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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 focuses 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, they 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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