Is Society Best Understood in Terms of Consensus or Conflict?

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Consensus theory is when an individual is granted the privileges to state their opinions but also come together as a group and share their opinions and beliefs. Consensus theory gives everyone the equal freedom of speech an example of this can be everybody gets to vote a new prime minister or a person who is to come into authority.

Closely linked in with consensus theory comes a theory which is Functionalism, TriumphIAS (2019) stated the following “Functionalism represents the viewpoint that all social systems invariably possess the tendency to evolve and integrate such processes and institutions as elements (parts) of the system, which help in its own self-maintenance.” The following reference given above suggests that this theory illustrates that social order should be maintained, additionally this theory suggests that every individual should contribute to society so that there is stability within society. Functionalism has many norms, laws, values and social control however I will be stating some of many I have found.

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An example of a norm within society is to gain an education, as we live in the United Kingdom it is the law that a child up until the age of 18 stays within education. Therefore, if a child is not home schooled or sent to a school his or her parents may have to pay a fine or accept other consequences. This maintains social orders as children are getting relevant education, this will enable them to get a professional job within the relevant industry. As the child has the knowledge and understanding of which topics they have learnt and can transfer those skills within work. Education prepares children for adulthood and work world this allows the economy to stay balanced. Functionalism theory enables community union, by this I mean that individual or groups of people can work with one another to decide on what is right and wrong in social order. Puja Mondal (No date) cited MacIver (1937) statement staying “MacIver (1937) observes, ‘Social control is the way in which the entire social order coheres and maintains itself how it operates, as a changing equilibrium’.” This statement given above suggests that there is conformity when voting, taking vaccines this is because if everyone is doing it within society. People within the society tend to turn and do similar actions. Values of functionalism can be a group of people queuing up outside a shop now when a individual see’s this they wont think why people are standing outside a shop instead he will know that he need to stand at the end of the que. As this shows cultural values. As you have good manners not to push in or get rude with anyone, you just go do these actions which everyone does.

Another way the social order maintains is when the higher authorities e.g. police, government try protecting society from crime which comes under the Law side of Functionalism. To ensure security for society police and the government will try their best to control crime and make sure who ever does commit crimes is taken away from society to keep the social order maintained.

INVESTOPEDIA STAFF (2020) stated the following “Conflict theory, first purported by Karl Marx, is a theory that society is in a state of perpetual conflict because of competition for limited resources. Conflict theory holds that social order is maintained by domination and power, rather than by consensus and conformity.” The reference given above suggests that the conflict theory is shown as a constant circle which has remained over the decades, conflict theory demonstrates that the rich will stay in authority and therefore will pass their inheritance over to their children. However, the poor who work under the authorities will always remain under them as their children will follow their footsteps and work such jobs as their parents due to lack of education and resourced. The conflict has many norms, values, social control and law however I will be stating some of them regarding todays society. Todays society has many norms linked in with conflict theory, as society is divided between the upper class, middle class and the lower class. There is means of segregation between the classes this suggests that higher class and more rich individuals or groups do not socialise as often with the lower class. This also identifies that the norms of society is that the higher class granted domination and power as they can make lower class work under them however will never be friends.

A social control may be that the rich are controlling and ruling over the poor, as society values rich individuals and therefore the rich do not want the poor to get rich therefore if the poor stay under the rich this will give the rich a sense of domination. Shelly shah (no date) stated the following “In sociology our concern is with social values. Social values are cultural standards that indicate the general good deemed desirable for organised social life. These are assumptions on what is right and important for society,” Values within conflict theory is that the rich seem to be better than the poor, this is what society believes or thinks therefore everyone will stand by the rich people however nobody will stand with the poor. This is because the poor has nothing to give however the rich may award those around them for being supportive. There are some but not many laws regulated within conflict theory one of many is the public order offences. The rich may lie and say that the poor tried to harass them so that they can be imprisonment, this is the public order offense.

To conclude there are similarities within these two theories are both theoretical approaches used throughout sociology to evaluate the concept of culture/ society or how it functions accordingly. The differences are functionalism is the philosophy which claims that all elements of society play an important role and are necessary for the existence of that society. Conflict theory is the idea that, due to the uneven distribution of wealth, there is a constant class struggle in society. In Sociology, two approaches are functionalism and conflict theory. The structure and the functional organisation of a community are clarified by these two distinct theoretical approaches. Functionalism, therefore, states that each part of society serves a role and is necessary for that society to exist. Conflict theory on the other hand, illustrates that society is in constant class conflict due to resource constraints and unequal distribution.

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Is Society Best Understood in Terms of Consensus or Conflict? (2022, July 08). Edubirdie. Retrieved May 30, 2024, from
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