Distinguishing Functionalism from Conflict Theory

What is Functionalism?

Functionalism perceives society as a system consisting of different parts that each serve specific functions. In this view, social institutions such as education, religion, family, economy and politics each have a specific function that contributes to society as a whole. If one of these institutions becomes dysfunctional, it not only affects that institution but also the entire social system. Functionalists emphasize the importance of social order and believe that maintaining the status quo is essential for society to function effectively. When social order is not maintained, it can result in conflict and disarray within society. Collective consciousness, or the common beliefs of society, is another key concept stressed by functionalists.

What is Conflict Theory?

Conflict theory highlights that different groups within society have varying interests that can lead to conflict. Many branches of conflict theory exist, with Marxism being a prominent one. According to Karl Marx, conflicts in society arise due to inequalities among various social classes. Another interpretation of conflict theory comes from Max Weber, who emphasizes the importance of factors such as power and status in addition to the economy.

Key Takeaways

  • Functionalism views society as a system consisting of different parts that each have specific functions, while conflict theory sees society as a struggle between different classes due to inequality.
  • Both functionalism and conflict theory use a macro approach in understanding society, but functionalism emphasizes cooperation while conflict theory stresses competition.
  • Functionalism is based on the idea of maintaining social order, while conflict theory focuses on the social conflicts that arise from inequalities among different social classes.
Maria Nguyen
Maria Nguyen
Maria Nguyen is a talented writer with a flair for developing captivating content in a range of formats. Her commitment to thorough research and producing top-notch material has contributed to over 4 years of professional writing and editing experience. Outside of work, Maria finds pleasure in solitary activities and immersing herself in nature. Her introspective nature and passion for self-reflection inspire her creativity. She believes that spending time alone and observing the natural world can provide valuable insights and foster personal growth, broadening her perspective as a writer.


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