Functionalism theory developed from the work of Durkheim, who evaluated how part of society unite to form a whole society (Andersen and Taylor, 20). The theory gives an account of each section of society that comes together to build a whole society. According to functionalism theory, each part and institution depend on each other, and they have a direct influence on the whole of society. Family is one of the institutions in society, and it has multiple functions that integrate people into society. Andersen and Taylor (20) indicate that the family offers reproductive roles and children are taught the changes in society that helps them to understand the surrounding better. These traits of the family contribute to the stability, and prosperity of society and the same applies to other institutions like government, education, and religion in society.
Thus, the theory maintains the sharing of public resources that produce an orderly society. Several changes are brought by the incompetence of society; thus, the parts in society should be organized well to bring stability (Powers 175). The functionalism theory argues that when one part of society is not functioning well, it influences all other parts and cause social problems in society. The changes that may occur due to the malfunctioning of some part in the society may be beneficial or may hurt society. These negative impacts from malfunctioning in the social system include a breakdown in shared values and social institutions no longer meet the people’s needs. The theory was further developed by Robert Merton, who argued that social activities have consequences for society that are not always immediately perceptible. Meanwhile, the theory was further developed by Talcott Parsons, who urged that all parts of the social system interact. Therefore, the theory is concern about the togetherness of all parts of society to produce a whole society.
According to Andersen and Taylor (21), conflict theory focuses on the role of coercion and power that gives individuals or groups the ability to influence and control others in producing social order. While, functionalism emphasis unity within society, conflict theory focuses on strive and friction in society. The theory emphasizes the order in society is maintained by power and not unity and the power is with the mighty ones. From a perspective of conflict theory, consensus occurs because people are united to attain a common interest and often in conflict with other groups. The theory demonstrates that the unequal distribution of the resource is brought by people who are powerful and want everything to be in their interest.
Coercion and social control unite people in society, but there is exceptional of shared values and conformity. Andersen and Taylor (21) indicate that individuals and groups fight for control over society’s resources trying to secure them to meet their interests. Therefore, those with most resources put pressure on those without resources, and in the end, there is an unequal distribution of resources. The theory views the race and class to contribute to the unjust done to the minority because they accumulate resources that give them the power to fight the poor in society (Powers 175). Therefore, the conflict theory has been criticized for not emphasizing the issue of shared values in a society like functionalism, but its focus on inequality and social control. However, like functionalist theory, it traces the origin of social behavior in the structure of society, but it differs from functionalism in that it focuses on the significance of power. Finally, functionalist views families as a contributing factor to the stability of society, but conflict theorists view families as reflecting systems of power in society.
Andersen, Margaret and Taylor, Francis. Sociology: Understanding a Diverse Society. New York: CengageBrain Inc, 2007. Print.
Powers, Charles. Making Sense of Social Theory: A Practical Introduction. United Kingdom: Rowman and Little Field Press, 2010. Print.