3 Paradigms

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Three Sociological Paradigms

by R. Kleinbach

Conservative Paradigm, (structural-functionalism) (“family values”) (“idealist”)  (focus on individual)

1. The Conservative views society as a system of interrelated parts which function to meet social needs and maintain harmony.
    A. Needs: production, reproduction, socialization, defense, governance & common values
    B. Institutions: e.g., corporations, family, schools, military, state, & religion
    C. Institutional Roles: e.g., owners,& workers, mothers & fathers, teachers & students, officers & privates, presidents, legislators and judges, & clergy and lay people
    D. Rights & Obligations assigned to Roles.

2.   Conservatives believe that if everyone fulfills his/her roles and does not deviate from the rights and obligations of those roles, then the established institutions will meet the needs of the society and there will be harmony and equilibrium. 

3.   Conservatives assume society is essentially  orderly, harmonious and in a state of equilibrium, i.e., the dominant structure and values of our present society are basically good. 

4.   Conservatives assume disorder and conflict are negative and caused by deviance from established norms, values and roles. 

5. Conservatives assume values/beliefs hold society together. 

6. Conservatives assume that people must be socialized (educated) into the value system in order to preserve the system and maintain order.  Those who are not or choose not to be socialized (and become deviants) must be controlled by criticism or police/prison control.

7. In the U.S., conservatives believe in the rule of law, the importance of tradition, legal equality, political (not economic) democracy and freedom from government & religious interference except to preserve tradition.

Liberal Paradigm  (reformist) (social democratic) (social work) (focus on government for solutions)

1.   Assumes the conservative model of needs-institutions-rights and obligations is accurate but identifies and focuses on limited problems within the system such as (a) the fact that some institutions may be functional for the existing society but dysfunctional for some group or class of people, or (b) functional for some people and dysfunctional for others.  The liberal also focuses on specific problems such as suicide, divorce, child & wife abuse, rape, drug & alcohol abuse, and sex and racial discrimination.

2.   The liberal advocates the reform of (a) individuals, (b)reform of  aspects
of existing institutions,  (c) the creation of new institutions and (d) the changing of laws as the means of solving social problems and helping people.

Radical Paradigm  (dialectical materialism)  (democratic socialist) 

1. The economy is dominant over ideas & values in shaping society:  The mode of production (level of technology + structure of control) is responsible for the general character of 
    A. Social organization of government, family, education, defense, & values/beliefs,

    B. Social processes, such as decision making, sexual relations, investment practices, 
    C. Personal beliefs, and
    D. Personal experiences.

2. People dialectically interact with our “ideas/paradigms” &  our material/economic  environment,  it is not a one-way influence by ideas/values or the economy. 

3.  In the U.S., radical values include: 
    A.  human development of all people,  
    B.  democracy in the economy, family, education & politics,  
    C.  over-coming alienation, and 
    D.  relative equality to prevent domination. 

4. Conflicts & contradictions emerge constantly due to regular changes in society.  The resolution of conflict is the motive force of social change.  The main contradiction in our society is between the owner and the worker classes. 

5. Private control of capital, production for profit, and economic inequality combine to form  the basis of most social problems.  Collective democratic control of the economy & relative equality are necessary to solve most social problems and to create a healthy society. 

6.  Production & distribution should be planned first to meet the needs of people, then to create surplus (profit).

7.  As economic democracy and equality increase (within countries and the world), the role of the State (national governments) will decrease.


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