What are the major features of functionalism? How different is functionalism from the conflict perspective in the explanation of societal makeup?

Expert Answers
pnhancock eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Functionalism is a sociological perspective based on the works of classical sociologists such as Durkheim and Spencer. This perspective views society as a collection of systems that interact to create harmony and balance within a society. Major features of this perspective include analyzing social structures as "functional" or "dysfunctional" on the basis of their contributions to social stability, and differentiating between manifest (intentional) and latent (unintentional) functionality. The conflict perspective, which originated with the writing of Karl Marx, views society as a collection of different groups that are constantly in competition for power in their society and access to resources. These perspectives differ in their definitions of what makes up a society; while functionalism views society as a collection of social structures with varying levels of functionality, the conflict perspective understands society as a collection of different social groups in constant conflict with one another.