Can Americans understand the motivations of an Iraqi insurgent?


In his lecture, sociologist Sam Richards (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site. set a challenge: can Americans understand the motivations of an Iraqi insurgent? He gave his audience a taste of what C. W. Mills called the sociological imagination (a perspective that allows one to locate the structural transformations that lie behind one’s personal troubles).Use your sociological imagination to write an essay that highlights one cultural concept from three different sociological approaches (structural-functional, social-conflict, and symbolic-interactionsm).

Sample paper

Sociological Perspectives

Sociological approaches or theories enable sociologists to analyze social phenomena from multiple perspectives. Sociological theories are important as they help people explain and predict social phenomena. Sociological theories can enable sociologists to develop generalizations about social phenomena while at other times the theories enable sociologists to make specific observations about social phenomena (Stolley, 2005). Indeed, these theories are important in explaining social events at both the micro and macro levels. Theoretical perspectives also enable sociologists to understand how the society influences individual or how the people shape society. There are three main sociological perspectives: structural-functional, social-conflict, and symbolic-interactionism. This paper is an evaluation of one cultural concept from the three sociological perspectives.

It is possible to view the American culture from the three different sociological perspectives. The structural-functional perspective holds that the society comprises of interdependent parts and that each of these parts work together to achieve a state of balance or harmony (Holmes, Mooney, Knox, & Schacht, 2016). Through the interdependence of all parts of the society, a state of equilibrium ensues. Each part plays a critical role towards developing a state of equilibrium. The American culture has significant interdependence or interconnectedness among parts. For instance, the state depends on the family and vice versa. The state provides opportunities for education by developing and improving institutions. Children gain education from these institutions and later acquire jobs which helps sustain themselves. On the other hand, families pay taxes to the government. The government uses the money collected through taxation in developing institutions and improving the quality of education.

The social-conflict perspective holds that the society comprises of different groups or factions that are in constant struggle for power and resources (Holmes et al., 2016). The conflict perspective propounds the idea that certain groups in the community hold power and resources. The groups that hold power and resources benefit from the particular social arrangements in the society. On other hand, the groups that lack power and resources may challenge the status quo in order to effect social change. These groups may challenge the status quo through various means including conducting social revolutions (Stolley, 2005). Those who have power and control of resources effect social order upon the ordinary citizens or those in the lower class. For example, there have been historical struggles among African Americans to get equal rights as the Whites in the U.S. society. These struggles mirror class struggles since these groups largely belong to different social classes.

The symbolic-interactionism perspective holds that individuals create meaning through the symbols they come across in their everyday life as well as their interaction with others in the society (Holmes et al., 2016). The theory further holds that an individual’s identity develops through social interactions. Individuals develop a self-identity by interacting with others and observing how others view them. The symbolic-interactionist perspective holds that the manner in which others view one acts as a reflection of one’s self-identity (Holmes et al., 2016). People have different meanings for various symbols, and will conduct themselves as per their understanding of the symbols. For example, a ring on a finger could be a symbol of lifetime commitment between two individuals.

In summary, the three sociological perspectives help individuals view the social world from different viewpoints. The structural-functional perspective holds that the society comprises of interdependent parts that work together to achieve balance. On the other hand, the social-conflict perspective holds that the society comprises of different parts that are engaged in continuous competition or struggle for power and resources. The groups that lack power and resources challenge the status quo. The symbolic-interactionism holds that people develop meaning through symbolic interactions. The three approaches are critical in explaining social phenomena.


Holmes, M. M., Mooney, L. A., Knox, D., & Schacht, C. (2016). Understanding social    problems. Toronto: Nelson Education.

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Stolley, K. S. (2005). The basics of sociology. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press.

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