Comparing Functionism, Marxism, and Social Action Theory Essay

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Sociology is generally made up of three paradigms: Functionalism, Conflict Theory and Symbolic interactionism.

A paradigm is a set of assumptions that shape and underlie explanations of why society is the way it is (Early Stratification Theory, internet 2003).

Functional Theory is often traced from Durkheim, Parsons and Merton.

Functionalists believe in shared norms and values, which are influenced by the Family, Education, church and employment. It sees society as a shaper of people rather than people shaping society. The functionalist says we need social order in which to survive normally.

Roles are also important to the functionalist for example the roles in marriage.

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Thus, we are socialised in terms of the culture we know. Merton once said "We do not exist for ourselves" on cooperation. In other words we are here for others we reproduce in order to make the world go round.

Social control is one aspect of functionalism; we are kept in line by the mechanisms of social control.

Functionalism views society as a living organism such as the human body, the functioning of the human body depends on the heart, brain, lungs and other vital organs if any of these parts fail it would affect the entire body (society).

Functionalists believe consensus plays a bigger part in society than conflict. We need guidelines; we need social consciousness for each other. We need rules and regulations or we would have anarchy namely, conflict, dispute, quarrelling and feuding. Which brings me to Marxism. Like functionalism Marx (1818-1883) sees society as a system, they both regard it as structural, the functionalist recognises the family and education and religion as the basis for the structure and Marxism sees society as a structure divided into two major parts, the economic base or infrastructure and the rest of society i.e. the political, legal and educational systems or superstructure.

Marx claimed that the infrastructure largely shapes the superstructure. As opposed to functionalism, Marxism believes conflict is the character of society and that
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