Functionalism and Marxism. A Critical Evaluation Essay

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Functionalism and Marxism. A Critical Evaluation

During the 18th and 19th centuries, political and industrial revolutions coupled with a philosophical movement which promoted a new scientific way of thinking (`The Enlightenment'), heralded the advent of several new scientific disciplines. These social sciences attempted to explain the rapid and fundamental changes which were shattering traditional ways of life in Britain and Europe. Sociology emerged as one of these innovative areas and sought to analyse the nature of society and the complexities within it using collective theories and perspectives. The construction of a sociological perspective can best be illustrated by the application of several fundamental questions, the responses
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Functionalists seem to suggest that societies have rules of behaviour prior to the existence of its members, therefore leaving the enigma of who decides the functional characteristics of a society if it's not the members themselves. This is a problem called reification. Functionalists treat society as a thing by endowing it with the ability to think and act intentionally. The analogous comparison by which the operation of society and the functions of the social institutions is likened to a biological organism, illustrates the idea that all parts of society have their function and are interdependent on each other for the good of society as a whole. Sickness in the living organism would be likened to a loss of social equilibrium, an abnormal state for a society that is normally in balance. Functionalists believe that the balance is achieved through a consensus- the majority of people in society having the same moral values. Marxism however has contradictory views and rejects the idea that society is based on value consensus for the benefit of all. Instead society is acknowledged as being organised to meet the interests of the most powerful groups.

The ideas of Karl Marx (1818-1883) suggested that society functions on the basis of continual class conflict, except ironically in times of war. He viewed the economic system as the foundation of society. This infrastructure effects all other areas of society, which are collectively termed as the
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