Types of Sociological Theories

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Types of Sociological Theories

It is difficult to say anything with certainty about how many types of sociological theories are, because if we assume that mature theories have not yet been formed in sociology. So the question of their classification does not arise. Even then . What we today call sociological theories have been classified in various ways. Some of the major classifications are as follows


As far as sociological theories are concerned, Merton says that “Six types of sociological works are considered synonymous with theory.

(1) Methodology,

(2) General sociological interest,

(3) Analysis of sociological concepts,

(4) Post-factual sociological interpretation,

(5) research generalizations in sociology, and

(6) Sociological theory refers to a logically interrelated pair of propositions from which research similarities can be derived.

(a) Walter Wallace has divided sociological theories into eleven categories


(1) Social functionalism – In this, theories related to social interactions (such as Weber and Parsons’s theory) are included. Cooley and Mead have also tried to formulate sociological theories on the basis of social interactions.


(2) Functional imperativeism – These theories express the functional relations and imperatives of the units of totality (such as the principles of Merton and Parsons).


(3) Ecologicalism – In this, the principles related to human ecology (such as the principles of Lipley and Moore etc.) are included. In other words, it can also be said that in such theories an attempt is made to explain the internal relationship between man and his non-human environment.


(4) Materialism – In this, an attempt is made to give an explanation of social life on material basis (such as the dialectical materialism of Marx and the theory of historical materialism).


(5) Demographicism – In this, the relationship between population and human environment is established (such as the theory of Malthus and Sadler).


(6) Technologicalism – In this, an attempt is made to explain the effect of technology on human life (such as Marx, Veblen and Augbon’s theory of social change).


(7) Psychologicalism – In this, an attempt is made to give an explanation of human behavior on a psychological basis (such as Cooley’s theory of socialization). Tard’s ‘theory of imitation’ is also placed in this category.


(8) Conflict structuralism – In this, an attempt is made to explain the struggle in the elements of social structure (Marx’s theory of class struggle). Such theories recognize that the conflict found in social life is the basic element of social structure.


(9) Symbolic interactionism – In this, an attempt is made to understand social interactions on an objective basis (such as the theory of Cooley, Mead and Thomas). Some scholars are of the opinion that such theories are related to the discussion of subjective behavior.


(10) Exchange Structural – Emphasis is placed on the formation of structures due to exchange of units participating in social life (such as Weber’s theory of organization) and


(11) Functional structuralism – In this, emphasis is given on the study of structure and functions (such as Merton’s theory).



(b) Don Marindale has mainly divided sociological theories into the following five categories:


(1) Sociological functionalism – It is concerned with the discussion of the functions of the building elements (organs or units) of society (such as the theories of Spencer, Durzheim, Malinowski, Radcliffe-Bown, Merton and Parsons).

(2) Conflict theory It is related to the explanation of conflict found in human life and society (such as the theories of Hohns, Hume, Marx, Oppenheimer, Small etc.).


(3) Positivistic socialism – It describes society as an organism (eg Comte, Spencer, Ward, Tonnies, Pareto’s theory).


(4) Social Behaviorism – It is concerned with the explanation of social behavior (such as the theories of Giddings, Ross, Mead, Coolen, Parsons etc.) and


(5) Formative Theory – It is related to the forms of social relations (such as the theories of Veerkant, Liple, Max Dewar etc.) Sociological theories are divided into the following categories on the basis of their scope of work, nowadays most scholars


(1) Grand or macro theories,

(2) Middle range theories and

(3) Micro theories.


The above three types of theories are divided on the basis of their study area and field of study. Broad theories are based on large studies, micro theories are based on micro studies, while mid-range theories are based on the range between these two types of studies. Also , the approach of larger studies is wide . microscopic studies


It takes an integrated approach to mid-range studies. Pratishtha or grand theories are made after studying the big problems in detail and have more universality in them. opposite of this . Micro theories are based on small scale empirical studies and lack universality. Explaining the difference between these two, Don Martindale has written, “The distinction between these two is made entirely on the basis that what is the size of the unit a researcher chooses as the subject of study for propounding his theory. If the study is done by the combined approach of both without adopting any of the macro and subtle perspectives, then the theories built on the basis of such studies are called middle-boundary theory. The credit for propounding these theories is given to the American sociologist Robert K. Merton.


In the words of Merton, “Middle-boundary theories are those principles which on the one hand provide short but workable hypotheses that appear abundantly in day-to-day research, and on the other hand, to explain all the observed similarities in social behavior, social organization and social change. They are situated in the midst of systematic efforts to develop a coherent theory.” From Merton’s ideas it becomes clear that mid-range theories are a category between macro theories and subtle theories.



Calvin Larson says that sociologists have used sociological theory in the following sense:


Concept – Perceptual Administration – Vocabulary – Constructed Types | 2 Citation Context – Conceptual Scheme – Context.
Intellectual Imagination – Sub-imagination – Theorem – Hypothesis – Organizing.
Proposition – Axiom Statement – Rule – Generalization |
Replication – Logical – Deductive Method – Mathematical Formulation |
Ideal Form – Word Formation – Drafting – Continuity.


Gis says that theories must have three characteristics


-1 . to be called more formally

, 2. to be testable,

Having the ability to predict.


Homans has divided the general principles into two categories.


(1) Normative and

(2) Non-normative.


Normative theories explain how individuals should behave in order to achieve goals. Non-normative theories emphasize the explanation of the actual behavior of individuals.


Jonathan Turner has mentioned four main elements of the theory


(1) Concept,

(2) Variable,

(3) Statement, and

(4) Outer (Format) |


(1) Concept – Theories are made from concepts and concepts are made from definitions. Definition is a system of terms such as a sentence, an argument or a symbol or a mathematical formula. Concepts have a special role in theory formation. They bring uniformity in the item used. Their second main feature is that they reveal subtlety. Some concepts represent gross events and some concepts represent subtle events.


(2) Variable – From the point of view of theory, there are two types of concepts and (1) related to nominal (qualitative) events, and (2) related to quantitative changes. In general, other types of concepts in theory making. In these ‘Parivay-qualities’ are found.


(3) Theoretical Statements – Concepts are related to theoretical statements. Statements indicate the state or existence of an event. The concept of environment refers to the variation in an event, for example, the greater the degree of conflict in social units, the greater is the degree of unity in each unit.

(4) Format of Theory – Theoretical statement or structure should be arranged in an orderly manner. There are two outliers of theoretical structure in social sciences. (1) Axiomatic process, and (2) Causal process. (1) Axiomatic declarative exteriorization – Axiomatic declarative process consists of three elements (1) It consists of a series or pair of concepts. (2) In this – existential statements are found which indicate the situations to which the concepts and related statements are applicable. Turner has called this principle ‘field conditions’. (3) Relative statements are said in the form of steps. At the top of the hierarchy are the axioms from which all other statements are derived. 




Wagner has divided sociological theories into three categories.


(1) Positive sociological theories,

(2) Interpretative sociology and

(3) Non-scientific or evaluative theories.


positivist theories

The proponents of sociology consider sociology to be equal to natural science. Theories like neo-positivist, structural-functionalism and social behaviorism are examples of this category. The proponents of explanatory theories consider sociology to be a social science as opposed to a natural science. Examples of this category are cultural interpretation, interpretive sociology of action and interaction, social phenomenology etc. Supporters of unscientific or evaluative social theories consider sociology to be neither a direct science nor an explanatory science. Social-philosophical theory, ideological-social theory and human reform theory are examples of this category.




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