What Theory Explain How the Social World Operates?


Martha Robinson

The social world is a complex and ever-changing entity, with many theories attempting to explain how it operates. In this article, we will explore some of the most prominent theories that attempt to shed light on the workings of society.

Social Constructionism

One theory that has gained significant traction in recent years is social constructionism. This view posits that society is not a naturally occurring entity but instead is constructed by individuals through their interactions with one another. In other words, the social world operates based on our collective beliefs about what is real and what is important.

Social constructionists argue that even seemingly objective facts are shaped by our subjective interpretations. For example, the concept of race may be viewed as a natural category by some people, but it is actually a socially constructed idea that has been used to justify discrimination throughout history.


Another theory that attempts to explain how the social world operates is functionalism. This view posits that society is a complex system made up of interrelated parts, each of which serves a particular function. According to functionalists, each part of society works together to maintain stability and order.

For example, education serves the function of teaching individuals important skills and knowledge, while also preparing them for their roles in society. The economy serves the function of producing and distributing goods and services to meet people’s needs.

Conflict Theory

On the other end of the spectrum from functionalism is conflict theory. This view posits that society operates based on power dynamics between different groups. Conflict theorists argue that some groups hold more power than others and use this power to maintain their dominance over others.

For example, conflict theorists might argue that wealthy individuals hold more power than those who are less well-off financially. They would argue that this power differential leads to inequality in areas such as access to healthcare or education.

Social Exchange Theory

Another theory that attempts to explain how the social world operates is social exchange theory. This view posits that individuals make decisions based on a cost-benefit analysis of their interactions with others. In other words, we consider what we stand to gain or lose from any given interaction and act accordingly.

For example, if someone is considering whether to help a friend move, they might weigh the benefits of helping their friend against the costs (such as time and physical effort). If they decide that the benefits outweigh the costs, they are more likely to help.

Symbolic Interactionism

Finally, symbolic interactionism is a theory that focuses on how individuals create meaning through their interactions with one another. According to this view, society operates based on shared meanings and symbols.

For example, the concept of marriage is a symbol that carries certain meanings for different people. Some may view it as a sacred institution, while others may view it as nothing more than a legal contract. The meaning attached to marriage shapes how individuals interact with one another in relation to this institution.

In conclusion, there are many theories attempting to explain how the social world operates. Whether you subscribe to social constructionism or functionalism, conflict theory or social exchange theory, or some combination thereof, it’s clear that our understanding of society is constantly evolving. By examining these different perspectives, we can gain a deeper understanding of the complex forces at work in our world today.