Assess the functionalist explanations of social inequality

Topics: Sociology, Social class, Marxism Pages: 3 (1196 words) Published: May 8, 2014
Asses the Functionalist explanations of Social Inequality. (40) Social Inequality refers to any difference between groups or individuals in society which results in one having inferior life chances than the other. Functionalists believe these inequalities are the result of the meritocracy we live in. This is a system based on the idea that social stratification is necessary and desirable for the society. Functionalists argue that inequalities have a purpose; they are functional for society. Functionalism is a structural theory based on the notion that society is based on shared values. This consensus means that society will be in a state of equilibrium and there is harmony, as a result of which there will be social solidarity. Inequalities, functionalists argue, exist in all societies and are inevitable and necessary. Durkheim argued that industrial societies are complex. Within these complex societies social inequality and social difference were an inevitable and important part of maintaining social order and preventing a state of ‘anomie’ or chaos. He believed that society needs specialists to undertake the various jobs and roles required to make it run smoothly. This harmony could be achieved by a division of labour whereby people have different jobs based on their talents. Some of the jobs would have higher status than others and greater rewards and power, for example jobs such as lawyers, doctors and barristers. People would accept this as long as they could see that the system was fair. Conflict might occur but it could be controlled by socialisation. Socialisation was the process whereby shared values could be passed from one generation to the next. Disharmony might arise when people felt the system was not fair, for example, when large bonuses are paid to bankers during a recession. Parsons developed on Durkheim’s ideas and stated that in industrialised society’s stratification, and therefore inequality, exists on the basis of which roles are agreed...
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