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Sociology: Functionalists and Marxists on Society

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Introduction

´╗┐James Allen Functionalists and Marxists agree that to a large extent society controls our behaviour. They disagree however as to whether or not this is a good thing. In this essay I shall be outlining what functionalists and Marxists believe whilst discussing whether or not they think society controlling our behaviour is a good thing. We will discover which theory believes this idea of society controlling us is a positive thing and which theory believes it is a negative thing. Functionalism is a structuralist theory. This means that it sees the individual as less important than the social structure. It is a ?top-down? theory that looks at society rather than the individual within it. Society is more important because the individual is produced by society. People are the product of all the social influences of them: their family, friends, educational and religious background and their exposure to the media. Functionalists look at social institutions as the means of bringing about the patterns of shared and stable behaviour that they refer to as social order. ...read more.

Middle

We see clear differences in behaviour around us every day, and there may be clear cultural differences present in the same society. Functionalism has also been accused of ignoring the freedom of choice enjoyed by individuals. Their behaviour and ideas are not imposed on them by structural factors beyond their control. In this sense, functionalism may present ?an oversocialized? picture of human beings. Another problem with functionalism is their view that socialization is a positive process that never fails. If this were the case, then delinquency, child abuse and illegal drug taking would not be the social problems they are. Finally, functionalism has been accused by Marxists of ignoring the fact that power is not equally distributed in society. Some groups have more wealth and power than others and may be able to impose their norms and values on less powerful groups. For Marx, the system we live in (which he called capitalism) divides everyone up into two basic classes: bosses and workers. Marx called the bosses the bourgeoisie or ruling class (because they controlled society), and the workers he called the proletariat. ...read more.

Conclusion

We experience what Marxists describe as false class-consciousness. However, like functionalism, Marxism has been accused of ignoring the freedom of choice enjoyed by individuals. People choose what to do and think ? they are not ?brainwashed?. In this sense, Marxism may too present an ?oversocialized? picture of human beings. Marxism may put too much emphasis on conflict. After all, despite all its inequalities, capitalism has managed to improve most people?s standard of living. Perhaps maxim also ignores common interests that employers and workers have. If workers do well, then the business does well and employers can afford to increase wages. Finally, Marxism, in general, has been criticized for claiming that all cultural activity is geared to class interests. Consequently, Marxists neglect the fact that culture may reflect religious patriarchal, nationalistic and ethnic interests. Taken from above we can conclude that functionalists believe it is crucial that society controls our behaviour in order to maintain social order and consensus within society is shared. On the other hand, we can also conclude that Marxism feel that society controlling our behaviour is just ideology in which we are brainwashed into following norms and values passed down from the ruling class in which we are exploited without realising. ...read more.

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