Macro Sociological Perspectives

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The conflict perspective views society less as a cohesive system and more as an arena of conflict and power struggles. Compare and contrast the main tenets of the functionalist and conflict perspectives.

“The conflict perspective views society less as a cohesive system and more as an arena of conflict and power struggles”. This perspective was founded by sociologist Karl Marx (1818-1883) and serves to introduce the concept that “inequality and specifically inequality under capitalism” exists between two main “classes” in society namely the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. The functionalist perspective – another major sociological theory – was founded by Auguste Comte (1798-1857) and also includes contributions by Herbert Spencer (1820-1913) and Emile Durkheim (1858-1917). Durkheim is considered the main exponent of the functionalist perspective building on the ideas of Comte and Spencer and succeeding in entrenching the view of society as a system (according to Course Material – Introduction to Sociology pg.66). Functionalists see society as comprising distinct but interconnected parts that function together as one entity. The main view of the functionalist perspective is that society is held together by “Value Consensus” posited by Talcott Parsons (1902-1979), which suggests that, “there is a basic agreement about values which in turn work to serve the interest of the society as a whole and this achieved through the socialisation process” (according to Course Material – Introduction to Sociology pg 68). The main assumption of the conflict perspective sees human beings as selfish and self preserving that is, in constant struggle or conflict with others to maintain control and maintain control of power and resources in society. Although the functionalist and the conflict theories share the fact that social change is inevitable it is the relevance of the society and the influence it has that is the main difference between the two.

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