Compare and Contrast Any Two Sociological Theories and Briefly Evaluate Them.

Topics: Sociology, Social class, Marxism Pages: 6 (2075 words) Published: April 7, 2013
Compare and contrast any two sociological theories and briefly evaluate them. In the following essay I am going to compare and contrast the theories of marxism and functionalism, looking at the topics of the family and education. Functionalism has a macro-structural approach to society. It looks at society as a whole and is known as a consensus perspective i.e. everyone agrees on social norms and values and people work together to maintain society. These norms and values are learned by social institutions such as the family, education, media, religion, law and work. Functionalists believe society is arranged similar to the human body and its vital organs. If one should malfunction, then the others will be affected. This organic analogy keeps society functioning and these institutions have functional dependency on each other. These ideas go back to Emile Durkheim (1858-1917), the French sociologist who is considered to be the founding father of functionalist sociology and whose writings form the basis for the functionalist theory(McClelland 2000). Marxism shares in common with functionalism the macro structural approach to society, looking at it as a whole, however a key difference between the two theories is that marxism is a conflict perspective, that is the conflict of class between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat also known as the ruling and working classes. The work of Karl Marx in the mid 1800s constitutes the main body of this conflict theory, he wrote that the central institution of capitalist society is private property, the system by which capital (money, machines, factories and other material objects) is controlled by a small minority of the population, leading to opposed classes i.e. the bourgeoisie and the proletariat (Cohen 1978). Marxists believe that society is based on ascribed status which is given by birth or family background, therefore the bourgeoisie pass down their land and properties to their children, keeping the wealth in the family, whereas functionalists, in contrast, believe that status is achieved by an individual’s own efforts or talents, known as achieved status. The functionalist view is that social mobility is possible and one can work through the ranks to gain status(Browne 2008). However, both marxists and functionalists agree that people are socialised into society so they can fit into it, even if it is in differing ways. Functionalists believe that the family is a key attribute to maintaining society and that the family contributes to satisfying basic needs to do this. They also look at the organic analogy as to how the family fits in harmony with other social institutions in order for society to function efficiently. Talcott Parsons, who looked at family life in the 1950’s, found that there were two basic functions of the family, firstly the primary socialisation of children and secondly the stabilisation of human adult personalities. The primary socialisation involves the internalisation of society’s culture where norms and values become part of an individual and their internal thinking, so becoming part of their personality. Parsons said that if culture was not internalised, society could not exist because without shared norms and values social life is not possible. The stabilisation of adult personalities assumes a couple provide emotional security for one another and emphasis is on the marriage relationship, then following on from that the production of children to make a nuclear family, Parsons sees families as factories producing human personalities(Haralambos & Holborn 2008). These personalities are the expressive role, which is the mother being the homemaker and taking on all of the emotional work, and the instrumental role, that is, the father, the breadwinner. Murdock (1949) argued that the family performs four basic functions which are essential for society to exist and are universal. These functions are sexual, reproductive, economic and educational,...
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