Social Sciences Questions and Answers

Start Your Free Trial

What are the common characteristics of functionalism and Marxism?

Expert Answers info

Frances Prather eNotes educator | Certified Educator

briefcaseProfessional Writer, Professional Tutor

bookB.A. from University of the Philippines


calendarEducator since 2019

write76 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Social Sciences

Functionalism and Marxism are two of the most dominant sociological perspectives. Structural functionalism, or functionalism, asserts that society is a series of interlocking norms and institutions that must be maintained in order to promote stability and social order. Marxism, meanwhile, takes on a materialist approach to interpret social conflict and class relations. Unlike functionalism, Marxism is in favor of social transformation. It was founded by the philosophers Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels in the 19th century.

Both perspectives are macro-structural—their analysis takes into account the whole of society. One common characteristic of the two is that both espouse a deterministic view of society—they hold that individuals are the product of their own specific conditions and the overall societal structure. Functionalism, however, endorses in cultural determinism (emphasizing shared norms and values) while Marxism endorses in economic determinism (emphasizing material conditions).

Another common characteristic between the two is that both believe that culture and socialization play an important role in placating the members of a society. Functionalism maintains that this is a positive thing, as culture and socialization lead to shared norms and values, which, in turn, lead to stability and social order. Marxism, however, asserts that culture and socialization only serve to benefit the ruling class as it wielded as an instrument of social control.

It is important to note that the main difference between the two is that functionalism is a consensus-based perspective while Marxism is a conflict-based perspective.

check Approved by eNotes Editorial