Functionalism and conflict theory essays

Most importantly, however, you should single out the main argument or point usually the causal relationship and mechanism of the theory. Does the theorist's key argument apply to your case?

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Students often go astray here by latching onto an inconsequential or less important part of the theory reading, showing the relationship to their case, and then assuming they have fully applied the theory. Theory application papers involve making a claim or argument based on theory, supported by empirical evidence.

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Each class of problem is addressed below, followed by some pointers for choosing "cases," or deciding upon the empirical phenomenon to which you will apply the theoretical perspective or argument including where to find data. A common problem seen in theory application assignments is failing to substantiate claims, or making a statement that is not backed up with evidence or details "proof".

When you make a statement or a claim, ask yourself, "How do I know this? Put this evidence in your paper and remember to cite your sources. Similarly, be careful about making overly strong or broad claims based on insufficient evidence.


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For example, you probably don't want to make a claim about how Americans feel about having a black president based on a poll of UW undergraduates. You may also want to be careful about making authoritative conclusive claims about broad social phenomena based on a single case study. In addition to un- or under-substantiated claims, another problem that students often encounter when writing these types of papers is lack of clarity regarding "voice," or whose ideas they are presenting.

The reader is left wondering whether a given statement represents the view of the theorist, the student, or an author who wrote about the case. Be careful to identify whose views and ideas you are presenting. Another common problem that students encounter is the trap of excessive summarization. They spend the majority of their papers simply summarizing regurgitating the details of a case—much like a book report.

One way to avoid this is to remember that theory indicates which details or variables of a case are most relevant, and to focus your discussion on those aspects. A second strategy is to make sure that you relate the details of the case in an analytical fashion. You might do this by stating an assumption of Marxist theory, such as "man's ideas come from his material conditions," and then summarizing evidence from your case on that point.

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You could organize the details of the case into paragraphs and start each paragraph with an analytical sentence about how the theory relates to different aspects of the case. Some theory application papers require that you choose your own case an empirical phenomenon, trend, situation, etc.

Many students find choosing their own case rather challenging. Some questions to guide your choice are:. Data is collected by many organizations e. In sociology, a few theories provide broad perspectives that help explain many different aspects of social life, and these are called paradigms. Paradigms are philosophical and theoretical frameworks used within a discipline to formulate theories, generalizations, and the experiments performed in support of them.

Three paradigms have come to dominate sociological thinking, because they provide useful explanations: structural functionalism, conflict theory, and symbolic interactionism. Functionalism , also called structural-functional theory, sees society as a structure with interrelated parts designed to meet the biological and social needs of the individuals in that society.

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Functionalism grew out of the writings of English philosopher and biologist, Hebert Spence — , who saw similarities between society and the human body; he argued that just as the various organs of the body work together to keep the body functioning, the various parts of society work together to keep society functioning Spencer The parts of society that Spence referred to were the social institutions, or patterns of beliefs and behaviors focused on meeting social needs, such as government, education, family, healthcare, religion, and the economy.

Durkheim believed that society is a complex system of interrelated and interdependent parts that work together to maintain stability Durkheim , and that society is held together by shared values, languages, and symbols. He believed that to study society, a sociologist must look beyond individuals to social facts such as laws, morals, values, religious beliefs, customs, fashion, and rituals, which all serve to govern social life. Alfred Radcliff-Brown — defined the function of any recurrent activity as the part it played in social life as a whole, and therefore the contribution it makes to social stability and continuity Radcliff-Brown In a healthy society, all parts work together to maintain stability, a state called dynamic equilibrium by later sociologists such as Parsons Durkheim believed that individuals may make up society, but in order to study society, sociologists have to look beyond individuals to social facts.

Social facts are the laws, morals, values, religious beliefs, customs, fashions, rituals, and all of the cultural rules that govern social life Durkheim Each of these social facts serves one or more functions within a society. Another noted structural functionalist, Robert Merton — , pointed out that social processes often have many functions. Manifest functions are the consequences of a social process that are sought or anticipated, while latent functions are the unsought consequences of a social process.

A manifest function of college education, for example, includes gaining knowledge, preparing for a career, and finding a good job that utilizes that education. Latent functions of your college years include meeting new people, participating in extracurricular activities, or even finding a spouse or partner. Another latent function of education is creating a hierarchy of employment based on the level of education attained. Latent functions can be beneficial, neutral, or harmful. Social processes that have undesirable consequences for the operation of society are called dysfunctions.

In education, examples of dysfunction include getting bad grades, truancy, dropping out, not graduating, and not finding suitable employment.

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Also problematic is the somewhat circular nature of this theory; repetitive behavior patterns are assumed to have a function, yet we profess to know that they have a function only because they are repeated. Many sociologists now believe that functionalism is no longer useful as a macro-level theory, but that it does serve a useful purpose in some mid-level analyses. Some sociologists see the online world contributing to the creation of an emerging global culture.

Are you a part of any global communities? Sociologists around the world look closely for signs of what would be an unprecedented event: the emergence of a global culture. In the past, empires such as those that existed in China, Europe, Africa, and Central and South America linked people from many different countries, but those people rarely became part of a common culture. They lived too far from each other, spoke different languages, practiced different religions, and traded few goods. Today, increases in communication, travel, and trade have made the world a much smaller place. More and more people are able to communicate with each other instantly—wherever they are located—by telephone, video, and text.

They share movies, television shows, music, games, and information over the Internet. Students can study with teachers and pupils from the other side of the globe. Governments find it harder to hide conditions inside their countries from the rest of the world.

Symbolic Interaction Theory, Structure Function Theory, and Conflict Theory

Sociologists research many different aspects of this potential global culture. Some explore the dynamics involved in the social interactions of global online communities, such as when members feel a closer kinship to other group members than to people residing in their own countries.

Other sociologists study the impact this growing international culture has on smaller, less-powerful local cultures. Yet other researchers explore how international markets and the outsourcing of labor impact social inequalities. Conflict theory looks at society as a competition for limited resources.

This perspective is a macro-level approach most identified with the writings of German philosopher and sociologist Karl Marx — , who saw society as being made up of individuals in different social classes who must compete for social, material, and political resources such as food and housing, employment, education, and leisure time. Social institutions like government, education, and religion reflect this competition in their inherent inequalities and help maintain the unequal social structure.

Several theorist suggested variations on this basic theme. He believed that cultural and ethnic conflicts led to states being identified and defined by a dominant group that had power over other groups Irving German sociologist Max Weber agreed with Marx but also believed that, in addition to economic inequalities, inequalities of political power and social structure cause conflict. German sociologist Georg Simmel — believed that conflict can help integrate and stabilize a society.

He said that the intensity of the conflict varies depending on the emotional involvement of the parties, the degree of solidarity within the opposing groups, and the clarity and limited nature of the goals. Simmel also showed that groups work to create internal solidarity, centralize power, and reduce dissent. Resolving conflicts can reduce tension and hostility and can pave the way for future agreements.

In the s and s, German philosophers, known as the Frankfurt School, developed critical theory as an elaboration on Marxist principles. Critical theory is an expansion of conflict theory and is broader than just sociology, including other social sciences and philosophy. More recently, inequality based on gender or race has been explained in a similar manner and has identified institutionalized power structures that help to maintain inequality between groups.

Janet Saltzman Chafetz — presented a model of feminist theory that attempts to explain the forces that maintain gender inequality as well as a theory of how such a system can be changed Turner Similarly, critical race theory grew out of a critical analysis of race and racism from a legal point of view. Critical race theory looks at structural inequality based on white privilege and associated wealth, power, and prestige.

The consumption of food is a commonplace, daily occurrence, yet it can also be associated with important moments in our lives. This theory has been criticized for reifying gender roles. In functionalist perspective gender roles contribute to social relations. Conflict theory has a different look of gender. In this theory gender is viewed as an attempt from male to keep power and privilege over female, and males are seen as the dominant group while females are seen as the subordinate group. The only reason why gender roles still exist is because to maintain their power and status the dominant group is still working for that.

There exist some difference about how this two theories, functionalist and conflict perspective sees gender and what is the importance in society.