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How do you explain a social institution using the three major sociological perspectives?

Choose a social institution (i.e. family, education, religion, prison, economy, and mass media) and explain it using the three major sociological perspectives.

I have picked prison for a social institution and need to explain it using these three perspectives: conflict theory, functionalism, and interactionism.

1. What are social institutions (define and discuss its components).
2. Conflict theory
3. Functionalism
4. Symbolic Interactionism.

Solution Preview

The three major sociological perspectives are greatly outlined in this article (,articleId-26837.html), giving the basics and background of each perspective. This is a good place to start, as you will probably want to connect these basic terms to how they relate to the social institution you chose. (I will list all resources at the end as well).


In essence, the functionalist point of view tends to focus on the individual and how their behavior is molded by society as a whole. This is often the case with prisoners, as many people view inmates as a product of their surroundings (they had a bad childhood or they were abused or they hung out with the wrong crowd). According to an article in Associated Content (, the functionalist would agree that "as long as prisons serve to help us define our norms, they cannot fail (Lemert 1972). It does not matter so much if they turn "bad people" into "good people" so long as they allow us to differentiate between the two." This article also discusses the other views as well.

Another point of view that the functionalists believe is that "punishment and imprisonment makes the criminals
negative ...

Solution Summary

This solution discusses how conflict, functionalist and interactionist theories pertain to a prison in 528 words with a number of links and two attached discussions on the theories and how they pertain to social institutions in general to provide the student with additional resources for study.