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

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THE FUNDAMENTAL DIFFERENCES BETWEEN FUNCTIONALISM, MARXISM AND SOCIAL ACTION THEORY. The three most commonly mentioned sociological perspectives are Functionalism, which is a system theory. Marxism which is often seen as a conflict theory and in addition there is also Social Action Theory. This theory is often described as the alternative theory as it deals with people and how they define themselves. There have been many varied and interesting debates concerning the similarities and differences between the three over the years. I shall try to explain the differences and similarities in the following essay. I shall use quote from Giddens, Sociology in focus and also Sociology Themes and Perspectives. A perspective is a set of views and beliefs; they explain how something works. They are actually a particular way of looking at something in depth. The sociological perspective can be best understood in terms of such phrases as seeing through, looking behind. Very much as such phrases would be employed in common speech i.e. looking behind the scenes, in other words etc. (Sociology in focus 5th Edition 2000 page 1) The founding fathers of the three perspectives are as follows: August Comte, Emile Durkheim and Talcott Parsons are known as the three best-known Functionalists. ...read more.


Functionalists believe that all social groups will benefit if their society runs smoothly and prospers. (Haralambos and Holborn, 5th Edition, 2001, page 11). If society as a whole prosper we all benefit, thus leading to a more harmonious society in general. Tallcott Parsons is quoted as saying that the main task of sociology is to examine the institutionalisation patterns of value orientation. We place great emphasis on socialisation therefore transmitting our values and norms to the next generation. (Haralambos and Holborn, 5th Edition, 2001, page 10). Marxism like functionalism is concerned with the overall picture of society. Marxism is seen as a conflict theory, Mainly because they see the primary interests of society as a whole as being made up of conflicting groups with conflicting interests or beliefs. We are a very materialistic society. A society made up of those who have, and those who have not. Marxists sociologists say that there will never be true social harmony because there are too many inequalities within our cultural society. Marx gave names to the haves and have nots, they are known as the Bourgeoise and the Proletariats. One way of assessing the power of the upper class is through the study of elites (people who fill the top positions in each of the major institutions of society); most of the sociological debates have centered on economic elites and political elites. ...read more.


Marx also believed that the class conflict would worsen as time went by. His main hope was that we would eventually live in a classness society. Social Action Theory is often described as the alternative theory to the other two. We must try and imagine that each individual and the social groups that they belong to define who they are, as opposed to taking into account the overall view. Social Actionists see people as individuals who have a right to react as and how they wish. They say that how we react with each other in our society is largely up to us as individual social being. Social Action Theory is A social perspective that focuses on the meaning and intensions that underpin human actions. Social active perspectives are concerned with the way in which the human actively and creatively interprets the world around them. Rather than the external forces which could be used as a guide (Giddens 4th Edition, 2001, page 698) We all make choices within our own lives in other words, from what we eat to when we sleep, where we live and who to talk to. According to Weber. Individuals have the abilty to act freely. We should not be bound by outside constraints (Giddens 4th Edition,2001, page 13) ...read more.

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