What is the difference between the order and the conflict models of society?  

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The Order Model, also called functionalism, is a major sociological perspective popularized by Emile Durkheim. It asserts that society functions through social consensus or cohesion—its members collectively decide on what is best for society and work together to achieve these goals.

This social consensus takes on either one of two...

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The Order Model, also called functionalism, is a major sociological perspective popularized by Emile Durkheim. It asserts that society functions through social consensus or cohesion—its members collectively decide on what is best for society and work together to achieve these goals.

This social consensus takes on either one of two forms: mechanical solidarity or organic solidarity. Mechanical solidarity is when members of a society engage in similar values, beliefs, and types of work. This form commonly manifests in simple, traditional societies such as agricultural or fishing villages. Organic solidarity, meanwhile, is when the members of a society maintain interdependence even as they engage in different values, beliefs and types of work. This form commonly manifests in complex, industrialized societies. Ultimately, the Order Model posits that, through social cohesion, the dominant social order is naturally stable and beneficial to all its members.

The opposing sociological perspective to the Order Model is the Conflict Model, popularized by Karl Marx and his proponents. This perspective examines society by focusing on the social conflicts that lead to racial, gendered, religious, political, and economic inequalities. It posits that the nature of society is full of tension, divisive, and ever-changing—due to the constant competition between conflicting groups. The dominant social order, therefore, is merely the ruling class’s oppressive system of ideology.

The main difference between the two models is that the Order Model defends the status quo, while the Conflict Model challenges it and encourages social change. The Order Model maintains that the dominant social order benefits all its members, while the Conflict Model asserts that this is false consciousness merely perpetuated by the ruling class.

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Conflict-based models of society posit that historical change is fueled by conflict, citing primarily historical evidence. This conflict manifests as various struggles for decision-making power between people and their ostensible rulers. These models emphasize the ways that monetary and military power are consolidated and used to oppress people and extract resources from them, and the inevitable resistance that results. Such models ultimately cast day-to-day life as shaped by these conflicts.

These ideas are opposed by order-based models of society, which posit that society is primarily ordered and that government bodies and institutions prevent conflict from breaking out. Proponents of these models believe that, because it is in everyone's implicit best interest to live in an ordered society, participation in society amounts to consent for the governing bodies. This is how they justify their view of current society as ordered and free from conflict.

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The order model of society, traditionally associated with Emile Durkheim, views society as analogous to an organism in that it has order and structure, without which it would collapse. This is a basis of functionalist theory, which argues basically that inequalities exist because they serve a purpose in some organic whole. A major change anywhere in the society would have ramifications for the rest of society, and because of this, societies are characterized by broad consensus and equilibrium, or order. This model obviously tends to downplay divisions in society and focus on institutions and their importance to maintaining order in society. Cooperation is the basis for a stable society.

The conflict model, heavily influenced by the thought of Karl Marx, takes the opposite view. Because wealth and power are distributed unequally throughout society, conflict is built into society, which is made up of groups with competing interests. If consensus exists, proponents of the conflict model argue, it is chimerical, a system of ideology imposed by the power group, and does not represent the interests of those not in power. Marx called this false consciousness. Any system of oppression within society, such as racism or sexism, cannot be eliminated by simply "changing people's minds"; it must involve fundamental changes in the distribution of wealth and power.

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