Social Interactionism, Functionalism, Conflict Theory

Sociological theories provide different sociological perspectives with which one can perceive the world around. In other words, they present various ways of looking at and explaining the world. These approaches are considered to be the connective tissue that ties together the raw data and critical thought. The development of sociology as a science and its theories as a framework of social phenomena is attributable to key thought leaders who wanted to understand the relationship between two or more concepts. The given essay will discuss the nature of crime rates from the perspective of three major sociological theories.

Symbolic interactionism is a theoretical approach that assumes that human behavior is being influenced by how people interact with each other using figurative language. This sociological theory was developed by George Herbert Mead, Charles Cooley, and Erving Goffman, who highlighted the importance of definitions and their role in the context of social interaction (Keel, 2017). This perspective also suggests that the judgment of others shapes the identity of an individual.

Symbolic interactionism is viewed as a foundation for labeling theory in criminology. According to the symbolic interactionist perspective, crime is a product of the attachment of meaning to behavior. The deviance is socially constructed by everyday encounters with people who may negatively or stigmatize an individual and thus promote deviant behavior (Bruce, 2018). This theory explains the progressive concentration of offending among the young and former perpetrators as they are the most likely to be negatively labeled.

Functionalism operates under the assumption that society is a system of interconnected parts that aim at maintaining a state of balance. This perspective was developed by Emile Durkheim and Robert Merton (Thompson, Hickey, & Thompson, 2017). It is believed that social institutions act as collective means in order to satisfy the needs of both an individual and society. If a single part of a system changes, the whole system is impacted by the change.

From the functionalist perspective, deviance is a critical component of society. The distribution of crime rates in the US may be explained by the lack of access to socially acceptable goals. For example, a poor person may turn to illegal means of getting money as he or she may place a high value on material success. It is expected that crime rates are lower in areas with a high level of income.

In contrast to the functionalist theory, the conflict theory considers that society consists of different groups with competing interests. The origins of this approach can be traced to the works of Karl Marx and Charles Wright Mills (Bruce, 2018). Society appears to be a dynamic entity that never reaches a state of equilibrium due to a class conflict with scarce resources being at the heart of competition.

According to the conflict theory, crime and deviance are caused by both social and economic factors which account for inequality in society. The distribution of crime rates in the US depends on the extent of class conflict in a particular area. The more significant the difference between privileged and unprivileged groups, the more likely it is that crimes will be committed on the basis of such inequality.

In conclusion, there are three major sociological perspectives, which are social interactionism, functionalism, and conflict theory. Each of these approaches offers different explanations about the nature and distribution of crime rates in the US. The social interactionist perspective assumes that individuals may exhibit criminal behavior based on how they believe they are seen by others. The functionalist theory claims that crime is inevitable in society since there are people deviating from social norms and beliefs. The conflict theory relates the distribution of crime rates to the imbalance between classes.


Bruce, S. (2018). Sociology: A concise introduction (2nd ed.). Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.

Keel, R. (2017). The sociological perspective. Web.

Thompson, W. E., Hickey, J. V., & Thompson, M. L. (2017). Society in focus: An introduction to sociology (8th ed.). Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.

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