SOC207 – Three Schools of Thought: Conflict Theory, Structural Functionalism, and Symbolic Interactionism


This week we go back to the basics by introducing the three schools of sociological thought – conflict theory, structural functionalism, and symbolic interactionism. Knowing these three schools is a must for any aspiring sociologist. Join us as we discuss how Marx theorized the process of social change through conflict, why Durkheim believed society needed religion in order to function, and why people interpret the symbolic significance of guns differently. Which school of thought do you subscribe to?


Find a transcription for this episode here. Mahalo nui loa to Toni Atwell for transcribing this episode! You rock!


Sociology, theory, social theory, conflict theory, symbolic interactionism, structural functionalism


  1. Definition of social theory 
  2. Understanding Social Problems, 5th ed by Mooney, Knox, and Schacht, 2007.
  3. A fun and short video from Crash Course titled, “Major Sociological Paradigms” that may help better understand the three theories
  4. Conflict – Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto 
  5. Conflict – Arlie Hochschild’s The Managed Heart
  6. Structural Functionalism – Talcott Parson’s The Social System
  7. Structural Functionalism – Emile Durkheim’s The Division of Labour in Society 
  8. Symbolic Interactionism – Herbert Blumer’s Symbolic Interactionism 
  9. Symbolic Interactionism – George Herbert Mead’s Mind, Self, and Society
  10. Symbolic Interactionism – An excerpt from Charles Cooley about the Looking Glass Self

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