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

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

Extracts from this document...


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.

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)

    Consequently, as with Murdock, there are many criticisms of Parsons. Initially, as with Murdock, Parsons has been accused of idealising the family with his picture of well-adjusted children and sympathetic spouses caring for each other's every need. It is a typically optimistic, modernistic theory that may have little relationship to reality.

  2. This essay will compare two different sociological perspectives Marxism and Functionalism through society and ...

    All together these form a collective conscience that holds society together. This collective conscience is then transmitted through large-scale units where all individuals in society have shared goals as well as social connections between the individuals are promoted (Coakley and Dunning, 2004)

  1. Marxism and Functionalism and their contribution to sport.

    functional prerequisites. The term functional hence refers to the contribution of each basic societal need to maintain the society's existence. What are these functional prerequisites? All large-scale units like family, education, religion, sport, etc. For example the family's contribution to maintain society is to reproduce new members as well as socialising them.

  2. A-Level Sociology Theory + Methods Revision.

    - Danger = respondent may be led by facial expressions/body gestures. Advantages - * Gives "Insight into the meanings" which people attach to environments in their lives. * Allows the interviewer to follow up interesting points the respondent makes. * Allows the respondent to answer Q's fully in a way they want.

  1. Free essay

    Sociological Theory for Social Work

    Sarah is clearly looking to improve her class status and is trying to disassociate herself from the stigma of being labelled working class by her middleclass peers. She has aspirations to be a vet, a model or a TV presenter and is typically middleclass in her attitudes towards her body image and her weight.

  2. Discuss the key concepts within, and state the similarities and differences between, the following ...

    seen as a structured collection of roles and norms designed to reinforce accepted patterns of behaviour. To maintain social order these rules must be reinforced through social controls in the form of formal or informal sanctions such as a fixed fine penalty or a disapproving look, respectively.

  1. Structural and Action theories

    The theory suggests that the norms and rules are forced onto members of society. Members have no control over what values and norms they learn. It is an involuntary action from which inherited normality's cannot be escaped. Functionalism is a form of Structural-Consensus Theory.

  2. The essay will begin by looking at what normality and social construction is and ...

    Labelling theorists such as Mead and Cooley have focused on what happens to individuals once they are labelled. Labelling is where for example a child who is a wheelchair user is labelled as disabled therefore giving meaning to them not being normal not having the ability to be able to achieve something.

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