Outline and Assess the Five Main Theoretical Perspectives of Sociology

Topics: Sociology, Marxism, Feminism Pages: 7 (2037 words) Published: October 15, 2008
Outline and assess the five main theoretical perspectives of sociology

Marxism is the political philosophy and practice resulting from the work of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. Any political practice or theory that is based on an interpretation of the works of Marx and Engels may be called Marxism.

Under capitalism, the proletariat, the working class own only their capacity to work meaning they have the ability only to sell their own labour. According to Marx a class is defined by the relations of its members to the means of production. Under capitalism, the workers, in order to support their families are paid a minimum wage or salary. The worker is alienated because he has no control over the labour or product which he produces. The capitalists sell the products produced by the workers at a proportional value as related to the labour involved. Surplus value is the difference between what the worker is paid and the price for which the product is sold.

The increasing of the proletariat occurs as the result of economic decline. These recessions happen because the working class is unable to buy the full product of their labours and the ruling capitalists do not consume all of the surplus value. A proletariat or socialist revolution must occur, according to Marx, where the state is a dictatorship of the proletariat. Communism evolves from socialism out of this progression.

Marxist feminism is a sub-type of feminist theory which focuses on the breaking down of capitalism as a way to ‘free’ women. Marxist feminism states that capitalism, which gives rise to economic inequality, dependence, political confusion and unhealthy social relations between men and women, is the root of women's oppression in the current social context.

While there are many theoretical and practical differences among the various forms of Marxism, most forms of Marxism share:

a belief that capitalism is based on the exploitation of workers by the owners of capital. •a belief that people's awareness of the conditions of their lives reflects the dominant ideology which is shaped by material conditions and relations of production. •an understanding of material conditions and social relations as historically pliable. •a view of history according to which class struggle, the evolving conflict between classes with opposing interests, structures each historical period and drives historical change.

Various aspects of Marxist theory have been criticised. These criticisms concern both the theory itself, and its later interpretations and implementations. Democratic socialists and social democrats reject the idea that socialism can be accomplished only through class conflict and a violent proletarian revolution. Some thinkers have discarded the fundamentals of Marxist theory, such as historical materialism and the labour theory of value

Functionalism is often referred to as the consensus theory because it doesn’t deal with the issue of conflict in society, rather it projects and ideal picture of harmonious social relationships. It emerged in Europe in the 19th century as a response to what was seen as a crisis of social order. This crisis seemed to be the result of two developments: -

The appearance of a new industrial society with it’s subsequent loss of community and poor working conditions, increase in crime, growth of housing slums, poverty etc. •The French revolution which suggested ideals of equality, happiness and freedom of the individual.

These historical conditions which were seen to the near of a crisis of economic and political order, this gave rise to a very conservative type of sociology which reflects a concern with the need for social order and integration. This is necessary if the social and economic crisis was to be overcome and controlled.

The starting point of all functionalism is that all societies have certain basic needs. All functional requirements which must be met if a...
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