The extent to which Objective and Subjective Sociological Approaches are Relevant in Understanding Social Life Today

The extent to which Objective and Subjective Sociological Approaches are Relevant in Understanding Social Life Today

Sociology is a scientific discipline based on theoretical writings, which stem from the theories of Karl Marx, Max Weber, James Coleman, Talcott Parsons and Emile Durkheim (Milà, 2005). The writings focus on human behavior and the society. The impact of these theories is manifested in the debate over the extent to which sociological approaches are relevant in understanding human behavior. Sociology involves the study of individual or group behavior within society. This paper outlines the extent to which objective and subjective sociological approaches are significant in understanding our current society and quality of life. The key perspectives of understanding the society include structural-functionalism, feminism, symbolic-interactionalism and social-conflict.

The Key Concepts in Sociology

The key concept of sociology is the emphasis on society rather than an individual. An individual is seen as an actor or agency within the larger social process. The focus is on units of assessment at the unifying levels such as groups, the families, organization, neighborhood, city, state and the world. The critical concept is how the social structure or social fabric is maintained, and social problems and processes, such as the poverty rate and conflict resolution respectively, relate to the transformation and maintenance of social structures (Macionis, 2007).

Sociological approaches can be either objective or subjective. According to Macionis (2007), objective approach represents the social data independent of individual evaluations. On the other hand, subjective approach is defined as an individual’s assessment and evaluation of social conditions. Sociological studies or approaches involves processes of regulating and shaping social aspects such as poverty, employment, Gross Domestic Product (GDP), happiness, family relationships, crime rate, job satisfaction and school attendance.

Macionis (2007) points out that sociologists focus on the interaction between the social structures that control people’s experience and the knowledge employed by agencies to transform those social structures. Sociological approaches may be conducted at either macro or micro levels. Macro-level perspectives involves large scale social processes such as social change and stability, whereas micro-level perspectives examines small scale linkages between individuals or small groups, such as face-to face interactions and group dynamics. Below are the key sociological approaches and their extent of understanding the society today.


Structural-functionalism is an objective approach of understanding macro aspects of human behavior in the societal context (Macionis, 2007). This approach adopts the concept that society is made up of units that contributes to stability in the society. In this respect, society is considered as a system, which consists of interrelated parts working together for the betterment of human life. This perspective can be used to understand how an education institution or business organization functions. For example, a business organization consists of functional areas such as the Human Resource, Finance and Procurement. These departments are made up of teams and headed by individuals. Burke & Cooper (2008) asserts that through understanding the nature of the vertical and horizontal integration within these units, an organization is capable of establishing good working environment characterized by motivation, job satisfaction and high performance. Other aspects that are subjectively or objective examined include management and organizational culture (Capon, 2008). Organizational culture consists of beliefs, values, symbols, policies and principles that portray the distinctive capabilities and brand of an organization (Brooks, 2006).


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