How to Discuss Functionalist and Conflict Theories
Functionalist and conflict theories are both major social science theories relating to the individual, the collective and society. Functionalism looks at the way that the individual and society interact to create the things necessary for a society to be formed. Conflict theory examines the societal structure with materialism, and work, being the most important contribution an individual can make to the whole. Functionalism is based on the work of French sociologist Emile Durkheim, while much of conflict theory is based upon work done by Karl Marx.
Simmel and the New Conflict Theorists
A sociologist who holds to functionalism is likely to believe that gradual improvement in racial problems is more likely than rapid change. He would be more likely to emphasize the positive changes that have taken place over the last several decades, and point out that social structures have worked to help bring this about. He might articulate how inequality was at one time functional to society, but that now it is not and thus change has occurred. He would not necessarily be more racist than a conflict theorist, he would only have a different perspective of the role of social structures.
CONFLICT THEORY & THE FAMILYDec 29, 2010 | By Linda Ray
Gaede (1980) contrasts conflict theory with van den Berghe's summary of functionalism. Here society is described as a system of interrelated parts, which are generally in balance. Periodically disruption and conflict occurs, but these tend to resolve themselves. Change in society comes from the adjustment of social systems to difficulties and through innovations. Change is usually gradual, not sudden as conflict theorists suggest.
How to Apply Conflict Theory to Culture
The initial thought that one can have about social conflict theory is how to tackle the task of defining it when it is such a broad theory and when it has influenced so many sociologists, philosophers, and other thinkers alike. One way to define it is to go to its source and to break it apart piece by piece. It all stemmed from the thought of one man, his name was Karl Marx (1818-1883). was a German philosopher; a political economist and some think he was also a revolutionary. Although he did not write extensively about crime he was credited with coming up with the basis for social conflict theory. Those that have studied his writings and his work and that have sided with him are often called Marxist criminologists or sometimes are simply referred as radical criminologists or critical criminologists. From this main theory have branched out some sub theories such as left realism, radical feminism, peacemaking and postmodernism which is also. I am going to tackle the main idea of social conflict theory while I may be touching upon the other sub theories without getting in depth about them. It is important to note that Marx as many great thinkers of another time, another era, has been helped financially and supported ideologically by someone. That someone was Friedrich Engels (1820-1895). He is even thought to have written in 1848 the communist manifesto, but would have, allegedly, let Marx take the credit for it because Marx has more the personality to handle the heat from it, where as Engels was more a behind the scenes kind of guy.Basically, social conflict theory stemmed because workers are demoralized in a capitalist society and they are caught up in a vicious cycle and a process that leads to crime and violence. More recently some criminologists, in the early 1990’s such as Messner and Rosenfeld have tried to argue against Marx and explain something a little different about the social conflict theory, but as Barbara Simms put it eloquently in her article “Crime, Punishment and the American Dream: toward a Marxist integration”, she mentions that Messner and Rosenfeld although came up with a decent theory failed to make the connection between Marx and their theory which is the reason their theory does take hold.