1. The Functionalist Perspective: The structural functionalist perspective sees society as a system. Functionalists identify the structural characteristics and functions and dysfunctions of institutions, and distinguish between manifest functions and latent functions, where manifest functions are those consequences that are intended and recognized by the participants in a system, and latent functions are those consequences neither intended nor recognized. When we apply this to the analysis of poverty across generations, we can categorize poverty as a functional and dysfunctional property. It is functional because it ensures that the dirty work is done. In all the generations, it has been a function of the poor people to do the jobs that are physically dirty, dangerous, temporary, dead-end, poorly paid and menial.
Poverty also creates jobs for those who serve the poor or those who shield the rest of the population from them for example the police and social workers, loan sharks and drug pushers. However, poverty is dysfunctional because it intensifies a variety of social problems, including those associated with health, education, crime and drug addiction. And the victims of poverty often experience a sense of alienation from society that leads them to withhold their loyalty from the system. And such is why functionalists also typically assume that most members of a society share a consensus regarding their core beliefs and values. 2. The Interactionist Perspective: The interactionist perspective is more concerned with the micro or small-scale aspects of social life.
The contend that society is possible because human beings have the ability to communicate with one another by means of symbols. They say that we act toward people, objects, and events on the basis of the meanings we impart to them; consequently, we experience the world as constructed reality. This will suggest that people define certain circumstances as deviating from what they perceive to be an ideal standard of living, assign an unfavorable meaning to these conditions, and apply the label "poverty" to them. This shows how we respond to things in our environment on the basis of their meanings that is, the understandings we have of them. These meanings are not inherent things, but emerge from social interaction, and because we are continually interacting, shared cultural meanings are continually emerging and changing. The world we live in, therefore is largely a social reality, manufactured by people as they intervene in the world and interpret what is happening there using symbols and meanings available to them.
So that poverty is merely the symbol we assign to a certain way of life, which is lower than the standard class of living. So there is always going to be a class of lower standard of living, which will be labeled with poverty. 3. The Conflict Perspective: The conflict approach argues that the structure of society and the nature of social relationships are the result of past and ongoing conflicts.
Conflict theorists portray the inequalities that flow from the way society is organized and show who gains and who loses from these arrangements. The main source of this conflict in human societies is scarcity of the resources people require, according to the conflict perspective. Wealth prestige and power are always in limited supply, so that gains for one individual or group are often associated with losses for a lot of others. Wealth, which is one of the resources, will determine which group will live very comfortably at the expense of a lot of others, who will remain in poverty. Conflict theorists maintain that society is often held together in the face of conflicting interests.
When one group enjoys sufficient power, where power can be linked directly with wealth, it makes and enforces rules and shapes institutional life so that its interests are served. Many divided but overlapping interest groups generate a large number of crosscutting conflicts. People who are opponents in one conflict are allies in another. Society persists because no one conflict can become so great as to tear the society apart.
A poor African-American woman at odds with her rich white female boss over affirmative action policy may agree with her about increasing government funding for child health care.