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Structural Functionalism and Social Conflict Theories Essay

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Updated: Mar 18th, 2020

In the contemporary world, human life is taking a different shape that is somewhat difficult to explain. To some extent, people are trying to maintain some solidarity within their communities. The members of a community share common values; they work together to facilitate the development of a community project whenever a need arises. However, from a thorough look at things, people are not as united as they may appear.

In essence, people are doing different things to make ends meet. Every individual identifies his strength and specializes in it to make the best out of it. The specialization aspect creates a strong interdependence amongst the individuals of a society.

This paper discusses the structural functionalism and social conflict theories to give a detailed explanation of the controversial understandings of human life about the role taken by the environment in creating social cohesion in the final life of an individual.

The structural functionalism theory explains that the solidarity spirit amongst individuals works profoundly to maintain stability, cohesion, and survival of social institutions. Social functionalism theory applied in ancient days when people would work together to attain a common goal. In the ancient days, people of a particular society lived within the same social class to attain the equilibrium aspect (Dillon, 2010).

Higher educational centers, for example, were meant for religious and political studies. However, over time, the same higher education centers transformed into institutions to study science and general knowledge.

Structural functionalism became outdated with time as the society embraced change (Babbie, 2003). The coming of the industrial revolution in the 19th century opened people’s minds, and society embraced the economical aspect of thinking. The primitive societies slowly became extinct as the conflict theory of competition amongst human beings stated taking effect.

Conflict theory embraces the economists’ thinking perspective, where, the theory states that people in society compete for limited resources (Ritzer & Goodman, 2003). According to the conflict theory, people who have managed to secure many resources are powerful and influential, and thus, they can maintain the leadership positions in society.

Conflict theory explains the contemporary world, where, people have embraced social change, and they regard their personal needs as more important than societal needs (Ashley & Orenstein, 2005). Conflict theory is associated with the development of the modern world. In the struggle to gather scarce resources, people end up saving and investing for developmental purposes.

In society, there are those individuals who will manage to gather more resources than others do, and that is what forms the different social classes. In the contemporary world, change is inevitable, as there are conflicting interests between people in society.

From the discussions, it is evident that structural functionalism and social conflict theories take different directions. While structural functionalism theory embarks on solidarity, conflict theory emphasizes on change. In the ancient days, social cohesion was an obligation of the society that had to work in solidarity, whereas, in the contemporary world, social cohesion comes in because of the interdependence arising from specialization (Friedkin, 2004).

Social conflict theory that reflects the contemporary world combats the weakness of structural functionalism theory. However, a combination of the two theories is what provides a conscious view of the modern society that shapes the people in it naturally.

The economic environment is taking a different aspect, such that people have to find a way of gathering as many resources as possible. In the gathering process, people meet and work together to attain mutual benefits. A relationship that bears mutual benefits strengthens with time to create social cohesion in the final life of an individual.

References

Ashley D, & Orenstein, D.M. (2005). Sociological theory: Classical statements. Boston, Massachusetts, USA: Pearson Education.

Babbie, E.R. (2003). The practice of social research. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Thomson Learning.

Dillon, M. (2010). Introduction to sociological theory: Theorists, concepts, and their applicability to the twenty-first century. Chichester, U.K: Wiley-Blackwell.

Friedkin, N.E. (2004). Social cohesion. Annual Review of Sociology. 30 (5), 409-25.

Ritzer, G., & Goodman, D. J. (2003). Sociological theory. New York: McGraw-Hill.

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