Compare and contrast two sociological theories

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Compare and contrast any two major theoretical perspectives in Sociology

Sociology is the study of human social life, groups and societies. Through sociology, we are able to understand the structures and dynamics of our society. In our society, we have institutions, which are basically organisations that exist over time. Although people may change, the structure continues to exist. Examples include the family, education, religion, and economic and political institutions. This is how they function; the educational institutions (public schools, colleges or universities) depend on the government for funding. The government decides how much money they get. Governments are themselves dependent on the economy. The economy itself depends, however, on education, for it is education that supplies the economy with skilled labour. These interrelationships mean that institutions should not be studied in isolation from each other. (Fulcher.J, Scott. J, 2003, Sociology second edition).

Then there is the socialisation process. This is the process whereby individuals learn the norms and values of the groups they belong, so that they are ready for social interaction. (). In other words, it means the process whereby culture is passed from one generation to another. Socialisation starts at birth and ends at death and is very powerful in shaping individuals. It has two processes, primary socialisation which is carried out by the family or first carers and secondary socialisation which is mainly schools, the mass media and religious organisations. (Fulcher.J, Scott.J, 2003, Sociology second edition).

 Inequality is when there are clear boundaries in society that prevent people from attaining equal status despite their work and effort towards attaining such goals. It is about who gets what, how they get it and why they get it. (). Inequality is typically tied to race, gender and class, with white, males, those with higher education levels, and those with higher incomes sit at the top of the hierarchy. (Haralambos. M, Holborn. M, 2000, Themes and Perspectives of Sociology).

However, all these are viewed from different perspectives such as Marxism and Functionalism etc. Whilst both theories have some similarities, they are very different in their interpretation.

Functionalism is based on ‘consensus’ meaning that in all societies there has to be some form of generally agreed principles, norms and values upon which a system of trust and justice can be based (Durkheim), while Marxism is based on ‘conflict’. The word conflict describes those perspectives which assume that, in society, groups exist with differing interests.

Even though these two theories oppose, they do have some similarities. They both offer a macro-explanation of society meaning they both look at the overall structure of society, rather than looking at individual views. Functionalism and Marxism both see that human behaviour is directed by an external force. ‘Functional prerequisite’ (basic needs e.g. food, water, shelter) for functionalism and economic for Marxism. These two theories also view society as a system of social structures and both agree that these social structures exist within a society. Both perspectives “fall within the positivist approach, in that they focus on 'objective data´ and concerning upon structure and system rather than focusing upon the meaning of individual” ( They both focus on the needs of the economy and how institutions relate to this. Both theories also believe in social change, believing that the more society changes, the better the potential for the ‘idealistic’ society. “Durkheim and Marx shared a common intellectual interest in the social changes associated with industrialisation” (  Marxism and Functionalism both stress the importance of socialisation process in order to promote cohesion/solidarity (union or fellowship arising from common interests or responsibilities) and the both claim the statues of science.

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Whilst there are some similarities, both are diametrically opposed in their interpretation of the social system. Functionalism is based on Consensus, which takes its starting point from the assumption that society is firmly structured and is the main element in shaping social behaviour. To fully understand functionalism, one has to understand of ‘the enlightenment’. This is the name given to very general and diverse movement that began in the 18th Century. Its basic idea was that reason could be applied to the world we live and lead to what has been described as the age of reason. (Haralambos. M, Holborn. M, ...

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