• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

Compare and Contrast functionalist and marxist views on religion

Extracts from this document...


Compare and Contrast Functionalist and Marxist views on the role of religion in society It is very difficult to come up with a perfect definition for the characteristics of religion, as throughout the world there are a great variety of different religions. Most of which are very diverse. It can often be defined as a belief in some kind of supernatural power, and an expression of this belief in collective worship. However one major religion, Buddhism, doesn't worship together and don't worship a god. A loose definition for religion would be that, it is an often-collective system of shared beliefs with guidelines and set moral values. A functionalist's perspective on religion would be that it contributes to meeting the fundamental needs for society to function. It is a force that provides social order and social solidarity in times of need. Famous sociologist Emile Durkheim defines religion as a unified system of beliefs and practices, which are relative to sacred things. Durkheim found totemism to be the most basic form of religion within Aborigine tribes. Their society was divided up into several clans, each with their own totem to worship, but the totem is a sacred visible symbol of god and the clan, so the clan worship their society as well as god. Durkheim also said that the primitive man comes to view society as something sacred because he is completely dependant upon it. ...read more.


However Malinowski believes it eases the stresses of life rather than the exploitation that life brings upon the unsuspecting. Parsons upholds the view that human action is directed and controlled by the norms provided by the social system of religion. For example the 10 commandments provide guidelines on how we should live our lives and is also the value consensus for social order. Therefore he shows us that the norms of society are integrated by religious beliefs e.g. 'treat unto others as thy would be treated themselves' integrates norms of being kind and generous to one another, giving guidance in certain situations. Malinowski suggested that religion addresses certain problems in everyday life that cause stress, which implies that life in everyday, is without stress. However Talcott Parsons argues that stress is present in everyday life and religion can help people alleviate this stress. Unforeseen events placing people in unpleasant circumstances, like pregnancy death, can be explained in religious context and help people deal with the stress. Parsons also argues that one of the main functions of religion is to make sense of all experiences by explaining them. It is meant to give meaning to the least meaningful experiences of life such as suffering, this can be explained as God testing a persons faith, or this is their punishment for their sins. This promotes social order and stability. Functionalists see that religion creates social solidarity and stability through rites, rituals, and guidelines. ...read more.


So Marxists say that religion produces passive and fatalistic people accepting their suggested fate. Marx rejects the idea, proposed by parsons, that religion provides answers to life's questions, instead he sees it as a drug to ease the pain of exploitation. 'Religion is the opium of the people'. On the other hand, Neo-Marxist Anthony Gramsci was fully aware of the control that the church had wielded against its members, but had located a form of revolution within the controlling reach of upper class rulers. He referred to the control as hegemony, whereby a powerful group alters the consciousness of another group in society. Gramsci found that at different points in history, admired forms of religion had emerged that supported the interests of the working class. From this he accepted that there could be a possibility that religious beliefs and practices could develop and be made admirable by working class intellectuals, made to challenge the dominant ideology of the ruling class. Neither Marxists nor Functionalists have harmony among their theorists as to the exact role of religion. But as it cannot be decided on a definition for religion as a whole, it may be difficult to define its role in society. Both theories however, view religion as a conservative force and as observing society for better or worse, but overall functionalists are more accepting of religion as they see it as stabilising people, therefore society. Whereas Marxists see religion as a obstacle stopping people from bettering themselves and obstructing a communist uprising. From this Marxists see religion as playing a far more negative role in society than functionalists. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our AS and A Level Work & Leisure section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related AS and A Level Work & Leisure essays

  1. Marked by a teacher

    Comparison Of Marxist And Functionalist Views On Education

    3 star(s)

    Mechanization reduces the number of jobs requiring physical muscle power skills. New technologies bring the need for higher levels of human expertise and technical knowledge. This change in society has spurned the expansion of mass schooling and higher education. Schools provide people with basic skills, which will enable them to

  2. Compare and contrast the Marxist and Functionalist views on the role of education in ...

    that the influence of social stratification largely prevents the education system from efficiently grading individuals in terms of ability. There are opinions from a Marxist's perspective about a hidden curriculum in the role of education, and those opinions are from Samuel Bowles and Herbert Gintis.

  1. 'Education is a tool of the ruling class'- Discuss.

    In the 70s however, the new right were convinced that education wasn't fulfilling it's role well enough therefore in response to this the Conservative Government developed the 'new vocationalism.' Allocating people to the most appropriate job Functionalists argue that education is a meritocracy.

  2. Compare and contrast Marxists, Feminist, Functionalists, Third Way and New Right views of the ...

    They argue that women are forced into poverty due to the pay gap, governement belief in women as primary carersand sexism in the workplace. Co-habiting women can't claim benefits. Women are not provided with free childcare and they are as a result forced to take leave, thus making them unable

  1. Religion can both be a conservative force and an initiator of social change. To ...

    Both Christianity and the Workers' socialism preach forthcoming salvation from bondage and misery; Christianity places this salvation in a life beyond, after death, in heaven; socialism places it in this world, in a transformation of society" (Marx and Engels 1975)

  2. Examination of the Functionalist view that schools serve the interests of both society and ...

    It is also beneficial as it is a meritocratic system which provides a just reason for inequality in terms of job status and rewards. It also serves the needs of the individual by giving them the equality of educational opportunity and allows all to achieve through ability and talent with no discrimination based on their gender or class background.

  1. Comment on the strength and weakness of the social security system in Hong Kong

    The CSSA and MPF have loopholes. There are many problem aroused by the two schemes such as people cheat for CSSA and the employers find some method to minimize the MPF expenses on the employees. Suggestions The government should provide more counseling services for CSSA applicants to help to have

  2. Free essay

    Religion as a Conservative Force

    According to Parsons religion also generalises these values into society. The values which are generally preserved by religion in these countries are very conservative ones. This is where religion is against social change, maintaining the status quo. This is what functionalists see as necessary for keeping and creating social unity.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work