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Assess the Functionalist Theory of Culture Essay

According to functionalist sociologists, everything in society performs a function. This is also the case for culture. In the view of functionalists such as Durkheim, the key feature of society is that it is orderly and harmonious. Even though different individuals may have competing or conflicting interests, they can still live together and cooperate. Durkheim argues that this is because of the existence of a shared culture or values consensus. This shared culture binds us together by giving them a sense of belonging and a set of common goals, which they can achieve through cooperation. This helps to safeguard individuals and social conflict.

Functionalists believe that everything in society has a function and that everything has to work together to make society harmonious. Other theorists, such as Marxists, have different views on culture. I will be exploring whether the functionalist theory is what actually happens in society or if other theories, like Marxism, are more closely related. Durkheim believed that the key features of society are orderly and harmonious. He argues that this is because of shared culture, showing that he believed that everything within society does, in fact, have a purpose and, when together, is orderly. Another belief of Durkheim is that society and culture were more important than a person. His belief was based on observing society existing before a person is born and after an individual dies. Durkheim also noted that modern industrial societies are characterised by social order rather than chaos and anarchy.

Many functionalists see culture as bonding individuals together. Life is seen to be patterned and predictable by many functionalists, but Durkheim believes that the values of consensus bring together members in society. Durkheim has been criticised for exaggerating cultural consensus and social order. On the other hand, Durkheim can be praised for correctly suggesting the main culture that many people vastly share in society. The opposite of the functionalist approach is Marxism. Marxism focuses on the economic organisation of modern societies divided by class inequalities, income and power. Social class refers to the wealth of the family. Karl Marx saw capitalist societies as characterised by class inequality and conflict. One group called the bourgeoisies owned and controlled the means of production, the factories, raw materials, and investment capital and exploited the proletariat, also known as the working class, to make a greater profit.

Marxism also has criticisms. People argue that the Marxist theory may be guilty of exaggerating social class as the main source of conflict in societies. There is evidence that gender, religion, ethnicity and nationalism are as important as a cause of inequality. Marxism also assumes that the working class are the victims of the upper-class culture and ideology. Overall, different groups and theorists have different approaches and views on how society and culture function. Functionalists see culture as everything that has a purpose and see it as working orderly and harmoniously. However, Marxists see culture as being separated into two completely different groups: the bourgeoisie, the upper class, and the proletariat, the working class.

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Assess the Functionalist Theory of Culture Essay. (2021, Aug 17). Retrieved August 31, 2021, from