Perspectives in Sociology

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Topic: Compare and contrast the Functionalist and Conflict Perspectives on society. Refer to the work of relevant theorists to explain your answer. Sociology is the scientific study of societies and human social behavior (Sullivan 2000). Sociologists investigate the structure of groups, organizations, and societies, and how people interact within these contexts. The theory of functionalism and conflict theory differ in several ways. Functionalist’s perspective sees society as a system made up of a number of interrelated and interdependent elements, each performing a function that contributes to the operation of a whole. (Merton 1968, Parsons 1951 & Maryanski 1979) Functionalists argue that societies are characterized by stability and a tendency towards equilibrium, a state of balance in which the relationships among various parts remain the same. Conflict perspective is based on the idea that society consists of several groups who struggle among each other to attain scarce societal resources that are considered valuable whether in terms of money, power, prestige or the authority to impose one’s values on society (Sullivan 2000), it emphasize the inevitability of coercion, domination, conflict and change in society. According to Karl Marx society is made up of groups (bourgeoisie and proletariat) struggling for scarce resources and dominant elites use power to control the powerless. The functionalist and conflict theorists are frequently referred to as macro sociologists because the two theories look at society as a whole rather than looking at it from the individual point of view. They look at the structures within a society such as family and education, and debate how these affect the individual instead of how the individual affects the structures. Similarly, both theories look at the overall structure of society and argue that education prepares pupils for
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