Two major approaches to contemporary social theory are the Marxian materialist
approach and the structural functionalist approach. The materialist approach was developed from the work of Karl Marx, who believed that the economic order shapes society. The functionalist approach was developed from the work of Comte and Durkheim, stating that is the combination of all of society s institutions that shapes society.
An organic analogy is most often used to explain structural functionalism. The analogy represents society with the human body and social structures and institutions are represented by the body s organs. For a human being to survive, the body must perform certain functions to solve problems and meet needs. For example, we must circulate blood, remove waste, and biologically reproduce. Survival depends on the individual organs and how they perform together. Each organ does something to keep the system going. In order for society to survive and keep order, individual institutions must effectively perform together. The institutions must perform specific functions to meet
Contributions of Contract Law to Economic Activities in Society This paper addresses the role of contract law in economic development. Unlike many other papers, its perspective is consequentialist, as it defines, explains, analyzes and evaluates the contributions of contract law to economic activities in society and is aimed to prove the hypothesis that the existence of a formal contract law and ...
problems or satisfy needs. This is achieved by institutions such as the family, economic, educational, and religious orders. It is the make up of the interrelated institutions that form society, as the interrelated organs make up the human body.
The materialist approach argues that humans are unique because we can produce solutions for material wants and needs; that material production is the most important human activity (Knuttila, 1996, p.163).
It is the way we organize our solutions to wants and needs that shapes society. The manner in which we satisfy our needs is referred to as our modes of production. The modes of production include the tools people use, the technologies society has created, and the acquired skills and knowledge, all in relation to material production. The organization and social relations in material production forms
an economic order and that economic order shapes society. All aspects of society is influenced by the economic institutions.
There are numerous differences between the preceding approaches. A major difference is in viewing the foundations of society. Materialists believe it is the economic order that shapes society; functionalists believe it is all of the interrelated components in society that shapes the whole. Another difference is how they explain social conflict. Materialists see social conflict as the result of conflict between social classes in the economic order. For example, rich executives (ruling class because they control the economy) cut jobs, creating unemployment in the subordinate class. Conflict in the functionalist view, however, stems from differences in values, norms, etc., such as racism and sexism. Another difference is in the allocation of power. Functionalists believe power is held by the people who hold the traits associated with power, and who hold common values. Those in power serve to meet the entire society s wants and needs. Materialists believe power lies in the rich upper class, who control the economic institutions. This ruling class serves to meet the needs and wants of their own class.
ter> Discuss how the society in Brave New World works to ensure that people do not change their socio-economic class. Through Brave New World, Huxley depicts a new, industrialized world, which is financially stable and has prevented poverty and self-destruction. Dictatorial governments are there to ensure stability and maintain perfection of the world. Therefore, just like under any other ...
Although simililarities between the two approaches are few and far between, there is one apparent likeness. They both state that institutions can be explained and defined by the functions they perform. The religious order can be understood by what it attempts to accomplish and what purpose it serves. Also they both look at society through the big picture, the larger social structure (Knuttila, 1996, p.167), rather than the individuals in society.
The materialist and functionalist approaches to contemporary social theory will continue to provide the basis for future theories. Despite their differences, their importance to sociology is significant. They provide the basis for beginning to understand society and its theories.