Assumptions about the Nature of Society
The ‘order theorists’ have greatly outnumbered the ‘conflict theorists’, and as A. Dawe has observed, ‘the thesis that sociology is centrally concerned with the problem of social order has become one of the discipline’s few orthodoxies. This chapter examines the order—conflict issue with a view to identifying a key dimension for analysing the assumptions about the nature of society reflected in different social theories. Conflict theories are clearly of a different nature; they are committed to, and seek to explain, the process and nature of deep-seated structural change in society as opposed to change of a more superficial and ephemeral kind. The chapter introduces the term ‘sociology of regulation’ to refer to the writings of theorists who are primarily concerned to provide explanations of society in terms which emphasise its underlying unity and cohesiveness. It shows that the order—conflict distinction is in many senses the most problematic.