Functionalism and Marxism are traced back to theories adopted by sociologists in the nineteenth century. Marxism came from the German philosopher Karl Marx (1818-1883), whereas Functionalism was originally derived by Auguste Compte (1798-1857). It was then developed further by Emile Durkheim (1858-1917).
Functionalist theories portray society as a structured system, which have a set of interconnected parts (or units) which together form a whole. These units are the institutions within society such as the family, religion and education. These institutions are essential for maintaining that society works harmoniously and orderly. Early functionalists such as Durkheim often drew an analogy between society and an organism like the human body. As the body is reliant on all organs working properly, so is society. Functionalists argue a consensus theory, that social values are learnt through different people and institutions e.g. schools and the family, these values are passed on from generation to generation.
Marxist theories are about class conflict rather than consensus. Similar to Functionalism Marx acknowledges the structural integration of societies institutions such as political, legal or religious groups, which he describes as the superstructure. Unlike functionalism however Marx argued that rather than having a harmonious effect on society the superstructure is constructed upon an economic base (capitalism) this being the infrastructure. This causes a difference of interests among social groups which in turn leads to conflict.
A similarity between Marxism and functionalism is that they both usually adopt a positive approach and related methods. Positive sociology can be traced back to Auguste Compte who believed that science could provide the objective truth about the world.
While functionalism believes that individuals were created by society and believes that people need to be controlled, through a "collective conscience" this provides a shared indoctrination for norms and values. Likewise Marxists believe people are guided...