23 junio, 2024

Sociological currents: what they are, list and what they study

What are sociological currents?

The currents sociological They are ways of analyzing and studying human conglomerates and their social systems from a scientific perspective. His interest is the relationship between the various cultural, economic, political and historical factors and their impact on society and on the human being.

Although the sociological currents diverge in their approaches, they all coincide in studying the human being as a social being.

With the birth of sociology as a science in the 19th century, various sociological currents arose that sought to account for important social events: the French Revolution, capitalism vs. communism, relations in industrial environments, overcrowding and crime, among other problems.

Each of these currents presented a different approach to explain the changes in society and sought to interpret and analyze the behavior of human beings as a social entity throughout history. Since then, different currents have emerged, with different approaches.

What encourages them is the objective and systematic analysis of human behavior in each of the social environments in which they operate.

Main sociological currents

Sociological currents have traditionally been classified as macrosocial and microsocial.

macrosocial currents

Macrosocial currents analyze structures, social systems and populations on a large scale.

1. Positivism

Positivism was formulated by Auguste Comte (1798-1857), the French philosopher who defined sociology as a science. As if it were biology or chemistry, positivism studies society under three steps: observation, experimentation and verification.

The positivist theory establishes that all social phenomena are subject to laws, and therefore it is possible to delineate and establish both the causes of the phenomena and the laws that govern them.

As it is based on empiricism, it affirms that everything is verifiable by experience, and in this way all the facts perceived by the senses, and analyzed by reason and logic, are the source of valid knowledge.

From this point of view, theology, metaphysics and intuition are rejected, since they cannot be verified nor can they be perceived through the senses.

2. Historical materialism

Historical materialism is the basis of Marxism, a doctrine proposed by Karl Marx (1818-1883). On many occasions, it is mistakenly considered that Marxism is simply a current of economics. However, it is much more than that, it constitutes a political and social current.

Added to this, Marxism offers a way of understanding the human being and his relationship with the world. It is a model of analysis for the study of society. This conception is called «historical materialism» or materialist interpretation of history.

Before Marx raised the theory of historical materialism, the idealist interpretation of history prevailed, according to which the revolution is not necessary because the changes come by themselves.

However, with the studies of Marx, idealism is left behind and materialism dominates. In general terms, historical materialism is comparable to Darwin’s theory of evolution. That is, the materialist interpretation of history constitutes the law of the evolution of human history.

Materialism posits that for changes to take place, human beings need to first satisfy their material needs: drink, eat, dress and have a home. Once humans have satisfied these needs, they can develop social, political, economic, and cultural relationships.

Likewise, historical materialism points out that, in order for the necessary elements to satisfy basic needs to be produced, the State must develop the means of production, which are the basis of social life.

According to historical materialism, the relationship between the human being, material goods and the means of production is as follows:

Without means of production, there are no material goods; without material goods, there is no satisfaction of needs; without satisfaction of needs, there is no social life.

The evolution in the means of production and the improvement of these is what determines the progress and success of societies.

3. Hermeneutic and idealist sociology

His representative is Max Weber (1864-1920), German theorist. He was one of the founders of modern sociology, and is known for his anti-positivist, idealistic, and hermeneutic position, and his works allowed the differentiation between the natural sciences and the social sciences, since he argued that human beings perform social actions, and this was relevant to social study.

Although his early works focused on an industrial sociology, that is, human relations in industrial settings, he is much better known for his studies on the sociology of religion and government.

For him, religion had an impact on three essential human aspects: on the economy, on social stratification and on the very peculiar form of Western civilization. With this, Weber intended to find justifications for the differences between the West and the East. His studies went further and have managed to explain certain singularities of Western communities.

4. Structuralism

It first emerged as a branch of linguistics, and soon established itself as a sociological tool. Its main representative is the French anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss (1908-2009).

Structuralism studies the various phenomena of an individual or a social group based on the organizational forms to which they are subjected (language, traditions, economic systems, etc.), since these condition human conduct and behaviour.

It states that social facts cannot be studied in isolation, since they are part of a broader structure. Some of his postulates are:

– Human conducts and behaviors are conditioned by the various existing structures in society.

– Each human being is the one who gives meaning and value to what they experience, to the customs and traditions they follow.

– The structures must be identified in order to be able to study them.

5. Functionalism

It arises in 1930, in England. Part of the postulate that all social elements have the purpose of sustaining the established order.

Émile Durkheim (1858-1917), French sociologist, is considered the precursor of the functionalist and structuralist current, which encompasses sociology and anthropology.

Functionalism posits that the elements of a social structure are related to each other in such a way that they are interdependent, and only their work together enables the stability of each part.

It is a practical current, which studies the current moment, without the need to go to the past in search of explanations. Its objective is to know the functioning of each element that makes up the social system. Some of his postulates are:

– Societies are systems whose parts are interrelated.

– The complexity of a society is dictated by the number of systems that integrate it and that interact with each other.

– There are conflicts inherent in the social structure, which gives a dialectical dimension to social systems.

– Change is inevitable and is part of the sociological characteristics of any group.

microsocial currents

The microsocial sociological currents are in charge of studying the links that are established between the members of a social group, with a limited number of members. His method is direct observation and reflective interpretation.

6. Symbolic interactionism

This is one of the main sociological currents. It is based on the symbolic relationships developed between human beings, who build symbolic worlds to interact.

The most elementary and obvious way to relate symbolically is language, but there are also gestures, sounds and other elements. Symbolic interactionism postulates:

– Human beings direct their actions based on the meaning of things.

– In social interaction is where things acquire meaning.

– The meanings are modified and manipulated through the interpretive capacity that the human being acquires in his life process, when interacting with things.

7. Phenomenology

Edmund Husserl (1859-1938) is the founder of phenomenology at the beginning of the 20th century. He called it descriptive psychology. He describes the structures of experience as they are represented in consciousness, without taking into account theories, assumptions or deductions arising from other disciplines.

The most important representatives are Martin Heidegger, Maurice Merleau-Ponty and Max Scheler.

8. Ethnomethodology

Ethnomethodology breaks with structuralism and functionalism, and emerged in the mid-70s of the last century. It postulates that human beings have a practical sense of life that allows them to adapt to the rules imposed by daily needs, creating a balance between personal needs and social rules.

9. Social dramaturgy

It is in charge of studying the various “facades” that people adopt when interacting socially, always showing their best face. According to this, social relations would be like a kind of great play, where each person plays the role they choose.


What is sociology? Retrieved from sociology.unc.edu
What is sociology? Recovered from hasanet.org

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