Functionalism vs. Conflict Theory

Topics: Sociology, Social stratification, Structural functionalism Pages: 4 (1275 words) Published: December 6, 2010
Functionalism is the original and still dominant discipline of thought in the social sciences. As a construct of two forms of scientific investigation: the scientific approach and viewing the individual as a part of a social organism or social whole, the scientific method considers society as an objectively observable and "real" entity that is suitable for methods and philosophies that guide examination and study of the physical world. The 17th century philosopher, Thomas Hobbes, believed that humans are driven by passion, which if left unrestrained would result in social chaos. The problem, therefore, is to explain why this does not routinely occur. For functionalists, it is society, as its own entity that regulates human behavior. Emile Durkheim, the originator of this school of thought described society as a "conscious being... with it's own special nature, distinct from that of it's members". The consequence of this assumption that society is a 'social fact' that regulates human activity is that functionalists stress how human behavior is positively determined by social structure. Functionalism holds that everyone and everything in society, no matter how strange it may seem, serves a purpose. Crime, for example, is viewed almost universally as a nuisance. Functionalists, however, point out that crime serves several purposes. Crime creates the need for the employment of police officers, criminal investigators, prosecutors, defense attorneys, lawmakers and other related fields of work. If crime were to suddenly disappear from the planet, hundreds of thousands of jobs related to the existence of crime would no longer be necessary, and everyone in those positions would face unemployment. It is also suggested that the existence of crime is functional in its ability to rally families and communities together around a common purpose. Durkheim concluded that crime and deviance serve three major functions for society: deviance clarifies or reaffirms societal norms, it...
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