Discuss the difference between how conflict-perspective sociologists and functionalist-perspective sociologists view politics and government. Which perspective, in your opinion, gives the most accurate vantage point on politics and government?

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The answer to this question lies in the definition of those types of sociology, which you can understand from their names. Functionalist perspective sociologists believe that the government rose as a necessary function and as a servant to society, while conflict theorists propose that the struggle between society and anarchy...

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The answer to this question lies in the definition of those types of sociology, which you can understand from their names. Functionalist perspective sociologists believe that the government rose as a necessary function and as a servant to society, while conflict theorists propose that the struggle between society and anarchy dictated a need for government.

The functionalist view of government sees it as steering a unified ship. There are external struggles and factors to overcome, but the interior is a cohesive unit. As such, it is performing a servant function, ensuring that order is maintained.

On the other hand, conflict perspective sociologists propose that the society is in inherent struggle; there is conflict between internal groups, and the government is tasked with keeping things in balance as they battle over limited resources. The conflict theorist believes that the difficulties to overcome are internal. In that way, they view government as protecting us from ourselves.

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Functionalist-perspective sociologists view government and the political process as a means of ensuring a stable and orderly society, which, in their perspective, means a functional society. This perspective views the state as a means of creating and enforcing the status quo of society, and as such, maintaining order. The state supposedly functions as a cohesive force that unites society in a manner that ensures the most stability, cohesion, and social equilibrium.

Conflict-perspective sociologists understand the state to be a source of concentrated power that maintains order through force and coercion. This perspective recognizes how the state and powerful individuals/companies create and enforce a society, economy, and political system that benefits those in power. As such, any groups of people not within this the top of this power hierarchy must struggle for access to resources and quality of life.

I believe this conflict perspective is much more realistic, as it thoroughly recognizes how every single group of people not within the political and economic elite must engage in serious political and social movements against state and economic oppression. For example, every minority and oppressed group has had to (and most groups still) engage in a prolonged struggle for access to individual and collective liberation.

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According to the functionalist perspective, the government plays the role of maintaining law and order in the society. It manages the society as a single unit. It ensures that all groups within the society are able to function in harmony with each other towards the achievement of a collective good. As such, the functionalist perspective is committed to societal order and methods of maintaining the status quo. Social change can only be achieved via consensus.

The conflict perspective, on the other hand, focuses on conflict as a means towards societal change. It states that various groups within a society, be they economic groups, religious groups, ethnic groups etc, are always in competition with each other for the limited resources. The dominant group that often forms the government then has to look for ways of controlling other groups so as to maintain their power. For instance, the ruling class can push for policies that only benefit them, while exploiting the rest. Order in the society is based on the manipulation and control of the people by the dominant groups. The conflict theorists look at the conflicts of interests that exist among different groups of people in a society.

It would appear that both of these viewpoints are important in explaining the role of government in society. This is because a government needs unity among its people for it to be stable. However, in order for it to achieve unity, it must be willing to first address the conflicts that exist among the different groups within the society.

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