A theoretical framework is a lens through which to view society that guides both the thinking and research in pursuing that study. This framework will be the foundation for all further theories and research that fit in that particular.
Functionalists view society as a complicated system of equally necessary parts that work together to create a stable or unstable society. When society is dysfunctional, it is because one or more of society’s fragments is not operating correctly. A strong, functional society can be equated to a well-oiled machine.
Conflict theorists view society as an arena of inequality that generates conflict and change. Societal events are all consequences of this conflict. Most conflict theory is derived from the works of Karl Marx.
Symbolic interactionists believe that society is the result of the symbolic meanings that people attribute to everything and everyone around them. People’s sense of ‘self’ and everything else is constantly constructed and reconstructed, influencing how they interact with their environment.
Classifying sociological theories into these three schools of thought is extremely useful pedagogically and methodologically. While these are three convenient categories, different theories in one framework can vary hugely from each other.