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Assess the contribution of interactionism to our understanding of society.

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Assess the contribution of interactionism to our understanding of society The key underling principle that the interactionist perspective is based upon is the claim that social reality is constructed through actions and interactions of people. Interactionism developed rapidly in the 1960's as a response to structural perspectives like Functionalism and Marxism. There are 3 main branches of Interactionism, these are as follows. Social action theory argues that social 'actors' carry out actions to pursue goals. Their values and their perception of the situation influences their choice of goals and the selection of the means to achieve them. Symbolic interactionism is centred around the concept of 'self'. The self is how we see ourselves as objects in the social world, to show that individuals are self-reflective and that by using their understanding of past experiences they can modify present action. ...read more.


The general approach is anti- positivist and anti-scientific, roles are negotiated by individuals and are not imposed by society or the ruling class e.g. between doctors and patients. Sociologists must discover the meanings and interpretations of individuals in social action by placing themselves in the social positions of those individuals and gaining an empathetic understanding. Interactionist approaches can be applied to various areas of social life including Education, Religion, Crime etc. Using the example of Education, teachers and students are seen as social actors who conform to shared beliefs on the role of a teacher and the role of a student. However these roles are a product of the interactions between teacher and student. ...read more.


Many sociologists argue that good sociology should combine both interaction situations and the wider society. In this way it is possible to study both social structure and social action and to examine the relationship between the two. In conclusion to this argument it is clear that the interactionist perspective which emphasises the importance of social action in understanding society and the Functionalist, Marxist and Structuralist perspectives which emphasises the importance of social structure in understanding society both need to be considered to get a fair and full appreciation of society. Giddens called this the Structuraction theory, he claims that structures are produced by social action and it is only through social action that they are maintained over time. However at the same time it is only by the existence of structures that actions are made possible. ...read more.

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