Functionalism and Marxism. A Critical Evaluation

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Functionalism and Marxism. A Critical Evaluation

During the 18th and 19th centuries, political and industrial revolutions coupled with a philosophical movement which promoted a new scientific way of thinking (`The Enlightenment'), heralded the advent of several new scientific disciplines. These social sciences attempted to explain the rapid and fundamental changes which were shattering traditional ways of life in Britain and Europe. Sociology emerged as one of these innovative areas and sought to analyse the nature of society and the complexities within it using collective theories and perspectives. The construction of a sociological perspective can best be illustrated by the application of several fundamental questions, the responses and explanations of which, produce an insight into why there are differences of opinion.

Functionalism and Marxism are two of the most influential perspectives within Sociology, and emerged in response to modernity. They are both structuralist theories, the individual is viewed with less importance than the social structure or organisation of society itself. They both advocate the idea that society can be improved through the application of human knowledge. However there are major contradictions in their explanations of society.

The first major functionalist thinker was Emile Durkheim (1858-1917), although subsequently there have been numerous other significant contributors in the establishment of functionalist rationale, the most notable being Talcott Parsons (1902-1979). Functionalism theorises that society is made up of various social institutions, a social institution is a group of people organised for a specific purpose or purposes. The family is viewed as the cornerstone of society...

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...cidity in the notion that a sociological perspective cannot explain the functioning of an entire society. It seems that different perspectives are better at explaining different things, functionalism is ideal to explain balance and harmony in society while Marxism provides insight into inequality and conflict. Societies are in a constant state of flux and it is therefore unlikely that a sole perspective will ever be capable of explaining all aspects of society.

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