Essay on Functionalism and Marxism

Essay on Functionalism and Marxism

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In the history of anthropology and sociology, there have been many different social theories. Often these theories are influential for a period of time and then lose popularity once a new, more seductive theory is established. Marxism and functionalism are two examples of social theories that made a grand impact on the anthropological and sociological fields, but have since faded from the forefront. Marxism was established by Karl Marx in the mid-1800s and was later adopted by other theorists, such as Marvin Harris. Marxism was built upon the idea that there has been an ongoing class struggle in human history and it is this conflict between classes that will lead to social change and eventually to the birth of Communism. Functionalism was introduced during the mid-1900s and was adopted by Émile Durkheim, E.E. Evans-Pritchard, Bronislaw Malinowski, Alfred Radcliffe-Brown, and many other ethnographers. The basic notion of functionalism is that society consists of many different, but interrelated parts, each of which have a specific function and work together to maintain a society. The ethnographer often saw it as their job to uncover the social order and structure present within the society (Baert 1998). Although Marxism and functionalism were developed in close temporal proximity and similarities can be established between the two theories, at their core they are fundamentally in opposition to each other.
The major difference between the two theories is that from the Marxist perspective society is viewed as constantly changing, whereas from a functionalist mode of thought society is seen to be relatively stable. Marx viewed society as dynamic, or “continually evolving,” because of the recurrent replacement of the ruling cl...

... middle of paper ...

...the strengths and weaknesses of the theories compliment each other. Marxism is useful in explaining change, however it lacks the ability to account for stability. On the other hand, functionalism is favorable for explaining stability, but it is incapable of justifying change. Although the two theories are distinct from each other, they balance one another. This suggests that when research is being conducted within the field of anthropology and sociology, it would be beneficial for the researcher to incorporate both frameworks into his research in order to gain the richest, most relevant information. In conclusion, rather than forgetting about one theoretical framework, when the next more alluring framework is developed, it may be advantageous for the anthropologist or sociologist to incorporate the strong aspects of the previous theory into their new approach.

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