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Much of what we know about societies and social behavior has emerged thanks to various sociology theories.

Sociology students typically spend a great deal of time studying these different theories. Some theories have fallen out of favor, while others remain widely accepted, but all have contributed tremendously to our understanding of society and social behavior. By learning more about these theories, you can gain a deeper and richer understanding of sociology's past, present and future. Click on each title for a detailed discussion of the theories. 1. Symbolic Interaction Theory The symbolic interaction perspective, also called symbolic interactionism, is a major framework of sociological theory. This perspective relies on the symbolic meaning that people develop and rely upon in the process of social interaction. 2. Conflict Theory Conflict theory emphasizes the role of coercion and power in producing social order. This perspective is derived from the works of Karl Marx, who saw society as fragmented into groups that compete for social and economic resources. Social order is maintained by domination, with power in the hands of those with the greatest political, economic, and social resources. 3. Functionalist Theory The functionalist perspective, also called functionalism, is one of the major theoretical perspectives in sociology. It has its origins in the works of Emile Durkheim, who was especially interested in how social order is possible or how society remains relatively stable. 4. Feminist Theory Feminist theory is one of the major contemporary sociological theories, which analyzes the status of women and men in society with the purpose of using that knowledge to better women's lives. Feminist theory is most concerned with giving a voice to women and highlighting the various ways women have contributed to society. 5. Critical Theory Critical theory is a type of social theory oriented toward critiquing and changing society as a whole, in contrast to traditional theory oriented only to understanding or explaining it. Critical theories aim to dig beneath the surface of social life and uncover the assumptions that keep us from a full and true understanding of how the world works. 6. Labeling Theory Labeling theory is one of the most important approaches to understanding deviant and criminal behavior. It begins with the assumption that no act is intrinsically criminal. Definitions of criminality are established by those in power through the formulation of laws and the interpretation of those laws by police, courts, and correctional institutions. 7. Social Learning Theory Social learning theory is a theory that attempts to explain socialization and its effect of the development of the self. It looks at the individual learning process, the formation of self, and the influence of society in socializing individuals. Social learning theory is commonly used by sociologists to explian deviance and crime. 8. Structural Strain Theory Robert K. Merton developed the structural strain theory as an extension of the functionalist perspective on deviance. This theory traces the origins of deviance to the tensions that are caused by the gap between cultural goals and the means people have available to achieve those goals. 9. Rational Choice Theory

Economics plays a huge role in human behavior. That is, people are often motivated by money and the possibility of making a profit, calculating the likely costs and benefits of any action before deciding what to do. This way of thinking is called rational choice theory. 10. Game Theory Game theory is a theory of social interaction, which attempts to explain the interaction people have with one another. As the name of the theory suggests, game theory sees human interaction as just that: a game. 11. Sociobiology Sociobiology is the application of evolutionary theory to social behavior. It is based on the premise that some behaviors are at lease partly inherited and can be affected by natural selection. 12. Social Exchange Theory One way of analyzing social interaction is through the social exchange theory. This model interprets society as a series of interactions that are based on estimates of rewards and punishments. According to this view, our interactions are determined by the rewards or punishments that we receive from others and all human relationships are formed by the use of a subjective cost-benefit analysis. The theory has its roots in economics as well as sociology and psychology. 13. Chaos Theory Chaos theory is a field of study in mathematics, however it has applications in several disciplines, including sociology and other social sciences. In the social sciences, chaos theory is the study of complex non-linear systems of social complexity. It is not about disorder, but rather is about very complicated systems of order. 14. Social Phenomenology Social phenomenology is an approach within the field of sociology that aims to reveal what role human awareness plays in the production of social action, social situations and social worlds. In essence, phenomenology is the belief that society is a human construction. Famous Sociologists Throughout sociology's history, there have been many famous sociologists who have left their mark on the field of sociology as well as the world at large. Learn more about these sociologists by browsing though this list of some of the most famous thinkers in sociolgogy history. For a more detailed profile, click on the names of the sociologists below. 1. Emile Durkheim Emile Durkheim is knows as the "father of sociology" and is a founding figure in the field of sociology. He is credited with making sociology a science. One of his most famous pieces of work includes Suicide: A Study In Sociology. 2. Robert k. Merton Robert K. Merton is considered one of America's most influential social scientists. He is famous for his theories of deviance as well as for developing the concepts of "self-fulfilling prophecy" and "role model." 3. Max Weber Max Weber was a founding figure of the field of sociology and is considered one of the most famous sociologists in history. He is known for his thesis of the "Protestant Ethic" as well as his ideas on bureaucracy. 4. Karl Marx

Karl Marx is one of the most famous figures in the founding of sociology. He is known for his sociopolitical theory of Marxism, which contain theories about society, economics and politics that argue that all society progresses through the dialectic of class struggle. He wrote about these issues in his most famous piece or work, The Communist Manifesto. Marx has been described as one of the most influential figures in human history, and in a 1999 BBC poll was voted the "thinker of the millennium" by people from around the world. 5. Charles Horton Cooley Charles Horton Cooley is best known for his theories of The Looking Glass Self in which he declared that our self-concepts and identities are a reflection of how other people perceive us. He is also famous for developing the concepts of primary and secondary relationships. He was a founding member and eighth president of the American Sociological Association. 6. George Herbert Mead George Herbert Mead is well-know for his theory of the social self, which is based on the central argument that the self is a social emergent. He pioneered the development of symbolic interaction perspective and developed the concept of the "I" and "Me." He is also one of the founders of social psychology. 7. C. Wright Mills C. Wright Mills is known for his controversial critiques of both contemporary society and sociological practice, particularly in his book The Sociological Imagination (1959). He also studied power and class in the United States, as displayed in his book The Power Elite (1956). 8. Erving Goffman Erving Goffman is a significant thinker in the field of sociology and in particular the symbolic interaction perspective. He is known for his writings on the dramaturgical perspective and pioneered the study of face-to-face interaction. He served as the 73rd President of the American Sociological Association and is listed as the 6th most-cited intellectual in the humanities and social sciences by The Times Higher Education Guide. 9. Pierre Bourdieu Pierre Bourdieu was a French sociologist and philosopher who contributed a great deal in the areas of general sociological theory and the link between education and culture. He pioneering terminologies such as habitus and symbolic violence and is known for his work titled Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgment of Taste. 10. Auguste Comte August Comte is known as the founder of positivism and is credited with coininging the term sociology. Comte helped shape and expand the field of sociology and placed a great deal of emphasis in his work on systematic observation and social order. 11. Herbert Spencer Herbert Spencer was a British sociologist who was one of the first to think of social life in terms of social systems. He saw societies as organisms that progressed through a process of evolution similar to that experienced by living species. Spencer also played an important role in the development of the functionalist perspective. 12. Jurgen Habermas Jurgen Habermas is a German sociologist and philosopher in the tradition of critical theory and pragmatism. He is known for his theory of rationality and for his concept of modernity. He is currently ranked as one of the most influential philosophers in the world and is a prominent figure in Germany as

a public intellectual. In 2007, Habermas was listed as the 7th most-cited author in the humanities by The Higher Times Education Guide. 13. Anthony Giddens Anthony Giddens is a British sociologist best known for his theory of structuration, his holistic view of modern societies, and his political philosophy called the Third Way. Giddens is a prominent contributor to the field of sociology with 34 published books in at least 29 languages. 14. W.E.B. Du Bois Biography of W.E.B. Du Bois, an American sociologist best known for his role in the civil rights movement. He was the first African American to earn a doctorate degree from Harvard University and served as the head of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1910. 15. Alexis de Tocqueville Biography of Alexis de Tocqueville, a sociologist best known for his book 'Democracy in America.' Tocqueville published many works in the areas of comparative and historical sociology and was very active in politics and the field of political science. 16. Talcott Parsons Biography of Talcott Parsons, a sociologist best known for laying the foundation for what would become the modern functionalist perspective. He is regarded by many as the twentieth century's most influential American sociologist. 17. Georg Simmel Biography of Georg Simmel, a sociologist best known for his neo-Kantian approach to sociology, which laid the foundations for sociological anti positivism, and his structuralist styles of reasoning.