Sociologists analyze the phenomena that affect society. During these analyses, social phenomena shape generalizations of society as well as paradigms of social behavior. There are three main theoretical perspectives that conceptualize society, social forces, and human behavior. Symbolic interactionalism and Marxist sociology as conflict perspective offer theoretical paradigms and differently explain the way society influences people, and vice versa.

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The basics of symbolic interactionist perspective state that people attach meanings to symbols and subjectively interpret these symbols. For example, verbal conversations use a system of symbolic words that bear the same meaning for those who speak and listen. However, words as symbols are just one example, while anything can become symbols for society. The symbols being commonly accepted become determinants of society.

The critics of this theory blame such perspective for a too micro level of analysis in numerous examples and interpretations avoiding the macro level of a general picture of society. Unlikely, the conflict perspective provides a more generalized picture or macro level of theoretical framing of society. This theoretical perspective roots back to Karl Marx’s writings that described class struggles. While symbolic interactionalism focuses on positive aspects of society that contribute to stability, conflict perspective provides the analysis in the negative angle. Symbols fostered in the society tend to form patterns that change the society and advance it to a better future. Marxist theory resides on the clashes of classes, revolutions, and dominance of the elite over the work class. All people in various combinations of groups are divided into the dominant class and the minority. Nowadays, this theory is applicable anywhere where any form of inequality exists: class, gender, race, religion, politics, etc.

The critics of this theory stress overly negativistic perspective of society. This theory attributes humanitarian efforts, democracy, and civil rights to the groups that have a limited power, while the “ruling class” stands against and defends its interests.  

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