Compare the Functionalist and Marxist Perspective on Society Essay Example
Compare the Functionalist and Marxist Perspective on Society Essay Example

Compare the Functionalist and Marxist Perspective on Society Essay Example

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  • Pages: 4 (1068 words)
  • Published: December 21, 2017
  • Type: Analysis
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“Lotto a ticket to your dreams” Vote Lucky Five and give yourself a chance fi step up inna life”. These slogans represent the societal belief of the Jamaican people that there are means by which one individual can move from one stratum of the Jamaican society to another. In some societies ones position in society is ascribed and fixed as in many Asian societies. These systems reinforce the idea of inequality and social change is nearly impossible.There are many different sociological theories that attempt to explain how society or aspects of society work together. Different theories try to understand social behaviour at different levels of investigation.

There are several perspectives on the sociology of education that are important. The two perspectives which are going to be looked at in this essay are Functionalism and Marxism. Although quite differe


nt, both Functionalism and Marxism have their similarities.They also have their good and bad aspects, and ways in which each theory dysfunctions however each can be drawn on in relation to a given society with its many and varied functional conflicts and or differences for a clearer understanding of its social issues (Functionalism vs Marxism n.d. Retieved 8 Oct 2008 from www. megaessays. com).

Functionalism is the study of society as a functioning system including interdependent institutions or patterned relations that are steady overtime and that enact specialized functions for the whole.This theory therefore sees society as a whole.

It is often referred to as the consensus theory as it doesn't address the issue of conflict in society but rather it looks at all the major aspects in society with its main focus being, how direction is kept between parts o

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society. Any given pattern of relations or structures within society is interpreted by reference to the results or functions that such patterns have for them majority.

It is an essential assumption within the functionalist perspective is that participation in social systems is voluntary.When a sociologist uses a functionalist perspective, they create attention to the long-term familiar and predictable character of large-scale social organization, stopping only catastrophic events. “To get a sense of how a sociologist would analyze society using a functionalist perspective, think about how biologists study an animal’s body”. The main assumption is that social life can most usefully be understood by thinking in general terms about society as a relatively self-codependent.

These hegemonic ideas and ways of thinking usually blame attitudes, motivation, and values, rather than economic conditions, as the cause of economic inequality”. The central assumption of the political economy perspective is that the organization of economic relations strongly impacts upon, and some claim even determines, all other aspects of society. “Social equilibrium is dynamic, not static, because societies must continually change to respond to changing circumstances”. “Latent functions may explain the continuation of social organizations long after their intended function has become irrelevant or even devalued”.

They must arrange themselves “collectively” to work with the help of tools to change attainable natural resources into products that are needed. The capitalist system appears both balanced and inevitable, while other economies, like Soviet and Chinese communism, seem impossible or worse. Functionalist societies lean towards dynamic equilibrium. Political economy sees cultural traditions as extending material conditions and how people group collectively to “distribute, produce, and consume the goods and services that sustain”.It assumes that capable members will

discover through socialization to recognize and understand these focus elements, and will identify non-conformity as “deviant”. Therefore, “a revolt seems misguided, wrong- handed, unreasonable, and naive”.

The political economy perspective also shares with functionalism the idea that culture functions to publicize “social integration”. Marxism "In Contemporary Sociological Theory, Wallace and Wolf define Marxist theory as a sociological theory that identifies economic factors as the fundamental determinant of social structure and change (Wallace and Wolf 78-79).

According to Marxist theory, economics shapes our society and determines our interests. As a result of economic factors, classes are formed and conflicts arise, this the theorists contends happens because one class cannot make economic gains without exploiting another class. When the exploitation becomes evident, the classes will struggle for power. " The Marxist theory explains social structure through class struggle.

One class exploits the product of the labor of another class in order to prosper.This prediction that the “exploited masses” would increase and defeat the capitalist system has not happened yet, but the prediction and the senses behind it are adequate knowledge to union leaders and business societies alike. Any infirmity or ineffectiveness in the functioning of these simple mechanisms aid in accounting for difficulty and disequilibrium or the end of order. “Marxist analysis starts with the essential theory that people must produce in order to live”. Individual societies can be seen as subsystems working within an “increasingly interconnected global system of transnational economic, legal institutions, and politics”.


Functionalism and Marxism are both known to be structural perspectives, due to the fact that they concentrate on a group of people rather than on the individual himself. Although very similar the two are

different in very distinct ways, in fact Functionalism falls under the sub-heading of consensus structuralism, while Marxism falls under the sub-heading of conflict structuralism. As the sub-headings suggest they may be considered as opposites in various ways.

According to the Functionalists Society is made up of social institutions e. g. family school…etc and they are interrelated and when taken together they form a complete system. Marxists believe that society is made up of two classes: the ruling class (Bourgeoisie) –owns the factors of Production and the working class (Proletariat) - owns only their labour which is hired to the ruling class for wages. Functionalists believe that society has orderly balance and temporary disturbances that can be solved their concept is that someone has to lead for order and structure to be had.

They also believe that social change occurs as a result of adaptation and integration while Marxists believe that classes are always in conflict because of the dominant class (ruling class) who exploits and oppresses the working class which results in Social Change. His concept is that power should be distributed equally; while he acknowledges that under capitalism someone has to lead, he believes that this will no longer be in existence as communism will supplant capitalism. Both Marxist and Functionalists agree that individuals are powerless and that outside forces affect the life of the individual.

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