Functionalism vs Conflict Theory

Essay by EssaySwap ContributorUniversity, Bachelor's February 2008

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The theory of functionalism and conflict theory differ in several ways. They focus on different values, assume different things about society and differ in their explanations of power. Functionalism is defined as ?the analysis of social and cultural phenomena in terms of the functions they perform in a sociocultural system.

In functionalism society is conceived as a system of interrelated parts in which no part can be understood in isolation from the whole (Wallace, Wolf, 18).? On the other hand conflict theorists do not agree with the unity in society that functionalist believe in. ?Conflict theorists see an arena in which groups fight for power (Wallace, Wolf, 68).?These two theories create very different ways of looking at the world but each have strong points and evidence to back them up. Functionalism emphasizes the interdependence of the system?s parts. Contributions made by the shared values link to the existence of the social system, and the equilibrium among the interrelated parts.

The theory of functionalism values the integration of all parts of society. It also values a normal state of affairs or equilibrium (Wallace, Wolf 1998). Additionally it focuses on the society as a whole instead of individuals.

Functionalism has two major grounds. The first is the analysis of societies by analogy with biological organisms. The other is the assessment of social institutions in terms of the role and function they play in a social system. An example of the analysis of societies is society is a social organism, and the human body is a biological organism. There are four aspects of society. Economic, political, legal, and the social system, they come together to form and maintain society.

There were several early supporters of functionalism. These men developed the concepts and ideas that founded this theory. Auguste Comte is known as...