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

Discuss the key concepts within, and state the similarities and differences between, the following theories: Functionalism and Marxism.

Extracts from this document...


HNC SOCIAL SCIENCE SOCIOLOGY B - INTERPRETING AND APPLYING SOCIOLOGICAL THEORY Essay Discuss the key concepts within, and state the similarities and differences between, the following theories: Functionalism and Marxism. Student name: Student ID: Lecturer: Submission date: 14/11/06 Word count: 2148 Within sociology there are a number of varying theories and theorists interested in explaining and understanding the social world. This can be achieved through 'the sociological imagination' a term coined by C. Wright Mills in 1959. He believed that 'the sociological imagination enables us to grasp history and biography and the relations between the two within society. That is its task and its promise' (1959 C. Wright Mills) Functionalism is one such theory. It first appeared in 19th century Europe and was largely influenced in its early stages by French sociologist Emile Durkheim and later developed by American sociologists such as Talcott Parsons and Robert Merton. The theory was most influential during the 1940's and 50's but declined in popularity during the 60's. However many functionalist ideas have survived in the guise of New Right thinking which was closely related to British and American policy making particularly during the 1980's. Functionalism may be regarded as a macro theory, this means that a functionalist will look at a society as a whole and investigate the relationships formed between its various parts or ...read more.


Other aspects of society such as the family, political, educational and legal systems make up the superstructure which is largely shaped by the infrastructure. Therefore a change in the economy will result in a corresponding change in the superstructure. [Haralambos & Holborn 6th ed.] Throughout his argument, Marx maintained that a basic conflict and contradiction, in the form of exploitation of one social group by another, has existed in a continuously evolving form in all historical societies. [Haralambos & Holborn 6th ed.] For example, in feudal societies lords exploited their serfs and similarly in capitalist societies today employers exploit their employees. However, Marx believed that the major contradictions in society exist between the forces of production and the relationships of production. [Haralambos & Holborn 6th ed.] This is best illustrated in terms of the infrastructure of capitalist industrial society. Marx argued that wealth in capitalist societies is produced by the labour power of the workers. However the bulk of this wealth is appropriated in the form of profits by the capitalists who own the means of production. The wages which are paid by the capitalists in return for labour fall well below the value of wealth they produce. Similarly Marx identifies a contradiction between the organisation of labour and the nature of ownership. ...read more.


Marxist theorists are more interested in explaining society in terms of causes and development, for this reason Marxism is seen to be more dynamic. Functionalism also argues that there is a value consensus which holds institutions and society together, in other words they believe a general agreement exists in society about which things are important and how things should be done. Marxists disagree with this analysis and argue that values are often imposed by powerful groups in society. In terms of social life, functionalists believe norms and values to be the basic elements and suggest a dependence on commitments and solidarity for the maintenance of social life. Marxists would argue that interests are the basic elements of social life, which involves inducements and coercion and generates opposition, exclusion and hostility. Finally, functionalism tends to view social systems as persistent and regard the class system and capitalism to be vital whereas Marxism as a more dynamic theory can see the potential for change as well as being highly critical of both the class stratification system and capitalism. In conclusion there are a number of theories interested in explaining and interpreting social life, Marxism and functionalism are just two of these theories. Others include feminism, the new right, new left realism, weberian theory, and symbolic interactionism, to name but a few. Each theory is individual in its own right however there are a number of similarities, for example between functionalism and the new right. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE Sociology 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 GCSE Sociology essays

  1. Marked by a teacher

    Assess the contribution of functionalism to our understanding of the family.

    4 star(s)

    However, his belief that its remaining functions are 'basic and irreducible' prevents him from examining alternatives. Significant to his criticism, his view of socialisation can be questioned. He sees it as a one-way process, with the children being pumped full of culture and their personalities being moulded by powerful parents.

  2. The Fundamental Differences Between Functionalism, Marxism and Social Action Theory.

    Functionalists see society as a system based upon the same lines as the human body. The analysis used to describe functionalism is often compared to the working of the human body. Therefore, if you describe how the human body works, you can compare society to the same system.

  1. The differences and similarities between functionism, marxism, and social action theory.

    Functionalists believe consensus plays a bigger part in society than conflict. We need guidelines; we need social consciousness for each other. We need rules and regulations or we would have anarchy namely, conflict, dispute, quarrelling and feuding. Which brings me to Marxism.

  2. Outline Some Of The Key Tenets Of The Functionalist, Marxist and Interactionist Theories Of ...

    Davis and Moore linked the education system more directly with the system of social stratification. Social stratification is said by functionalists to be a mechanism for making sure that the most talented and able people in society are paired with positions that are functionally the most important in society.

  1. For the purpose of this essay, during the first part we will explore the ...

    Holding the view that older people are very often lonely leads the individual practitioner to making assumptions that invariably are discriminatory and oppressive. Assessment for services on this basis could mean some solutions to needs are not considered. (Thompson, 1993)

  2. This essay proposes to discuss different accounts of the welfare state by both mainstream ...

    (Ungerson, 1987: 11) It is feminist contributions such as these that enable us to see that the gendered ideologies of the female carer still prevail in the welfare state, up to fifty years after Beveridge. Female patterns of employment also show that the gender divisions from the day of Beveridge still exist today.

  1. evaluation of methods

    So, it is easy for them to choose the answer which they think is more suitable for them. To make this question more relevant, I should also include another question, asking in which way they want to get married. This idea was given to me by one of my respondent.

  2. Early sociological commentators can be characterised as either conflict or consensus theorists'. Discuss.

    what is expected of them and where these expectations are constantly being met. There are functional requirements that must be met in a society for its survival, such as the need for the reproduction of the population. For Talcott Parsons, the set of needs or functional imperatives are met by four subsystems: economic, political, kinship and cultural.

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