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Conflict View Vs. Functionalism

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Conflict view Vs. Functionalism

Functionalists believe that society is a social system consisting of various integrated parts. Each of these parts fulfills a specific role that contributes to the overall functioning of society. When any part fails (does not contribute to the overall good of the society) this creates a difficulty for the whole. These failures upset the equilibrium of the system and become social problems. For Functionalism came out of evolutionism. Functionalists emphasize the interrelationship of the various parts of a system and believe the changes in one part will have a significant implication for other parts.

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The conflict view of life regards all social interactions as a struggle for authority and privilege. Each person in society and every group is seen as being in competition for scarce and valued resources. They think that even though people seldom may have to cooperate with each other or even form alliances, they are still essentially in conflict. Change does not occur until the key players pass laws or the leaders continue to maintain power and not give it up freely to others. 

Comparison and Contrast.

Functionalists view society as a social system with a variety of needs of its own which have to be met if the requirements and needs of its members are to be met. Conflict theorists view society as the setting within which they strive over wealth and power.

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The functionalist regards the principal bodies of every society as value neutral entities within which various struggles occur. The conflict perception sees the state as the most important agency taking part in the struggle on the part of one side or another. Conflict theories emphasize force as the main factor in maintaining vital social institutions such as private property, the free market, etc. and other such institutions, mechanisms, and arrangements which give rise to unequal rights and privileges.

            Functionalists argue that coercion plays only an insignificant role and that disparity arises as a necessary result of the fact that there is a compromise within the society on its most important values and jobs and differential rewards are essential to a society’s effective functioning.

Social and economic inequality, in the conflict view, arises because of the operation of coercive institutions, which put a great emphasis on power, deception, and inheritance as the main avenues for obtaining rights and privileges. Functionalists have stressed such things as hard work, inborn talent, and selection by others as the way by which economic advantages can be obtained by some and not by others.

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Functionalists see class categories as mere objects or categories. Conflict theorists see classes as social groups with distinguishing interests, which inescapably bring them into conflict with other groups with opposed interests.


Conflict view became popular in the late nineteenth century with the rise of socialism but we have seen its failure in all the failed governments of socialist republics. Functionalism on the other hand has been the most successful as seen by us in the US Government and democratic setup. The above discussion concludes that the Functionalist view provides a better explanation for the democratic process and an understanding of the reasons contributing to social inequality.

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