeptical, think of sociological theory as a lens through which scholars can see the world. It helps them to interpret actions and behaviors that might otherwise seem random.

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The Purpose of Sociological Theory

The purpose of sociological theory is to give scientists and scholars a way to think and write about human behavior that is categorizable and smaller in scope than talking about society as a whole. Sociological theory often overlaps with major movements in politics or philosophy. The guiding purpose of sociological theory is to name these thoughts and movements so that they can be shared with a wider audience.

Overall, sociological theory attempts to understand social order and what creates social change.

Theoretical Perspectives in Sociology

Theoretical perspectives in sociology include both classical traditions and contemporary theories. Theoretical perspectives in sociology under the umbrella of the classical traditions of sociology include structural functionalism, utilitarianism and conflict theory. Modern approaches vary widely from well-known ideas like feminism to lesser-known ideas like anomie theory. Many of the modern theoretical perspectives in sociology focus on the place of the self within society.

For example, one contemporary theory is dramaturgical perspective. According to dramaturgical perspective, all of life is a performance, and people only play the roles they are given based on assumptions. This quality of performativity also focuses on how individuals feel they are perceived by others.

About the Author

Rebecca Renner is a teacher and freelance writer from Daytona Beach, Florida. Her byline has appeared in the Washington Post, New York Magazine, Glamour and elsewhere.